LU 348: How Christina Stembel Bootstrapped An Online Flower Business to $32M Revenue (podcast) With

Today we have Christina Stembel, the founder and CEO of Farmgirl Flowers, joining us. After years of trying to raise capital, Christina realized that the only way she could retain the integrity of her business vision was to bootstrap the company – and it paid off in a big way. Being a female founder, she came up against the many implicit biases around women-owned businesses and failed to get the investments many other male-owned companies pulled off without showing any results. Today, Christina has the only female-owned large-scale e-commerce B2C flower company and made a remarkable $32 million in revenue last year. She talks about her business philosophy of high-quality, being entirely self-taught, how she saves on marketing, establishing a healthy company culture, leadership, and her secrets to building a superstar team. 

TIME-STAMPED SHOW NOTES:

 

  • [00:41] Before we jump into today’s interview, please rate, review, and subscribe to the Leveling Up Podcast!
  • [00:35] The origins of Farmgirl Flowers as a business, not a passion project.
  • [01:33] Using the In-N-Out Burger business model and applying it to the flower industry.
  • [02:12] The philosophy of doing something simple with excellence while reducing waste.
  • [02:39] Almost running out of money a year and a half in and deciding to bootstrap.
  • [02:50] Nine years later, 165 employees, and finishing 2019 with over $32 million in revenue. 
  • [03:15] The investment offers they have had being situated in Silicon Valley.
  • [03:20] Actively trying to raise capital for three years and why she turned down three offers. 
  • [03:59] Not compromising but building the healthy, sustainable company she envisioned.  
  • [04:31] The implicit biases she encountered as a female owner trying to raise capital. 
  • [05:03] Being the only female-owned large-scale e-commerce B2C flower company.
  • [05:46] Not fitting the model for most VCs with a perishable product and small margins.
  • [06:38] Higher quality at higher price points and other ways Farmgirl Flowers makes money.
  • [08:05] The benefit of not having to spend what competitors do on marketing.
  • [09:49] Christina’s self-taught knowledge about flowers, logistics, and distribution.
  • [10:05] Working at Stanford University as the head of catering and how that prepared her. 
  • [11:09] Taking five and a half years to afford and get national shipping off the ground.
  • [12:36] Their goal of opening two distribution centers and another one in 2021.
  • [13:31] How Christina has learned to be a better leader and the mistakes she initially made.
  • [14:24] Spending at least 20% of her time on her team and building the right culture.
  • [15:08] The irony of being told that she is “unfundable” because she doesn’t have a team. 
  • [16:12] Building a superstar team by hiring people that no one else would believe in. 
  • [17:12] Learning about vulnerability as a leader from Brené Brown. 
  • [18:13] The importance of being thoughtful and strategic about business growth. 

 

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