WEDDING WONDER Judi Roche from Balla Florists has been picking up national awards on a regular basis recently.
From: Wexford originally, but now Mayo Abbey
Occupation: Balla Florists
EVERY morning now I get up and go for a walk, which is something I haven’t been able to do for about ten years! By the time I’m back home around 8am, the phone starts ringing with people looking for stuff. I had six or seven girls working for me before Covid-19, but now I’m back to where I was 16 years ago – working on my own again, which is strange, but our online business at Balla Florists is flying.
I’ve been operating my website since 2009, just after the crash, because I needed to do something to protect myself. That has been growing steadily over the years and now I call it my ‘silent member of staff’, because it could generate ten to 15 orders before you get to work.
These days we’re doing everything contactless, so I’m seeing fewer people than ever, but I’m finding that during the pandemic people are more patient now, very thankful and grateful to be able to send good wishes to loved ones and friends.
I might not get home until after seven in the evening and when I do, I like to go at my emails until around 8.30pm. At the moment, I could be up until 11pm talking to brides who have had to cancel their weddings, doing Zoom calls reassuring them about planning dates and stuff like that.
The Government Roadmap has helped calm that down a bit and a lot are coming to the realisation that it may be best to go to 2021/22 at this stage, especially in Mayo, because you love your big weddings here, 300 to 500 people, which is different from Wexford where I’m from. I think going forward that might not be possible for the short term. That means I’ll probably work harder than I ever have in 2021/2022 ensuring all couples get the day they dreamt of!
My life is quite hectic at the moment, but in a weird and bizarre way I’m enjoying it because you’re able to stop and engage with people or chat to them on the phone. Even the other night I was dropping up flowers to a grave here in Balla for a lady who cannot drive and I met a local business woman whose Mom sadly passed away a month ago. We sat down – two metres apart obviously – and reminisced about her lovely Mum and times gone by. It was so nice to be able to give her time and catch up.
Our house is very geared towards the GAA. My husband, James and our sons are all involved. I could have my son Jack playing a match in Belmullet and my other son Charlie playing in Cong at the one time. So we’re enjoying a bit more family time, which is nice.
Florists are all a bit mad because the job can be crazy. In Ireland it can be very last minute; getting a call at 8am from someone needing a full funeral done at 1pm that afternoon and you have to drop everything, walk out the door and into the shop to get it done and delivered with a smile on your face pretending you’re not stressed. I don’t think there are a lot of personalities who could stick this work pace, but I do really enjoy it and find it very rewarding helping others because I’m a people person.
My parents started a florists back home in Wexford in the 1970s and branched out and opened up four more, so I did my first wedding when I was eight or nine years old.
When I rolled into town and opened the florists in the old video shop in Balla back in 2004, everyone was saying, ‘Oh this Wexford one opening up a flower shop’. I’ll never forget people telling that they’ll only give me ‘three months’. I don’t think people realised the experience I had behind me.
But I always believed it had great potential and it took off for us starting to develop a name in weddings. Then of course there was the crash and cheques were bouncing and I took a massive hit, but I was determined to stick at it and we got through it.
I started using Facebook as a means of marketing my business very early. It was around 2009 and it was just coming on the scene after Bebo. It wasn’t as advanced as it is now in terms of ‘Like Pages’, so I just had a normal page that basically became an online showroom. We posted pictures of weddings we did and then we might get tagged by the bride the following week and we might get another wedding out of that. That’s how we grew. Instagram is my new love and a fantastic way of showing off your work and engaging a like-minded audience.
An awful lot of people actually come to me now and ask if I will help with their social media, which is a lovely compliment, but I tell them I can’t as I know nothing about them or their brand. Sometimes people don’t know who they are in business for, but hopefully all this slowed down time and people will relook at their business and their needs.
We moved down to our new shop in 2015 because I wanted to rebrand ourselves and I got so busy I nearly burst at the seams with the amount people looking for our wedding service! We nearly got too busy and from December 2017 I have been putting a plan into place to slowly reduce the number of weddings because I needed to ensure 100 percent quality over quantity.
It took me two and half years to reduce the diary and I just had it at a manageable level and ‘Boom’, Covid-19 hit! It looks like I’m going to be absolutely crazy in 2020 and 2021. But sure that’s a fantastic complaint.
And to top it off, Balla Florists have won three massive awards back to back – a hat-trick if you like! We won Irish Wedding Florist of The Year in 2018, 2019 and just recently we won with Weddingsonline. It’s the Oscars in the wedding industry in Ireland and no supplier across 32 counties has achieved this until now.
I would like to thank all our customers and couples for all your support. It’s great to be operating online at the moment so we can keep in contact with you all.
In conversation with Ger Flanagan
If money was no object what would you do all day?
I’d have to work – couldn’t be idle
First thing you’ll do when the Covid-19 shutdown ends?
Get my hair done and go out for dinner with James
Most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?
Favourite place in the world?
What makes you angry?
Rudeness – no need for it
Who was your first hero?
What makes you nervous?
Watching my eldest chap play Gaelic football
Which three celebrity guests would you invite to your Zoom party?
Paul Mescal, Lady Gaga and Graham Norton
What’s the best advice you ever got?
“Life is like a path of snow, be careful how to tread it as every step will show”
Tell us something about yourself we don’t know?
I hate housework
Name three things in your fridge?
Cottage cheese, cucumber and sweet potato
What’s your most prized possession?
My hubby and kids would probably say my phone!
How do you unwind?
Of late I love to stick ear phones in and go for a long walk around our beautiful village here in Mayo Abbey and chill out and watch a movie with our kids
Sum up coronavirus in three words?
A reset button!