‘Screw the business plan — give me jobs’: Changes Gardening’s James Coote on growing a successful service user-led enterprise

The Manager of the Changes Gardening service, James Coote, doesn’t give a damn about the business plan. For James it’s all about recovery.

Lots of community groups run gardening projects to help with people’s mental health. We can all understand that working with nature can be calming and good exercise. But James is running a commercial gardening service for corporate and residential customers. He takes volunteers from Changes UK who are in recovery from drug and alcohol addictions and gives them skills and job opportunities. His volunteers aren’t there for a jolly, they have to get the job done to a professional standard in the agreed timescale.

Changes Gardening is a business — and the more it can grow, the more it can deliver: for customers, for its volunteer workers, for those in recovery looking to take back control of their personal and work lives. James wants to expand to a second van and two teams. For James this is all about creating real opportunities for people entering recovery, knowing that there are real jobs to aim for. “Unless we grow,” James says, “I have no new spaces for people to volunteer. There’s always new people coming in to Changes that might want to do gardening, so I need to grow the service to create more spaces.”

Changes Gardening’s James and Dan in festive mood

James needs to bring more work into the business so that he can employ more people like Dan. Dan ran a successful gardening firm 10 years ago before his addictions got the better of him. He did the 8-week recovery programme at ChangesUK, got well, volunteered for five months and then became an employee. He has shown he has all the leadership and gardening skills to supervise a second team. “I’d hate to think that after my year in permitted work, I would have to go looking for a job somewhere else. I would rather move on into full time work with James. We work well together, we really do,” said Dan.

So this is why Changes Gardening is looking for more jobs to keep them busy over winter. Seasonal growing has slowed down, which makes this an excellent time to get all your paths, fences, sheds and other garden buildings sorted.

But there’s also an even better reason:

Changes gardening is offering a special Winter Discount
20% of paths, fences and sheds
Ends 28th February 2018

Book before 28th February 2018 to qualify!

About Changes Gardening

Changes Gardening provides a full range of domestic and commercial gardening and landscaping services.

And when you buy from a social enterprise you always get more in return. All the profits from Changes Gardening are used to help children and families effected by addiction. When your addictions get the better of you, families lose someone they love. When you get well again, you bring families back together. ChangesUK is an addiction service that takes people on a journey from addiction to recovery.


Changes Gardening Manager, James Coote on 07495078723.

For further information about Changes UK, Changes Gardening and the other work that Changes UK does, contact Tobias Gould: send mail; @TobiasGould, 07983 600 358.

Changes Gardening is part of an increasingly significant movement of user-led social enterprises that are helping people take control of their economic lives and their employment. Read our earlier post

Birmingham UK. Freelance research, evaluation and policy consultant specialising in social enterprise and the third sector. I maintain the BSSEC blog and website

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