A New Year's Note from Christina

Jan 02, 2021

A New Year's Note from Christina

Hey There,

Well - it’s finally New Year’s Day! We’ll be into our second day of this seemed-like-it-would-never-get-here new year by the time you’re reading this and, with any luck, I’ll have put a serious dent in the mountain of financial stuff I’ve been trying to get through ever since the end of the year began to sneak up on me. But - probably not. Because today I’m doing what I do every January 1st: taking today off to spend time at the beach reflecting on the year we’ve just come through and setting goals and intentions for the year to come. I’m not what you would call a traditionalist in any sense of the word, but this is one of the very few traditions I do have. And it’s one I’m finding particularly important this year because, well, like we’re all saying right now - 2020.

As always I thought I’d share some of these reflections and goals with you all in case it helps you make a list of your own or maybe makes you feel a little less like you’ve been walking through this crazy year alone. And because this will undoubtedly be too long, I’m going to focus on just the reflections now (and send a separate goal-oriented email separately later). I’ve given up on paring down, which feels like a pretty great gift I can give myself to celebrate surviving the longest year on record. 

To say 2020 has been challenging for us here at Farmgirl would be the biggest of  understatements - and I’m sure that’s also true for all of you. Challenging just seems to be the new baseline for everyone everywhere so I’m going to call it and say we don’t even need to qualify it anymore - it’s just the new normal. But I’m hoping that since we’re all on the same, uncomfortable, hard page we can also show one another more grace and compassion, and hopefully to ourselves, too. 

It’s easy to get stuck muddling over what a series of challenges and almost disasters - one after the next after the next - this year has been. But today instead of thinking about them with frustration or even a sense of martyrdom as I have from time to time (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve muttered to myself “can I just get ONE break?!”), I’m going to celebrate getting through them and do my very best to be grateful for them. Because my writing this (and your reading this) means we’ve made it to the other side of every single challenge we’ve faced this year. And that’s definitely something worth celebrating. And in a year where so many have lost so much (including life itself), it feels necessary to be grateful for just being here. If this seems a little too rose-colored glasses or even crunchy for you (which the midwestern farm kid in me totally gets!), just scroll right to the bottom and click on the little button and you’ll be transported to just seeing beautiful flowers instead of my end of year musings. No need to email me to tell me to just focus on flowers because if it hasn’t gotten through to me in ten years now, it’s probably not going to happen. 

Okay, back to my celebration of this crappy year. We all know there are moments and days in our lives that we’ll always remember - down to every last detail. Where exactly we were, what we felt in that exact moment, what we were wearing, smelling, seeing, etc. March 16, 2020, is always going to be one of those days for me. That was the day San Francisco enacted, without any warning for business owners, a shelter-in-place mandate in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. And, remarkably, as defining and terrible as that day was (we shuttered 90% of our operation and furloughed over 90% of our team in a span of 12 hours) what has really stayed with me happened later that day. I got home that night and was sitting on my couch in a state of shock and incredible sadness. It was, in retrospect, one of the few moments in my life where I’ve felt what I can only describe as complete despair. 

It hit me like a ton of bricks that I had just worked for almost ten years to build this company and poured every ounce of myself into it. And, after ten years, it felt like I’d lost everything in less than a day - my company, my team, and possibly my own livelihood. And the kicker was that there didn’t seem, at that moment, anything I could do to change the inevitable outcome. 

Instead of sleeping that night, I spent the time tallying up all of the expenses we’d incur over the next few weeks and months and the debt we were carrying. I weighed the total against the revenue we’d be able to bring in with a single and two-month-old facility producing a fraction of the usual arrangements we usually offered. I gave us, at best, two months to continue. At worst, it looked closer to a few weeks. And if I paid all those expenses immediately? We wouldn’t even have a day.  

Normally this sort of charting and number crunching brings me peace of mind in hard times. I’ve never been one to dwell in a crisis – I move very quickly (maybe even too quickly) to the solution phase. That’s probably a testament to growing up with a no-nonsense mother who taught us to not focus on what we couldn’t change but just deal with it and keep moving forward. Never mind that that path may change once/twice/a thousand times - for me it’s all about that forward movement. And while I’ve always bet on myself, I felt, for once, like the odds were truly stacked against me and Farmgirl. Being someone who believes firmly in knowing your numbers at all times, and being realistic about potential outcomes, I gave us about a ten percent chance of survival. And staring down that sobering statistic, I felt, for the first time in the past ten years, at a loss.

There was something else that night that made the situation feel all the more hopeless, and, being honest, I’ve added and deleted it to this letter several times before finally deciding to share. A month before the SIP mandate my husband and I decided to divorce. It started the week of Valentine’s Day (I kid you not) and, when all was said and done, was finalized this fall. I’ve never talked much about being married here and I won’t now because marriages are between two people - not a CEO and her entire email list. But I felt it relevant to mention here because, as is the case for so many of us I’m sure, marriage itself is a sort of safety net. Whether it be emotionally, financially, or physically (which is especially important when you’re in the middle of a pandemic where the only people you can spend time with are those in your immediate household) for better or for worse, someone is there

In the past ten years of growing Farmgirl, I had been scraping by personally, not paying myself for the first 5+ years and then taking a very (and I’m not exaggerating here) modest paycheck for my 120+ hour weeks so that I could do my best to contribute to household expenses. So while I was (and still am) proud that I’ve been able to make Farmgirl work independently - as in financing our opening costs and scaling it without any investment from PE or VC firms or even angel investors - I was able to do this because that household had a second income. 

