Until recently, the entry into the ‘African Mall’ hosted the curious shop where one could buy Chinese oriented vegetables. The shops have now become the home of the city’s leading florists, Jane Makwa and Annette Ataide. Annette of Bells Florist speaks to Lifestyle about the flower trade.
Lifestyle: You have been active for quite a while in events promotion using flowers. What value do flowers add to events?
Annette: “Seeing is believing. You have to fix the images so that they appeal to the eye and the emotion. You are also working with colours. The way you do it can change a plain setting into something stunning and leave you with memorable impressions.
LS: One does not immediately think of flowers as a part of Botswana’s entertainment industry. Is this perception correct? If so, are things changing?
Annette: No. The perceptions are not correct because flowers have always been used in a lot of functions like weddings, corporate events, funerals and many other social activities. More and more people are using this facility, but it not as if it did not exist before.
LS: What occasions do you enjoy the most?
Annette: I enjoy myself the most when I have to create. At weddings one has to come up with designs to suit the tastes of the couple. It is a difficult question because you have to respond to the immediate challenges presented by the particular occasion. On Valentine’s Day the florist has to satisfy the peculiar needs of lovers who are very often different in their tastes.
LS: What does it take for one to enter the flower business to do what you have been doing?
Annette: It takes more than interest to become a florist. It takes creativity, passion and the ability to make it work for you in a way that should be different from your competitors. You have to master colour coordination and be of a pleasant personality. Yu should be able to read the customer’s mind. And you must also have the skills to manage the business. So, it does take some formal training ÔÇô in or outside school ÔÇô to perform well in the business. This is a form of art. It is possible to have the training and the facilities, but if you do not have the touch for it, it will not work for you.
LS: Which flower is most popular in Botswana? Or are there many which are?
Annette: Roses appear to be very popular amongst our clientele. Lilies, Carnations and Chrysanthemums are also quite popular. It varies according to individual tastes and the nature of the occasion.
LS: You are now moving into selling plants too. How is that different from displaying flowers at big events?
Annette: People like plants and they ask for them. They enjoy them. For the florist, working with flowers is more of an art. Selling plants has more to do with the wishes of the buyer. Both activities can work well together.
LS: Don’t the flowers and the plants have to move very quickly to avoid wilting, especially in hot temperatures like in Botswana?
Annette: You have to have the right facilities to keep the temperatures that will protect the plants from wilting, dehydration and general stress. That is also related to the way that you order so that you keep only enough to pass on to the customer whilst also making sure that they must not come and find that you do not have stock.
LS: Do you find that Batswana are becoming more interested in planting flowers and other decorative plants?
Annette: Batswana have always been interested in flowers and other plants. There is a growing interest in flowers, actually.
LS: Do you find that flowers and household plants are equally popular for the wealthy and the not so rich?
Annette: There appears to appreciation on both ends. However, it should also be admitted that people who are better off can buy landscaping skills and other forms of help without having to come to the shop. So, from a business point of view, the shops tend to rely on the middle and lower income groups.
LS: You must love plants. Otherwise you would not have been involved in the trade for so long. How did it all start?
Annette: Well, I come from a faring background. My grandfather was a farmer. So was my father. I guess somewhere along the line the bug found its way into my system. It is not just the family heritage. There must be something in me for the art of creating art through flowers.