AN online and mail-order organic plant business near Helston has been named the UK’s most exceptional business contributing to social and environmental impacts.

Rocket Gardens now sells more than one million organic plants per year and has creates a plant growing and mail order packaging system which is 100 per cent plastic free - the first UK mail order edible plant supplier to have done so.

Launched in 2006, Rocket Gardens, based at Mawgan, has developed from a two-acre smallholding into a 125-acre purpose-built growing facility with 22 modern poly tunnels set up with rainwater harvesting systems, automated ventilation and irrigation.

Entrepreneur Mike Kitchen launched the firm after growing his own organic vegetables at home whilst raising his two young children. That sowed a seed for a business growing and selling organic seedlings in “instant veg packs" ready for planting.

Kitchen is passionate about building a sustainable business that educates and encourages healthy lifestyles. “Ultimately the best way to reduce food miles and the cost of buying food is to grow it yourself and that’s what we want to encourage people to do,” he said.

Kitchen has been named as the UK’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year in the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards, funded by the Citi Foundation. Alongside the recognition – with a strong field of entrants from all over the UK - he will take home a £7,500 cash prize for the business.

The Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards are the annual celebration of Britain’s microentrepreneurs that have accessed “responsible” business finance.

Rocket Gardens’ success story has been supported by SWIG Finance which has made three investments over the last two years.

This capital helped accelerate the growth and profitability of the business through a planned programme of investment in automated machinery, increased production capacity and digital e-commerce capability. This investment has so far helped to realise a 50 per cent increase in turnover, and the creation of four new jobs.

Mike Kitchen of Rocket Gardens said:

“I’m over the moon. It’s a privilege to have been recognised in the Awards and the timing is absolutely perfect: the prize enables me to invest in a new seed line, helping even more people to enjoy the taste, health and environmental benefits of growing organic vegetables and fruit at home.”

John Peters, Managing Director of SWIG Finance, commented:

“Mike is an inspirational entrepreneur whose success is driven by social and environmental principles. It is a privilege for us at SWIG Finance to work with such an ethically-focused and innovative venture as Rocket Gardens.”

The winners of the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards were announced on 13 March 2019 at an Awards Ceremony in Liverpool.

Responsible Finance providers are a crucial part of the UK’s financial sector and the leading financial institutions offering affordable finance to many small and micro enterprises, and social enterprises.

In 2018 responsible finance providers lent £85 million to over 5,000 businesses, and 84 per cent of business customers supported by responsible finance providers in 2018 were previously turned down by a bank. And over 4,000 jobs in social enterprises were created or saved in 2018 thanks to £138 million of responsible finance loans.

The Citi Foundation is committed to supporting and celebrating the responsible finance sector, as well as youth entrepreneurs through its Pathways to Progress initiative that is tackling youth unemployment globally.

“The Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards are a celebration of the enterprises and local businesses which are the backbone of our communities. They also recognise the important role responsible finance providers play in supporting the entrepreneurship ecosystem, which enables many microenterprises, including this year’s winners, to grow and scale their businesses,” said Bob Annibale, Global Director, Citi Inclusive Finance and Community Development.

“This year’s Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals agenda and the winning businesses and responsible finance providers all contribute to economic growth and the social and environmental vibrancy of their communities.”