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Profiting from flower power

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Fleur le Cordeur is about cutting edge designs for celebrations, especially from a floral perspective. The company loves everything about anything that grows from soil. Their expertise is to create floral design orientated installations that will stun people on occasions important to them. They work with flowers and other natural products – any colour, texture and scent. 

The team is led by founder and creative extraordinaire Heike le Cordeur. She loves her job, her family, anything slightly unordinary and wears her heart on her sleeve. She is all about living life to the max, and having as much fun as possible while running a lucrative enterprise. Heike loves learning and adventure, which drives fresh ideas.

What did you do before starting your own business?

I worked in the IT industry for about five years, ending up as a functional process analyst as part of a team responsible for implementing enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. 

Where did the idea come from?

When I was pregnant with our first of three children, I wanted to make a change from IT to something more creative and flexible, thinking it would be a part-time endeavour, and I started helping a friend who is a
wedding planner. Within less than a year, all based on word-of-mouth marketing, I had enough work to call it a full-time job. 

What motivated you to turn the idea into a business?

I realised that there are few people who can be both creative – coming up with new ideas all the time – as well as technical and logistically-driven. At the time, there was almost a gap in the market for that. I was pedantic about my cold chain not being broken, about delivering flowers as efficiently as possible, and in turn ended up delivering highly creative flowers of absolute outstanding quality to my clients. I had found my passion and was determined to make a life doing it, and that was the motivation. 

How did you get the funding to get started

The beauty of this business model is that I did not need funding. Each project’s deposit would cover its costs. So each product funded itself. I started small, asked my mom to help me, and used my and my husband’s cars to deliver the flowers and décor. As my projects got bigger, I was able to put money away and, within two years, had enough saved to invest into some serious infrastructure such as walk-in fridges and trucks, as well as full-time staff. 

How many people do you currently employ?

I employ eight people full-time, and have access to another 40 part-time consultants. On large projects we would be a team of 30-plus working on site. 

What's been unexpected?

How quickly and effectively this business grew from literally working out of the kitchen to providing a super service to the most high-profiled and demanding clients. The unexpected part is how easy it has felt. It feels like only last year when I was doing everything myself, from cleaning vases and flowers, packing crates, loading and cleaning and setting up, to running a business and a team that is so efficient in such an effortless manner.

How tough is competition in your sector, and what differentiates you from others?

I have been fortunate to have created a niche service and have a specific clientele. I am not aware of any competition, as I do not have to do competitive quotes or pitch any work. My clients approach me because they have seen our work and they have already decided they want to work with us, regardless of what it will cost. 

I have also managed to emphasise the importance of “design” in what we do so our clients expect us to come up with the ideas and, more often than not, are open to being pleasantly surprised on the day of their events, given that they understand the concept, but not the details involved. I think this is a major difference between how we work and the rest of floral designers in the industry. 

How has your business grown over the years?

We have branched out into home ware, using my floral designs to create beautiful high-quality linen items, as well as collaborated on some beautiful planner notebooks. I am constantly on the lookout to use my brand and my love for flowers and design in other ways that naturally complement the floral design heart of the business. I guess the branching out is a way of creating streams of revenue while I sleep. 

What's your three-year goal for your company?

I have never thought too far ahead. Not even from the beginning of building the company did I ever imagine it would become a global brand! I take every day as it comes. Every year we are more than doubling turnover and the growth is just off the charts. My goal is to continue to grow, continue to push boundaries, and continue to defy all logic about what we can do with flowers. 

This is a shortened version of an article that originally appeared in the 6 October edition of finweek. Buy and download the magazine here

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