Episode #1417 Christina Stembel: Hustling With Heart to Build Farmgirl Flowers

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Christina Stembel and Jenna walk through the evolution of Farmgirl Flowers, from Christina making bouquets in her 100 square foot bathroom in San Francisco to becoming a multimillion dollar company. Christina breaks down the two most pressing challenges she’s faced over last seven years - the do or die moment she feared would end the business and the decision to start sourcing flowers internationally - through the lens of the lessons they taught her on reframing situations to make rational decisions rather than emotional ones. She also shares how author Brené Brown’s teachings on vulnerability have profoundly impacted her leadership style as well as the two questions she would ask Brown and Oprah over coffee. 


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Christina Stembel

Founder of Farmgirl Flowers View Full Profile

Key Learnings and Highlights

  • On escalating startup challenges: "Everyone talks about the first two years being the hardest. So, I had it in my head that I would go through this grind for two years and there would be a giant light at the end of the tunnel at month 24. What I learned is that the first two years were actually the easiest. It gets harder every single day…The bills get bigger. The payroll gets bigger. The supply chain, operations, marketing, scaling, it is all harder. Everything gets harder the bigger you get.” 
  • On harnessing your self-belief: “My guiding light was a quote I saw on Instagram: “I don’t care that no one believed in me. I believed in myself.” Even though people thought I was a little nuts and crazy it didn’t matter because I believed in the idea for Farmgirl so much and I believed in myself that I could make it happen. That was enough for me.” 
  • On do or die moments: “I had to take a leap of faith because I had no other choice.” 
  • On reimagining the floral industry: “Back in 2010 to 2012, no one was focusing on ‘less is more’…I looked at In-n-Out Burger as our model company: They do what they do and they do it really well. But, they don’t do everything for everyone.” 
  • On the decision to stop raising capital: “Thinking rationally about the why and asking yourself - Why are people investing or not investing at certain points of your company’s lifecycle? - helps you make better decisions about how you are going to spend your time. If you have a very low probability of being able to raise at a certain point its useful to ask yourself: Is it worth 40 to 50% of my time to keep doing this or can I use that time to hit a million more dollars in sales or push the business forward in another way? I probably could have and I wish I could go back and do that. Getting your emotions out of the way allows you to make better decisions about where you spend your time.” 
  • On learning to trust your gut: “In my life, I have always tried my best to trust my gut but sometimes heard that it was naive and the reason that I wouldn’t succeed because I wasn’t making decisions based on more data. I believe that you need to know your numbers as well. I always say: Trust your gut but know your numbers. So, you’re not just making a decision based on what you want to do. I really believe that when you think of a hard question or challenge you’re facing, the first thing your gut tells you is the right thing. It might be the thing that is the hardest and that’s why you don’t want to do it, but it’s usually the right choice. If you have a moral compass in life it will tell you what you should do…Your gut never says that it’s okay to do something that is not true or will hurt people. Your gut never tells you that is right.” 
  • On applying Brené Brown’s teaching on vulnerability in business: “Fake it until you make it has been the driving force in business. You can be vulnerable with your family and friends but not in your business. I think that your team will respect you more when you are real with them rather than always being a facade of success.  I tell my team all the time that I messed up. I hope that letting my team know that I mess up all the time allows them to feel safe and know that they aren’t expected to be perfect.”