‘A change is as good as a rest’, or so the proverb goes. As one who is ill at ease when relaxing and always on the go, I can only hope this Victorian sagacity continues to prove correct as I embark upon the greatest challenge of my life.
For the last 26 years, I have worked for John Lewis & Partners, a well known British department store. Starting in the Dress Fabrics department selling paper patterns, I made my way through Kitchenware, Menswear, Gifts, China & Glass and Womenswear at various levels of management. From the branch in Reading, I advanced to head office where I worked for the Head of Intelligence gathering information about our competitors. All was strictly above board, but this job gave me a fascinating insight into retailing. This unique experience developed my enquiring mind and writing skills: every report was seen and signed by the chairman of the ‘Partnership’, who was the only Partner permitted to write in green ink. I moved through Promotions, Product Development and Packaging before landing my first job as a buyer. In that role, I was fortunate to preside over a series of categories including upholstery, gifts, games, home fragrance, gift food, hampers and, of course, Christmas. My head told me that I should stick with the business until retirement*. My heart muttered in disagreement, sometimes louder, sometimes softer, but never emphatic. When a sweeping restructure was announced in January, my role was made redundant. My heart finally found its voice. With a little reassurance from some very wise friends, I chose to listen.
So it was that last week I left the company that’s kept me solvent for more than half of my life. It would have felt like a bigger step, had I not lived with the idea for ten months already. I was fortunate that during my long notice period I was able to make plans for the future. I share those with you now, because you and this blog have played a big part in forming them.
I started writing The Frustrated Gardener in 2012, just prior to the Olympic Games in London. It was intended to be an exploration of social media, an escape from work and an adventure into the world of gardens and gardening. I had lost a work/life balance and any sense of worth beyond being a ‘Partner’. My degree in Landscape Management was already sixteen years old and I felt disconnected from my first love, gardening. The project worked and soon I had a clue about writing and communicating. My garden fuelled my writing and my writing fulled my gardening, resulting in a body of work far greater than I had ever imagined. I started to wonder whether my blog might lead to something and, sure enough, it did. I gained followers and found myself in magazines and on the television. So far, so good. Then came an allotment, my amazing partner John (aka The Beau) and, finally, an opportunity to change the course of my career. It did not take long to decide what to do.
I have always felt that garden retailing is lacking something, especially in the online space. Many websites push tools, seeds and plants at those in the know with very little guidance for those less knowledgeable or confident. Advice and inspiration are generally accessed via books and nowadays social media. There’s a lot of information out there, some of it good, some of it lacking, but, rarely is the product and know-how brought together in one place. With my new business, Dan Cooper Garden, I want to correct that by lining up the very best garden products and accompanying them with expert advice and engaging inspiration. We all have too much stuff and too little time to be buying badly and feeling our way forward in the dark. I hope that through Dan Cooper Garden I can do all the hard work for my customers, giving them the time to enjoy their gardens as much as I enjoy mine. And I’d like to bring a little bit of my flair and love of colour to the subject too: life’s too short to be neutral. I want to create an outstanding resource for garden lovers that’s useful, beautiful, responsible and trustworthy, something I believe will be unique and engaging.
If all goes to plan, dancoopergarden.com will launch in early spring with content only, followed by a fully transactional launch a month or so later. The scale I am reaching for will not happen overnight. Content takes a long time to create (guess what I’ll be doing for the next three months) and like many start-ups, I’ll be funding the project myself. The prospect is thrilling and terrifying in equal measure; there’s nothing quite as motivating or sobering as knowing you could be bankrupt in twelve months. Fortunately, I have the support of my family and friends, including the extraordinarily talented Marianne Majerus who took the photographs featured in this post (presented in high resolution so that they can be fully appreciated) and Lewie Evans who continues to work on the brand identity for both Dan Cooper Garden and The Frustrated Gardener. Here’s a sneak peek:
So, what will become of The Frustrated Gardener? Fear not, it will continue, along the same lines that it does now. The blog will be getting a makeover when Dan Cooper Garden launches and there will be clear links between the two websites. However, The Frustrated Gardener will always remain an independent and personal endeavour, reflecting me, my garden and my views. Importantly, it will not be used to promote my business, preserved as a place for me to reflect, enlighten and occasionally let off steam: I imagine there may be a few ups and downs to share in the months ahead! The Beau will continue to post alongside me whenever he has the time.
