Mags Riordan, Bumblebee Flower Farm Network West Cork: Solo Businesswoman
THIS year was poised to be an action-packed one for Mags Riordan of Bumblebee Flower Farm, the country’s first dedicated edible flower farm.
Her order books were packed with weddings for her organic flowers, she was about to start her first edibles harvest for restaurants and was all set to launch a new product, a modern take on the corsage that could be delivered nationwide.
“I had never been so excited or motivated for the coming season! This year was going to be the culmination of hard work over the previous seven or eight years, training, and overcoming personal difficulties,” said Mags, originally from Cork city and now based in Drimoleague.
‘But when lockdown was announced, everything changed overnight, everything was wiped out. That sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as the influx of emails cancelling or postponing filled my inbox and was one of the most terrifying moments I had experienced,” she remembers.
“I’ve had challenges in my life, but nothing compared to this. My mother always told me I had the heart of a lion and never more than now did I need to call on this.”
Mags said she used the helpless desperation and fear generated by something outside of her control, to fuel the dramatic pivot of her business that saw it go from being mainly local, to being 90% online.
“My flowers still needed to be harvested, the natural growing cycle didn’t stop because of Covid-19. I knew my pivot had to be quick so I took to Twitter and explained I was swimming in flowers and could deliver nationwide.
“The outpouring of support was unbelievable and overnight my business was transformed. I turned a crop largely destined as an edible one to online bouquet deliveries,” she said.
The pandemic also meant that Mags went from four pairs of hands helping out on the farm, to a single pair — her own.
“My business depended on woofers, these are people who work on my farm to gain a greater knowledge of organic farming and in my case also edible flower farming. Covid ended that but I’m very resilient and just got on with it. I have changed this model now and have volunteers come to the farm to help and then leave.”
Throughout it all, giving up wasn’t an option.
“It just isn’t in my vocabulary. There is always a way forward, you just need to stand back and look at things from a different angle and have incredible friends to bounce ideas off.”
In fact, Mags says that Covid has pointed the way towards more exciting opportunities for her West Cork enterprise.
“What seemed like complete disaster back in March has blossomed into a diverse business where my location is no longer a restricting factor.”
And while Covid has also halted Bumblebee Farm’s many events and collaborations, Mags insists innovation is still alive and well.
“We will continue to push the boundaries and with luck be able to share these with you in 2021,” she pledged.
In the meantime, and while social distancing remains a factor, there are exciting plans for online workshops, including wreath making kits.
“Our homes have become more important and the centre of everything we do. We want to help you create a beautiful Christmas and in turn you are helping us continue our work of providing safe habitats and a rich food source for our struggling pollinators,” she said.
Winning Network West Cork’s Solo Businesswoman award, Mags says, shows you can follow your dreams and achieve them.
“My environmental credentials are long established but to receive a business award and get the recognition from well-established business people in the community and my branch of Network Ireland West Cork, it’s real validation.”
The Network Ireland Annual Conference and Businesswoman of the Year award take place this Friday, October 2.