The LinkGreen backstory starts way back. Warren Patterson, CEO, says his introduction to entrepreneurship began in grade 7 when running a chicken business; “I sold eggs all throughout high school, from there I got a taste of what it means to build something, own it, and understand how best to serve customers.”
Fast-forward to his career as a Chartered Accountant at Price Waterhouse Cooper, one Halloween the scary realization hit —he was missing his children’s childhood. “Both my wife and I left our corporate jobs in Toronto, deciding to open a garden centre in Barrie, owning from the ground up. We built in the winter of 2001, not knowing anything about gardening.”
From experience Warren Patterson recognizes; “the challenges that most independent retailers have, from that came the vision of what LinkGreen is today; an online ordering service for independent retailers and an online ordering solution for their vendors.”
“When I opened the garden centre the worst case was I would have a pile of debt and I’d have to go back to work to pay it off. I could do it and so I went for it. I haven’t looked back since.”
Warren Patterson credits his years at Price Waterhouse Cooper in strategic consulting practice, and the supply chain area with what he brings to LinkGreen.
Together with LinkGreen Co-Founder & CTO Rob Tigwell, who developed the garden centre’s first website—the two men spent weekly sessions at Tigwell’s Baskin Robbins store “working on designing and planning what LinkGreen would look like.”
“I believe that luck is really opportunity made in preparedness in life. We’ve been fortunate to have great people come to us at the right time. Our sales and marketing person Johnny had 25 years hybrid marketing, great graphics, design and writing capabilities. That was a talent we needed when we found Johnny. Our other staff; our key technology guy came at the right time. We’ve been very fortunate with the people we’ve known and attracted to the company. We’ve also been very fortunate to be introduced to people. We were actually introduced to the Business Development Bank.”
Contacts led to the Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre; with introductions to “a large number of people who have been in their position before starting tech companies, through those relationships and networking we’ve been able to achieve the success we’ve achieved so far. Our mentor Chris Adams, absolutely instrumental in helping us get to where we are now, and in showing us what it’s going to take to get to the next level. It’s his insights, wisdom and guidance. HBEC also introduced us to Venture Lab in Markham, which is a MaRS sub-office. They say it takes a village to raise a child, no different than a small tech company, it takes a village to take a company and make it bigger, stronger and drive it to success.
The LinkGreen technology has onion layers; “designed so a retailer can go in and see their ecosystem, the problem we looked at was from the buyers side, not the suppliers side. LinkGreen has done the integration with all the vendors. This is the model of the future, to allow independent retailers to take on big box, the Walmart and Costcos of the world.”
This is not typical wholesale purchasing—no catalogues, paper forms, faxes or emails.
“With fragmented industries, players on both sides are too small to create the technology to link the two together, LinkGreen provides the common connectivity for a little retailer.”
LinkGreen is presently approaching 280 suppliers that represent close to $350 million dollars in revenue.
The extensive vision of LinkGreen branches beyond the horticultural industry, they are “pushing the boundaries into lumber and building materials.” LinkGreen presently has 3300 buyers: 900 in the USA, with another 9000 in the registration process, representing a cross section of the industry; independent garden centres, florists, golf courses, pharmacies, gift shows, municipalities, independent hardware, lumber stores, and hotels.
Gauging success on the positive impact his vision has, leveling the field for small retail stores, Warren Patterson looks forward to hearing people say; “Hey Warren thanks for creating LinkGreen because it made a big difference in my business.”
Now growing 2 companies in Barrie, Warren Patterson is keenly aware of the importance of community for independent businesses, and their impact on the city. “The 30 people employed at my place live in Barrie, that’s one of the things I’m most proud of and thankful for.”
Article written by: Penelope Morrow