Although I am only four days into the job, I have a strong sense that those Victorians had a point. I don’t feel the need for a holiday and I wake up every morning raring to go. I feel happier and more motivated than I have in years. The boss is a bit of a slave-driver, but I only have myself to blame for that.
If you have any comments or feedback on my plans, I’d love for you to leave a comment. After all, I am hoping I can persuade a good number of you to be my customers one day soon 😉 TFG.
*some of you may recall Project Dahlia, which was my plan to travel around the world visiting and writing about gardens. This would have formed part of my ‘Long Leave’, a benefit awarded to Partners with over 25 years’ service. Partners’ jobs are kept open and they are paid fully for 6 months whilst taking time out to recharge their batteries. Due to the pandemic, I was unable to avail myself of this reward, so it forms part of my redundancy package. In turn, it will fund my fledgling business. Perhaps one day, if I am successful, I can resurrect Project Dahlia and take The Beau on the trip of a lifetime.
Categories: Musings, Photography, projects
61 comments On "A Change Is As Good As A Rest"
Best of luck with your new website, from Edmonds, WA!
Many thanks Chris. Greatly appreciated.
Wow! Amazing and inspiring. I wish you every success! From following your blog and visiting your beautiful garden, I get the feeling that you know exactly what you are doing – you certainly aim for very high standards. Although it requires much fortitude and resilience, it must also be wonderful to be one’s own boss. Bonne chance Dan!
Thank you so much. I do a very good impression of someone who knows what they are doing, but there’s much that is new territory for me. I’ve not met a challenge I could not overcome yet, including bookkeeping, so that’s a good sign 😆. I will embrace all wishes of good luck I can, with grateful thanks 🙏
Good luck Dan
Best wishes for launching Dan Cooper Garden. With your knowledge, taste and passion I predict great success.
I’ll go with that, thank you Patrick 🙏
Wishing you all the best with your new adventures…you’ll be absolutely fine and am sure will reflect why you didn’t do it sooner! Carpe Diem and all that 😊
I very much hope you are right Gabby. On one hand I feel very well equipped, on the other I feel completely clueless. Every day is a school day at the moment, but I kind of like that. Dan
Good luck, Dan! It all sounds extremely exciting. Looking forward to seeing more. I just have one question: will you still be the *frustrated* gardener, if you are gardening 24/7??
Thanks Janna. As with all things in life, I imagine striking the right balance will be hard. It’s important to me that I walk the walk not just talk the talk. In practice I imagine there will be plenty of frustration at how much time is left for actual gardening, but at least I’m aware of the risk!
Looks like my credit card is going to get a bit of a bashing!
Good luck with the new venture.
I promise to fulfil that prophesy Liz 😆💷
Thank you for the good wishes. They mean a lot. Dan
Very exciting! All the very best with your new endeavour.
Thank you Brendan 🙏
Congratulations Dan. I am sure your new business will be a great success because you’ve already put and are continuously putting all your heart into the project. I am looking forward to hearing more about it soon. Greetings and all the best from your friend in Poland, who is fighting against Covid right now ( yes, I’ve caught it unfortunately).
Oh, I am so very sorry to hear that Paweł. It seems no one is safe, however careful they are. I do hope you are not too poorly?
Sending my best wishes for a swift recovery. Dan
Thanks Dan. It’s been bad for a couple of days, but I it’s much better now. No more high temperature or muscles pain. I’m still coughing a little but it’ll end soon hopefully. Wishing you a huge success with your “Dan Cooper Garden”.
This is a fantastic challenge, and one I’m delighted you’ve seized. I became a devoted “Frustrated Gardener” follower because of your thoughtful writing. (Thank you for continuing that). You’ll bring the same “derring do” to Dan Cooper Garden. Much success to you! From a NEOhio US reader.
I am delighted with your news! I have always felt that your talent for putting my thoughts into writing was phenomonel! I can’t wait to see your ‘start up’ and will celebrate with you both. WOW!!! it’s my dream come true. I love gardening, colours, painting and especially the written word (when it’s beautifully written, that is!). What’s not to love. I wish you all the very best in your new venture (& especially your overdue 6 months sabbatical …. Wherever that leads!). I can share your jubilation – it is so well deserved – I have had so much pleasure with your ‘thoughts’ and photographs already so how wonderful that it will go on and son and on…..
