From the Editor: Sage Advice from Davao City’s Orchid Queen
SALLY LEUENBERGER, who might as well be called Davao City’s Orchid Queen, is one of the most successful orchid growers in the country today. One uncontestable proof is that at the last Kadayawan orchid show in Davao City, she bagged practically all the major prizes in the different orchid competition categories.
Her hybrid Vanda was adjudged the Best Orchid in Show; her two Waling-waling plants won the first and second prizes in their category; and her strap leaf Vandas won all the three top prizes in their category. In the mixed genera category, her orchids also won the top three prizes. It was only in the Dendrobium category that she took the second and third prizes instead of first prize. On top of that, her exhibit booth was adjudged the first prize winner.
Who is Sally Leuenberger of Davao City? She is a top rate CPA (certified public accountant) who used to audit the books of professionals, businessmen, hospitals, schools, and other business enterprises. Her accountancy practice was lucrative but somehow, she was fascinated with orchids.
It all started when she bought her first Vanda orchid in 1981. A client who sold it to her challenged her. If the plant survived up to the next garden show, then she would be ready to start a hobby. And that was the beginning of her love affair with orchids.
Five years later, in 1985, she was charting her life’s direction. Should she abandon her accountancy practice which she developed for 20 years? After thinking the matter over, she decided, in her own words, “to grow orchids and beautify the world.”
She developed her orchid business in four stages. For five years, it was just a hobby without any selling. After five years as hobbyist, she started selling some of her plants, and that was the livelihood stage, during which she did not abandon her accountancy practice altogether. Sometimes, if she sold a flowering orchid for, say, PhP 100, she would use the money to buy a community pot with about 30 baby orchids. That was her strategy to increase her orchid population systematically.
The next stage was as an entrepreneur. That was when she gave up her accountancy practice and focused on orchid growing. As her farm expanded, she entered what she calls the commercial stage.
That meant full-scale production and marketing.
Before she became a commercial grower, she attended a lot of seminars on the orchid business, read books and journals, and attended trade shows in the Philippines and abroad. She also participated in shows in Davao, Manila, and even abroad with some financial support from the government as a representative from the Philippines.
Today she is the owner of SUL Orchids, a seven-hectare orchid farm that has at any one time more than 300,000 orchid plants of various ages.
Sally posing with her prize-winning Waling-waling at the 2016 Kadayawan garden show.