Are you busy at the moment?
“It’s pretty quiet. With regards to sales, in the autumn was busy with tulip, dahlia and gladiolus bulbs at the moment. I purchase them from a Dutch wholesaler and sell them to consumers through my own web shop. I launched the web shop around six years ago, a little bit like an experiment. At the time, I was still working as a manager with a tree nursery and bulb company nearby.”
Why did you start your own business?
“I got to know the calla through our bulb supplier, and I just loved the plant. I decided to try out the product at a flower show – a well-known phenomenon in Britain. Winning a gold medal at a flower show in Birmingham encouraged me to start my own business. In 2011, I got the opportunity to rent this 1.4-ha piece of land. I put up several small greenhouses here, which I built by myself using recycled materials. I’m living proof that you can start your own company, even if your parents don’t have a horticultural company and your financial resources are limited.”
Is calla your main product?
“Yes, it is. In summer, I take part in ten to fifteen flower shows, including the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show. We usually also sell a fair amount of calla plants at those shows, sometimes more than a thousand. In addition, I supply calla to some garden centres. In the Netherlands, calla is mainly sold as an indoor plant, but I market them as patio and balcony plant. The average British person doesn’t have too many indoor plants and would rather spend his/her money on outdoor plants.”
What else do you do?
“I also grow lavender and dahlias, which I sell to wholesalers. And I grow tulips, specifically for participation in the flower shows. It’s a way to generate more interest in our online bulb sales. And to bridge the quiet winter months, I trade seed potatoes, garlic and fruit trees. Finally, I give presentations for garden clubs on a regular basis. It brings in some money, but it’s also a good way to find out how consumers respond to certain varieties.”
Is it enough to make a living?
“Yes, it was the past two years anyway. We’ve been at the Chelsea Flower Show since 2013, which has helped make our name ‘Brighter Blooms’ more well-known. That translates into more customers and orders.”
What are your plans for the future?
“The next couple of years, I’ll continue to take part in flower shows, it’s a perfect way to present yourself. But in the long term, I’d like to increase sales from the nursery, so that I can spend more time there and further optimise the crops. I’m thinking of creating a show garden, which might be a good way to attract customers.”
Does the devaluation of the British pound cause any problems for you?
“Yes, it’s a big problem, because I import a fair amount. Bulbs and plant material for example, have become a lot more expensive. In order to maintain my margin, I am forced to increase my prices. And I don’t think Brexit will do us any good; international business activities are very likely to become more complicated. I try not to worry about it too much though, because it’s too late to change it now anyway.
About Matthew Smith
Company: Brighter Blooms
Location: Preston, United Kingdom
Sales: consumers (including through flower shows), traders and garden centres
Assortment: Calla, dahlia, lavender, tulips and various types of bulbs
Number of employees: Smith can usually manage with the help of friends and family. Every now and again he’ll hire a few temporary workers.