Great plan! I’ve been self-employed for over 40 years and can thoroughly recommend it. There will be ups and downs, and a lot of hard work, but the joy you get when your business is a success – well you’ll find out! Nothing quite like it.
One word of warning, I just don’t want to retire although way past someone else’s idea of retirement age.
Good luck Dan to you the Beau and your dogs who I imagine will thoroughly enjoy and approve of your plans!
You will be brilliant but you should associate the business to the frustrated Gardner as so many times while looking at your wonderful garden I have wished I knew where to obtain plants , equipment etc
I hope you have considered Edible Culture for their biodegradable plant pots….
Good luck xxxx
OMG DAN!!! This is fantastic. I always knew your writing would take you places. Your writing is sublime. I always thought it would go more toward a book and perhaps it still will. What ever your endeavors you can be sure I will be one of your cheerleaders. I wish you the best of luck and I look forward to what ever you have to offer. I hope you and the Beau get to go on your long awaited trip through Dahlia heaven and all is a smashing success.
It’s a big step you’re taking but an exciting one and I wish you huge success with it. It’s wonderful that you have something you’re so passionate about and to be able to encompass that to such a degree in your new venture.
We also retired early. We bought 30 acres and started an olive grove. Massive learning curve, a lot of work and not a little anxiety, but a time we look back upon with great fondness. I hope you get as much pleasure as we did.
P.S. Chrysanthemums are not in season here, but looking at what will be available i feel the new interest in them hasn’t reached these shores yet!
Good luck with your venture. Read your piece and it looks like you have all the qualities, skills and expertise to make it a real success. And you’re dead right – when it’s your passion it doesn’t feel like work!
Goodness! It is gratifying to read about, but, as you can understand, slightly concerning. I know how distressing such major career changes are, even with great anticipation, and regardless of how much we enjoy our work. Wow, this will be interesting to read about. I purchase almost nothing online, but could make an exception for the ‘Johnnie Ellis’ dahlia.
Congratulations on the new venture. I don’t usually comment but read all the Frustrated Gardener posts. I wish you and the Beau all the best of success and look forward to more gardening and even though I live ‘Down Under” I love garden just the same.
What an absolutely terrific idea Dan. Your knowledge and expertise will be greatly appreciated by me and I’m sure by many others when Dan Cooper Garden gets going in the Spring. I look forward to being an early customer, hooray!
I think this is an extraordinary brilliant move for you Dan, and, I for one, will be watching closely and hoping to benefit from that brilliance.
How exciting for you! Silver linings to so many things. I’ll certainly pay your new website a visit in due course
Dan, I hope you know you have best wishes for success from New England. Most important question from a potential customer – will you ship to US? Second question is will you have shears for boxwoods? 🙂 Go, Dan!
Dearest Dan, so excited for you, John and the fur babies, as you start this new venture. Having been there, it is both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time! There is certainly a big gap in the market worldwide for a quality retail site that combines info and tips as well. You know we will be cheering you on from over the waters and wishing you every success. Can’t wait to come and visit and share some of the excitement of this new biz with you both. Luv H x
This is very exciting Dan, and also for you probably quite scary stepping into the unknown. But if your new venture is anything like the work you put into your beautiful garden I reckon you’ll do OK. You have a huge passion for gardening and a way with words that draws people in. I often wondered how you ended up in retail with your degree in Landscape Management. Now I hope you have the opportunity to fulfil the dream. Good luck and enjoy the journey xx
You have all the necessary attributes to be very successful in your new venture. So pleased to hear you will be continuing with your blog, and you might have to drop the “frustrated” from the title before long! Good luck Dan!
Congratulations for the new ventures. Been following you for a while now.
You have, and I’ve very much appreciated that, thank you Arlene.
I just want to add my best wishes to you! Perhaps the stars aligned to put you where you are, but it’s still a big leap! I have always appreciated your generosity in terms of your time and your knowledge. The series you did at Christmas in particular, was such a highlight. I fully agree with your ethos about supporting those who are new or inexperienced gardeners, too. I am on board and wish the the very best of luck to you!
