Nov 07, 2021
Wow. Farmgirl turned 11 years old yesterday.
I spent it at my favorite place on earth – the beach in northern California. Truth be told I didn’t really feel celebratory given how hard the past couple of years have been, but I did feel extremely grateful that Farmgirl is still here (even and especially because of these past two years). And, I also felt hopeful - hopeful that future years will bring more cause for celebration and, fingers crossed, the ability to say we’re thriving and not just surviving. But surviving is where we’re at right now. I know - not particularly birthday worthy, but you know I like to keep it real and not sugarcoat the hard stuff. And make no mistake - this is hard stuff.
Thinking back I also felt incredibly grateful for the massive education I’ve received since starting and scaling Farmgirl these (very long) eleven years. As I’ve openly shared, I don’t have a formal college education, but if I did, I really don’t think it could have taught me even a tiny fraction of what I’ve learned throughout this journey. Like the time I went to my first pitch meeting. The potential investor rattled off acronyms that were, as they like to say, all Greek to me at the time. I tried to remember every single word that came out of his mouth that I didn’t understand and then wrote them down when I got back into the car.
Spoiler alert: I didn’t get the funding - and I definitely cried after I wrote those words down in the car, too. But I did go home and look up each and every one of those scary-sounding acronyms and business terms and learned them. And while I can’t say that today I became that investor (I am still, though now proudly, unfundable) I’d like to think I could take that version of myself to lunch after that terrible meeting and tell her that one day all that Greek would feel like second hand. And that business she started on a table she had to saw the legs off of to get through the front door of her tiny San Francisco apartment (after she drove it strapped to the roof of her old Nissan Xterra over the Bay Bridge)? It would turn into a team shipping Farmgirl bouquets to recipients all over the lower 48, doing over $60M of annual revenue with employees across the world.
Thinking back on the past 11 years brought up all sorts of emotions - some wonderful, many that feel like gratitude, and, if I’m being honest, quite a few that are painful. This year has been a lot of the painful sort. But as difficult as it’s been, probably the biggest gift the last 11 years have given me (and the last year in particular) is perspective. And by perspective, I mean that it can always be worse, that compared to so many I’m immensely fortunate, and that the biggest learnings come from the biggest failures. And, on that last point, there have been so many of those lately that I’m feeling quite, let’s say, brilliant at the moment. So if the universe is listening, can the powers that be lighten up on the teachable moments for a minute? Please (and thank you). ;)
In my end-of-year musings last year, I talked about how I thought last year would be the toughest but that getting through 2020 showed me that I had the resilience to get through another one like it - if needed. Looking back at where I was at the moment I wrote that I just have to chuckle because I truly had no idea what was heading my way. Which, in hindsight, was probably a good thing. Ignorance really is (and was) bliss.
Because if I’d had any idea of what was barreling towards Farmgirl (from giant transportation failures by the “giants” in the industry to massive supply chain challenges and abrupt consumer purchasing shifts post-vaccine - along with what seems like a million fires in between) I probably would have done what I’d only joked about doing before and packed it all up and retreated to the Galapagos. But there was no packing up - there was only getting through it.
On the almost other side of 2021, I’m still working through what I’m going to take away from this year. Honestly, it all still feels a little raw and I don’t feel ready to talk about it in its entirety - at least not yet. But what I can say is that I don’t want to waste a “good” crisis, and by that, I mean not learning through the many challenges and failures from the past twelve months. I know I shared a lot more last year than I have so far this year but I’m still in the trenches of the hard stuff. I think once this is all in hindsight I’ll be able to put it into words a little better (or at all) but, until then, it’s been too hard to talk about. So instead I’ve retreated to do what I do best – working crazy hard to, again, get through it.
Anyway, I’m hoping for the perspective to be able to share more at the end of the year, but for now, on our 11-year anniversary, I’ll share just one of the very hard lessons I’ll be taking with me from 2021. And it comes from something our Head of People and Culture shared with me in response to some of the hard stuff I’m still in the middle of figuring out. She told me to not let people surprise me. Good, bad, ugly or anywhere in between - to not let it throw me.
And, at first, I was thrown by this. As someone who desperately wants to believe and see the good in people, it felt very defeatist, that I was going to have to become calloused and cynical to operate with this sort of perspective. I couldn’t understand how one of the most positive, caring, level-headed people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with could feel that way. But then again, I realized that maybe, just maybe that was how she was able to be that same positive, caring, and level-headed person when dealing with the incredible amount of people stress that comes with her role. She went on to explain that this didn’t mean you had to give up hope that people will make the choices that you hope they will, just to not be surprised if and when they don’t.
This year I have had so many of these punch-to-the-stomach sorts of disappointments. And, truth be told, this piece of advice kind of felt like another. But like so many lessons in life I had to sit with it for a while. Once I did I realized if I had started this year with that mentality, I would have saved myself a lot of heartache and frustration. And if I had been able to do that, it might have allowed me to be a better and more impactful leader. After all, at the end of the day, the only person you can control is yourself. But as a right-fighter who values character and integrity more than just about everything, I’ve definitely wasted a whole lot of time being upset by what felt like poor choices that people have made (especially when there is literally nothing I can do to change it). And since time is our most precious resource, my most precious resource as a founder, I should know better than to waste it. So, I’m trying this lesson on for size and hoping that it serves me (and Farmgirl) well going into our 11th turn around the sun.
Anyway, I’ll share more (and, knowing me, a whole lot more) later this year when I’m through it (hopefully) and not in it. But for now, thank you all for allowing me, and for allowing Farmgirl, the honor of still being here – 11 long years later. Without your support, we wouldn’t be. Plain and simple. As a tiny token of my gratitude, my gift to you is 25% off today. If you know Farmgirl you know we never do this - not because we don’t want to but because, you know, bootstrapped life and all… So please use the code ELEVEN at checkout ‘til midnight tonight (that’s 11/8/2021) to send some love to yourself or the special people in your life!
Thank you all again - so much. ‘Til next time.