James Folger, who left Worth in 2010, went from working in ‘The City’ to creating a thriving start-up plant business. In the first of a new series titled ‘Alumni in the News’, James tells his story, reflecting on how a connection with nature helped his wellbeing.
I left Worth in 2010 and took the scenic route to university with two gap years before going on to study Economics at UCL. As with the majority of my economics class, I followed the well-trodden path into investment banking and ended up specialising in financial services M&A.
Being a junior in investment banking is akin to a baptism of fire, with late nights, weekends of work and even the hallowed ‘magic roundabout’ where a taxi takes you home and waits for you while you shower and change before taking you back to the office.
Early on in my career I didn’t develop healthy coping mechanisms to deal with the stress, which compounded the pressures of the job and I developed anxiety. However, as I matured I began looking after myself. I started travelling to remote places of natural beauty which allowed me to rebuild my connection with nature and in turn my own sense of being.
With an entrepreneurial itch and a sense of purpose I decided that I wanted to create a business and a platform that could help others find their own sanctuary in nature through spreading the joy of plants across London and in time the rest of the UK. I launched The Stem as a one-man band in October 2019. Helped along by structural shifts in consumer behaviour enabled by the pandemic, we have since grown into a full-time team of seven and reached almost a million pounds of run-rate revenue.
Our vision is to create the UK’s leading online garden retailer, hand-delivering all things green across London and in time the whole of the UK, delivering a best-in-class customer experience through our website and content, and making plants and gardening more accessible than ever and in the most sustainable way possible.
Worth Society is the School’s thriving alumni association that enables former pupils and staff to stay in touch with one another for business and social networking purposes, providing careers advice, support and lifelong guidance.