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Entrepreneurial Flair At The Heart Of Dandys!

Dandy’s is a multi-generational family firm that is steeped in history and entrepreneurial spirit. Paul Andrews spoke to Adam Dandy, the fifth generation of the family to lead the business to find out more.

Established in 1826 in the City of Chester in the UK, a man called James Dandy, originally from Tarleton, moved his family to Chester and set up his stall in Chester’s Market Hall Square, to sell his family farm’s home grown fruit and vegetables for the first time. The family business was essentially born on a small wooden table top, in-front of Chester’s Corn Exchange Building, selling home grown produce. It was the start of something special and has evolved into a truly diverse, entrepreneurial and award-winning family business.

The family market stall was the very first to move indoors to Chester’s new indoor Market Hall in 1863. The family business became the number one supplier of quality locally grown fruit and vegetables, used by all the top hotels in the City.

Today, now 194 years later, Dandys is run by James’ 5th generation grandson Adam Dandy and his wife Clare, Operations Director Simon Hughes and Commercial Director Katie de Winton and Director of Marketing Amanda Arnold, who are supported by a long established, loyal team, all of whom are dedicated to making sure that you receive exceptional gardening and landscaping products backed up and delivered nationwide with a five star service.

For many next generation family members like Adam, facing the proposition of taking on a family firm that has been upstanding in the local community for many years, the decision is daunting. Do they really want to be involved and take it on and if so, how do they deal with the ‘burden’ of responsibility that has been passed on to them and is in their hands to carry forward to the next generation?

For Adam, the journey was slightly unusual as he had grown up with a desire to be a policeman so prior to joining the family firm he became a Special Constable to see if that was the career for him. As Adam explained, “I liked the role and at times it was exciting but there was a lot of administration, time spent sitting around and little opportunity to be entrepreneurial and if I am being totally honest, I wanted a role that was more creative in nature too.”

By the age of 17/18 Adam had passed his driving test and was able to drive trucks and then started to work part time in the business to earn some money at the same time as being a Special Constable.

As Adam continues, “This was quite a tricky time for me as I had to juggle both roles and the commitments that came with them. I remember one day dealing with a fight at a night club at 2am and wrapping up work at 6am with Dad expecting me at work at 8am. I rolled in at 10am and Dad pulled me aside and told me how things stood. There were no favours as the son of the boss and he was harder on me than he would have been with the other staff, for my own good, and at the same time there was an opportunity, or some would call it an ultimatum.”

“Dad was planning for the future and had intentions to step back from the business and offered me the opportunity to get involved, take on the family business and to ‘ramp things up’ at the same time,” continues Adam.

Adam joined the business full time and began to make his mark. The business grew. Adam has always been creative and entrepreneurial and the new role afforded the chance to exploit these qualities. At the time there was little competition nationwide and Adam seized the opportunity. “We met with a transport firm to see if they could transport and offload to customers around the UK on tonne bags of topsoil and once we had their agreement we took the concept to market. The day after launching we had 30 orders for delivery across the country and since then have not looked back. Dandy’s continues to offer delivery across the country and it has really helped us to grow. We took on google ads and despite increased competition we continue to lead the way,” he adds.

Adam’s entrepreneurial spirit was paying off and the business continued to grow. The nature of the business in which they operate has a strong seasonal edge and over the years the business has sought to capitalise on opportunities to reduce this impact, with ventures such as supplying rock salt to councils to keep transport moving on icy roads during the winter months.

Back in 2007 Adam took on the business buying out his Mum and Dad and stepping up as the fifth generation owner and leader of the business. Like all next generation members stepping up, Adam was keen to put his stamp on things. As he explains, “One of the first things that I did was to change the colour of our brand from the mix of red and blue to one core colour, lime green, or as we like to refer to it, ‘hulk’ green. Green is more aligned to the environment and what we do as a business and the shade stands out which is what I wanted.”

The business continued to grow with more products added to the mix such as turf, gravel and bark but for Adam something was missing. “I remember the first TV news bulletins about the refugee crisis and the death of a little boy whose body had been washed up on a Mediterranean beach and it really hit home. This little boy was the same age as my son and I knew then that I wanted to do something to make a real difference. Our local council had issued a statement to openly welcome refugees so I got in touch and a new chapter began.”

“I wanted to make a difference so got together two empty shipping containers, placed plenty of social media posts and collected clothes to take and distribute to those in need in Greece. Such was the level of public support that they were full within a couple of days. We sourced warehouse space from the council, people helped sort donations and they were sent to those in need. There was a real buzz around the project but also a growing recognition of issues at home too. Homelessness in Chester was on the rise so we reflected and decided to set up a charity that now works all year round to help Support Homeless And Refugees Everywhere, going by the name SHARE and with a shop in Chester,” he continues.

“The work is important and helps locally, and those coming to the UK needing assistance, and gives me something else to be proud of. It really does make a difference and is something that I fervently support too.”

As a business owner Adam continues to drive the business and his creativity and determination is at the very heart of the business. He gets on with things and they make a difference. At their home on the border between England and Wales you cannot fail to notice this business. When they are not flying a massive Welsh flag from their mound of top soil that can be seen for miles around, they use it to make a statement.

As Adam adds, “Everyone locally knows us, recognises our vans and we used the flagpole to show support for Ukraine with a flag when the conflict started. We received a comment on facebook form one individual who thought it was too large and inappropriate so we went out and bought a bigger one that we were proud to hoist. We use our presence for the causes that we believe in and want to make a difference,” he adds.

It is this spirit, determination and dedication to whatever project is on the table that can be attributed to the continued success of the business too. Dandy’s is a long-standing family firm that is not standing still. They continue to invest in the business and their staff, embrace their involvement in the community and are clearly a great example of a family firm that is a ‘force for good.’

They make a massive impact locally and nationally and have grown to become a trusted one-stop shop for gardening and landscaping supplies, delivered to your door nationwide! They have come a long way from where they started on a table-top in Chester but the journey has been driven by each generation of the family, entrepreneurial flair and drive maintaining and growing their presence and adding their mark.

Adam is still young and has plenty of ambition so we look forward to seeing the next chapters in this entrepreneurial family business journey as they unfold.


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