Botanicus co-founder Dana Hradecká: planting the seeds of success
The Botanicus chain of stores offering herbal soaps, extracts and delicacies is a Czech, and growing international, success story. Most tourists will have probably bought something from one of their outlets in the country. The small business was founded in the early 1990’s after the restitution of a family farm around 40 kilometres north-east of Prague. That has become the centre for the business and a tourist attraction with more than 50,000 visitors a year. One of the firm’s co-founders Dana Hradecká explained the roots of the original inspiration for the business.
When you were in England how much did you learn about processing plants and working with them and extracts? Was that all new to you?
So you spent a year in England and then came back. How did you start the business then?
“Basically, while I was in England my husband was restoring the farm in slow steps here. I think it was after I finished in the UK that Dr Stuart came over. We had talked about it a lot, what I wanted to do and what I would do with the farm. We started a small business between me, my husband, Jan, and Malcolm, with herbs and pot pourries and candles made from bees wax. We were delivering stuff. I remember Jan going with a rucksack and selling plants and herbs to the shops in Prague. Slowly we were selling in about a thousand outlets in Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia. But we always wanted to open a shop. And a couple of years later we started a farm shop in this place. Then everyone thought it was not the right way and that it would not work. But it slowly developed and people came to know the products and we expanded from growing the herbs and doing the teas. We started making oils and vinegars and soaps. And in this place in 1999 we started having events for children.”
“It was, is, a mixture of people. We produced, I would say, at first mostly for tourists. But Czech people came to know our products and there is a certain group of people who like our products. There is a specific design and there is a certain natural feeling. And it is a certain type of man and woman who like that sort of thing.”
You have expanded now to China and have outlets in Russia. Is the Czech Republic now as important as this business abroad?
“Basically, the business in China and abroad is an important piece of the business. But we are trying to balance the Czech side of the business and the exports in the sense of not expanding too fast or too far. We will probably not be a big international business because this business has been developed and has got its base here. One of the most important things that I have learnt from my husband, Jan, is to say “no.” Even if it sounds arrogant, and I do not think I am an arrogant person, but it is part of the survival instinct.”
You have now developed a concept which is basically more ecological. You have developed strains of plants and trees that are threatened. Can you talk a bit about this?