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Conversations with Andre Burgess

Today we’d like to introduce you to Andre Burgess.

Hi Andre; thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstories.
As a young man, I was always a leader. Right out of high school, I wanted to start a business as a furniture maker. Still, I went to Ranken Technical Institute and received an associate’s degree in architectural drafting and structural engineering. After 30 years as a project manager in engineering, I realized that I had a passion for plants, landscaping, and gardening. I maintained a collection of over 150 cacti, tropical trees, a garden, and house plants. I started in 2014 as a garden site full of information and product reviews for growers and gardeners. By 2017 had over 27,000 web viewers per month looking for garden information. At that time, a decision was made to turn into an e-commerce website. A website was created to sell fertilizers, soil, pots, and other garden accessories. In 2019 I quit my engineering job to manage full-time. During my time off, we prepared a Loudbank 2020 Business Expansion Plan, an amendment to the original business plan. The new expansion plan leads the way to our first brick-and-mortar located at 8445 Natural Bridge Rd. in St. Louis, Mo. We opened for business in August of 2021 and are known as the only Black Owned hydroponic/garden supply business in the Midwest!

Can you talk to us about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
There have been many struggles along the way. After realizing the direction to take the business model, it was time to implement the business plan. The plan included a brick and mortar located at 8445 Natural Bridge in St. Louis to house a full-blown garden center. This is where the challenges begin. Finding a location during covid was bittersweet. It took over 2 years and a lot of research to find a location suitable for our needs. Our final destination turned out to be perfect for our needs. It was located on a major route in a high-traffic area. The lease amount was within budget and very close to home.

The next hurdle was to acquire financing for inventory, advertising, and marketing. The amount to start this venture was less than $100,000. I have excellent credit and assumed that financing that amount would be a small feat, but it was a nightmare. Right before closing on the business loan, my loan officer was terminated or no longer worked for that company. Once this happened, a new loan officer was assigned to my account. This loan officer seemed determined to make the process as difficult as possible with additional information and collateral requests. To keep moving forward with my dreams and goals, I decided to finance Loudbank fully. After one year in business, the confidence, the experience and determination has increased so much that Loudbank is now self-sufficient and an asset to the community. The next group of challenges for Loudbank is to proceed to the next level. That includes acquiring a budget to market and advertise the brand, increase revenue, and hire staff to expand services.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar, what can you tell them about what you do?
I am a certified Master Gardener. I specialize in growing house plants, gardens, trees, and more. The services we provide are seeding, landscaping and irrigation. LoudBank LLC is certified as a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and a Disadvantage Business Enterprise (DBE). We look forward to working with the commercial growers, schools, multiple municipalities, the Missouri Highway Dept., and The St. Louis Metropolitan Sewer District.

I am proud to know that I own a business that has the support of the local community, a business with a product and a service that benefits the neighbors and surrounding areas. The process of gardening is something that gives back in multiple ways. We take it up as a hobby that stimulates our minds and gives us purpose. Gardening leads to movement or exercise for our bodies. Gardening has multiple rewards, as seeing your plant growth is a significant accomplishment and to grow something healthy for you and your family to nourish your bodies is one of the best gifts one could have. Loudbank has the experience and supplies to help everyone accomplish these rewards.

In terms of your work and the industry, what are some changes you expect to see over the next five to ten years?
There are many reasons why this industry will thrive even more in the next 5 to 10 years. I have personally seen gardeners spend more time and money on growing food. People are beginning to realize the rewards of growing their food compared to the market cost of fruits and vegetables. During the covid pandemic, people stayed home more than usual and decided to take advantage of gardening as a hobby. This resulted in 18.3 million new gardeners in the US alone. While others see gardening as more than just a hobby, it’s an extension of their home and a chance to enhance their outdoor living space. Using indoor plants also improves the indoor living space, it can lower stress, and create a sense of health and well-being. There is a trend of going green as the government explores initiatives to reduce our carbon footprint. It is known that 55% of Americans have gardens. Statistics show that 67% of adults are planning to grow edible plants. In America, 48 billion dollars is spent on gardening supplies each year. The outlook for this industry has never looked better.

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