A penchant for opulence in flower trade
WHO WOULD IMAGINE a thriving transnational trade in something as delicate as flowers? Yet with every change of season, companies and individuals – particularly those in the harsh climes of Europe such as the Netherlands – splash out big money on a billion rand flower trade known as opulence flowers.
With their temperate sub-tropical climate, East African countries that have identified a gap in that market are cashing in on demand. In Kenya, farmers are already making a mint from the booming demand for horticultural products by growing fields of colourful flora.
It’s an easy sell, says Roelof Delport, CE of exotic flower retailer Opulence. “Flowers literally grow wildly in backyards in Kenya,” he says. But marketing the product to Europe wasn’t what Delport had in mind when he started Opulence. Based on a variation of the Kenyan business model his strategy was South African. “To grow flowers locally and market to corporates and individuals in SA.”
However, with names such as NetFlorists, InterFlora and Woolworths dominating the SA market, why would a qualified quantity surveyor swap his profession for an investment in a seemingly overtraded business?
“First, its passion, then my love for nature. But – most importantly – I’ve identified a gap that not many people are keen to exploit,” says Delport. The 35-year-old Cape-based Delport says incumbent service providers mostly sell flowers like any other consumable. “That explains why my strategy and services are different to those offered by the incumbent flower service providers. Mine goes beyond selling ordinary or scented flowers. In fact, as opposed to an outright sell my strategy is to rent out my product to a client – be it an individual or company – and in so doing generate extra income by providing an after-rent fee by providing an extra care and maintenance service,” he says.
Sound outlandish, maybe even esoteric? Perhaps, but both companies and individual South Africans have quickly warmed to his service, at least judging from the number of orders he’s processed since launching the business last year.
“You’d be amazed to see how many South Africans are taking to the idea of renting opulent flowers, be it for a specific event such as a wedding or just for decorations in the workplace,” Delport says. He’s seen demand rise by more than 70%. The figure could have been much higher but for the fact the company has a limited advertising and marketing budget, he says.
A unique niche Delport has exploited as part of his strategy to differentiate his products is his specialisation in growing three types of opulent flowers – Phalaenopsis, Vanda and Cymbidium – which mostly bloom in winter. He adds his market is the high-income bracket with a penchant for opulence. “So unlike your usual service provider who sells every flower you can think of to the ordinary person in the street, I specialise in those three and market them to a wealthy client hosting a function or wanting a rarity,” he says.
Devoted to the green revolution campaign, Delport grows plants to cut down on greenhouse emissions in a greenhouse on a farm in Milnerton outside Cape Town. He has another greenhouse in his backyard in Durbanville. In total, he has a stock of 4 000 potted plants capable of serving 500 sites. But owing to the infancy of his business, he currently has fewer than 100 clients on his books.
The viability of his business is apparent from prize money worth R1m he recently won as the Enablis entrepreneur of the year. The prize money has come in handy at just the right time. “With less than 500 days to the 2010 Soccer World Cup kick-off, the hospitality industry is poised for remarkable growth. Without a doubt many companies will be looking to hire my products on an ad hoc basis.”
Delport plans to use part of his prize money to market and advertise the business. “Even better if we could have a countrywide distribution of our service in the build-up to 2010,” he says. While he remains firmly focused on establishing himself in the SA market, he doesn’t rule out the possibility of venturing into exporting. “The opportunities are enormous out there. But I’m constrained by my business strategy for the moment. I like to maintain my product so that when the rental contract expires I then get my product back. Currently, that means maintaining an SA client base as best I can with the resources I have. It’s part of my devotion to environmental protection.”
Wants to cash in on 2010. Roelof Delport