a look back: year seven

2014 was year number seven for me as a business owner and cut flower grower. It was not like I had hoped it would be. None of these years were as I had hoped that they would be. I have heard that year seven really is where things start to get easier. I have also heard (usually in a more hushed tone) that year seven is where a lot of businesses loose momentum. That was me last year, lost momentum and I did not seeing it coming. Though I probably should have realized that since I had already been stretched to my limit the year before, there would not be room for more stretching.

I should have hired help at the beginning of the season but I did not. By the time I realized that I would have to turn away business because I physically could not handle anymore, it was too late. There was no time for finding or training an employee and by the end of July I was exhausted. As in what am I doing with my life, I could work at Starbucks and be a lot happier. Well we all know that’s not really the truth but I was seriously fed up with my situation. For the first time since I started my business, it did not grow from the previous year. It stayed the same. It would have made me panic had I not been so exhausted, I sort of felt defeated. I love to grow but I don’t love the heat and humidity of July, I don’t love sunburns or bug bits. I don’t love my 45 minute drive to and from the farm. I especially don’t love not earning a living wage. I mean a girl has got to eat!

You know what does pay a decent wage for me? The design work. Which I like. I really like it a lot. I don’t much care for all of the office work that comes with it but you have to pick your battles. So that was it. I had decided to quit growing flowers and just be a designer. That’s right, it was August and I knew I could not continue to live my life this way. I was done.

So that was that, the decision had been made…. But if I was going to be a designer a whole lot of peonies sure would come in handy. And if I’m going out there to tend to my peonies I may as well plant some iris. And I do love ferns. And I did have a bunch of hydrangeas out there already. And I could plant a prairie…. This situation really snowballed on me. In September, less than a month after I had decided to stop growing, I had spent $5000 dollar on plants and shade structures. It was at this point that I realized maybe I needed a 12 step program.

I put in a lot of perennials and I put them in landscape fabric. I ordered some more for this year (plants and landscape fabric.) By the end of this spring I should have about half of my field in landscape fabric with perennials and woodies. This was the plan that I had started the year before and it was still a good plan, I just need some help in executing it. Also I need to make some money in the off season.

So clearly the solution to my problems was not going to be quit growing flowers. I decided that the solution to my problem was going to be to start another business… hmmm… and I better hire a couple of helpers. Yes that was the choice, to separate the farm and the weddings into two different brands. My hope is that this will have a huge impact on my marketing and my identity as a designer. Stay tuned… big things are coming this way!

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3 thoughts on “a look back: year seven

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your joys and struggles on the flower farm. Seven years is a long time to devote your life to flower farming, and not be making a living wage. I am at the start of a floral journey, you have made my decision much easier for me.

    I have taken formal floral design classes. I love to design, I love to cut fresh garden flowers from my yard and design with them. It makes me very happy. I don’t have a flower farm. I could be a designer that uses mainly farm fresh, locally grown flowers in my design business for weddings and events and work in a home based studio.

    I have a good space to set up a design studio, but not the location for a store front flower shop. In my dreams, I would have a lovely and welcoming flower shop on a busy street with a lot of foot traffic. A striped awning over the windows, and many beautiful buckets of flowers creatively displayed on the sidewalk to entice customers. Until I have a living wage, and the funds to invest in a store front flower shop, I can still build my home based business until I am a well known, established floral designer. Best of luck to you in your new endeavor, I know you will succeed. Please keep us posted! 🙂

  2. Good Luck. I think many flower farmers go through a similar process. I have been growing as a part-timer for almost 20 year (I can’t beliive that) but I just haven’t found a way to make it pay a full time salary. It also helps that I really like my ‘other’ job as well. So I keep plugging because I don’t want to stop growing flowers……maybe it will become my full time retirement project 🙂

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