Entrepreneurship in horticulture is top sport. Eviek van der Arend, commercial and financial director of Westlandse Plantenkwekerij (WPK) knows all about this. The high quality requirements for vegetable plants on the one hand and the increasingly strict requirements for pesticides on the other, force the company to become increasingly creative. “The Westlandse Plantenkwekerij is a family business that grows plants for both greenhouse horticulture and open-field horticulture. From cucumber plants to red cabbage and from tomatoes to sprouts. We also grow ornamental plants that are ready for retail sale,” says Eviek.
“What are we good at? If a customer requests tomato plants that must meet certain specifications in terms of size and flowering date, we will take care of that. That precision is our strength.”
“Our garden company is like a hotel. Just like tourism, horticulture also has peaks and valleys in occupancy. For example, greenhouse growers need young plants in November and December and open ground growers want their plants in May. You have to find alternatives for the intervening period.”
“To close such a gap in greenhouse occupancy, we have a floriculture program called House & Garden set up. For example, we supply flowering potted plants to our customers from March to September. That has been a success. We also grew poinsettias for a few years. That became increasingly difficult, it no longer fit into the plan. Well, then you take your loss and try something else. That is entrepreneurship.”
“The trick is to keep the occupancy rate as high as possible throughout the year and always keep an eye out for new opportunities. Such a new opportunity can also involve scaling up, but for this you have to secure financing. Things were not rosy in 2008. We then submitted an ambitious plan to the bank. Fortunately, that was approved and that was the start of the upward trend.”
“The increase in scale has now been implemented and we have more than realized the investment. Scaling up happens everywhere. For example, our accountants and advisors from Stolk joined DRV at the beginning of this year. That is actually very nice: we have the same great contacts that we already had, but at the same time the broad expertise of a large office.”
“We owe our success largely to our open culture. My husband Erik and I form the management, so we see each other day and night. Then you have no choice but to be open and honest. We also think it is very important that our staff can continuously think along and contribute to the success of the company, i.e. the lean working method. And that works.”
“For example, one of our employees suggested grafting plants in a different way. Many employees, including the Production Manager, had their doubts, but after a trial period her method turned out to be more efficient and better. Now we work in this new way. I believe in the power of committed employees. That’s how we came out of that dip in 2008 together. I am extremely proud of that.”