Our story is just beginning
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We are Hilton and Tracy Blake and both have a wealth of experience, which we bring to businesses and business owners throughout Australia. We enjoy assisting our members to enjoy the most successful and profitable business that is achievable within their budgets and business constraints. We understand that each business is unique, so we custom design our products and services to meet their needs.
We started on our journey after buying a small garden centre in Smithton on the north-west coast of Tasmania in 1985. Our business initiated a love of garden centres, as well as garden and home improvement retailing. 32 years later, our adventure is continuing and has evolved into GRO NETWORKING.
After 13 years of developing Smithton Plant Nursery from a small hobby business into a well-known, very profitable and multi-award winning business, we enjoyed 12 months travelling the east coast of Australia with our two young sons, before returning to Tasmania to buy the Log Cabin Garden Centre in Launceston. This was a well-established but very old-fashioned, out of date garden centre.
A change of image, style and the introduction of a trendy café, inspirational gift lines, homewares, as well as a landscape and interior advisory service, saw our business transformed into a popular destination for locals.
The first major hardware ‘box store’ for Tasmania opened a short distance away and was drawing customers from across the state. The Log Cabin Garden Centre became a ‘must visit’ for many of these travellers and we saw increased success. Hilton featured on ABC Gardening Talkback radio and the garden centre developed into a very well known, profitable and successful business.
After being approached by a Queensland company to manage the setup of a large horticultural development (Botanix), it was agreed that we would sell the Log Cabin Garden Centre so that we could relocate to beautiful Wellington Point, on the edge of Morton Bay in Brisbane. We assisted the family company in fulfilling their dream of opening Botanix Garden and Lifestyle.
After Botanix was completed, Tracy managed the homewares department for two large Freedom Furniture stores and then became the state merchandiser for Bay Leather Republic. Hilton set up a direct-to-customer business, called Hilton Blake Designs, marketing as well as managing designer and landscape construction teams throughout Brisbane and Queensland regions.
Nursery Australia, based in Western Australia, approached us as a team and offered us the roles of Operations Manager and Merchandising Manager. With nine retail stores including a designer store, plus importing and plant production nurseries, we were kept extremely busy. The next five years were filled with many experiences and adventures, from overseeing management, stock selection and supply, promotion, importing, logistics and supervising 120 employees.
For many years, we had an association with Bill Brett, whose business “Garden Retail Success” has helped garden centres around the world to become successful and profitable. After consultation, we accepted the challenge to set up and run Garden Retail Success in Australia. As our boys were now older and building their own paths in life, we purchased an old Winnebago and spent three and a half years mentoring businesses across Australia and New Zealand. During this time, we have continually enjoyed getting such a thrill from experiencing exciting turn arounds in profits and business growth for our clients.
Through our work with garden centres, we have identified the need for small businesses to network together, sharing opportunities, resources and ideas to achieve professional and profitable retailing. From these experiences, GRO NETWORKING has been developed and is actively providing unique marketing and networking opportunities for GRO Members, which had previously been unachievable or unaffordable for individual independent businesses.