How Christina Stembel Revolutionized Buying Flowers for Loved Ones With Farmgirl Flowers
If you're looking to send someone a stunning flower bouquet or arrangement that will actually look as cute in person as it did in the pictures, Farmgirl Flowers is the place to shop.
After years of settling for okay-looking bouquets in online retailers, only to have them show up looking like a mess, Christina Stembel decided to do something about sub-par floral options online, becoming the founder and CEO of Farmgirl Flowers. Their bouquets are all about beautifully themed arrangments, so instead of picking the exact flowers you want for your bouquet, the brand makes the freshest, boldest choices based on your selection, and always delivers gorgeous results.
We've been Farmgirl Flower devotees from the very first bouquet we peeped (and have since sent out a number as gifts), and we got the chance to chat with Christina herself about what inspired the brand, her entrepreneurial spirit and what it means to her to run Farmgirl Flowers.
Name: Christina Stembel, founder and CEO of Farmgirl Flowers
Hometown: Bremen, Indiana
1. The origins of Farmgirl Flowers were born out of Christina Stembel's entrepreneurial spirit.
"My 'defining' moment was less about flowers and more about wanting to be an entrepreneur. The flowers were really a secondary function of wanting to start and scale a business—and the first idea I had for a business that checked all the boxes I'd outlined for myself when I was thinking about starting a business.
I'm going to date myself, but I caught the business 'bug,' for lack of a better word, when I moved to San Francisco during the first dot com bubble back in 2000. I came to the West Coast for work—I was in hospitality at the time—and ended up in the middle of the beginnings of startup culture. And for me, it wasn't so much the idea of tech that was the catalyst, but the accessibility of startup culture that was the spark for me.
I'd grown up in a very traditional home with very 'traditional' (if that's the right word) gender roles. My family was incredibly religious, and the expectation for me when I grew up was to get married and to have children. From a pretty early age, I knew this wasn't the path that I wanted to take, and spent the better part of my childhood planning on being able to leave my tiny hometown (Bremen, Indiana) so that I could figure out what adulthood outside of the church and what those expectations looked like.
With all that in mind, moving to San Francisco and seeing all these people starting their own businesses was a revolution for me. It was the first time I'd been able to see what I wanted to be – an entrepreneur – and that was all it took to decide to walk that path myself.
The whole flower part wouldn't come until much later—almost a decade later—when I was in a position (and had enough savings) to make starting a business a reality. The idea for Farmgirl was born out of my own problems trying to buy flowers online for my mom back home in Indiana. I'd spend my entire lunch break scrolling through the endless options from one of the online flower companies and pick what was, in my opinion, the least unattractive option, only to have it show up to my mom's doorstep days later looking nothing like the photo had online. There had to be a better way to buy flowers online—I was sure of it. But I couldn't find it. So I built it instead."
(Image courtesy of Christina Stembel)
2. It's tough for Christina to pick a single favorite flower, but there is one that currently sticks out in her mind.
"I can't get too sentimental about this because it changes pretty frequently. Also, I could never pick just one, but there are a few that are always near the top of the list, and one of those is king protea. If you've never seen one before, they're less flower than 'what is that'? They're this grapefruit- (or larger) sized bloom with a fine, white fur-like texture and long petals that come to a dramatic point at their ends. And they're pink, my all-time fave color, so I'm sure that adds to their appeal. They add so much drama and scale to an arrangement, which is why I love them, but they come with a pretty high price tag as well, so we can only use them sparingly at Farmgirl."
(via Farmgirl Flowers)
3. The name "Farmgirl Flowers" really captures the ethos of the brand.
"I was pretty intentional, when I started the business, not to call it by my own name. This is pretty common in the event and studio floral world, and while I think it works and is an advantage for other businesses, I was pretty firm from the start that I wanted to build a company that wasn't based on a single person, so I was looking for a name that conveyed that.
Scaling the company has always, from day one, been one of my goals, and for me, at least, that meant naming it something bigger than myself. 'Farmgirl' made sense because of how and where I grew up, but it's funny because I've never considered myself the true farm girl. That would most definitely be my mom. For every barn I've cleaned and back 40 I've mowed as a kid growing up, she did that and tenfold harder 'chores.'
All that said, the name Farmgirl to me speaks to the heart of the company. It's familiar, not fussy, and grit is at the center of everything we do. There's a conception of flowers as being only these beautiful, sculptural, luxurious things, but the actual designing of arrangements is so far from that. It's dirty and messy. You're working with organic matter sitting in buckets of water—and those buckets are heavy. I could go on, but all this to say that I like that, from the first time you hear the business name, you get a sense of that lack of fussiness. We're not just for weddings with custom-built altars dripping in phalaenopsis or a hyper-manicured arrangement on a high shelf away from prying hands. We're for your everyday dinner table, your best friend's birthday and even just for yourself when you need a special treat because you had a really hard day."
