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Expo Flora: “We want to be the best”

As a creative partner for fairs, events, conferences and festivals, Expo Flora specializes in the attractive design of spaces including plants, flower/green decoration, furniture and the self-developed Block and Expo Wall systems and Flex Units. MASTERS visited the management of the Harmelen-based family business: Stefan Enthoven and Herman Bos.
John van Helvert

How did Expo Flora come about?

Stefan: “My father, Aad Enthoven, founded the company in 1985 when he and someone started renting out plants at Jaarbeurs Utrecht and other trade fair locations. Three or four years later, Herman joined, who comes from a greengrocer's family.”
Herman: “I was twenty-five at the time. After I had been employed for a number of years, I became a co-shareholder. The rental of plants and flowers went so well that we opened branches in England, France and Germany - which was useful when the borders were still closed. The company was located in Vleuten at the time. When Aad was able to sell the land for housing at a good price in 1999, the current building with greenhouses was moved into Harmelen. Aad said goodbye to the company shortly afterwards. In 2000 I took over Expo Flora from him and then asked Stefan to join. I didn't just do that because he's such a nice guy. After the takeover, we were quite short on cash and Stefan, who comes from the flower export industry, had a good network so that we were sometimes able to pay a week later. That gave us the space to slowly build up the company and pay off Aad. I used to have a majority stake, but now Stefan and I have a fifty-fifty stake in it.”

How has the company developed since the takeover?

Herman: “We mainly worked with stand builders who served trade fairs throughout Europe. The trade at each stand varied from a plant or flower arrangement to a complete garden. Of course, one position didn't pay off. So what did we do? We delivered the orders that came in from abroad to the various trade fairs in one go - truckloads. But slowly but surely the market for renting plants and flowers diminished. This was because stands became more attractive: there were more screens and other attributes, which left less room for greenery. One of our customers, Mercedes-Benz, approached us in 2007 with the idea of ​​live cooking on the stand. We took that opportunity to reinvent ourselves: we had furniture made especially for their stand. While the furniture rental companies mainly supplied sleek furniture, we invested in lounge-like furniture, hipper and more attractive - that was not available yet. We had the first furniture lines made in-house in Poland: we brought flowers and plants there every week and now the trailers did not have to return empty to Harmelen.”
Stefan: “We have grown enormously in that business. We wanted even more luxurious things and soon the furniture came not only from Poland, but also from Italy and Spain. It didn't stop at tables and chairs. We noticed that many stands used those white walls as a partition. We came up with the Expo Wall system: two columns with a decorative cloth that can be rolled out from bottom to top. We put together a range of uniform cloths, but also gave the customer the option for a custom-made solution with, for example, their own logo on it. The design of trade fairs and stands became increasingly beautiful and customers became aware that Expo Flora makes the difference. It is not without reason that our motto is: 'creating the difference'. "
Herman: “We are very customer-oriented and always listen to what your wishes are. We put the ideas for decoration or furniture on paper, after which we make the rough designs in-house. Is it to the customer's liking? We will then buy it or manufacture it internally and then offer it for rent at a lower price. But we have to be convinced that it fits our offering and that we can rent it out much more often.”

 

“We offer a total package and we are committed to it”

 

What else sets Expo Flora apart?

Stefan: “In the events sector there are companies that do the entire decoration. We saw those companies grow enormously fifteen years ago. Why couldn't we do that at trade fairs too? But fairs are much bigger, we only did a part of that. If you want a bigger piece of the pie, you have to get bigger yourself. We have translated what happens in the events into trade fairs. We are unique in that. No one does it on as large a scale as we do. The breakthrough in this was the last AutoRAI, in 2015. That was, so to speak, our exam. We had a deal with the RAI for the furnishing of all stands. A seriously large assignment, we didn't have that stuff. We then invested enormously, for which we took out a bank loan for two-thirds and contributed money for a third ourselves. That was a great success. Later that year we took care of the BedrijfsautoRAI. We really went through a growth spurt and developed Expo Flora into a major player that has a seat at the organization's table.”
Herman: “We offer a total package and we are committed to it. Compare it to a kitchen farmer who draws your new kitchen in 3D. He may expect that you will then also give him the assignment. It's the same with us: we think creatively with the customer, make a design and then it is an unwritten law that if something goes wrong, we can also supply everything.”

How has Expo Flora grown as a family business?

Stefan: “My daughter Bo has always said: I want to come and work for you. She started working here at the age of eighteen, when she had just gotten her driver's license. She then also obtained her truck and trailer driver's license. She started as a flower binder in the bindery. Only she couldn't continue to grow there. That is why she started to practice drawing. She now handles most major assignments and has also developed commercially. My eldest son, Nick, first worked in my flower shop and, after traveling for six months, passed away at the age of 26.e came into our business. My youngest son Kai recently strengthened the team in the Junior Operations position.”
Herman: “My youngest son was studying architecture, but was stuck at home due to corona. Then Stefan asked, "Can't Alec come and work here?" Just like Bo, Alec is involved in design and he also participates a lot in the field of logistics at trade fairs. So we have a two-families-in-one company, where the third generation has already joined.”
Stefan: “And my wife Els is physically located in our company with her company STYLERZ24, a specialist in silk flowers. Because it is a smaller company, Bo can learn from her how to do business.”

MASTERS Magazine

Curious about the rest of the interview? In the spring edition of MASTERS, three entrepreneurs shed light on the future: Raymon Pouwels (GO Sharing), Merel van Helsdingen (Nxt Museum) and Tim van der Wiel (GoSpooky). According to the latter, ever-accelerating technological progress offers enormous opportunities. “There has never been a better time to have a good idea. The technology is in your pocket!” Sports journalist Jaap de Groot outlines the contours of the new playing field of international sport after the resounding success of the World Cup in Qatar. And futurist Adjiedj Bakas also sheds light on the future. According to him, next year will be all about the search for the economy of happiness. “We are not just going to look at what makes us money, but at what makes us happy.” Perhaps this edition will contribute to this, with a look back at MASTERS EXPO, a road trip with the new Range Rover and interviews with horse pope Jan Tops, Red Bull Racing team boss Christian Horner, chef Margot Janse and visual artist Spencer Tunick. Luck!