Having interests in natural foods, natural medicine and environmental wellbeing, Maddy has run businesses since she left University.
She started her first business in 1991, a natural food shop in Portsmouth. Maddy was practicing wildlife gardening at the time and came across Bill Mollison’s ideas about permaculture; ideas that changed her life.
Maddy and husband Tim founded a publishing company, Permanent Publications, in 1990 to publish information that would ‘empower people’. Their first book Healthy Business was about how to run a complementary medicine practice. Their fourth was Permaculture in a Nutshell by Patrick Whitefield. By 1992, they had launched Permaculture magazine – ‘inspiration for sustainable living’, which today has over 100,000 readers.
Among the awards won by Permanent Publications is the Queens Award for Enterprise for its ‘unfettered commitment to sustainable development internationally’ in 2008.
Alongside growing the publishing company Maddy and Tim were growing their own permaculture site that included eco-renovation of a house and planting a forest garden in the early 90s. Another initiative Maddy co-founded in 1995 was an educational centre for sustainability in East Hampshire. Maddy admits they were very lucky to get 55 acres of land after the closure of the local naval base to create The Sustainability Centre.
Maddy says that we now live in a highly complex world and there have been “huge shifts and changes in opportunity for people running enterprises, whether they’re social or commercial enterprises.” Social media is creating opportunities to share information and create new enterprises, although the cost of technology, in particular technological skills, can be a huge investment for a small business.
For those starting a permaculture inspired business, it is important to be clear about your intentions and understand how the ethics apply to your core business. Maddy says: “You have to utterly believe in what you’re going to do and have a vision of what you want to achieve.”
Maddy also emphasises the ability to adapt and respond to a changing environment, developing your networks and seeking for advice from ‘genuinely knowledgeable’ people. As for any enterprise, good financial systems are fundamental. Maddy’s advice is be prepared to analyse your markets and costs, do your financial reporting properly, and work incredibly hard.