Christina Stembel was working as the Director of Alumni Relations and Campaign Outreach in California for Stanford University’s law school when she noticed that the flowers they would order for events cost more than she thought they should. So she started researching the flower industry (“laden with problems and with very little innovation in recent years”) and set out to create a new, modern model. Stembel started Farmgirl Flowers in November 2010 out of her living room with an idea of how to address some of the consumer concerns with floral deliveries and offer value and unique arrangements. “If you’re going to spend your hard-earned money on sending flowers to someone,” Stembel says, “you should get a great product and even better customer experience.”
Now, the San Francisco-based Farmgirl Flowers, with its growing number of employees (46 including 18 floral designers) uses only 100 percent American-grown flowers and has so far delivered over 146,000 arrangements across the U.S. (San Francisco/Bay Area deliveries are made via bicycle or car and the rest via Fedex Priority Overnight). In 2014, Farmgirl Flowers had $4.5 million in sales. The arrangements are delivered wrapped in reused burlap (from coffee bean bags donated by local roasters) and because the flower combination options are limited, the company can sell them at affordable prices (from $38 to $78 per arrangement). We chatted with Stembel about her groundbreaking company and how it hopes to invigorate the industry.
What are your favorite flower pairings?
I pair peach flowers with just about anything, and it looks beautiful. My favorite combo is probably burgundy and peach together. I tend to gravitate to warm color palettes instead of cool tones, and I’m really particular about the colors we select each week, as I really feel that’s one of the things that sets us apart. We usually select a bold tone, with one or two complementary tones, and then neutrals for each weekly selection.
What are the most popular arrangements?
Peony season is definitely everyone’s favorite season! Whenever we’re using Peonies as one of our “thriller” flowers, our customers are super happy! I did an informal polling, and 92 percent of the people asked named Peonies as their favorite flower.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Being a bootstrapped start up with pretty rapid growth, our biggest challenge is always cash flow. We have to manage our growth very wisely, and essentially grow at a slower pace than we could if we didn’t have to watch every dollar and still make payroll. For instance, we’ve had to reallocate much of our marketing spend this year to help subsidize our national shipping program, which we needed to do to grow our business.
How do you see the brand evolving?
I believe that building a transparent and authentic company is going to be increasingly more important in the coming years. Consumers want to feel a connection with the companies they buy from.