Thuli Galelekile is currently Acting Executive Marketing, Communications and HR for Ithala Development Finance Corporation. Prior to that she was the Divisional Manager Marketing and Communication. But she has a whole other life outside this.
She is also a founder and owner of Orchida Florist, which was launched in 2013. The company supplies floral arrangements and décor for individuals as well as companies. Orchida Florist caters for all occasions, and pride themselves on good quality service. Since its launch, the company has grown from strength to strength and has secured contracts with Moses Mabhida and the Durban ICC where they supply floral arrangements for their reception areas as well as for the events they run.
How did you get here and why?
Flowers have always been a passion of mine. Since childhood, I distinctly remember how flowers just made my day. I used to destroy my mother’s garden, putting together different arrangements and bringing them to the house just to brighten the room. I guess this passion stayed with me, and when the opportunity for me to own a florist presented itself, I didn’t look back. As they say, the rest is history!
The ideal opportunity presented itself in 2013 when my sister-in-law decided to let go of her events company. The company had a standalone florist that wasn’t really her main focus, but for some reason was really doing well. So when she decided to sell, I jumped at the opportunity to buy the florist portion of the company. Part of the reason for deciding on this, was its location, and also the fact that despite the lack of focus, it seemed to have established quite a sound client base.
Since the florist didn’t have an identity, it meant that I had to take time creating an identity and marketing this new identity to the existing clients as well as potential clients. The name Orchida Florist was inspired by my favourite flowers, orchids, which also happen to be my younger child’s favourite flowers as well.
At Orchida Florist we pride ourselves for the personalised service we give our customers. To us, flowers are not just a business, but our passion and this is reflected in the arrangements we make. The positive feedback we get from our clients is what keeps us going. We are constantly updating ourselves on new trends in floral arrangements by attending seminars, as well as going on flower arrangement courses which help us upgrade our skills. And to put our name out there, we also enter flower arrangement competitions.
What lessons have you learnt along the way?
I have learnt that business requires patience and commitment. It also requires that you put yourself out there so that your work is known.
In business, your word needs to be your commitment, and it is also critical to deliver outstanding service. The florist sector is quite competitive and is currently dominated by white and Indian companies. As a black player, good service is not good enough. One needs to deliver outstanding service and establish an identity.
It is also critical to keep abreast of trends impacting your sector and constantly reinvent yourself as a business in order to meet the current trends. This is what has helped us stay in business for this long.
Networking in this sector is also critical. I have also found that strategic partnerships are critical. In my spare time, I approach events companies, funeral parlours, car dealerships and other firms where I offer my services. This ensures that my company is top of mind, ensuring that I have constant source of business over and above the contracts I have secured with ICC and Moses Mabhida.
It is also critical to utilise multi-platforms to market your business and as such we have presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and these platforms have also helped us secure business.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs on their journeys?
- Patience, patience, patience. Rome was not built in a day. It is therefore critical to put in time and effort, even in times when you think you are getting nowhere.
- Put yourself out there, let people know about your services. Remember that you represent your business, so be careful about the image you project through your interaction with potential clients. Sometimes business opportunities are killed by the way you behave in situations you might not associate with business opportunities. Put your best foot forward at all times.
- Read about your industry and ensure you understand everything that affects it. This is what will give you the edge over your competitors.
- Don’t be too scared to ask for feedback. In fact, strive for this. This is what will help you improve and give you staying power in your business.
- Most importantly, enjoy what you are doing. The rest flows from this. Where there is passion, money will flow.