That sleepless night, sitting on that couch, I realized so acutely that there was no safety net anymore. Not emotionally, physically, or financially. It was just me. And after putting myself absolutely last for the past ten years, trying to build the best company and the best team possible with what could only be called a shoestring budget, I didn’t have the means to take care of myself, let alone what company I had left if it didn’t survive. 

I’m not normally someone who shuts down when overwhelmed, but I don’t really have any other way of classifying that day (and night) on the sofa. I stared into blank space. I made lists of ideas of ways to pivot to survive this - spoiler alert: none of them were very good. I took at least five showers to try and warm up because I think I was quite literally in shock. And I most definitely did not sleep. But as the sun came up that next morning, I went down to the beach for a walk, and on that walk, I resolved myself that even though I had no safety net, and even though I had no definitive idea of how to get through this next period, that I was going to get through it. Or, if I didn’t, it wouldn’t be for lack of trying because I was going to give this the fight of my life. 

To make a movie montage of the hands-down most difficult months of my life, the rest, they say, is history. It was months of fighting, of figuring out one obstacle only to find three more, even bigger ones lurking just around the corner. And then what seemed like another 100 after that. Looking back, 2020 has felt like, on my best days, a joke. And on my worst days (really, nights - because doesn’t everything usually feel its worst when you’re wide awake, staring at your ceiling from your pillow at 2 am?) it has felt like a gauntlet. And it’s one I’ve been running blindfolded, handcuffed, and shoeless. I’m trying to fondly call this one the best worst year ever, and while I’m not 100% at the fondly part quite yet, I’m getting closer. 

And what’s getting me there? This is the really important part, so I hope you haven’t stopped reading already because I know I literally cannot write anything succinctly. Because even with all of the terrible, incredibly hard things that have happened (and I’m sure will continue to happen in 2021), there have been bright spots. And I mean really, really bright spots - and there are two that shine the very brightest of all.

First is Team Farmgirl. Formed by some of the most difficult circumstances - the pandemic and our move out of SF - the absolute best silver lining to this entire crazy year is that we’re ending it with the strongest, scrappiest, and most hardworking team we’ve ever had. We restructured our distribution model completely which meant we added teams in three different locations (and in much more manufacturing-friendly areas than SF). And while the move was, itself, one of the most trying parts of this year, this change in our operations allowed us to build a stronger team than I ever thought possible, and I was especially reminded of this past week, when I experienced probably the proudest moment of my entire Farmgirl life. 

I was driving across the country to see my parents for Christmas (I literally drove over 2k miles each way and was tested beforehand and after - so please, no judgment). While driving, I got a text message from our Head of Growth Operations. It had a few photos from our teams in California, Florida, and Ecuador with a project they had spearheaded completely on their own. After a crazy busy month shipping Hanukkah, Christmas, and all those just-because arrangements, they’d found the time to organize and host toy and food drives for their communities. The photos were images of trunks full of wrapped toys and masked team members handing out bags of food. I was blown away. Not only by the gesture and the fact that these teams had made the decision to do this completely on their own, but that they decided to do it during one of the busiest shipping times of the year. 

It also made me realize that somehow, in spite of every obstacle and setback this year brought, we had managed to build the strongest team we’ve ever had. One full of hard-working, incredibly smart, gracious, and kind people. One that lives values so closely aligned to those of this company that I’ve been trying so hard to build. One that works a 12-hour holiday shift and then goes out of their way to spend their time and money to buy a doll or canned goods for someone they’ve never met. And that makes me even more sure that Team Farmgirl can and will weather anything that’s put in our way. And that we’ll do it together. 

The second brightest spot of the year has been all of you and the incredible support you’ve shown us. The emails that have felt like love letters (I have a few physical cards you’ve sent hanging on my fridge) and the incredible financial support you’ve shown us by coming to us for flowers and gifts. And, of course, being so incredibly patient with all of the COVID-related shipping delays that have frustrated us to no end (and you, I’m sure!). The grace and support you’ve shown us just blow my (and my entire team’s) mind. We’re wrapping up this year with 100% growth year over year, which feels surreal to even type, and I’m not embarrassed in the least bit to tell you I have tears in my eyes right now. So thank you – a million times over – thank you.

And so, as I head into 2021, all of this is what I’m holding onto. An incredible team. And incredible customers who often feel like friends. And an incredibly hard year that contained my literal lowest of lows that, in the end, made texts like that one I received with photos of our team giving back to their communities, and the messages you’ve all sent, mean all that much more. And I can honestly say while this year will (hopefully) forever be my best worst year ever, I’m incredibly grateful for all that I’ve learned and for all the incredible people who have supported us and have given so much in spite, and because of, all the hard stuff 2020 brought. 

Here’s hoping 2021 is brighter, and maybe even a little bit easier. But if it’s not, here’s to us all getting through it together. Because, if nothing else, hopefully, this year has shown us all that we can. 


Sending so much love for a brighter year ahead,


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