How Farmgirl Flowers CEO Christina Stembel Built Her Startup Without an Academic Pedigree or Institutional Funding

Yasmin Nouri

Yasmin is the host of the "Behind Her Empire" podcast, focused on highlighting self-made women leaders and entrepreneurs and how they tackle their career, money, family and life.

Each episode covers their unique hero's journey and what it really takes to build an empire with key lessons learned along the way. The goal of the series is to empower you to see what's possible & inspire you to create financial freedom in your own life.

Farmgirl Flowers CEO Christina Stembel
Photo by Anna-Alexia Basille

From her one-bedroom apartment, Christina Stembel grew her local flower delivery service to a company that delivers nationwide.

On this episode of Behind Her Empire, the founder and CEO of Farmgirl Flowers discusses growing up in rural Indiana, overseeing a company without investors and finding creative solutions to obstacles.


Stembel’s family wanted her to stay local to their farm, but she said she knew that wasn’t the path for her. She left the farm after high school and eventually found herself working in hospitality in San Francisco. Seeing people in the city manage their own startups inspired her to consider her own business path, and she considered hundreds of ideas before landing on Farmgirl Flowers.

When it launched, the company offered just one daily bouquet. It has since grown to offer up to 40 arrangements at a time.

Stembel had no experience in the floral industry, and she soon discovered how difficult it could be to work with highly perishable products. Everything from heatwaves to shipping issues impacted the flowers, and she had to familiarize herself with potential roadblocks as she placed orders months in advance.

“I think it's really important especially for women to hear that they don't have to be the cliche story of, ‘Oh, you're so lucky you turned your hobby into a business,’” she said. “You can be intentional about wanting to be an entrepreneur and start a business.”

Stembel said she used to regret not going to college; investors often could not see past her lack of a degree. She had to pull from her own savings to fund the company, which is still completely bootstrapped.

Now, she said she values her experience having to foster her own intellectual curiosity and drive outside without the prompting of an academic institution, adding that perspective helped grow both her understanding of her industry and her creative approach to the business.

“I think we need to get out of this mindset that success equals funding,” She said. “It was the most freeing moment that I've had since starting Farmgirl.”

Hear more of the Behind Her Empire podcast. Subscribe on Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart Radio or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA editorial intern Kristin Snyder contributed to this post.

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