‘The hardest job is to make something simple’

Mulch was founded because it met the ‘most basic needs of every gardener’. Ireland’s first drive-through, indoor green waste centre has opened in Dublin. 

“The hardest job is to make something simple,” says John McGuinness, quoting Steve Jobs. He is speaking about his new venture, a drive-through green waste centre, and explaining where the concept came from.

“It was my concept and it came about because it was needed, I needed it and didn’t see anything like it on the market, so I decided to make it.”

McGuinness, a landscape gardener by profession, came up with the idea for Mulch simply because there were no places gardeners, professional or domestic, could recycle their garden waste and buy peat free compost.

“The most basic needs of every gardener are places to get rid of their waste and places to buy compost,” explains McGuinness. “We provide a facility for environmentally-minded gardeners and landscapers to dispose of green waste and then we turn that into 100% peat free compost.”

Peat free compost

McGuinness is quite passionate about preserving Ireland’s bogs.

“Most composts from garden centres in Ireland contain large quantities of peat, despite the fact that it is an increasingly depleted natural resource,” he says. “We recycle everything we take in which allows us to produce a range of peat free products to go right back into the garden.”

The new Mulch drive-through is a 12,000 sq. ft. facility that McGuinness lightheartedly describes as “a McDonald’s drive-through for gardeners of all shapes and sizes”.

The facility is open to all vehicle types and trailers and to both domestic and commercial landscapers. It’s a unique service and McGuinness and his business partner Aengus Benson have plans to expand, first to South Dublin and then to the other major urban areas on the island, including Belfast.

“We have ambitions and we’re perfecting our model. We will consider franchising but we want to control the key sites as we expand.”

Looking ahead

McGuinness and Benson started the business in 2011 with their own cash and a small loan from the Dublin City Enterprise Board.

“People say I should have applied for this grant or this funding but to be honest I just didn’t have the time,” he says about his start-up phase. “I always look ahead in business and spending a lot of time and energy chasing funding that may never arise feels to me like standing still or looking back.”

And what advice would he give to people starting out in business?

“It’s not that difficult, don’t be afraid. If you have a good idea and a good plan and you run your own race, you will succeed. Keep focused on what you do, not on what anyone else is doing.”

Did he learn anything surprising as he embarked on his business journey? “I’m just disappointed that the country isn’t more proactive when it comes to supporting and encouraging green businesses. We still had an enormous amount of red tape to cut through. It’s a pity because what we are doing is a good thing. We’re not depleting our peat bogs; we’re recycling waste and we’re selling environmentally-friendly products, including kiln-dried Ash hardwood and renewable eCoal,” he says. 

“There is a need for a business like ours and there’s a growing consumer demand for our services. Our ambition now is to expand and change the way people think about green waste and compost, especially when it comes to peat compost.”