A Post-Valentine’s Day Letter from Christina

Feb 23, 2021

A Post-Valentine’s Day Letter from Christina

Hey there,

Wow, where to start? By this point on a pre-pandemic Valentine’s Day, I would be very, very close to a long catch-up sleep. I’d have spent the week going over Valentine’s Day with my team - what went wrong, what went right, and what do we need to work on before the next big flower holiday. We’d be rejoicing in the (albeit temporary) removal of red flowers from our coolers. Post-Christmas, and especially post-February 14th, we get very tired of all the red petals. But, and I feel like a broken record saying this by now, unfortunately, this was no business-as-usual type of holiday.

I’m sure most of you reading this will have seen at least one of our update videos on Instagram or Facebook or received an email about the delays we experienced both the week of Valentine’s Day and this past week. So I won’t waste time here by explaining it all again (you can find more details here, here, or here if you’re really curious), but I will say that the volume of shipping delays - weather-related and otherwise - that we’ve experienced the past two weeks have been unprecedented (there goes another broken record phrase). And catastrophic. Digging out from under the heap of logistical, operational, and most importantly, customer support problems that we’ve been buried in since just before Valentine’s Day has truly felt like a walking-uphill-in-ten-feet-of-snow-both-ways sort of situation.

We don’t yet have final numbers on what our total losses have been yet - the delays from our delivery partners are still filtering in - but for some quick context, on Valentine’s week alone over 44% of our packages were not delivered on time by our delivery partners. And, if I had to guess, I’d say the all-in number now creeps over the 50% mark, so I’m now officially counting our losses by the millions of dollars. On the bright side in a not-very-bright situation, I’ve (thankfully) rarely counted losses in this arena. But when all the dust settles I think the financial impact will probably rest around $5M.
I joked in one of the videos we posted this past week that I could have closed the company for a week and flown the entire team to Bali and still come out ahead. I think, at this point, I could have flown us all back and forth ten times and in first class, purchased a pool’s worth of umbrella drinks, and still, the price tag wouldn’t be anywhere close to where it’s ended up.

I read somewhere a few months back that large numbers have a way of baffling our minds. It was pandemic-related, I’m sure - something about how as the number of illnesses and casualties rise it becomes harder and harder for so many to understand what that number actually looks and feels like. I remember at the time feeling that I couldn’t understand, because numbers, big and small, have always been the way I’ve related to my business. When I’m reconciling our spending and working on the balance sheet with my amazing EA, Lo, every charge, from $15 at Amazon for pens, to $500,000 to a farm for roses, is important. Because big or little - it all hits the bottom line. And as the owner of a bootstrapped, perishable product-making, tiny margin business, there is no margin of error between the bottom line and the end of the line for Farmgirl as a company. I scrutinize and spreadsheet and analyze every penny because I have no other choice. It’s how I got Farmgirl to the 10th anniversary that we celebrated last November and how I intend to get us to the 20th, too. So that giant multi-million dollar number? It’s definitely been keeping me up at night.

But even as my mind begins to run the gamut of what each comma and decimal in the enormous price tag of this holiday means to our business, I’m also acutely aware of the untellable, unquantifiable customer cost, too. For every bouquet stuck in Memphis or Louisville, I know there was also a sender and recipient excitedly awaiting the order’s arrival - only to be disappointed when they went to bed without a Farmgirl bouquet landing on their doorstep.

If you’re still reading this you’re probably going to have a hard time believing this next part but trust me, it’s true. And then some. And it is (or rather, they are) the one and the only reason I have been able to keep my CEO hat on and try to spreadsheet my way to a solution for the numbers game this holiday has put us in: our Customer Support and Community teams here at Farmgirl (and every other member from the rest of the team who jumped in and spent hours upon hours lending support to these teams, too) have been the real silver lining this Valentine’s Day. So many of you know them by name - Devin, Kristin, Denise, Dani, Katie, Paula, Claudia, Neda, Emma and so many more - there’s a team of incredible people who have, one email, DM, call, or comment at a time worked so incredibly hard to help all of you who have been impacted by the delays that then often turn into subsequent quality issues this holiday.

I’m all too aware, especially right now, that there are just going to be some times that we can’t make it right. This is, after all, the name of the game when you get into a perishable e-commerce business. Even with all the careful planning, preparation, purchasing, designing, packaging, and boxing sometimes things go wrong in transit. It might be too hot, too cold, too bumpy, or, in the most recent instance, too delayed, and the flowers just won’t get there on time or look great. But the thing that has blown me away every holiday and especially this holiday is that the team will always, always try. For every happy customer or recipient, we walk away with an equally happy team member from our Support and Community teams.

And perhaps more tellingly, for every unhappy customer or recipient, someone who, in spite of our best efforts, we can’t make it right for (even with a fresh bouquet on us, a refund, or otherwise going above and beyond in any way we could), we have an equally, if not even more, disappointed team member. They care not only because it’s their job, but they care like it’s the bouquet that they made personally or the company that they built themselves, brick by brick. And in a world where so many businesses turn to third parties or outsource their Support teams (which absolutely may be the right choice for them so I’m not throwing stones!), it’s this care and dedication that confirm for me, time after time, that building and growing an in-house Support team is the right decision for me, for Farmgirl, and for all of you.

So while I’m very much at the beginning of the mountain of strategies, spreadsheets, and analysis I’ll be tackling over the next few weeks to try to do anything and everything in our power to make sure this doesn’t happen again, I want to take some much needed time to thank each and every one of these team members. Their hard work, their patience, and their dedication may be all behind the scenes but it is not unnoticed. And while I’ve thanked them behind the scenes as well, I wanted to do so here, on this much more public stage, so that they understand that even though their work is for the most part hidden, their efforts are anything but invisible.

And I also want to say thank you to all of you. The incredible majority of you have been absolutely incredible through all of this. As a business owner, I always try to be understanding of the many kinks that go into the logistics of ordering and shipping a tangible product - especially in a pandemic. But without a front-row seat to the many hands, decisions, and sometimes just plain good luck that go into making the behind-the-scenes of an operation like Farmgirl work, it’s easy and, in a lot of ways, understandable to be considerably less patient when things like this happen. Reading your kind words of support, and seeing the patience and trust you’ve given our team to make it right when it went so clearly wrong this past week has been humbling. I am - we are - grateful for each and every one of you who took time out of their day to send a note of thanks, appreciation, and of support. It helped more than I can even say. So thank you, truly.

Alright - that’s it. This one is a long read - per the usual - but it’s from the heart. We’ll be working tirelessly from now until May to do everything we can to prevent something like this from happening for Mother’s Day, and hopefully every day in between.. Until then, stay safe, and know you are appreciated by all of us at Team Farmgirl.


P.S. I wanted to introduce you to some of the team members that you’ve been talking to these last few days. That’s them above!

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