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Expatriate flourishes in cut flower business

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 Red Land Roses managing director Isabelle Henin Spindler. Photo/Diana Ngila

Red Land Roses managing director Isabelle Henin Spindler. Photo/Diana Ngila 

By EVELYN SITUMA

Posted  Monday, January 21  2013 at  17:51

In Summary

  • Former UN agency worker, Isabelle Henin Spindler, creates a niche in the lucrative export business after quitting her job to become an entrepreneur .

When Isabelle Henin Spindler came to Kenya to work with a UN agency in 1990, she had no idea that in 10 years, she would be running a flower farm in the outskirts of Nairobi.

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Isabelle, 52, jetted into the country to work with United Nations Industrial Development Organisation in a campaign to promote and accelerate sustainable industrial growth in developing countries.

After three years, Isabelle, whose husband was involved in vegetable seed growing, threw in the towel and shifted her focus to consultancy.

It was in the course of her new found career that she built networks through interactions with farmers and investors who challenged her to offer them information on how to start a cut flower business.

“I didn’t know about the flower business but they kept asking,” she says.

She committed herself to find answers, taking the time to examine the flower business and its dynamics.

“From the findings, (I established that) an initial cut flower business would cost three million euros (Sh349 million),” says Isabelle.

Fascinated, the investors asked her if she could as well help out in soliciting funds to start the business, which she gladly did. She also went ahead and recruited staff and later offered to run it.

“I had never worked as a chief executive officer before,” she says.

After overcoming her fears, Isabelle plunged into the business. Today, together with her husband, they are among the shareholders of Red Land Roses. Of all the seven shareholders, only the Spindlers are farmers.

Mr Spindler spends most of his time managing his seed business, Syngenta Pollun, which is next door to Red Land Roses.

“The partners have been very supportive,” Isabelle says.

Red Land Roses plans to increase farming land to 30 hectares. At first, they were reluctant due to insecurity, poor infrastructure and high cost of doing business. 

But the development of Thika superhighway has made it easy to access the airport.  The company exports flowers directly to buyers in Russia, Kazakhstan, Japan, Lithuania, Italy, Sweden, France, Egypt, US, Togo, Senegal and Nigeria.

The boom in the former Soviet countries is what Isabelle rides on for her success in the business. Russia makes up for 45 per cent of Red Land’s exports.

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