The story of Flowers All-in

Flowers All-In borrowed €85.000 to ensure its continuity after the effects of the COVID-19 crisis. October was curious about the story of Flowers All-In and had a talk with entrepreneurs Patricia and Marko van Gils in the Dutch town of Honselerdijk, South Holland, about entrepreneurship, challenges and their search for quick financing. They did so with the help of their financial advisor, Antoine Wevers of Credion Rotterdam Rijnmond.

A true family business

Flowers All-In is a wholesaler of bouquets and glass arrangements. The flowers come directly from Flora Holland and are bought and delivered fresh every day. Marko says: “Together with Patricia I run this company, which I took over from my father a long time ago. I am responsible for the sales. Patricia takes care of the whole administration. We buy the flowers directly at the auction, they are delivered directly from the growers. We deliver the flowers mainly to exporters and we export them ourselves abroad. I send pictures of possible compositions to the customer in advance. If the customer agrees, I send the bouquets. We have been doing this for more than 15 years now with a number of employees and a number of temporary workers. We deliver 10,000 bouquets to the customer every week.”

Patricia adds: “We export to our customers in Germany, Denmark, Sweden, France, Italy and Bonaire. The bouquets we export to these countries are sold again at gas stations and supermarkets in these countries. This goes on continuously.” Marko: “The trend remains the same in terms of the type of flowers we sell. But over the years the form has changed. In the past there was a lot of demand for a small round bouquet, now we see a trend in multi-stage bouquets, where the flowers of a bouquet have different heights.” Patricia: “Our busy periods are Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Christmas.”

Focus on entrepreneurship and quality

“Corona has had an impact on our business,” explains Marko. “Fortunately, we work with temporary workers, which means we are flexible and could send temporary workers home. And we started working differently, according to the new Corona measures. For example, we have hung splash screens and wear mouthmasks.” Patricia adds: “In the very first week of the lockdown, Denmark also went into lockdown, and nothing was ordered at all. After this first week, things went a little better again.” Marko: “I put corona aside and we continued to do business, with continued focus on quality, which is important.” Patricia agrees: “We continue to distinguish ourselves from other companies. There are plenty of parties who do the same thing, composing the bouquets is done on the conveyor belt. At Flowers All-In it’s really handicraft. And that is our strength; we do it just a little bit different and more beautiful than the others.”

In search of quick funding

Marko: “We also worked with a purchasing company that uses a 14-day payment term. Because of corona, that purchasing company was forced to relocate, which caused us problems. Because at Flora Holland we have to pre-finance, but we didn’t have these funds available due to the drop in turnover in 2020 as a result of corona. We needed stock quickly for Valentine’s Day, which required financing. Our accountant advised us to talk to Antoine.”

Antoine: “I have been an advisor at Credion in the Rotterdam Rijnmond region since early 2017, after years of experience at a major bank. We work with four advisors here, which is nice, we can spar well with each other about financing requests from SMEs. And we do that for all sectors. Indeed, I know Marko and Patricia’s accountant well and was put in touch with them. We met during our first appointment. During such a meeting you discuss among other things what kind of financing is needed. In this case it was an urgent need for working capital, because the purchasing company had moved.”

Financing at October

Marko: “We have not done any external financing before. In the past 15 years we have always used our own money. But now we needed capital on very short notice.” Patricia: “Antoine presented us with several financiers. The bank had high requirements, so they dropped out during the selection. October was also an option. We didn’t know October yet and we started looking at it.” Antoine: “If an entrepreneur needed financing 7 or 8 years ago, he went to his current bank or possibly on the advice of his accountant to another bank. After that the search would actually stopped. In recent years, a huge number of alternative financiers have been added and, as advisors, we look at several options. I knew that they could submit an online application to the company bank, but that this would most likely take several weeks. But speed was of essence. At October, I submitted the application for Flowers All-In on a Friday. Three days later we received a binding proposal. The speed and direct contact is very important at such a time.” Patricia: “What’s really nice is that we received an overview of the number of private lenders in our project. There were 991 private lenders! With this loan we now have an old customer back, who we can now deliver because we received the financing.”

Advice for other entrepreneurs

What advice do Patricia and Antoine have for entrepreneurs looking for financing? “When you’re an entrepreneur looking for financing, make sure you hire a good financial advisor. An advisor who is honest and discusses not only what you want, but also what you really need. And who also guides you well through the financing application process.” explains Patricia. “I could always call Antoine with my questions, which is very nice at such a time.” Antoine adds: “A financial advisor has a clear overview of an entrepreneur’s financing question within an hour and then knows how to find the right party. That way, entrepreneurs can keep their focus on their business and continue to do what they do best.”