A serial entrepreneur from Coventry whose past businesses have included hosting topless waiter events, has launched her latest online venture within weeks of her 60th birthday.
Sara Thompson has poured all her savings into the new enterprise which, she hopes will also be her last – and most successful – claiming to have created a transformative bookings platform for the gardening industry.
She said: “I put out an advert and the jobs just flew in! I thought, I can’t cope with this, and the whole experience became quite frustrating and stressful. And during the pandemic there was more work than ever because the kids were off school and people were using their gardens earlier than normal.
“I knew I was going to have to take on some labourers as it was growing so quickly.
“I soon had labourers contacting me from all over the country and that’s what got me thinking about the new business idea. I quickly realised there are so many gardeners looking for work and there are customers who can’t find the gardeners.”
And so, a few weeks ago, Comparethegardeners.com was born. The site has been designed to match customers to gardeners across the country without the need for home visits – a time-saving solution that is already proving popular with users.
Customers upload their own photos with a brief description of the work and, once signed up, are matched with gardeners in their area who receive a notification and provide a quote.
Sara said: “Gardeners are hard to get hold of. Customers are clambering for gardeners – and they can’t find them.
“There are loads of sites out there which are offering a similar service but where the gardener has to sign up to site and the customers have to tick endless boxes and the gardeners don’t get to put a quote in. They are just expected to buy the lead, which very often doesn’t lead to the paid work.
“I want it to become one the big go-to sites that people know about and use at the start of the gardening season every year.”
Prior to finding her green fingers, Sara spent 16 years as a successful singer songwriter, as well as running a care home entertainment agency.
But it’s her Ladies Lounge business, launched in 2005, that made the local headlines.
“I don’t know why the business idea of topless waiters came to mind – but there was nothing else like it in the area and I knew women would be interested for hen nights and birthdays. The first event, at The Britannia Hotel in the city centre, proved to be so popular I decided to open a bar in Hay Street. Unfortunately though I couldn’t find an investor and the eventually the plans fell through.
She added: “I was really disappointed because everyone I spoke to said what a fantastic idea it was, particularly among the gay community. I know if I could have got that bar up and running it would have been flooded.”
A ten-year stint in a desk job that followed soon had the budding entrepreneur revisiting her aspirations to build a successful company – as well as rediscover her fitness.
Indeed, fitness had played a huge role in Sara’s life, who spent three years competing in local bodybuilding championships, even taking the coveted Miss Warwickshire crown in Leamington in 1993.
She said: “I hit 30 and suddenly thought I was getting old and wanted to start a fitness regime so started going to the gym. On my way out there was this huge poster about a bodybuilding competition and I looked at the poster and thought to myself, wow – that’s something I can’t imagine I’ll ever be doing! A man stood behind me and said ‘I can get you ready for that next year’ and, goodness knows how, but he managed to talk me round and one year later, I was competing.
“I was at gym three or four times a week and worked incredibly hard but the hardest thing I’ve ever done was the diet. It was horrendous. A palm full of rice and portion of turkey six times a day every day!”
Today, Sara, who is far from ready for retirement, is looking forward to building on the early success of her latest venture and is also inviting investors to get in touch at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
She also hopes her story will help empower women – of all ages – to follow their dreams.
She said: “I had the money to either put down a deposit on a house or launch a new business. I might regret it for the rest of my life but knew I had to give it a go. So I piled every last penny of my savings into it. It might take years for it to be where I want it to be but I would hate the idea of not having tried because I truly believe in this business idea.
“My advice for women of a certain age is to just go for it. Whatever your passion, just do it because what have you got to lose. There is nothing worse than regret. Age is just a mindset after all.”