Silke Tijkotte reflects on a beautiful green journey
Words by Kelsey Lee Jones
What was your vision for Let it Grow from the start and do you think we achieved it?
For sure, we got there. My vision was to start a green movement and to get people enthusiastic about plants and flowers. Not only about how they look, but also about their positive effects on city living. My mission was to show the world that green really makes people happy and healthy. I honestly believe in that. We created a platform and a new marketplace to connect all different types of businesses, while also connecting Royal FloraHolland, that has existed for 100 years, to the new world. I hope that all those we connected, stay connected and see the world as one with a lot of opportunities. It’s a pity that Let it Grow will stop and we can’t continue with what we wanted to do. But I’m quite sure that all those we worked with, the employees, entrepreneurs, consumers, readers, the whole community, have green at the top of their minds. They’ll continue showing the world what plants and flowers can do.
“The way to accelerate a movement is by connecting a lot of people with the same mission and vision of what the world should look like.”
What has it been like to connect with the green community in so many different ways?
I already knew a lot of people working with plants and flowers when we first started with Let it Grow, but it appeared that this was just the tip of the iceberg. We wondered how many entrepreneurs were actually working with green in innovative ways. In the first call for our Incubation Programme we received 130 applicants! Before the second call, Irene Rompa (our Lead Entrepreneurs) and I were thinking, well, we must know all plant and flower people by now. But it wasn’t true. We’re still discovering green initiatives every day. People that we didn’t know are discovering us too. And when people find you, that’s when you know you’re doing something really good….
After we shared with our network that Let it Grow would stop, we’ve had many reactions. At our DemoDay there were some tears, people told us how happy they were that we existed. It was so nice to hear that the startup world was grateful. We love that we have been able to give people the support they needed to grow. Or the inspiration to just start. Connecting with them is connecting with a new energy. We share a vision of what the world should look like. It has been really nice to work with. More than nice actually, it was an honour. It’s been amazing to have been part of a community of people that completely understand each other. The world is changing and with Let it Grow we were part of that.
“The world is changing and with Let it Grow we were part of that.”
What were your highlights or best memories from the past two years?
The best thing for me has been the team. A team full of professionals, most of them not coming out of the floriculture sector, it’s been great to meet everyone and to learn from them all. I had never worked in such an environment, a place where I could really be myself. We had really nice jobs, I’ll speak for myself, I had the best job in the world. It stops now, and that’s difficult. We worked extremely hard and achieved so many things in such a short space of time. The results of having a great team were the brilliant projects, such as our Greenhouse Festival, our two Incubation Programmes, DemoDay, Bootcamp and Unconference, an Artist Grant, and our Concept Store at Amsterdam’s Central Station.
How about your favourite green initiative or project discovered along the way?
There are so many that it’s hard to pick out favourites. But I really love the art projects, many of them. Every morning when I wake up, I check out the artists working with flowers and plants on Instagram. It makes me happy. It’s funny because at the start I was the one who wanted to focus on entrepreneurs solely. A lot of content discovered by the Communications team surprised me. I didn’t realise the importance of art projects, at first. But I’m convinced now! Art has the power to connect and inspire. Vandejong, the creative agency we teamed up with from the start, was also to thank for that. They made sure that we looked at entrepreneurs as well as urban idealists and artists.
How has it been working with our Incubation Programme startups?
It’s been amazing! They taught me so much. In order to accelerate innovation in the floriculture sector, I knew we had to facilitate and connect entrepreneurs: they allow us to see what’s happening in the world. When we started the project we had to think a lot about what they’d get from us, what we could offer and what we needed to design and include in our service. We had to offer something valuable in exchange for what we get from them, but when we started out we didn’t know exactly what they would want. Irene was busy discovering this. The good thing was that we didn’t create a fixed programme but instead made the programme together with them, around their needs as entrepreneurs. We gave them strong support, coaching, investment, a helpdesk and a place they could find all kinds of knowledge of the floriculture sector. Both classes had great energy and as I said before, it’s been great to connect with people who speak the same language. What’s been most interesting for me was to see all the different ways of working. Looking at the teams has taught me that nobody is the same. Everyone has their own ideas and there are different ways to do things. There are different ways that lead to success.
Are there any startups you’re really excited by?
I’m excited by all the startups. That may sound like ‘yeah, yeah!’, but it’s true. It’s like asking a mum who is her favourite kid. I can’t pick one. Though if I really do have to mention a single startup, I would like to share a nice story. Because it was Sprinklr that has been there from the beginning. I met Suzanne van Straaten (the founder) at a birthday party of a common friend, way back before Let it Grow had begun. I was drawn to her and we got talking about an idea I had – I knew she was my target group. I talked about the platform I wanted to setup which could really help startups in the floriculture sector. So I asked her if she wanted to be my pilot. Even though she was pretty far along in her pregnancy, she agreed. For me, the whole thing started right there. An entrepreneur, working with plants and flowers, and she needed help. Great! It made me certain that I was going to be the one who would offer her that. Sprinklr has grown to become something amazing: they’ve managed to scale successfully. Suzanne is so cool, she has her own vision about sustainability and delivering plants. Plus she’s been wonderful to work with: open and constructive. She has offered us lots of great feedback too.
Are there ways that Let it Grow inspired more green into your own life?
Absolutely. Green hunting being the newest! Wherever I go on holidays, I like to seek out Green Initiatives from our own directory. I have a whole list of spots that I want to visit, like Hænke that we added to our map recently.
What's the future for green happy cities?
I would love to see green rooftops, green buildings, green walls and trees everywhere. And more art project with plants and flowers in city centres bringing joy into the lives of city dwellers. Just like 3CO used New York’s High Line as their business case, I think the future looks just like that. People won’t look at the cost first, but the value. Hopefully, there are decision makers in all cities who really have the balls to make choices on this side. We’re now coming out of a recession and economic crisis. So it’s time to celebrate with colour and green.
Any last words for green enthusiasts out there?
Yes, I’d say you’re in a good place, it’s a good time. There are a lot of opportunities so make sure to find the network, there are a lot of good people who want to help you. We’re going to leave our community page on Facebook open, for people to join and stay connected with our alumni and all the great people we’ve met along the way. If you have any questions, please ask them here. And remember, don’t see each other as competitors, work together in cooperation. Collaboration is what made the Netherlands so successful in the floriculture sector. And for the future, it’s going to be really important. My wish is that we’ll see a greener future for cities and a sustainable supply chain for the floriculture sector. We’re not there yet and people need help with that. We need to give it time, let it grow.
Thank you Silke, keep it green!