When Madar Corporation’s financial year ended in July, founder and managing director Pat Gilbert’s expectation was that turnover would be around the £11 million mark.
By the time The Business Magazine went to print, final numbers were still being processed, but it is pretty impressive for a business which was only launched in 2012, and is testament to the sheer hard work and determination that Gilbert and her family have put in.
Recently the company, based in Fordingbridge, on the edge of the New Forest, added to its portfolio with the acquisition of Wolvercroft World of Plants in Alderholt, a deal that was supported by Barclays.
The established garden centre, which covers seven acres, has been in business for more than 20 years and, as well as plants, has a large giftware and home range section, plus a café.
It has joined an extensive line-up of Madar Corporation companies, ranging from Wickers Gift Baskets to Biorganics and Mystic Moments, yet just over 15 years ago, Gilbert was freelancing as a part-time management and accountancy consultant and running a small aromatherapy business.
Serendipity played its part after the Australian company she sourced her essential oils from opened an office near her home, an operation that Gilbert gradually took over and expanded.
When son Robert, who was on summer leave from university, took charge of the warehouse operations and decided not to return to his studies, the new Madar Corporation was born.
The original Mystic Moments family of essential oils and skincare products became its first online brand, before diversifying into cosmetic butters and haircare products. Brands now include World of Moulds – moulds for everything from soap to candles and chocolate; Wickers Gift Baskets, offering a wide range of hamper products – including Mystic Moments’ own aromatherapy products; and Twelve Green Bottles, a family-run wine merchant.
Today, three out of Gilbert’s four sons work in the family business, plus two daughters-in-law, and a team of some 75 employees.
Daniel is involved in the garden centre business, which also allows another opportunity to sell products from across the range, while son Andrew works with Gilbert’s husband John in the groundworks and landscaping part of the company.
“As a family, we try to lead by example, Robert and I are usually first in and last out and I like to think we are good employers with the best interests of our staff at heart,” said Gilbert. “We believe in giving back as well as taking out, so we support our local football club as well as a different charity every month, raising money through things like online raffles or donations from some product ranges.”
A key turning point in the organisation’s success story was getting on board with Amazon, as Gilbert explains: “Amazon has been a big factor in what we have achieved and now we supply our goods worldwide through them to customers in Australia and America. We were the first UK company to be on Amazon China.
“Robert has always been very ambitious and very good with figures, so he has been the driving force of the expansion. He loves the challenge of improving the systems and making them more cost effective, and he is very successful at it.
“We’ve always had to be flexible, our success has been down to a lot of hard work and gritted teeth at times, but we have increased our ranges and our turnover has increased quite dramatically as a result of that.”
It was the acquisition of Wolvercroft World of Plants that marked Barclays’ arrival at Madar Corporation. The organisation’s previous bank decided to step back from financing the deal and when Gilbert sought out an alternative, Barclays was its first port of call.
“Barclays looked at the deal, they liked what they saw and offered the support we needed,” continued Gilbert. “They have been with us all the way through and we’ve had very good support from Martin and Andy.”
Andy Wernham, Barclays’ Southampton-based relationship director, said: “Madar is a very go-ahead business with great promise and we were very pleased to be able to help them take another major step forward.”
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