In today’s Money Matters series (see the others here!), we’re diving into the wallet of Christina Stembel, founder of the company we’ve all got our eyes on, Farmgirl Flowers! Christina is one of those rare gems who doesn’t just have a stellar eye for visuals, she’s got the left-brain financial smarts to make a successful company out of it. Read on to find out how she spends her company money—and her best advice for other business owners!
Where do you think is the most important area for a business owner to focus their financial energy?
Really knowing their numbers. Not the pie in the sky financial model that looks great if everything goes exactly as planned numbers, but the nitty-gritty do our unit economics truly work, where’s our money going, and how much is costing us to acquire a customer kind of numbers numbers.
What was your first big expense as a business owner?
My first website cost a little more than 10% of the total amount of savings I had to launch my business and get it to the point of being self-sustaining. That was super scary to spend that before I had any way of knowing if it was going to work.
How did you decide what to pay yourself?
I didn’t pay myself for the first five years. I could have earlier but chose to reinvest the money back into the company instead. This helped me to afford a tiny marketing budget long before I would have been able to if I had instead used the tiny profit we had to pay myself with.
How did you decide what to pay employees?
It’s always been based on what we can afford to pay them. Back at the beginning, this started at minimum wage and has grown. Offering benefits was also a goal early on, but it took a few years before I could afford to do it. Next came the 401K. As a bootstrapped company we add pay tiers and benefits as we can afford to financially.
What are your top three largest expenses every month?
Shipping (FedEx), which we actually subsidize by over a million dollars a year. It’s also our biggest customer complaint [shipping cost]. We often hear that we’re gouging them in shipping prices in order to make profit off the extra charges, but in truth, we pay FedEx much more than we can charge our customers.
How much do you spend on office space (dollar amount or % of expenses)?
4% of expenses
How much do you spend on employee salaries (dollar amount or % of expenses)?
We separate out employee salaries into both COGS and expenses. Blended it’s 20%.
How much are you saving (dollar amount or % of expenses)? When did you start being able to save some of your income?
We intentionally run as close to 0 as possible and reinvest all margin back into growing the company. Being bootstrapped that’s what we’ve needed to do in order to grow our business.
What apps or software are you using for finances? How did you decide when to hire a financial advisor (if you have one)?
We use Bench for accounting.
Do you wish you’d done anything differently in your financial journey as a business owner?
I can’t wait until I can afford to hire a CFO or Director of Finance, but haven’t been able to yet due to budgets (#bootstrappedlife). I brought on a part-time CFO last year and it did not work well, so wish I hadn’t wasted the money.
Why should women talk about money?
To de-mystify it and make it less overwhelming. I think many times women think that they’re not good at finance just because they don’t understand it, but they probably are better at it then they give themselves credit for. Knowing your numbers personally and professionally is power - it helps you to control what’s happening to you (or you business) and take charge of where you’re going.