“Bakit ba flowers? For a change! Pagod na ako sa pagiging domestico.”
(Why flowers? For a change! I am tired of being a domestic helper.)
Efren Daniel Dordas, a native of Capiz, had no formal training as a florist. He finished nursing in the Philippines but ended up working as a household cleaner, caregiver and bellboy in Rome. Arranging flowers abroad, however, was where he found his luck.
Dordas, 46, recalls helping out his mother create corsages that they would sell during graduation rites in the Philippines in his youth. That basically sums up his training as far as the business is concerned.
How then did he become a successful florist in Rome?
It all began when he was working in a hotel. At an event, Dordas volunteered to do the arrangement of the flowers, realizing he liked doing it and was actually good at it.
The future entrepreneur also took inspiration from one of the most famous florists in Italy, the late Luigi Bocchi.
“Everytime na dadaan kami rito [sa Corso Vittorio Emanuele], titigil at titigil siya sa tapat ng shop ni Bocchi at titignan niya ang window ng 10 minutes [admiring Bocchi’s creations] (Every time we pass by here, he would always stop and gaze at his window for at least 10 minutes),” says Bong, wife of Efren.
Later, a caterer in Frascati hired Dordas as their exclusive florist. Thinking he could turn his newfound skill into a lucrative business, Dordas decided to open his own flower shop.
THE FIRST BLOOM
In August 2005, right in the heart of the Eternal City, on Via Monterone, Dordas Flowers was born.
“Sa awa ng Diyos, wala namang struggle masyado noong nagsisimula pa lang kami. ‘Yung pera namin inutang lang din sa bangko. Nag-strive kaming magtrabaho to pay it back (With God’s grace, we did not face a lot struggles when we were starting out. We got a loan from the bank and we worked hard to pay it back),” says Dordas.
His family as well as his mom and relatives helped him get started. In fact, they themselves built the shop almost from scratch. Hiring an architect, builders and shop helpers proved to be too expensive for Dordas.
“Kaming lahat ang gumawa. Kami ang nagpintura, naglagay ng design, pati ang mga eskaparate kami ang nag-install. Kasi naman, sinisingil kami ng architect ng €10,000 para sa professional fees niya (We all worked hard to build the shop from top to bottom. We painted the walls, came up with the design, and installed the cabinets, among others. We couldn’t afford the €10,000 professional fee of the architect.),” recalls Dordas.
With the help of his wife, Dordas was able to spend wisely their borrowed capital: €7,000 for their rent deposit, €2,500 to €3,000 for the flowers, and the rest for other expenses.
Thanks to a number of wedding events, Dordas Flowers reached ROI in just about four months. Dordas Flowers has since moved from Via Monterone to Largo del Teatro Valle. It has another branch in Corso Trieste.
MAGO DEI FLORI FILIPPINO
Now known as “mago dei fiori Filippino” or “the Filipino wizard of flowers,” Dordas doesn’t let his success go to his head. He simply wants to make his clients happy.
His secret he says is transforming a bunch of flowers into simple but elegant creations. He uses materials that are readily available, sometimes combining them with items sourced from the Philippines like abaca.
Dordas charges his clients according to the materials and the labor required for the job.
Needless to say, Dordas Flowers has captured the hearts of the Italians. He has catered to politicians, royalties, and other famous personalities. Some of his work can be seen at government buildings like the Senate, historical museums, and libraries.
Dordas says flowers are like bread for the Italians. They’re easy to please, too.
“It helps that you let your clients see how you work on a particular arrangement,” he says.
Dordas adds, “Ang sarap sa pakiramdam dahil makikita mo ang reaction nila kaagad na nagandahan sila. (It feels good when you see their reactions immediately and they find your work beautiful.)”
With all his big-shot customers, one would think he should be used to them by now. But Dordas is quick to admit that he still gets surprised whenever he finds out the identity of the client. “One time, hindi namin alam na para kay [former] President Gloria Arroyo ‘yung ginawa naming bulaklak! (One time, we were surprised to find out that the flowers were for former President Gloria Arroyo!)”
IT IS NOT ALWAYS SPRING
Just like any other businesses, Dordas Flowers has its ups and downs. The flower shop owner says it is important to know everything about it: the seasonal flowers, the trends and peak seasons.
January is Dordas’ slowest month. They make up for it during Christmas and the wedding season which is from May to July.
There was a time that the business so consumed Dordas that he was always on tenterhooks. Fortunately, he has learned to relax on running the business. After all, seeing how the shop has become popular since it opened its doors, he really need not worry.
“I never expected to stay this long in this business,” says Dordas. “Pinakita ko lang ang aking craftsmanship at passion ko sa flowers. (I just showed them my craftsmanship and passion for flowers.)”
Dordas advises aspiring entrepreneurs to be hands- on when it comes to their business. Having lots of guts and courage is a great ingredient for success, too.
“Be honest to the people you sell to. Treat your clients the way you would like to be treated as a client,” says Dordas.
He wishes his kababayans in Rome to try having a business of their own. Filipinos, he says, shouldn’t be afraid about paying taxes or failure.
MONEY TIPS FROM A FLORIST:
■ Spend within your means
■ Be humble to continue enjoying God’s grace
■ Live simply
■ Don’t be envious of others
■ Always think positive
■ Always pray and ask God for guidance
■ Always be grateful
Largo del Teatro Valle, 5, Roma, Italië
+39 06 6813 4967 www.dordasflowers.com
Photos by the Jacke de Vega Photography.
Jacquiline de Vega loves spending her days off walking around Rome, always fascinated by the new things she discovers in the Eternal City. She is currently torn between baking a new cheesecake recipe and trying to grow some flowers.