SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — Mother’s Day is known as the Super Bowl of the flower industry, but COVID-19 threw many florists and flower markets for a loop this year.
“Farmgirl Flowers” started in CEO Christina Stembel’s San Francsico apartment a decade ago and eventually grew into a multi-million dollar company.
But when the shelter in place order hit in March — sales plummeted by 60% — sending her shop into survival mode.
“If we missed Mother’s Day, it would have a huge negative impact on us and our ability to stay afloat the rest of the year,” Stembel said.
“Farmgirl Flowers” is known for creating fresh bouquet’s wrapped in burlap. The small business was on track to hit a goal of $50 million in revenue this year — but then COVID-19 hit.
“Until January this year we did it all from SF,”Stembel said. “We have a distribution center there that employed almost 200 people, we had to shut it down on March 16.”
They had to discard $150,000 in flowers that week, but thankfully there was a silver lining.
“It was pure luck,” Stembel said. “We had set up a distribution center in Ecuador just two months before all of this, and moved 100% of our orders to Ecuador, where before that, they were doing about 10-15% of the orders.”
Since then, they’ve opened a second distribution center in Ecuador and three other smaller centers in cities across California..
Stembel says communicating with her customers during the reorganization made all the difference.
“As soon as we told our customers what was going on they just rallied around us, supported us with our dollars and rebounded very quickly,” she said. “And we just had the best Mother’s Day we’ve had by a lot so I’m just really grateful.”
Stembel had to overhaul the business without any aid from the paycheck protection program that she thought her small business would receive.
After weeks of struggling to apply for the loans — she finally received word this week that “Farmgirl Flowers” had been approved.
“So many other CEOs haven’t though, and they need it to stay afloat,” Stembel said. “I firmly believe we should keep being vocal about it until all of small businesses that were intended for the PPP get the money, and the larger companies that are publicly traded that did get loans should give the money back.”
Stembel hasn’t received the PPP funds just yet.
In an effort to help other small businesses in the Bay — the group has created a “PPP Peony” bouquet that you can purchase — $10 for every bouquet sold goes to “SF New Deal” which is a group helping small restaurants in the city stay afloat.
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