8 Years of Carolina Flowers: Reflections on Year 3

In early 2019, I moved the business out of my house. Adding studio rent to our expenses was scary, but oh so necessary. Over the years, I have grown our studio space three times, and each time has been so rewarding.

 

In those early days, my family and friends still viewed this venture with a bit of skepticism. People feel skeptical about small businesses in general. But looking back at my Profit and Loss statement from 2018, my numbers bore me out. If I was aiming to spend 10 percent of my revenue on rent, I had some money to spend!

 

Granted, I did not look at my P&L in those days. I just gut checked it. But I wish I had because the numbers would have supported me.

 

The numbers continued to bear me out as the addition of a studio space led to doubling revenues in our third and fourth years! (At which point it got hard to double after that!)

 

If I had to give any advice to a new business owner, it would be to collect as much data as possible as quickly as possible — and learn how to use it. If you have a detailed math picture of how your first year of business went, it will inform the second year. In the third and fourth years, you start to see patterns — and then you’re really empowered.

 

At the beginning of the third year, I also released updated branding — similar to our logo today. Our first logo, I drew with sharpie marker and took a photo, converted to a png, and that was that. A more professional logo helps people identify with the spirit of the brand and remember it. It inspires merch and stickers! You can see Logo 1, Logo 2 and our current logo below.

I love, love brand design and creation. I love working with graphic designers to make ideas visual. I love considering color and text and language. Sometimes I want to do brand design for a living, but I have my hands full.

 

I don’t know that I’m particularly fun to work with. For the second logo, I took great art by Picasso and Rousseau and the Dutch masters with me and said, “Let’s make something like this!” Choose a patient graphic designer if you’re like me!

 

During Year 3, we also planted an absurd amount of dahlias — 8,000. Today, we grow about 3,000 and get higher yields. I learned a valuable lesson about growing that year: We can’t apply farming methods from the Pacific Northwest to the Southeast! Our flowers need more air circulation.

 

Don’t get me wrong. We grew so many beautiful dahlias that year, and I learned so much! But I wouldn’t do it that way again.

 

Toward the end of 2019, we built our first high tunnel. If I could do it again, I would build this tunnel in Year 1. I can’t tell you what a difference the protection from wind and rain makes.

 

2020 was set to be our biggest year ever! As we planted our fields in late 2019, I remember that feeling of knowing I had the skills and perspective to do a tremendous amount of growth, both in revenues and in quality. And in so many ways, I was right. But not in the way I expected!

 

We moved into our current building at the end of 2019, a huge step up from the former car garage without air conditioning.

 

In February of 2020, I launched our website for delivery capability, knowing the demand would start small. My plan was to use whoever was around to make deliveries, only anticipating a few per day.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic began at the end of our third year. The decisions I made at the beginning of the pandemic are an interesting mix of my own unique style of panic/grief and big thinking about business.


We were lucky to have added delivery capability when we did. We were lucky to be an “essential business” under North Carolina’s laws about agriculture. And to make doubly sure that we were essential, we added food delivery to our offerings, compiling a simple line up of food from farmer friends and a few pantry essentials.

 

Everything went bonkers — food sales, flower sales. Sure, we lost our wedding and event sales, but the demand for delivery more than made up for it.

 

Our revenues from April and May 2020 were up 250 percent from the previous year.

 

When our year-over-year growth for June 2020 was only 177 percent over the previous year, I interpreted this as some kind of deprivation instead of the incredible boone it was. Boy would I love to have 177 percent year-over-year June growth right now. (June is in the hole at the moment.)

 

To say I was unprepared for the shift in sales that occurred at the end of our third year is an understatement. I became untethered, driven by dreams and vague ideas. And can you blame me? Those were wild days.

 

That summer, I had to face the music. But that’s Year 4. You’ll have to wait until next time to hear about that!

 

Thanks for reading, y’all. I think about our story usually at the new year, and usually in brief. It’s interesting to dig in a little deeper. And each year I revisit the past, it looks a little different given what’s played out in recent times.

 

I know this narrative probably isn’t interesting to everyone — and maybe seems a bit self-indulgent to some — but I hope it’s endearing to share what I can about who we are! 


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