Planting the seeds of a flourishing business
To learn more about this family-owned business and how it grew to become one of the largest seedling and plant wholesalers in Tasmania, we sat down with Luke Faulks, Operations Manager at Tibballs Nursery.
Who planted the seed of this fourth-generation family business?
In 1946, Marjorie and Maurice Tibballs established Tibballs Nursery in Hobart. When Maurice was away at war, Marjorie bought a parcel of land in Montrose, 10km north of Hobart. When Maurice returned, they started growing tomato seedlings which they supplied to garden centres and Coles supermarkets around the state.
From that point, the pace of things picked up, and they began to grow flower and veggie seedlings out of their Montrose site.
In 1950, Maurice and Marjorie had a son, Bruce. When Bruce finished school, he also became involved in the business. After he married, Bruce and his wife Lynne began to drive the business.
In 1984, Bruce and Lynne’s second child, Craig, joined the family business.
In 1993, Craig secured an exclusive partnership with Bunnings (then BBC Hardware). This was a real game changer for Tibballs Nursery, as Bunnings went on to become one of the largest retailers in the state.
In its 77 years of operation, what challenges has the business faced as it’s expanded?
Not long after I began here – almost 10 years ago – it was clear that we’d outgrown the suburban Montrose site. We didn’t have enough growing space or enough room for further expansion.
In 2016, we found a 5-hectare parcel of land here in Brighton. Since then, we’ve expanded dramatically with new structures being built, including a large production shed. The business was operating out of three sites for a while, then two sites for a considerable amount of time, but now the entire business operates out of the new Brighton site.
What plants are popular with buyers at the moment?
Our core lines are flower and vegetable seedlings, herbs, potted tomatoes, and potted colour. We also do an expansive range of flowering perennials and some indoor plants.
Over the past four to five years, indoor plants have grown in popularity, and Monsteras have come through as the absolute favourite.
Our most popular vegetable seedlings would be iceberg lettuce, lettuce bistro blend, spring onion, beetroot, sweet basil, silverbeet, snow peas and spinach.
What’s your most popular flower?
In summer, petunias are popular. In autumn, it’s polyanthus, pansies and violas.
How did sales go throughout COVID?
During COVID, we saw a big increase in demand for our vegetable seedlings, herbs and edibles like potted strawberries and tomatoes. That demand has continued, which I think has a lot to do with the rising cost of living.
How important is sustainability and recycling to Tibballs?
In addition to recycling plastics, all the soil from plants we don’t sell is given to community groups and locals who use it in their gardens.
We also collect rainwater from our structures which runs into a dam. The water goes through a filtration system, and we re-use it to water our plants.
We also recycle all our cardboard boxes which our plastic pots and punnets come in.
Who are your main customers?
Currently, Bunnings is our biggest customer, with seven stores statewide. We also have a close alliance with most major garden centres throughout Tassie.
How many staff do you have?
We have 36 employees between the two sites. In the peak of spring, we’d have up to 50 people, including sales reps, a dispatch team who put the orders together, we have pickers, people who help with pests and diseases, and a sales team.
We recruit in July for spring/summer. We’re always looking for people who are friendly, hardworking, ideally local, experienced with nursery work or pests and diseases or plant care.
Why do you enjoy working for Tibballs?
I love the culture. I get to turn up each day and work in a pleasant environment out in the country. We have a great team of people who are enjoyable to be around. We’re proud that we have a nice environment where our people can come in, do a hard day’s work and then go home happy.
How does Spirit Super help support Tibballs and its staff?
I’ve always found Spirit Super, or Tasplan as it was back when I began here, has always been helpful. We’ve developed a close rapport with our Employer Relationship Manager, Nick. He’s been great to call on if we have any problems when we’re doing lodgements. When the electronic clearing house came in, Nick was great in helping us set that up.
It can be difficult for our people to get into the Spirit Super office in Hobart, but Nick’s always available to come out to us and do an information session for our team during their lunch break or to meet with them one-on-one.
We have trust in Spirit Super. It’s an industry super fund, it’s local and easy to deal with, and it has a good reputation and a good history when it comes to returns. What more could you ask for?
We’re here to help
Spirit Super employers get ongoing super support with access to workshops and webinars, super updates, tools and resources.
Our Employer Relationship Managers can give you as much or as little support as you need to help you meet your super responsibilities.
To speak with an Employer Relationship Manager, call us on 1800 005 166.