2021 was a strange year for so many but also saw people become crafty with how they were spending their free time. I think it’s fair to say we all tried our hand at a new hobby during those first few months to pass the time. However, one particular hobby sparked a passion for business owner, Orla Howells – creating plant hangers started out as a way to keep creative and has since turned into a successful business called Hugs for Shrubs.
I met Orla on a graduate programme almost four years ago now – writing down how long ago that is now really makes me realise how quickly time is going. Orla and I instantly clicked over our love for travel and just life in a general sense. Orla is incredibly talented, disciplined and passionate about whatever she puts her mind to – she’s a real go-getter and a ball of fun!
Originally from Donegal, Orla moved back from New York half way through the pandemic and has since moved to Dublin where she runs her online business. During our chat, we talked about how the move back home sparked a yearn to create something new. “Inspired by many a lockdown walk” during her time home in Donegal, Orla began making plant hangers for herself, her friends and family. She soon realised people really enjoyed her hand-crafted bespoke pieces and decided to take the plunge to set up her business, Hugs for Shrubs, in May 2021.
There’s a real sense of magic about Orla’s business as she truly created the plant hangers from the passion of her new-found craft, which naturally progressed to a business because of demand. Hugs for Shrubs is such a unique name and really stands-out amongst the noise of her competitors. Orla told me that she“was playing around with names for a potential business”, not really thinking she’d launch an online business but she “was excited by the idea of creating something new and putting it out into the world.” We laughed about how she felt the name of her soon-to-be business was “too cheesy” but having spoken to her friends and family they really encouraged her to give it a go!
Having lived in New York for a little over a year, Orla’s move home to Donegal was a big transition but it is what really inspired her plant hanger creations. The designs and colours of her beautiful plant hangers can be attributed to the scenic views of Donegal. Orla moved back to Dublin last summer after lockdown but touched on how if she had continued to “live in a small bubble in Donegal”, she wouldn’t have had the self-confidence to put herself out there. The combination of being inspired by Donegal, while living in the hustle and bustle of Dublin really complimented her journey with her business.
Orla touched on the people who she is surrounded by – speaking about her time in New York, she reflected on many of her friends who found themselves without a job overnight due to the pandemic. I had to smile as she described how those friends then started making face-masks, bucket hats and even doing manicures as side hustles to keep themselves a float – a real attribute to the “self-starter” attitude of New Yorker’s that we so often read about and see in movies. These friends really did inspire Orla in a positive way and pushed her to put herself out there.
Orla’s online presence is full of colour. Her Instagram is buzzing with reels, creative ways to inspire her customers how to hang their plants in her plant hangers and engaging chats about sustainability which is at the fore of her business model. However behind the colour, Orla spoke about how hard it is to “put yourself out there in the beginning stages of starting a business – whether it’s launching the business in the first place or taking steps along the way to push yourself even more outside of your comfort zone.” Despite this challenge, Orla’s true personality shines as she mentions how it’s important when owning a small business to “surround yourself with the right people and give yourself plenty of self-love” in order to grow.
Hugs for Shrubs has two bespoke designs called ‘Errigal’ and ‘Eske’ (which you can purchase on Esty by clicking here). Orla described how when she’s creating plant hangers for customers or in advance of a product launch that that is where she finds her true sense of Creative Flow. It is within her craft that she finds her true sense of creativity, which is the essence of what this series is all about.
I felt really grounded after chatting with Orla because of her humbling sense of self. Donegal is renowned for its design traditions and to see Orla bring her Donegal inspired work to life in such a modern and creative way is inspiring. If you’d like to learn more about Orla or purchase a plant hanger check out her Instagram, here. To discover more artists and Creative Flow conversations, click here.
Till the next conversation.
Sarah Edel xx