You've seen an idiot abroad right? Well I was the Karl Pilkington of the Floristry world when I started out on my journey to Holland in August. I've traveled to far flung places as well, on my own, but you would have though I'd never left the village I live in if you'd have seen me in action.
Delays, trying to get to the front of the plane - ending up at the back, sprinting though airports to find out there was no need. Even on the way home thinking it cant go like that again on the way back surely, as I sat down in the sun at the airport with my new fellow florist friends just as the email pings through "your flight has been cancelled"
Despite the comedy travel... I had a great time!
I was invited to go to Amsterdam by a supplier I have being using more frequently this year, Florismart (Hi Ed, Steve, Merel and the gang)
Suppliers are important, very important in business. I rely on them to get it right in order for me to get it right, that's a very valuable relationship in my eyes.
Florismart are a fairly new player in the floristry world and they're challenging the status quo - I admire that! They're fresh and forward thinking and importantly for me, many of the team have done my job and know the challenges I face. They invited me, along with a group of other Florists from across the UK, to join them at their main hub which is situated in the original Aalsmeer market offices in Amsterdam (Aalsmeer is the biggest flower auction in the world)
When a Florist buys their flowers, they will generally buy from a Wholesaler. The wholesaler has bought them from the exporter who has bought them from the grower. It's often a worldwide process with growers etc situated all over the world. It can be a complicated business, especially when it comes to costs as there's an auction process involved and costs aren't 100% determined until they are bought at auction (I even got to see this process happening live!) An experienced Florist like myself will know the average costs of flowers all year round but there are many spanners that can be thrown into the works to blow that right out of the water.. weather related problems, major political decisions - I'm looking at you Brexit! Of course the more people involved in the process the higher the costs too.
Florismart are changing that by providing us with the tools and platforms we need in order to make smart buying decisions, direct from exporters.
I was lucky enough to see and learn so much on my trip! I met lots of other Florists and thoroughly enjoyed hearing about their careers and the various ways we all do business from shops fronts to garden sheds. It was a particular pleasure to meet Paula Pryke OBE and hear about her vast career in Floral Design which has taken her all over the world. The BFA (British Floristry Association) Head also joined us. I'll never tire of hearing the voices behind the industry I love.
We visited various growers includng Meijer Roses who are a main player in the growing of Avalanche Roses which I have been known to use. It was fascinating seeing their greenhouses which are miles long and completely climate controlled. We also visited Qua Lily and again, seen the growing process of the vast rows of Lilies going from bulb to 60/70/80 cm high stems.
Amazingly, the way the export process works means that these flowers can go from grower to Florist within 24 hours!
We also visited Aalsmeer Market and wow - what a huge operation that is! Governed by Flora Holland, at one point most of the floral buying and selling in the world was done through this market. Of course, times are a changing and there are now various ways to carry this business out. The market still continues to play an important (and impressive) part in our floral exchanges though.
This was hands down the best business trip I've ever attended. I topped up my knowledge bank which can only be a good thing for my clients and made some lovely new Florist friends.
Thanks for having me!