"We sell more in a single week than we used to sell over an entire year"
The entrepreneurial spirit is in full bloom at Bigot Fleurs. Now in its third generation, it has seen the creation of a new company at each succession. Its history began in 1958, when Jean Bigot founded a company to produce and sell roses and carnations.
In 1988, his son Jean-Philippe joined the company after launching his own tulip production business. Finally, Nicolas, Jean's grandson, launched his online flower sales business, les Fleurs de Nicolas, in 2011. "For us, legitimacy is not acquired through the bloodline, but through ideas and innovations," says Jean-Philippe.
53 hectares of greenhouses
And he certainly does not lack ideas. When he took over the family company in the late 1980s, he thought about expanding internationally. "The traditional focus of our business—rose production in France—was declining. There was pressure on prices," Jean-Philippe recalls. His plan took several years to mature, but in 2002 he took the plunge: "I had to get on the bandwagon, which wasn't an easy thing to do. We were a SME with a strong regional foundation. It was like a long-distance race because it required endurance." Destination: Kenya. That's where he established 53 hectares of greenhouses for rose production because the conditions there were optimal in terms of skills and climate. The project has been a success, producing nearly 80 million roses per year and leading to a threefold increase in French staff and revenue. "This new business in Kenya helped us develop not only the French business but also an expansion to international markets. Today, we sell flowers in the United Kingdom, Germany and the Scandinavian countries. Two-thirds of our revenues come from exporting. "In a single week, we sell more than we used to sell over an entire year when I started!"
A commitment to fair trade
Jean-Philippe insists that the Kenyan operation is not a form of outsourcing. And above all, it was done with the well-being of the local people in mind. "We wanted our involvement in Africa to have an impact. When you realise that 50% of the local population is unemployed, you want to make a difference." The company obtained the Max Havelaar fair trade label, which guarantees that part of the profits from the sale of the roses goes to benefit the African staff through social projects such as the construction of a village and vaccinations. "This may also have to do with us being a family business. People are at the heart of our concerns. We don't simply work for work's sake. What we want is to create a dynamic where there's strong commitment from teams and individuals."