I'm Christina, also known as the farm girl behind Farmgirl Flowers. I'm often asked about my story (which is super flattering - thanks!), so I've included a little Q&A below. Feel free to peruse the questions that interest you without having to read it all (I tend to be a lil' verbose).
My [abbreviated] story:
I grew up on a corn and soybean farm in Bremen, Indiana. While I’m incredibly grateful to have grown up there, mostly for the foundation it provided, I always knew it wasn’t where I’d end up. I love a lot of things about it, but I really never fit in. It wasn’t until I moved to a larger city (NYC first and then San Francisco with a few others in between) that I felt like I was home. That's how Farmgirl got it's name though, although my Mom is the real farm girl!
One of the things I’m most grateful for in life is that I learned how to work hard, think critically, and keep it real – and I was fortunate enough to learn those attributes on our tiny farm in that tiny town in rural Indiana.
Why I started Farmgirl Flowers:
Number one on my bucket list has always been to start a business doing something innovative and hopefully, at the same time, something that makes a positive impact in the world. Admittedly, many of my kooky ideas fulfilled one mission, but rarely both. When researching the flower industry, I found the perfect opportunity to create a new model that would provide a better alternative to what was currently available. I wanted to solve a real problem that I personally experienced every time I wanted to send flowers to my peeps - I didn't like the flowers. I wanted a designed bouquet instead of something I could have gotten from a grocery store for a fraction of the price. I wanted colors that complimented each other and better flower varieties. And I wanted to be able to order easily and quickly instead of having to spend way too much time sorting through 100+ options. I sure didn't want much, huh?
How I came up with the Farmgirl model:
Initially I worked in an event planning role where we purchased a lot of flowers, and I couldn’t figure out why they were so expensive. That curiosity sparked a rabbit hole of research where I found the eComm flower space to maybe be one of the last undisrupted spaces in Silicon Valley. It was also an industry with (what I thought to be) very little innovation, so there was ample room for an improved model. I knew I wanted to start a company, but I didn’t want to simply replicate someone else’s idea and make it a tiny bit better. I knew if I had one shot to go for the gold and build my own business, I wanted to hit out of the park and create something truly unique. After researching the space, seeing the potential, and devising an innovative model, I truly thought this was my Aha! moment and went for it!
How I came up with Farmgirl’s trademarked burlap wrapped bouquet:
After the unique model, creating a way to differentiate our flowers was extremely important to me. Similar to Levi’s red tab, Coke’s bottle shape, and Nike’s swoosh, I wanted to create a brand identity that would allow customers to easily identify our bouquets. Originally, I came up with a list of 14 ideas of materials to use in place of traditional cellophane (that's been used for ages). The first thing I did was research to see if anyone came up with the idea first – after all, I wanted to differentiate our product, not copy someone else’s. That research eliminated a few ideas. Then I tested my top three favorites’ and polled my friends – which is how our trademarked burlap wrap bouquet was born. I’m so happy our customers love it as much as I do!
What’s next for Farmgirl?
The goal has always been world domination. Ha, joking – kind of. We still own a tiny portion of the overall market share nationally, so now our goal is to grow that and compete on a much bigger scale. My goal has always been to grow Farmgirl to a billion-dollar company, and I’m so grateful that we’re on our way there.
Why our company values are so important to me:
I get asked all the time why I care so much about doing the right thing. I don't really know the answer to this other than I've always been a right fighter (many times to my detriment) and I always try to do my best. After all, why work so hard (like, 20 hour/day hard) to build something mediocre? My goal isn't to just build a company - I want to build an amazing one. I want to build a company that I would want to buy from, sell to, and work for. That goal helps me make the right decision - whatever it may be. By simply looking at business decisions through that lens — no matter our size — and it usually makes the answer crystal clear. And that's why I choose to hire full time team members, pay above minimum wage, offer full medical benefits and 401k, make our arrangements in house, keep our customer service team in house, ensure we're sourcing from ethical farms and companies, pay our bills on time, and so many other things. Because if I were the customer, team member, or vendor -- that's what I would want for myself. Kind of like the golden rule for business.
Challenges we’ve encountered along the way:
Everyone that’s starting a business wants insight into what’s heading their way. I get it. I did too. So, it’s not surprising that this is one of the biggest questions I get, and unfortunately, I just don’t have the time to grab coffee with everyone who asks, so thought I’d include a little about that here for anyone that’s interested.
Starting a business is tough, but that’s not news. Everyone talks about the first two years being the hardest. I have to say I no longer think that’s true, at least it hasn’t been in my case -- and I’ve found the old adage of "more money, more problems" be spot on. The early years are extremely tough from the standpoint of being in a constant state of fear in not knowing if the business is even viable. If you're bootstrapped in particular, you're always worried that you’re going to run out of money or that you won’t be able acquire customers or, frankly, that people just won’t like whatever you’re selling. And, in addition to being scared all the time, you have to do every single thing yourself and not let anything slip and all with about 2 hours of sleep a night tops. That’s essentially the early years in a nutshell, but that’s also been the later years as well, minus the part about people not wanting what you’re selling, but adding the fact that you have a lot of people relying on you for their livelihood so you better not make a wrong decision because every mistake (and bill for that matter) is now 100 times bigger. So, it’s challenging early, and it’s even more challenging as you scale.
There have been so many more challenges and failures than I can explain in less than a few chapters of a book. But, if you want specifics to chew on, here’s a few doozies: my inability to raise capital as a solo female founder while needing to compete with new, funded, strikingly similar companies, being able to source enough domestic flowers to scale and then having to defend myself to many who think I “sold out” by expanding sourcing to further away, launching national shipping while needing to subsidize a large amount of the cost, creating a positive team culture while doubling our head count each year, having enough time to get it all done and trying to sleep more than a couple hours a night, and not running out of money scaling a manufacturing business in the most expensive city in the US. Those are just a few though! ;)
Advice for other makers & entrepreneurs:
I’m often asked for advice from others looking to start their own businesses – creative or not – on what the secret sauce is for success. I’m often stumped, searching the nooks and crannies of my brain trying to figure out what to say to seem really smart, where the requestor will walk away enlightened and thinking how brilliant I am. Well here it is. Sadly, there is no secret sauce (which means I probably don't sound too brilliant now :). Just like money doesn’t grow on trees – secret sauce isn’t packaged in a cute little bottle. In my opinion, it mostly just boils down to perseverance, resilience, and good ol’ fashioned hard work. That’s it. Starting a company has been the hardest thing I've ever done. It's brutal, and I’m not exaggerating. You'll feel like a complete failure a lot - which is probably new for all those type A’s used to superstar status in previous careers. You'll probably shed some tears (no matter how tough you are) - especially given how sleep deprived you’ll be from the 20+ hour days you're working. But if you trudge through it all, and work really, really hard, it’ll all be worth it (at least I’m banking on that). Oh, and try not to worry about the people in the stands. Keep a copy of Theodore Roosevelt's "Man in the Arena" speech close. I hope it helps you as much as it's helped me.
I had to include this, since everyone asks! Like about 90% of women out there – one of my faves has to be a Peony. Specifically Tree Peonies that are as big as my face, but I'll take 'em all. I also have a lovefest going with King Protea right now, and there’s really nothing that smells better than blooming Jasmine.
*Have additional questions? You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since the best things in life aren't really free...
Enter your email for 10% off!
Thanks for signing up!
Your welcome code is waiting for you in your inbox.