This is the second instalment in a series of posts about being a brand ambassador. To read my first post on this subject, click here.
Background: My journey to owning a business
As I mentioned in a previous post, I never intended or even wanted to go into business. I’ve never felt comfortable about accepting money directly from other people. I am a lawyer by profession. I worked very hard in university and in the workforce to train in the field of law. While a law firm is a business and therefore charges clients for legal services, accounts are conveniently handled by the billing department. Lawyers therefore don’t need to worry too much about cash changing hands or chasing clients who haven’t settled their bill. Gardening started out as a hobby for me. It was simply a way that I enjoyed spending my spare time and was a pastime which I found incredibly relaxing. I loved venturing outdoors in the fresh air after a day at the office and over the weekends. My passion for gardening soon started consuming my life and my garden accidentally developed into a business. Anita’s Garden started when I began selling a few excess plants to local gardeners on the side. I didn’t even advertise at first. Passers-by started approaching me and asked if they could purchase seedlings. One of the wwoofers who stayed with us over summer, a young American guy who is incredibly entrepreneurial, encouraged me to set up a nursery and sell plants as a way of financing my hobby. Anita’s Garden grew organically from his idea (excuse the gardening puns!). At first, I didn’t really have a business plan or a clear idea of what product or service I was trying to sell to the public other than seedlings in my plant nursery. As discussed previously, I have no educational background in commerce and or knowledge about how to run a business. I’m simply learning on the job, which is fine by me. It’s a steep learning curve, but at the same time an interesting and exciting one. My business is constantly evolving, just like our garden. My core goal is to educate people about gardening and assist others to create their own personal green space. I have recently branched out into consulting and have my first client. I am helping a friend to start a garden and a composting system that suits her family’s needs. With a strong background in writing from my background as a lawyer and equipped with a Bachelor of Arts degree as well, I am also open to the possibility of writing articles related to gardening as a freelancer.
What does it mean to be a brand ambassador?
The idea is to work alongside other businesses in the industry so we can support and promote each other’s products and services. I’m still exploring how this will work in practice, but one example is where other gardening businesses supply me with products to use at Anita’s Garden. I then follow up by reviewing and promoting these products and businesses through my blog and various social media platforms. It’s a win-win situation. Being a brand ambassador helps me to finance an incredibly expensive hobby and stay up to date with the latest plant and seed releases, as well as other gardening products. In return, I promote reputable gardening products which I use around Anita’s Garden and support other businesses.
Being a brand ambassador is not just a shameless ploy for companies to give me free products all the time, nor is it a means by which I ruthlessly push their products onto other gardeners through constant advertising. I have been a paying customer of these businesses myself for many years now and will continue to be one. As I’ve developed my own business, I started writing about gardening through my blog, which is linked to my social media accounts. I’ve wanted to try growing an even broader range of seed varieties and use different gardening products around the garden. I’d like to conduct trials so I can report on which varieties and products performed best for me. To buy and use such a broad range of products becomes very expensive. The businesses I’m supporting have made it possible for me to try different brands and conduct such experiments by sending me supplies, samples and new products from time to time.
Why did I decide to become a brand ambassador?
To become better known in gardening circles and the broader community alike, I have become a brand ambassador for some of my favourite New Zealand gardening businesses. I perceive my development into a leading New Zealand gardening personality as critical to developing Anita’s Garden as a business.
To me, being a brand ambassador also makes sense in our market, as it’s a way of bringing people in the horticultural community even closer to one another. New Zealand is a small country with incredibly strict agricultural rules which demand extensive and expensive tests and often the treatment of seeds and other plant material prior to their import. This effectively limits what agricultural material we are allowed to import into the country. It therefore makes sense for seed suppliers to work together and focus on supplying New Zealand gardeners with different products, rather than trying to undercut each other with lower prices on the same items, which is common in other industries such as foodstuffs, fuel and so on. Being a brand ambassador is a way of building relationships with others in the same industry. Over the years I’ve been gardening, I’ve found that I’ve become very good friends with other business owners in the horticultural industry. I feel extremely honoured that these businesses respect me as a gardener, have entrusted me with their brand and perceive me as able to promote their products effectively in the marketplace.
In short, being a brand ambassador makes me more motivated to market my own business as we're all connected. By promoting Anita's Garden, I'm essentially expanding my audience. In doing so, I'm promoting the businesses I'm supporting to even more people.
How did I become a brand ambassador for these businesses?
I simply took the plunge and wrote to each business, outlining my proposal. It sounds bold but in my experience if you don’t ask for something, you won’t get it! The worst thing someone can say in response is no. In my email, I explained who I was and how I felt their business would benefit from acting as their brand ambassador. I wrote to about a dozen businesses. Out of all the companies I approached, only one said no. I’m still waiting to hear back from a few others so I will continue to add to this series of posts if there are any developments in the future. In approaching these businesses, it helped that I have developed some useful contacts in the industry over time. As a home gardener, I have gotten to know many of these businesses and their staff personally over the years. I tend to shop around a lot as in a country this small, it’s hard to source everything I need for the garden under one roof. I am a familiar face at every gardening centre in the South and East Auckland region and the staff all know me personally!
What is the next step?
Doing business is largely about marketing. As a brand ambassador, I plan to pass on products to my followers through competitions, which are a great way of increasing the number of “likes” on your Facebook page. In the future, I also hope to be able to pass on discounts from these businesses to my followers, as a way of promoting both Anita’s Garden and these entities.