I want to start off by saying thank you all for the amazing responses to the New Year’s email I sent a couple of weeks back. I knew that it was a year for all of us, and hearing from so many of you solidified that so resolutely. I appreciate every single one of the stories, affirmations, and encouragement that you sent. That saying “misery loves company” is so negative and yet, I guess, true. Though maybe a better way of thinking about it is knowing none of us are walking alone on this crazy journey. Sometimes that doesn’t make it feel less hard, but it does make it feel a little less lonely. And given how much negativity and hate we’re all seeing in the world right now, knowing that there are incredibly kind people out there who genuinely care helps me so much, and I hope, in turn, will help you, too. So please know that my team and I were touched by your kindness and are rooting for all of you as well.
As promised, because I tend to ramble on and on and on and so could not fit both my reflections and goals in less than a billion words, I’m back with another email. This one isn’t focused on the past, but instead the future (well, with a little relevant context about the past - because, of course!).
I’ve long believed in the importance of goal setting. After all, you can’t achieve what you don’t know you’re aiming for. So at the beginning of each new year, I sit down and make lists of both my personal and professional goals, and then I spend the next twelve months working towards them. And in 2020- I know I mentioned this before, but it still blows my mind - the year COVID-19 derailed pretty much everything, I checked more things off my list than I have in any other previous year.
Looking back with (just a little!) hindsight, I can safely say that accomplishment is the silver lining of 2020 for me, and it showed me in an if-I-didn’t-live-it-I-wouldn’t-believe-it sort of way the real-life importance of resilience and grit. Each goal reached was hard-fought, which, in the end, made the achievement that much sweeter. So I’m entering this year determined as ever and, though it may seem weird, much more positive about the future of Farmgirl. And that optimism is all due to everything we checked off the list last year.
To be more transparent than I probably should, last year I didn’t know if a path to *true* profitability was possible - even though I had pitched a business model over a hundred times to VCs and PE firms that said it most definitely was. More quietly, I was also reaching the end of my rope in terms of willingness to work so incredibly hard just to break even. This time last year I had been turned down by my very last potential funding option. And I say last because it was then that I made the conscious decision not to pursue the seemingly dead-end road to funding any longer. I was officially unfundable. And so I gave myself until our ten-year anniversary (which at the time was less than a year away) to essentially fish or cut bait. Thankfully, in 2020, even amidst more challenges than I could have literally ever imagined, we fished. And today I’m going into 2021 armed with a goal list that - for the very first time - I actually have confidence that we may be able to achieve.
And so, as I’ve done before, I thought I’d share some of these goals with you. Not because we need to be held accountable (I’m nothing if not self-motivated) but because I feel like in a lot of ways we’re on this journey with you, too. After all, we quite literally wouldn’t be here without your orders or your support. And because of that, we want to share both our successes and failures with you. And, just in case we have the latter this year - that’s okay. We’ll give ourselves grace, get up, and, most importantly, try again (another lesson that 2020 taught us so well).
So if you’d like to follow along, here are just a few of our goals for the year. And yes, you read that right - this is just a few. If you knew the actual length of this list you’d likely (OK, definitely) think I’m a crazy person. Here we go!
- $100M in revenue – Going to start with the big one first. And, side note, did you scream a little when you read that like I did when I typed it? It feels completely crazy that this is a 2021 goal, and I know when we reach it, I will bawl like a baby because it will be the proudest moment of my entire life. And not because I’m driven by money, because I’m not (and the bottom line of our balance sheet for the past ten years proves it). But I never thought that we could actually bootstrap a perishable product company to $100M in annual revenue - and to my knowledge, I don’t know of any others who have. It makes me so proud of my scrappy, hard-working team, and although it might seem boastful to say, myself too. And it also makes me so incredibly grateful for all of you who will help us reach this goal. I mean, a hundred million dollars without a single cent of outside capital?! We need to throw a big ol’ party post-COVID if this happens. And you’re all invited.
- Reduce our shipping rates by the end of 2021 – OK, this one is for all of you. For helping us to (hopefully) make the aforementioned goal a reality and for how you’ve supported us so well these past ten years. And because of all of that, this one’s probably the MVP of the whole list, huh? There’s a laundry list of specific goals that, once reached, will hopefully help us get here but can’t give all our secrets away to our competition. But just know that we’re working on this SO HARD and cannot wait for the day we get to announce lower, more affordable shipping rates for when you order Farmgirl! It might be the second proudest day of my life!
- Keep pivoting – I think we were all hoping we’d start 2021 on the other side of the pandemic. And of course, now that we’re on the other side of New Year’s Eve we’ve found that isn’t exactly the case. Or even close to it. For lack of a better phrase, it stinks. But one of our favorite Farmgirl-isms is gristle (that’s hustle plus grit!). So, we’ll keep working hard and moving quickly to adapt to the ever-changing environment that you have to navigate as a perishable business in a pandemic. This means, more than likely, that we’ll be moving just as quickly in 2021 as we did in 2020 - if not faster. All that said though, we have some exciting things we’re working on that we can’t wait to share with you soon!
