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Cape Town's strelitzia man

Apr 24 2015 11:06
Mary-Anne Gontsana

Cape Town - Every day between 15:00 and 19:00, at the traffic lights on the corner of Buitengracht Street and Buitensingel in the Cape Town city centre, you’re likely to see a man with a bunch of orange strelitzia flowers.

This is Louis Lakay, a 49-year-old flower seller from Elsies River, who has been selling these flowers for the past eight years at the same place. Going for R20 each, the strelitzias are the “nephew” of South Africa’s national flower, the Protea, says Lakay.

Unemployed and struggling to make ends meet, Lakay decided to seek work at the Adderley Street flower market, where he helped the flower sellers, doing whatever job he was asked to do.

“I started selling strelitzias after we noticed here that they were not doing well in terms of sales, like the other flowers. So I took it upon myself to take a bunch of these strelitzias each day, find a busy spot in the CBD and sell them there,” says Lakay.

He says it’s not easy selling flowers because people do not see the importance of buying them. In his own area, Elsies River, Lakay does not sell any flowers because, he says, “no one wants to spend their money on flowers. They see that as a waste”.

“I have never done gardening before or anything that has to do with flowers, but working here has taught me a lot about them and how to take care of them.

"The strelitzia is a beautiful flower and it is easy to take care of. You snip it at the bottom, then you just put it in a vase with water. Maybe after a week give it another snip just so it can get enough water. “

“This beautiful flower lasts for about a month,” says Lakay.

The strelitzias are sent to Cape Town from the Johannesburg Flower Market, he says.

He lives with his two brothers in Elsies River and has two daughters, aged 24 and 32, who do not live with him.

He is at the Adderley Street flower market from Monday to Sunday from 09:00.

In a good week he makes as much as R800 from flower sales, but that’s not always the case, he says.

* Read the original story on GroundUp.

* Do you make a living selling flowers? Tell us about your business and why it is a success.

Fin24's Matthew le Cordeur spoke to a flower business owner at the market:

Karin bachmann has run her flower business, Sisters on Adderley at the Adderley street Flower market for 24 years.

A photo posted by Matthew le Cordeur (@lecordeur) on

Karin bachmann says she has very loyal and committed customers who buy from her regularly.

A photo posted by Matthew le Cordeur (@lecordeur) on

flowers  |  entrepreneur


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