Thank you Julie. I loved doing the advent posts. I can’t for the life of me remember how I found the time, but I’d love to do a something similar again. Maybe not this year though. Things have suddenly become rather busy! Have a great weekend. Dan
Good morning Dan May I offer you the very best of luck and great success in your wonderful sounding new venture. What a clever idea, I am sure you will do very well. Annie McKellar
Sent from my iPad
You may, with thanks. Much appreciated Annie.
I feel so very excited for you, what a wonderful idea. You write with such flair and enthusiasm and your gardens and allotment are such a delight to see that I am sure your future will be successful. Cannot wait to see Dan Cooper Garden launched. Wishing you the very best for your new future. Lesley
Thank you Lesley. The trick will be to keep writing, keep gardening and keep the business going. I reckon I might need to brush up on my plate spinning skills!
It sounds as if this is the right time to be pursuing this amazing adventure and you certainly have the talents to succeed. All good wishes and I look forward to visiting the Dan Cooper Garden website.
I really hope you’ll take a look and find something of interest when the time comes. I think so many people are reappraising their lives and exploring different opportunities post lockdown. Our priorities in life have changed, hopefully for the better. Sending my best wishes to beautiful Devon. X
Dan. I work in competitive intelligence as well . A bit more geeky and my love for maths and stats. I too am moving forward next year and leaving that damn corporate life since I moved to the Canadian country side to expand my garden and lead a simplified life. Good on you. Congratulations for following your passion. You have been a great inspiration to me. I even started using the word ” whilst” since you do as well. My friends just give me the strangest looks though. ❤️
Do you know, every time I type ‘whilst’ I think of you, because I remember you asking me why I used it. I’ve no idea if it’s correct or not, but people who actually know how to write say I do a good enough job. I think I probably just write how I would talk.
I wish I had your talent for maths and stats. I don’t dislike them, but I have no natural ability. Your new country life looks wonderful and I can tell from your posts how much happier and more carefree you are. Enjoy that final release from formal work life. You’ll never look back. Dan
Well done Dan. Praying all goes well for you I’m sure it will very exciting.
I changed professions when I was in my mid-forties and it’s the best thing I’ve done. Good luck.
Unfortunately I live outside Brexit country so I can’t shop in your new store, but I really hope it will go well.
Congratulations! Your blog is gorgeous, charming, and informative.
I have every confidence that your business will be a roaring success.
Every best wish to you in this new project. You have been consistently enthusiastic and hard-working in all your garden projects and these are surely the ingredients for success. Onwards and upwards!
Good luck in the new beginning of true YOU.
All the very best of luck and looking forward to becoming a customer. Oh my poor wallet!
BEST WISHES FOR THE FUTURE
All the best with your new project. Good luck.
as someone who has taken to “binge read” the Frustrated Gardener, i.e. popping by every few weeks or perhaps months and then read everything I have missed since my last visit, I came on here just now to wish you a slightly belated Happy Birthday with many happy returns. And this is what I still want to do now first of all. But wow, such “news” – to me at least 😃 – to find out about! As more or less everything that could be said in encouragement and every good wish for the success of your new (ad)venture has been made already in the comments above, I would simply like to add my own “Good luck – and all the very best on that new path!” Apart from success – however you choose to define it – and a sense of achievement and satisfaction, may it bring you much joy.
Warm regards, Stefanie
Thank you so, so much Stephanie, exciting, thrilling, nerve-wracking times but a change I sorely needed. It’s a big adventure, pushing me outside of my comfort zone and it’s not without its risks, but it’s something I have to do.
Hope all is well with you? Sending love and best wishes. Dan
Although I guess G&T or similar would be your first choice for steadying nerves and all that: if alcohol – in quantity – is not advisable at the moment I hope you at least have an uninterrupted supply of chocolate to help you cope 😉. (And if you overindulged or worry about the wasteline: chamomile infusion does a similar trick, though less deliciously so. 😂)
In any case, best of luck for the last metres of the race against the clock to the deadline. And remember: nothing emerges fully formed and perfect. If it did, it could only go downhill from there. 🌷🌷🌷
The finest words of wisdom I have heard today! Thank you Stefanie 🤗
Wishing you every success in your new venture. It’s never too late to change direction…both my husband and I left jobs in the 90’s and reinvented ourselves and haven’t looked back!
Wonderful. I’m not sure if I am reinventing myself so much as unleashing myself. This has been something I’ve wished to do for a while. It’s now or never time 😍