Women We Love: Ruth Monahan, Managing Director of Appassionata Flowers

With the last of tendrils of the recession still clinging on, suffocating the economy’s efforts to take root and sprout new buds of , Ruth Monahan took the leap of faith by opening her first shop, Appassionata Flowers on Drury Street, Dublin 2.

Taking risks was nothing new for Sligo woman and entrepreneur Ruth, after all she had left her burgeoning television production career to start at flower school in London on her 30th birthday.

Moving back to Dublin in 2004 after some years away, she spotted a gap in the market to plant the seeds of a floristry business that would offer imaginative, beautifully crafted flowers with a concentration on design.

Since then she’s opened two stores, a flower school, and counts among her career highlights presenting a bouquet of flowers to Queen Elizabeth and filling College Green in Dublin with Irish and American colours flowers for Obama’s state visit.

We chatted to the mum of two about the power of female networking, floral trends, and her plans for a new Appassionata store in Dublin City.

How did your love of flowers blossom and grow?

I used to follow my grandmother and Dad around the garden as they shared cuttings and Latin names and then being from Sligo, I always loved the wild flowers and orchids that grew in the fields by the beaches too.

I had a huge interest in how different flowers had different meanings and so could symbolise different events and happenings in people’s lives and seasons.

When did the idea for Appassionata take root?

I had always been creative but it wasn’t until I turned 30 that I decided to take the plunge, go to flower school in London and dive into the depths of the new world of starting up myself when I moved back to Dublin.

We were very proud to dress College Green for the Obama visit in 2011 and to fill the CCD with blooms and present a bouquet for the Queen too.

I spotted a gap at the time for design led floristry combining vessels and flowers in a more dramatic but simply contemporary style.

What about your business makes it stand out from its competitors?

Our business is unusual in Ireland with our having a studio where most of the flower magic happens and then two retail shops.

We have a reputation of being a quality design led flower business and are skilled at creating florals for the smallest of requests to the most leftfield of creative briefs to scaling up to huge events sometimes all within the same day.

We also pride ourselves on our quality and finish combined with a true passion for flowers and all the forms we make with them.

What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

One of the biggest risks we take annually is the Valentine’s Day buy where we have to preorder the red roses far in advance and predict our turnover like a futures trader, also with the reminder that no one will want to see a red rose on February 15th.

Ruth Monahan Appassionata Flowers

Another risk would have been taking on our first shop when I was 7 months pregnant and jumping into a receding economy new baby in tow.

If you could do one thing differently what would it be?

I would probably have learned to delegate more from an earlier stage, it is a powerful lesson to learn that your team members are probably better than you at many areas and that it is important to empower people so that you can be better in work also.

From where do you source your flowers?

Due to the Irish flower growing industry being a small one and the closure of the Smithfield flower market, we are mostly dependent on Dutch flower suppliers but we do have wonderful Irish suppliers and are looking forward to seeing their summer flowers and foliage once the weather becomes warmer…

What’s the most popular arrangement in your store?

Our Tray of Blooms is still the superstar of our orders, we get to create lots of wonderful seasonal bouquets as the year moves through different availabilities of flowers.

Louise Phelan gave me the three words ‘help me understand’, a phrase that has helped me further countless discussions, whether it’s a job pitch, a HR situation or a children’s tantrum.

Currently the Maya Loves is extremely popular, we launched it for Mothers Day and the interest was so great that we have decided to keep it as a main flower display to send and receive.

Are there unwritten rules about which flowers to give for different occasions?

Flowers are tied in with all occasions in the circle of life but we would always recommend sending flowers that the recipient likes and that suit the occasion they are created for.

Lillies are the most controversial flower so we would only send them out if they are specifically requested.

What advice do you give people when they have no idea which flowers to choose?

We would suggest to leave it ourselves as we can create something beautiful from our own selection and make sure that it suits the reason it is being sent.

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Most of our superstar florista ladies after a massive morning of making blooms sa studio to celebrate all you amazing ladies out there. Our other team members are in each siopa right now busy out…The truth is that a business is only as good as the team who make it & without the support, talent & craft womanship of our crew, we would not have the Appassionata Flowers you all know & love. Thank you Kasia, Lynn, Juliette, Marina, Kate, Sam, Laura, Ellie, Caoimhe, Rachel, Inese, Roze, Hanka, Agi – All of you & your work are truly inspirational & knowing that we get to hang with you each day in blooms is just brilliant! . . . #appassionatalovesflowers #internationalwomensday #iwd2018 #mothersday #haveagreatthursday

A post shared by appassionatalovesflowers (@appassionatalovesflowers) on

What is your personal favourite flower?

