There will be those in the flower industry who think that Hanneke Frankema’s success is like a fairy tale but nothing could be further from the truth. Hanneke’s dedication to her craft and hard work is legendary in the industry. She thrives on a challenge. Like all of us, she has had her disappointments, but she used them to help her ‘grow.’ She embraces everything as an opportunity to learn. Together with her partner Nico, she is building a large studio where she will teach.
1. How did you first become interested / involved in flowers?
When I was young, my parents had a small garden and from an early age when they realised how interested I was in gardening, they allowed me to have a small area for myself. I loved it! From there I decided that I would like to learn more and I went on to attend classes at an agricultural college. In the course, there was a period of one hour per week allocated to floristry/flower arranging. Needless to say, it was very basic but, from that first session, I was hooked! I never looked back.
2. How long have you been professionally involved in the flower industry?
I have been involved for 25 years. I was 14 years old when I first worked in a flower shop and subsequently went on to have my own shop for 8 years. Being a shop owner is not easy particularly because I also decided to study for my Master’s degree at the same time. I was the youngest florist ever to qualify at that time. I was 21 years old. I continued to ‘grow’ by assisting other designers whenever I could and I went on to take part in competitions. I treated competitions as another method to learn. I didn’t always win a prize but I did always learn and that was most important thing for me. I started to win and after that I received invitations to demonstrate so I decided to go freelance. Through it all, I began to form my own style of design. People liked it (winning competitions helped) and I was then asked to teach. However, through it all, I continued to ‘grow’ as a designer.
3. Do you see International Women’s Day as important and, if so, why?
Yes, I do but perhaps not for the reasons you would imagine. It is very important for the industry and particularly in some countries where it is very big. From a growers point of view, International Women’s Day is a highlight in their year. It is not particularly big in our country but there are opportunities for florists to travel overseas to assist in flower shops where this is a serious event.
However, if I may be a bit controversial here, times have changed since IWD first began. I feel that, if for no other reason than equality, surely there should also be an International Man’s Day too! Women need to be strong in this industry to ensure a good business turnover and I consider myself to be a strong woman. It’s nice to be appreciated but there is a fine line between appreciation / celebration and something that ticks a box.
4. Do you believe that being a woman in the flower industry is more challenging than if you were a man?
For me, no. In general, it can be, but do not forget that a high percentage of shops are run by women. The same applies to many competitions where competitors are often women too. Attitudes are changing and therefore things are evolving and, in the main part, I feel that is a good thing. Being a florist is a serious career choice and everyone must have an entrepreneurial approach to not only survive but to thrive. I am proud of what I do but it is demanding work and not for the faint hearted.
5. Do you recognise some common challenges that women face in this industry, and have you encountered some personally?
For many women having children whilst being in business is a huge challenge. I have a great partner who has my back and he makes it possible for me to do what I do. In many quarters, women are still expected to be at home but nowadays things can be very different. Previously a stay-at-home man could have been ridiculed whereas now, as the workplace changes, men don’t look foolish if they decide to be a house-husband. By sharing the load it makes it possible for both parties to follow their chosen path.
6. How did you go about overcoming them?
I don’t have that problem now particularly with my partner. He wants me to succeed and encourages and supports me all the time. People don’t seem to realise that you need to be a business woman / entrepreneur these days. You need to broaden your outlook to find the opportunities that are still out there.
7. What is your advice for young women starting out in this industry?
I am asked this a lot. I am often told by young florists that they want to be me. The thing is that nothing is instant as so many imagine. You have to ‘grow’ to be like me. Start with a good education, assist others as often as you can, go to events, always learn and where possible, take part in competitions. Store all of the information that you learn in a ‘suitcase’ and you will find that when you ‘need’ a technique or an idea you can open your ‘suitcase’ of knowledge. You need to be dedicated and if you fall (and all of us do fall sometimes), pick yourself back up and keep going. You won’t always win but you should always learn. Most important, remember not to be arrogant, but, be self-secure.
8. What do you love most about your work?
You might be surprised to learn that I still love to get new materials. I don’t just means flowers and plants here but sundries and containers too. I love making something from them and something technical gives me as much joy as the flowers themselves. Creating something from nothing is really exciting for me. I also love the travelling (apart for security checks and the actual flying!), teaching, meeting people in fact, the whole package. I am also thankful for the reaction to my work.
9. What are some of the more significant milestones in your career?
Winning the Dutch Championship was almost more important to me personally than winning the Europa Cup. In a way, winning the Europa Cup felt as if I won it for my country too and I am proud of that. Being selected as a judge for the Dutch TV programme Holland’s Best Floral Stylist was a huge learning experience for me and I loved it. It was a vastly different approach that opened my eyes. I stuck to what I believe in and even criticised the choice of some of the tasks. I called it like I saw it and the programme, together with the audience, appeared to appreciate that.
We are now building a small school and even before it’s completed, we have bookings and requests.
10. Can you briefly describe some of your more special or most appreciated moments?
Perhaps some people don’t know that the Europa Cup competition was postponed several times. That was hard. I had to dig deep to keep the adrenalin up and that is exhausting. To keep going for 4 years (because I won the Dutch Championship in 2018) at full speed, running to keep your focus up after such a long wait was hard for all the competitors. You need to be strong to do that.
11. Apart from flowers, what else are you passionate about?
My family and our home, our garden, and our building. I have more free time than most florists have so I can have days off which is quite different. It allows me to be able to find a balance in life.
12. Is there anything else you would like to share with our members?
Fight for what you want. Do not expect everything to come to you but keep your eye open for possibilities. Work hard and keep going and then it will come to you.
Photography by Nico Alsemgeest