4. Christina says the Farmgirl motto has always been, "You order, we pick, they're happy."
"The idea of leaving the choice of what flower to go in your bouquet has always been different, but back when I started the company, it was unheard of. Buying online flowers was all about choice, what the customer wanted. The model for Farmgirl was never meant to take that away because we could choose better—it was meant so that we could reduce the waste that proactively buying to accommodate that choice created. The average florist has to toss between 30% and 40% of their product because it expires waiting to be sold. From day one, Farmgirl has been about fewer, better arrangements that have always been filled with the best of the best from our network of growers—to order, per order. It requires a little bit of trust from our customers, but with millions of bouquets delivered to recipients all over the lower 48 in the past decade, it's trust that we have ultimately proven pays off.
Our company mission statement is to build a company we'd all want to buy from, sell to, and work for."
(via Farmgirl Flowers)
5. She's often received the best advice—the kind that really sticks—in the form of quotes and lines from books.
"From Theodore Roosevelt's Man in the Arena speech (the feminized version we offered on our website for years is hanging directly across from my desk) to Will Smith's 'Not afraid to die on a treadmill' to Maya Angelou's advice on what true legacy is with her, 'What people remember' quote—these are my guiding lights."
6. Hard work has gotten her most of what she has today.
"I started Farmgirl with a high school education and zero pedigree in the shadow of all of the giants in Silicon Valley (Facebook, Instagram, Apple, Google—you name it). I was, and still am, never going to be the smartest, or the most talented or well-connected CEO. What I do know, however, is that I will absolutely put my nose to the grindstone and work to make sure Farmgirl is the best, most successful version of itself, regardless of the size of the obstacles placed in my way."
7. She has a few clever tips for picking out a great bouquet for someone you care about.
"First and foremost, I think people can get really hung up buying flowers for other people. They feel all this pressure to buy their favorite or to make it perfect. But when you're on the receiving end of a bouquet, it's really just a special thing that someone spent enough time thinking about you and decided to even buy you flowers in the first place. So start there!
Second, if you're really clueless about what they like, I always recommend one of two paths:
First, buy a mixed bouquet—something with five, six or more types in it. You're automatically increasing the likelihood that you'll gift them their favorite, or you may help them find a new one!
Second, buy one kind of flower, in one color, and in bulk. Even typically less expensive varieties like stock flower or lilies feel luxe when there are a lot of stems. Pick a simple, cylinder glass vase (they're usually the least expensive, too!) and then buy 20, 30 or whatever amount you can afford of one type of flower. The volume alone will read as luxe and will guarantee to impress your recipient.
Finally, a handwritten note goes a long way. Take the time to write something more personal and meaningful and even a simple bouquet can turn into a gift they'll remember forever."
(via Farmgirl Flowers)
8. Even though she's often in front of a camera or at the head of a table due to her job, she considers herself to be a behind-the-scenes person.
9. More than anything else, Christina wants people to know that at the end of the day, she's a regular person.
"I have no special degree, or training or background, and I started Farmgirl from my dining room. I acknowledge that I was born with privileges and that those have influenced and supported my trajectory, but I also acknowledge that I lack certain privileges that would have made my journey as an entrepreneur in San Francisco easier—like an MBA from Stanford, or even a community college degree. I didn't grow up seeing women in powerful positions outside of the home, or with a lot of money, but I was fortunate to grow up in a loving home, which I am extremely grateful for.
But here's the kicker—I think it's so easy to hold yourself back from doing something truly big because you assume you don't have 'what it takes,' or you worry about failure and what everyone else will think of you if you fail. And while there are some very real personal circumstances and lack of privilege that do affect the trajectory for people, there are also circumstances and barriers that are of our own creation. I hope that by seeing someone who maybe looks or grew up the way they did, people might learn that the world already will put so much in your way on the path to success—why add yourself to that list? The best gift you can give yourself, in my opinion, is to believe in yourself. I didn't grow up with a lot of people believing that I would or could do anything "big"—and yet, I always knew I could. And that belief was enough self-motivation to go for it. So, If I could give every woman out there one gift (well, besides true gender equity, reproductive rights, wage equity and all that), it would be the gift of believing in themselves."
Love learning all about the creators behind great brands? Click HERE to read our interview with Marine + Vine founder Evelyn Ginossi.