- Continue building good jobs – My original mission from way back in 2010 remains the same today – to create a company that I would want to buy from, sell to, and work for. And while we haven’t always been able to do as much as we’ve wanted for our team due to financial constraints, as soon as we possibly can, we do. And that includes providing full medical benefits, paid vacation, matching retirement plans, and higher-than-minimum wage pay scales. When we had to shut down in March and furlough over 90% of our team in one day, I thought it might take years to be able to build back up to the 197 team members we were before March 16, 2020. Thanks to all of you who have supported us with your dollars, we are now over 270 team members strong and are excited to be creating many more good jobs in the year to come. And on that note - this year we’re investing in more comprehensive benefits for our team. What does this mean? We’re creating a profit-sharing model and also working to support the parents on our team with benefits to help make childcare more affordable and accessible. This past year was challenging for all of us, but I saw so many working parents struggle especially hard. We’re working on new ways to ensure our team members with children don’t have to worry about where their children will stay while they work (or how they will afford it).
- Continue supporting others with our dollars – Some of you know about our “With Heart” program here at Farmgirl. For those who don’t, it’s the charitable arm of our company. We choose an organization in the nonprofit or community space and create a unique arrangement or bouquet to donate a set amount of the purchase price. And then, with your support, we’re able to support these incredible teams and the work they do. This year my team and I were blown away by some of the incredible organizations we were lucky to work with (like the NAACP, Every Mother Counts, National Action Network, Black Sanctuary Gardens, and Hively, to name a few), and, most importantly, by the donations, we were able to make with your help. Our 2021 goal is to continue to expand this program and to donate $400K+ to organizations that are doing amazing work in social justice, healthcare, racial and gender equality spaces - and more.
- Be courageous and stand up for what we believe in - We’re a brand and a company that has come of age on digital media, and that sort of visibility can be a blessing and a curse. It also makes it that much more important to me to stay true to what we believe in and to use the influence we have on platforms to make a difference when and where we can. Even and especially when that feels scary, unpopular, or means we take a hit in revenue.
- Continue building our team by hiring the *right* team members so we can promote and grow the company culture we’ve worked so hard to build – We’ve always, always had the tiniest of shoestring budgets to work with for everything - even staffing. This is just a fact of life when you’re bootstrapping your own rapid growth. Also, perishability is probably the absolute hardest thing in the world to do with the absolutely tiniest margins, so we’ve always had to be incredibly careful what we’ve spent on everything, even people. In the past, this has made investing in our team with strategic hires and building out a more robust management and supervisor team hard and, sometimes, impossible. But all of that makes this past year stand out so brightly among all of the others because, with all of your support, along with the restructuring of our entire distribution model (not to mention no longer trying to run a perishable manufacturing business in the most expensive city in the US - um yeah, super-smart huh?), we’ve finally been able to build out our team in a way that makes all of the crazy scaling not only manageable but sustainable. At the same time, we’ve also broken ties with the idea of running Farmgirl from one facility only, which means our candidate pool has gotten so much bigger than just the Bay Area. We’re hired team members from Ecuador, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, and beyond - members whose work ethic and values align with our own and who have already brought so much to the team, which makes the fact that even as recently as a year ago we wouldn’t have considered them because of the distance seem crazy. It’s been the most amazing thing to witness. And, thankfully, there will be so much more of it this year. So, if you’ve ever wanted to work with us - this year might be the time. We’ve decided to embrace a remote workplace for as many departments as possible and will be adding many, many positions this year, so keep an eye out for job postings coming (and soon!). I think one of the biggest learnings from the past ten years (and credit to Reid Hoffman’s amazing culture deck for helping me to put this into words), is that hiring the right people is the most important thing you can do at a company. I am so grateful that we’re in the position to do this and will be bringing on new, incredible team members to help us check off all the things on this year’s list.
- Care about people but not what they think about you – This is on both my personal and professional list this year. It’s also been on previous year’s lists, too, but 2020 taught me the importance of finally truly learning this lesson, so it’s back. And I think I’ve (finally!) learned that it’s impossible to make everyone happy even part of the time, so it’s pointless - not to mention a huge waste of time - to even try. At the most difficult points of 2020, I’ve repeated the phrase “just because they say it doesn’t make it true” to myself over and over. This year I was also taught the hard lesson of how the same people who love your story when you’re a small business want to tear you down once you’re a “success.” I also learned that people can and will easily attack you, your character, and your company from behind a screen and that they will make up complete fabrications about you or your company and then even go so far as to make threats to your livelihood. It’s hard, if not impossible, sometimes, to ignore this. But ultimately listening to or letting any of this negativity weigh on me only gets in the way of building the best team, the best company, and ultimately the best Farmgirl I can. And there are too many good people and way too much good stuff in store for me to let that happen.
- Don’t run out of money – In case you were wondering, this goal still makes the list. Every. Single. Year. As the founder and CEO of a bootstrapped, perishable product company, this will probably always be my biggest challenge and proudest accomplishment - provided I keep checking it off the list!
The remaining few pages (yes I said pages!) of goals are all product, supply chain, distribution, and operations related so I can’t share or otherwise I’d be showing all our cards to our competitors (oh hey there guys!). So I can’t share them yet, but just wait! This year we have some truly exciting plans and I cannot wait to be able to tell you all about them when we’re ready.
And finally, thank you. Thank you for coming along on this wild ride with me and the rest of the Farmgirl team. And thank you for supporting us so well every year, but especially this past year. The ten years Farmgirl has been around has felt like a constant roller coaster (this last one, in particular, felt like an old wooden coaster with no seat belts that should probably be out of commission) but we’re always so grateful we get to be on this ride with all of you.
Here’s to another year filled with as many silver linings as seemingly insurmountable challenges - hopefully!