I love peonies especially the more unusual ones, muscari in spring, double tulips, chocolate cosmos, Yves Piaget roses and then stunning September hydrangea with fading colours that remind me of Holly Hobby in my childhood.

I am blessed with seeing floral brightness each day so it’s a hard question always to answer!

Your flowers have played an integral part in countless events. Which ones are you particularly proud to have been involved in?

We are always thrilled with the various events we make from flower walls to structural sets to gorgeous weddings days.

We are lucky to work with Louise Kennedy on many of her season launches and so get to play with blooms in beautiful ways to dress her own inspirational vision.

We were very proud to dress College Green for the Obama visit in 2011 and to fill the CCD with blooms and present a bouquet for the Queen too.

Have you noticed any trends in flowers blossoming recently?

The current trend is to create texture whether it’s a simply bound dome of eucalyptus and acacia or a sumptuous dome of peonies and garden roses in an imperfect shape.

A juxtaposition of dark and light in colour between blush and dark is prevalent but as is playing with punky brights too.

Who did you turn to for advice when you were getting your business off the ground?

When getting our business off the ground, I took a lot of advice from our accountant who is strict but who has guided us well in our plans for each year.

As our business evolved through the years I have been lucky to be given great advice by wonderful work friends and then through taking part in the wonderful programme Going for Growth.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

I have received many nuggets of advice but Louise Phelan, my business mentor from Going for Growth who gave me the three words ‘help me understand’, a phrase that has helped me further countless discussions, whether it’s a job pitch, a HR situation or a children’s tantrum.

Why do you think female mentorship and networking initiatives like Going for Growth are important?

I am proud to be a Going for Growth ambassador and I took part in the 7th cycle and was fortunate to be part of a very dynamic group with Louise Phelan of Paypal as our cheerleader and mentor.

I truly believe that female mentorship and networking initiatives help create a true female empowerment and I am so delighted to be part of that world with the friendships I have made.

Paula Fitzsimons who created and organised Going for Growth is a true leader in the field of female mentorship and many of the successful Irish businesswomen you see have come from her stable.

I truly believe that female mentorship and networking initiatives help create a true female empowerment and I am so delighted to be part of that world with the friendships I have made.

The sharing of information and advice that goes around and the positivity and encouragement that is created by so many brilliant women coming together.

What other women in Ireland, and further afield, inspire you?

In Ireland, Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson are inspirational in all they do and say.

Louise Stokes from Loulerie and Oonagh O’Hagan from Meaghers Pharmacy are brilliant at what they do.

I also think that Sinead Burke is amazing in her striving to make the world better a better and more considered place.

Worldwise, I value the business nuance of India Hicks and the true extraordinariness of Oprah and Meryl Streep.

Aside from living things, what are the three things that you would save from your house in a fire?

I would save my John Redmond and Diana Copperwhite pieces, my Cartier pendant given when Maya was born and my large box of photographs to keep all the memories alive.

What are your three dessert island beauty essentials?

Crème de la Mer lip balm, NIOD Hydration Vaccine and my LeLabo Rose 31 perfume without which I don’t feel dressed.

What would your super power be?

Currently it’s the magical multitasking of being a working mum tasked with school projects and trying to remember where the kids have left the things they lose in the house!

I also have a very strong sense of smell which is a superpower with the kind of work we do and accentuates the senses in all we do.

What do consider your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement is managing to work with my husband Ultan and having two kids, Maya and Roman, whilst working with the wonderful team of Appassionata, who are also like family.

Ruth Monahan Appassionata Flowers

What is your favourite smell?

The smell of the wild Atlantic air on Streedagh beach in Sligo just after the rain has stopped and then sunshine appears.

Where are your favourite places for food, drinks or coffee in Dublin?

Foodwise, I love Luna and then Balfes and Wilde in The Westbury and then Honest to Goodness for a healthy lunch, Clement & Pekoe and then our neighbours Kaph have the best coffees in town.

How do you relax?

I have miniscule minutes to relax but I do go to the gym regularly, listen to Headspace for a few minutes each morning, read lots of books and design magazines and then I spend time in the garden to fully switch off!

Where would you most like to be right now?

After this long and cold grey winter, I would love to be on a sunny warm beach in Greece sipping a tinto Verano without a cloud in the sky.

Can you share what’s up and coming for Apassionata?

We have lots of exciting plans! We are developing a new website and flower retail experience online, and we are opening up a new shop beside The Westbury hotel.

Then we are going to launch demonstrations and classes in our Cornelscourt store as well as getting some Appassionata lifestyle products to fruition.

You can find out more about Appassionata Flowers on appassionata.ie, and follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Article by Erica Bracken, Editor at IndulgeMe.ie. You can follow Erica on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.