In 2005, after a decade working in media and TV production, Ruth Monahan changed direction and set up Appassionata Flowers.
Today the business, which has a shop on Drury Street in Dublin and a creative studio on Merrion Square, employs 15 people and supplies both the retail and corporate markets.
If I was to describe my business? Appassionata Flowers creates crafted, quality flowers with a concentration on design. Our flowers suit everything from the smallest of personal requests to the largest of events.
My biggest achievement so far is the fact that we have become such a recognised brand for both creativity and quality and that we have done that by building such a great team in what is a very labour intensive business. Every bouquet we send out is an ambassador for the company, so we bring in a lot of business that way that is great too because we have high customer loyalty.
There are low moments also. The week my daughter was born in 2009 was a high point that coincided with a low point because during the same week we lost 50% of our contract business as a result of the recession. Earlier in 2015 our storage unit in Ballymount, where we keep our Christmas decorations – we do a lot of corporate Christmas decoration work – burned down. Thankfully no one was injured.
Everyone has setbacks. You just have to get on with it. What else can you do? With the fire we didn’t have time to get depressed, we had our biggest ever corporate job and a wedding that same week so there was no time to wallow. At the end of the day, all you can do with setbacks is to move on as quickly as possible.
I’m probably cautious enough by nature, but when you are starting a business, you just jump in two feet first and start moving your arms fast. I think at that point it is better not to think about things. But as the years go by, and the business grows, then you become a little more cautious.
“For the first few years you’re so gung ho you don’t think about it, and perhaps rightly so.”
Other business people inspire me and this helps. I participated in Going For Growth in 2015, a development programme for female entrepreneurs, and was lucky to have Louise Phelan of PayPal as my mentor. Her business advice is fantastic. I’m a huge fan of John Redmond, visual director at Brown Thomas too because he is a real visionary in his industry. I also love the Brown Bag Film guys (Cathal Gaffney and Darragh O’Connell), not just because I used to work for them but because they’ve brought so much industry to Ireland when they could have located elsewhere.
“I’ve two young kids, so I don’t get much time to switch off, and when I do it seems to be in soft play centres and shopping centres. I attend a book club with friends, though, and I do try and get to exhibitions for inspiration.”
If I was starting again, I think I would have got a little more business training but when you’re starting out you’ve got so much to do as it is. Again, I think maybe you just have to jump in and keep trying to do the best you can, keep attempting to do better and not lose that desire to do better.
I only learned to delegate around the time of the birth of my first child and, once I did, I was sorry I hadn’t empowered people earlier because it’s the only way you’re going to grow your business.
“You just can’t try to micromanage everything and if you do the business is not going to move on.”
The best piece of advice I’d give another business person? Get a good accountant. You can be doing all sorts of beautiful work in your company, but you don’t want to be a busy fool either. You also have to know where your strengths and weaknesses lie and by outsourcing accounting not only do I know everything is done right, but it frees me up to concentrate on other parts of the business.