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Cape Times

Everything Comes up roses

“When we started the business a few years ago, we were three. But now the business has grown and we now have 75 people employed,” Viljoen adds.

Viljoen said that research showed that the market for artificial flowers was growing by between 36 and 38 percent a year, while the market for fresh flowers was declining by between nine and 13 percent. He said that although people liked fresh flowers, they resorted to buying artificial flowers because they lasted longer. “But it is obvious that people would prefer real flowers compared to artificial flowers. With this technology we are essentially embalming the rose and preserving it, keeping it fresh for two years. “What we are doing is no different from what has the long life version of the flower.”

Talking about pricing, he said a rose is sold for between R10 and R25. But the Iluba rose can be sold for seven to 10 times more because it has a longer life. Although the business has grown and now has a turn-over of R10 million, Viljoen is not satisfied. “To be honest, we could be four times bigger and employ four times the number of workers we now have. “The problem is that we have shortage of supply of fresh roses. We struggle to keep up with the orders. And because of the shortage, we now import 80 percent of the fresh flowers from Kenya. If we had enough supply of the roses locally, we would simply buy these locally,” said Viljoen.

Eighty percent of the Iluba flowers are exported. Initially, Viljoen exported the flowers mainly to Europe but now he also exports to the Far East, Middle East and North America.Iluba also benefits from the Department of Trade and Industry’s marketing program that promotes locally made products to other countries through the trade mission.

Viljoen has opened shops that sells his products at the Cradlestone Mall in Muldersdrift, west of Joburg and just a few kilometres from his firm, and Clearwater Mall in Roodepoort. His plan is to open a franchise in Pretoria in May and also others in Maputo and Saudi Arabia.

One of his employees, Tshifhiwa Maano, is grateful for the opportunity to work as a supervisor. Maano is a beneficiary of the dynamic collaboration between the state, the private sector and other institutions to use science and technology to respond to the various challenges facing the country, a view expressed by the DST Minister Naledi Pandor.

“South Africa, through the DST, is fast becoming a preferred partner for research and innovation funding partnerships with international foundations. I believe that more funding should be available to the Technology Innovation Agency to fund commercialisation, as we do not as yet have a dynamic risk-taking venture capital system in South Africa. “We are grateful to all our partners for their support. “We remain committed to taking South Africa forward by using science, technology and innovation for socio-economic growth and transformation,” Pandor stated in an address to Parliament.

But as for Viljoen, he jokingly says that he makes wedding flowers that can outlive some marriages.

Published in the Cape Times Paper.

Electronic version found on Press Reader.

Date: 7 May 2015