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Connectaflor new distributor for Europe

Esmeralda Farms looks back at challenging 2016

"I will always remember 2016 as the year of loss", says Clarisse Ullrich, president of Esmeralda Farms. In June, she lost her husband and founder of the company Peter Ullrich. In August, their farm in Ethiopia was burned down by rebels and they consequently had to close their sales department in the Netherlands.

After this terrible event in Ethiopia, Ullrich was forced to supply their European customers from their farm in Ecuador. When moving their activities, they had to deal with several challenges, and offering their clients the right service is one of them. "It is our final 'roadblock', and soon it will be removed. As of January 1st, our distributor for the US market, Connectaflor, will also become our distributor worldwide. In this way, all of our valued customers can enjoy the personalized service they’ve always been accustomed to."

Farm Ethiopia - media attention
But first, let’s go back to August 29. Esmeralda's farm in Ethiopia was set on fire by rebels. What did Ullrich do? "When I received the phone call that the farm was under threat of being attacked. My first instinct was...get all the employees out! In Peru, Peter experienced a similar situation where his employees were threatened by the terrorist group Sendero Luminoso and he lost many employees, an experience he really never recovered from. His lesson helped me save two lives that day which were left irrigating the fields. Fortunately, none of our employees were hurt, but only 30 minutes after I asked the staff be evacuated, the rebels invaded the farm and killed many military personnel", says Ullrich.

In the following days, the devastating news as well as rumors, spread throughout the media. How did Ullrich cope with all the media attention? "I tried to focus on our employees, the business and getting things in order. A lot of important, quick and focused decisions needed to be made. One of the biggest decisions we had to make was to close the sales department in Aalsmeer, the Netherlands, and to re-open one of our Ecuadorian farms that was not in production. Many of the rumors that were published were sensless but I felt confident that when the dust settled the truth would come out."

Rumors like the farm not having suffered that much damage, and that there was no reason to close the department in the Netherlands, were among a few. "But as I’ve said before, no one in business would close an operation that is making money". Personally, I thought these rumors were too outlandish to even address."

On the left: Award-Winning Esmeralda's Brilliant Stars Green Pink spray roses and on the right: Gypsophila Over-Time.

Move to Ecuador - the challenges
Currently, Esmeralda Farms is supplying its European customers through their farm in Ecuador. "We also grow flowers in Colombia, but as the Ethiopian farm was mainly Gypsophila and we had a farm with the climatic conditions in Ecuador that was not in production, it was only logical to increase our production there", says Ullrich. Then, the challenging part came: transporting the flowers to Europe and in particular the smaller shipments. "In the beginning, we lost sight of the smaller clients that do not have brokers. As they had smaller shipments, we needed to find ways to consolidate these shipments and were fortunately able to accommodate them with in a month."

Hilsea Ecuador

The final challenge to be solved soon, is offering the European customers the catered service they were used to. "After closing down the sales department in the Netherlands, we had to serve our customers farm direct which is advantageous from the perspective of freshness but service has not been meeting what I would consider to be the Peter Ullrich expectation. Connectaflor is owned by Jose Concepcion and Mark Dubner heads and operates sales. Both worked with Peter over 20 years and are well schooled in his methodology. The reasoning behind the decision was rather than segmenting the demand set aside for Europe it made more sense to streamline all the sales through them worldwide. Connectaflor possesses a strategic sales team, equipped to support our clients in finding the right products while still fulfilling their orders farm direct. Their past performance has given us a competitive advantage in the US and we feel confident that our alliance can achieve same worldwide."

Esmeralda Colombia.

Future plans
"In 2017, Esmeralda farms will continue making the business stronger by maximizing our production efficiency, focusing on customer service, revamping our website and revving up our breeding programs. Simultaneously, we are expanding our sales efforts worldwide exploring the possibilities of creating a steady demand in not only Europe but in the Chinese and Russian Markets. Currently we cultivate over 200 hectares, but once we are able to achieve this and forecast that the demand will surpass the supply, we will consider further expanding.

Pom Pom Harvest in Colombia.

Looking back at 2016 Ullrich is most grateful for all of her loyal customers and would like to convey her deepest thanks for not only standing in solidarity with them through such difficult moments but for supporting Esmeralda inspite of the sensationalism. "You are the reason for what we do, and we look forward to the opportunity a new year brings to make up any inconveniences our transition may have cause you."

For more information
Esmeralda Farms
Clarisse Ullrich

Publication date: 1/9/2017
Author: Elita Vellekoop



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