The Interview — Christina Stembel, Founder of Farmgirl Flowers
Meet Christina Stembel, founder and CEO of Farmgirl Flowers, the refreshingly simple way to order and ship flowers or gifts nation-wide.
Christina grew up in rural Indiana where she longed for a life in the big city. She later moved to San Francisco, but her roots ultimately brought her back to a life of supporting American farmers. “When I started Farmgirl Flowers it was with clear intention. I wanted to create an innovative new model for purchasing flowers online that did it ‘right.’ I wanted to provide a better product and customer experience, build a company based on integrity, create good jobs, and support American farmers. That was my mission then, and still is now.”
Christina started Farmgirl Flowers in 2010 out of her ‘tiny” San Francisco apartment. Today, Farmgirl Flowers has been named one of the fastest growing private companies in San Francisco, with projected worth to reach $170 million by 2020.
Scroll down to view Christina’s 10 essentials and to learn more about her disruptive business. We hope you fall in love with Christina’s fantastic company just as we have and gift a lovely Farmgirl Flowers bouquet, too! For more from Farmgirl flowers, be sure to follow them on Instagram and check out her site at Farmgirlflowers.com.
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What inspired the idea behind Farmgirl Flowers:
I think the assumption a lot of people have about me (and in general about women in creative spaces) is that I had a serious passion for flowers before starting Farmgirl. I feel like a lot of people paint this picture of me frolicking in my grandmother’s garden as a child and the rest—as they say, is history. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
When I moved to California I caught the bug to start my own business. I like to say that business plans are to the Silicon Valley what headshots are to LA—everyone has one in their back pocket. Something about that entrepreneurial spirit caught me and I started coming up with ideas for how I could strike out on my own.
I knew in starting a business I wanted to check a few boxes: 1) I wanted to create a company that I could scale big, 2) truly innovate in a space, 3) do something positive in the world, and 4) be able to be bootstrapped (I don’t have a college degree and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to secure funding to start). The model for Farmgirl was the first thing that I came up with that checked all those boxes.
In researching floral delivery companies, I found that In 2010 the e-comm floral space was one of the few industries that wasn’t growing. Imagine that, in the early ages of Amazon, grocery delivery—really the advent of getting everything delivered to your door. Looking at the other options (and using those options to send my own mom flowers back home in Indiana) I saw the lack of bouquets that, in my opinion, customers like my mom (and myself) would actually want to receive.
And from there, the rest is history.
What has been the most rewarding part about starting your own business:
Getting to create, by hand, a company that I’d want to buy from, sell to, and work for. I love that I am able to provide good, non-tech jobs here in San Francisco and make decisions based on what’s right instead of what’s only good for the bottom line.
View Christina's Essentials
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome this obstacle:
It would be impossible to whittle it down to just one obstacle. As a founder there are so many. Probably the biggest challenge is the ability to get back up (and keep getting back up) after each and every roadblock. It’s easy to get knocked down and stay down—it takes hard work, grit and determination to keep bouncing back especially when every challenge seems to get bigger and bigger.
What do you love most about your work:
I feel incredibly grateful for the team I have right now. I’ve never met a bunch of harder working, incredibly accomplished individuals who do absolutely anything and everything it takes to get the job done. They care SO much that it boggles my brain, and is what I’m most grateful for hands down.
Walk us through your typical work day:
The best (and hardest!) thing about Farmgirl is that there is no typical day. One consistent (and amazing) thing is that days start later than they used to! When I first started the company it was me making solo runs to the flower market at 3 am, hauling the flowers back to my teeny tiny apartment, processing them, and making each arrangement by hand. Nowadays I have a wonderful team (and network of growers) who help make that happen. So in general I’m not getting into the office until between 7 am and 8 am.
After that, my day really depends on how close we are to a major holiday, what growth projects we have going on, and what areas of the operation need attention. Another consistent? I have a lot of meetings. Outside of that I try to always carve out time to manage my inbox, work on our long-term goals and strategies, and generally speaking help to problem solve and remove obstacles so that my team can continue to operate as efficiently as possible.
On my good days, I have been trying (lately) to sneak in a workout class, too. I’ve been using ClassPass to try different classes around town (and near home). Working out helps me to clear my head and give me some perspective on any challenges I’m having at the office.
After that I head home to start my second shift as my husband calls it. I generally grab some dinner and then start working on whatever area of the business needs my attention (I always hope it's product development which is my favorite, but is usually finance/accounting, budgeting, marketing, or HR). I usually end my day around midnight or 1 am and get watch a little TV or read for a bit to wind down and then hit the hay!
What makes the perfect bouquet:
For me, it comes down to adding enough but not too much greenery (the proportion is tough!) and then picking a great assortment of blooms in a perfect color palette. I think a pitfall a lot of people easily fall into is using too many colors - pick three or four you love and stick with shades of those! And in terms of picking flowers, you need to choose an assortment with different textures, shapes, and heights. Choose some taller, linear stems, some larger, statement heads and some smaller, whimsical bits. It’s a complicated recipe but when you get it right, it’s SO right. I’m also very partial to designing asymmetrical, wild style bouquets with sweeping S or V curves.
What is your favorite flower:
It changes a lot, as you can imagine. The easy answer is one that is beautiful and ships well, but if I’m being honest right now I’m still loving pink anthurium. Their waxy finish and color are the perfect finishing touch to any arrangement. Also, it’s Peony season and etched Salmon Peonies are one of my all-time favorite flowers!
Who has had the biggest impact on your career:
It’s hard to pick one! I thank my mom for my work ethic. Growing up on a farm my chores were bigger than most other kids I know. Our lawn was measured in acres, not feet, so mowing it was more of an all-day affair than a quick chore. She helped to instill the value of hard, and I do mean hard, work from a very young age. If there’s a real farm girl in my life, it’s her. She’s worked hard her entire life and never complains, I inherited my grit from her, and I can safely say I wouldn’t be able to handle the schedule that comes with being an entrepreneur without it.
Another quick pick, if I can! Brene Brown! Her writing has really changed how I view leadership and communication. I recently got the chance to meet her in person at a retreat and it was definitely one of those “pinch me” moments.
What’s your biggest guilty pleasure:
The White Pie from Little Star Pizza in San Francisco. Whenever we’re pulling a long night at the office (or I’m just really craving pizza) it’s the first thing I order.
What does the future hold for Farmgirl Flowers:
I’ve always wanted to turn Farmgirl into a $1B business. We’re still bootstrapped to date so I don’t know if we will get there, but I’ll get as close as I can!