Pandemic pivots that paid off

October 27th, 2020 7:05 AM

By Emma Connolly

Mags at a recent socially-distanced open day on her farm. (Photos: Aly Riordan Davies Photography)

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The pandemic has challenged enterprises of all shapes and sizes. But two West Cork-based businesswomen responded to the Covid challenge with gusto, and have pivoted what they do, with tremendous success.

Helpless desperation and fear caused by Covid-19 fuelled the dramatic pivot of West Cork’s Bumblebee Flower Farm, and saw it go from being mainly local, to being 90% online since March.

Mags Riordan of of Bumblebee Flower Farm, the country’s first dedicated edible flower farm in Castledonovan, near Drimoleague, had been poised for a busy 2020. 

‘In fact I had never been so excited or motivated for the coming season! This year was going to the culmination of hard work over the previous seven or eight years, training, and overcoming personal difficulties,’ said Mags, originally from Cork city and who moved to West Cork in 1993. 

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.

‘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  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 fear generated by something outside of her control to powerher through.

‘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 one – 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.’

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. 

Mags won the Network West Cork’s Solo Businesswoman award, and received a ‘highly commended’ award at the national online ceremony earlier this month. 

She says this recognition is proof you can follow your dreams and achieve them. 

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