New: The Marginpar Recipe
Take a look inside Marginpar's kitchen! In various interviews we are sharing our unique recipe for unique flowers, powerful collaborations and tackling tricky challenges. First up: Rob Koning, co-CEO.
Our strength lies in finding product-market combinations.
Marginpar has been around since 1988 and is an established name within the floriculture world. As a large grower of products such as Eryngium, Astrantia, Solidago and Clematis for example. But also for many special, smaller product groups such as Jatropha, Scabiosa and Astilbe.
We are proud of our flowers, our methods and our people. In a series of interviews we give you a look inside Marginpar's kitchen. First: Rob Koning (50), managing director since 1999 and co-CEO since 2022. He guides us through the past, the present and his dreams for the future.
Where it all began:
Marginpar started as a family business. Rob's parents set up Marginpar in the late 80's as an agency for flower growers in Zimbabwe. From the Netherlands they brought new varieties to the Zimbabwean flower fields: Hypericum, Eryngium, Astrantia. At its peak, Marginpar worked together with 25 small and medium-sized growers who together produced around 100 million flowers per year. Political and economic unrest in Zimbabwe and the desire for a new production climate brought Rob to East Africa: Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya. In Kenya, around 2002, Richard (Kiki) Fernandes came into the picture, who was looking for a new challenge at the time. Rob: "We were looking for a good and reliable partner in Kenya to start production of the species we had developed in Zimbabwe. I found this partner in Kiki." The cooperation with Fernandes led to four beautiful production companies of summer flowers, also known as "Kariki".
Kariki became Marginpar's biggest production partner. Rob: "In Kenya, we took a different approach by creating larger acreages with fewer partners. In 20 years, we grew from 100 million stems with 25 growers to 250 million stems with only 7 partners."
In 2018, Rob and Kiki Fernandes decided to make their partnership more sustainable by merging Kariki, Marginpar BV Netherlands and Marginpar Ethiopia, which was set up in 2007, into one company. Rob: "We are now integrated in the chain where production is the main activity of our company. We are also active in breeding and developing new products and offer a very broad package." Partner farms in both Zimbabwe and Tanzania have remained in place and offer an important contribution to the portfolio of products.
By breeding in four countries, we ensure year-round production and spread the risks
Two captains on one ship?
For Rob, the path to be followed was clear. But convincing others took 20 years. The merger of Marginpar and Kariki was a turning point. The vision of Richard (Kiki) Fernandes and Rob goes beyond producing unique flowers: the people behind the flowers are extremely important. Rob: "Kiki's passion has always been to develop and connect his people. The way in which he has been responsible for the individual development of his employees has resulted in a very special corporate culture, in which working together is central. Kiki does that very strongly, and "working together" has always been important to me as well. We have really found each other in this and therefore it is also easy to run the company together; we pursue the same values."
The course of collaboration
Rob: "What I am most proud of is the fact that we have always followed our own course and that, as pioneers in the market, we chose the course of cooperation from the very beginning. Cooperation with partners in which we strive for a common goal as much as possible. Only with a collective focus can cooperation be sustainable. The fact that we have been working with the same partners for over 20 years proves to me that it works. I strongly believe that the cooperative model is the model for the future."
Now Marginpar is a strong company, active in breeding and thus developing new products. "Our strength lies particularly in finding product-market combinations; we are always looking for what can be interesting for the florist, what is innovative. We look at what is happening in the market and what is in demand. That is why our package has become so broad, with many exclusive varieties. We particularly want to serve the florists, who are looking for innovation and high quality. Yet this is not always easy, because wholesalers can act as a filter for our end customers. This has sometimes been a barrier to new products.
We are trying to change this with our marketing and by working more closely with wholesale partners. For example, informing buyers and florists of upcoming introductions, for which we create beautiful content with the help of international designers and distribute it via our socials."
The importance of the clock
Rob: "The auction clock is very important to us. It is a very pure form of supply and demand. The clock is a good instrument for transparency and insight into market potential. In addition, the distribution system behind the clock is still very strong. Every day, we bring a considerable volume to the clock, which breaks down into some 7,000 to 8,000 transactions a day. We could never do that ourselves, not that finely meshed. It is changing though. The distribution system of FloraHolland will soon be available 24/7 via the online platform Floriday. We will then deliver from stock and you will have to set your own prices. As pure as possible, of course. I think we will find a way, if we keep the supply of our products central.
Rob wants to make the company even more flexible, so that it can adapt to the constantly changing market. Marginpar must become truly recognisable and stand for a surprising, innovative and striking range of products which is delivered to its customers on time and correctly. Rob remains a driving force in this process, adjusting the course only when necessary. "Marginpar has become a large and complex entity. Kenya is a company, Ethiopia is a company, the Netherlands is a company... All with their own management but it must operate as one. It is so easy to get off course. We are doing a lot about that and we will continue to do so. Make sure we are all heading in the same direction. Supporting where necessary.
The lines of communication could be shorter still, and we are working on that. Everyone in the company knows exactly what we are doing. The Marginpar idea, philosophy, market-oriented thinking, is now also starting to make its way into the production companies, but we're not there yet. My dream is that everyone has the same vision and people will find each other more easily because they know what each other needs. This is the goal and we have to achieve it together. I see how much love there already is for the renewal; you can see that in all the people. They realise that we are doing something special and that we are appreciated in the market. Step by step we are getting there."
"I am a person who likes to work in the background. Until recently, the company was a reflection of who I was. Reserved, operating below the waterline. We were clearly present but we didn't shout it from the rooftops. We went our own way. We are certainly not mainstream. There are more companies that produce flowers and bring them to the Netherlands, but we do things just a little differently."