We're Buying Flowers All Wrong — And This Woman Is Trying To Change That

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We’ve learned to ask where our food is grown, where our coffee beans are from, and how our clothes are manufactured, but most of us don’t stop to smell the flowers and ask about their origins.

Photo by Rachel Logan

The 38-year-old founder of Farmgirl Flowers, Christina Stembel, is trying to change this. By creating a flower delivery service that relies on local, in-season blooms, she's changing the way flowers are bought and sold in the U.S. (Currently 80% of flowers sold in the U.S. are grown overseas and most florists toss 40% of the stems they purchase.)

Farmgirl Flowers, which started out of Christina’s living room in 2010 with about $50,000 in personal savings, has grown into a sustainable business and is ushering in the Farm-to-Vase movement. (Yes, that's a thing.)

Christina uses all American grown flowers and makes just one gorgeous bouquet of the day. Think ornamental kale as the base and hand-tied boutiques wrapped in burlap coffee bags instead of plastic. The daily arrangement keeps Farmgirl Flowers’ floral waste below 1%, which is significantly below the industry’s average, which hovers around 40%. Using American grown flowers makes the floral cost more expensive than other imported stems, but also means they are fresher and will likely last longer too.

I caught up with Christina right after she had worked an all-nighter (yes, she's a true hands-on entrepreneur). It's her busiest time of the year, the 10 days leading up to Valentine's Day.

Photo by Farmgirl Flowers

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A Q&A with Christina Stembel

What’s one thing that we didn’t know about the floral industry?

The industry is driven by women buying flowers for women. 78% of the flowers purchased are by women.

How can consumers help start change in the flower industry?

When you buy flowers, ask where they come from. Look for labels from the American Grown Association or the California Cut Flower Association. They're working to get labeling at grocery stores and to make it easier to understand what flowers are American grown. About 80% of America’s flowers are grown in California 3-4 growing seasons.

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I know peonies are your favorite flower (and also mine), but since they're out of season, what are your favorites for Valentine’s Day?

Cymbidium Orchids, which are gorgeous and hearty. In the winter it can be hard to find beautiful, big base flowers.

Photo by Farmgirl Flowers

What's the best advice you ever received about starting your own business?

Push through it. Stick to it. Even though it’s really, really hard, it’s actually so much harder than books say it is. It’s the hardest thing you will ever do, but you’ll get through to the other side if you work hard enough.

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What's the worst entrepreneurial advice you ever received?

Say yes to everything.

Photo by Farmgirl Flowers

What do you do to unwind from the stress of running a start-up?

I live near the beach in Half Moon Bay. I love to take a walk on the beach. I try to do it once a week. It gives me some alone time. Every night before going to bed, I read a novel to try to turn off my head.

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Do you have a yoga or a mediation practice?

No, but I want one. It’s one of my 2016 goals.

What’s your take on work-life balance?

I understand the importance of it, but I don’t have any and haven’t for a long time. I am definitely a “live-to-work” person. Work is my number 1 hobby. I live to work, so it doesn’t feel like work. In 2016, I want to try to carve out more time with the people that matter to me.

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