If you spend your vacations hunting down flower fields to skip through, or your Insta feed is mostly pics of gorgeous wedding bouquets, then you might want to consider a career in your field of dreams — the floral industry. In this week’s How to Quit Your Day Job series, we chat with Christina Stembel, CEO of Farmgirl Flowers, about how she started a brand that has been hailed as one of the top seven flower shops in the country by Architectural Digest and how she continues to grow.
Meet the Flower Pro: Christina Stembel
When Christina Stembel worked as an event planner at Stanford University, she mulled over different ideas about the kind of business she wanted to start herself one day. As part of her day job, she ordered tons of floral decor for events. Tasked with cutting her event budget, she found that most bouquets were incredibly expensive and weren’t sourced locally. She realized that the flower industry was huge but hadn’t changed much in decades, and she spent a year researching the industry and learning all she could. She wanted to bring locally harvested, affordable options to flower lovers.
So in 2010, with $49,000 of her own personal savings, Stembel launched Farmgirl Flowers, a company that delivers bouquets of mostly US-grown flowers and arrangements that are handpicked so no two arrangements are identical. Instead using of the baby’s breath, generic look, Farmgirl Flowers wants each delivery to feel like someone just picked it from their garden and it arrived straight to your door. In San Francisco, local couriers deliver burlap-wrapped, whimsical bouquets by bike. Since its launch, the company has grown tremendously and received accolades from Time, Vogue, and Martha Stewart Weddings. Stembel shares how the seed of her idea blossomed into her dream job.
Brit + Co: What’s your morning routine?
Christina Stembel: My morning routine is nothing special. I get up, get ready, throw some hair rollers in, and let them set on my way into the office. I usually listen to an audiobook on leadership while I drive. One thing I make sure to do every day is to take some time (even if it’s on the commute in) and feel grateful; grateful that I get to live here in California and that I get to live my dream.
B+C: What inspired you to start your company?
CS: I was working 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 led me down a rabbit hole of research. I found out that the eComm flower space was one of the few, last undisrupted spaces in Silicon Valley. In my opinion, it also had very little innovation, so it felt like there was a lot of room for a better model.
At that point, I knew I wanted to start a company, but I didn’t want to just replicate someone else’s idea. I knew if I had one shot to go for the gold and build my own business, I wanted to knock it out of the park and create something truly unique. After researching the space, seeing the potential, and coming up with an idea for an innovative model, I truly thought this was my a-ha moment and went for it.
B+C: How do you challenge yourself as an entrepreneur?
CS: That’s a funny question because as an entrepreneur, I feel like I don’t have to look for any challenges; they just present themselves daily. If I had to pick one, I would say it’s getting enough sleep. I try to get four hours a night, but even that is difficult sometimes.
B+C: Tell us about how your family and friends help support your business.
CS: My friends are super supportive in the fact that, even if they don’t hear from me for months, they’ll still be there for me. They give me the space to be (what I feel, at least) is an MIA friend, sometimes.
My family gave me support early on by giving me an incredible work ethic. I grew up on a farm and our chores were serious chores — mowing a four-acre lawn or cleaning the entire barn. That experience gave me the strength to do what I do now.
B+C: What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
CS: Everyone who knows me knows how much I love Oprah, so it makes sense my favorite bit of advice is from her. She has said that every good decision she’s ever made in life was from trusting her instincts. She gathers information, listens to others, and then goes with her gut. That’s what I try to do, because if it’s good enough for Oprah, it’s most definitely good enough for me. I’ve always found that my gut is usually right, and the times I make the biggest mistakes are when I’m not listening to my intuition, which I regret later.
B+C: What do you love about your job?
CS: I really love that I get to learn so many new things every day. I tell myself that constantly, even when that learning is painful. I’ve had lots of jobs in the past where once you mastered the skill set, the learning stopped. Every growth stage for Farmgirl Flowers means new skills and new lessons — there is no mastery here.
B+C: Name female heroes who you think should get a shout-out.
CS: My unsung heroes are our management team. They are mostly women, and they give more than most while making far less than those in a tech field. I feel like this contrast is especially strong given where we’re located in San Francisco. We’re neighbors to some of the giants (Google, Facebook, and Apple, to name a few). The fact that our management team will work 100+ hours a week on top of overnight shifts during a holiday like Mother’s Day with positivity and grace, taking on what seem to be insurmountable challenges, is pretty amazing to me. It’s not that my management team just does what I say or ask, they often are the ones wanting to stretch goals even further than I’ve set them. I don’t know any other CEO who has to constantly tell their team to do less.
B+C: If you could tell aspiring creative women anything, what would it would be?
CS: Two really important things: First, stop being scared and just go for it. Second, care about people, but don’t care about what they think of you.
What’s your dream career? Tweet us @BritandCo to let us know, and we could feature it in the next column!
(Photos via Farmgirl Flowers)