There were so, so many ups in 2023, and a good number of downs. One thing to know about this post: part of it was written before the fraud. The rest, after. And so, just when you think you’ve beat imposter syndrome, it comes roaring back. So, this is a real-time portrait of a girl in crisis.
Currently, I’m sitting at the bar at Le Paddock, the second cozy corner restaurant in Windsor Terrace that I’ve adopted and come to love (the other, of course, is Hamilton’s, where we distribute flowers weekly for our subscription program). Here, I breeze in once a week for the kale Caesar and soup of the day. Tonight it’s the skirt steak with haricots verts and potato gratin. And Cote du Rhone. Maybe 2 glasses. I deserve it.
I’m feeling my entire body burning and aching. I’ve just come off a 4-day/3-night event upstate with 9 staff, at an absolute gem of a venue, Cedar Lakes Estate. It involved transporting, lodging and feeding all 10 of us as well as executing major installations for the rehearsal dinner and wedding. I was excited for it, anxious, and knew it would be super challenging mentally, physically, emotionally.
I wasn’t prepared for the additional surprises. We’re always aware of potential surprises – of course. But maybe not: the first blizzard we’d all seen in too long that dropped 9” of snow; getting pretty sick in the smack middle (not Covid – I’ve tested 5 times now); and, getting a call Friday and discovering that my business checking account had taken a serious hit due to fraud.
Juggling panic, anger and desperation in the midst of your first major event of the year in the midst of a snowstorm in the midst of non-stop delegation to staff at a brand-new venue is certainly a situation I hope to never repeat… Funnily enough, the last words I uttered to the crew – somewhat proudly - before we departed Brooklyn at 8am Thursday, over bagels and coffee in our cramped studio, were “10 years ago this would have been an utter shit show!”
Of course the irony now is that I feel like a complete imposter. I have no idea what is going to happen or when. I am not getting clear answers from Citi - their investigation might take 30 days or more. They did not get my authorization for these transfers - no call, nothing. I have spent nearly an entire week on the phone at this point, and am deeply behind on proposals and other important projects I was looking forward to focusing on.
Thankfully, new subscription sales are coming in; I continue meeting with prospective clients. My mentors and closest supporters are helping provide encouragement to stay hopeful, when it feels like the entire ship could be sinking.
I have to admit, it's been a struggle to complete this article. I have total whiplash. A week ago, I felt like I was finally succeeding - I felt so optimistic. And now I feel the exact opposite.
When I started writing this last week, I was admiring my growth over the past decade, and even the past year: thinking about younger Molly, who would have - no, let's be real - did have unhinged moments when she forgot all the flower crowns in the fridge or got stuck on Hamilton Ave waiting for the bridge to go back down when she was already running late because she forgot something........ I know there are many a friend and freelancer who witnessed me in those moments. Moments when I wasn't super aware I was the captain; that people were seeing me as the leader... just in my feelings and as yet-to-be-in-recovery perfectionist, unable to relax about a thing gone awry.
(Of course, I actually did have an unhinged moment last weekend because honestly, that was all just a bit too much for a person to hold. You would need to be on whatever the next step up towards enlightenment is to be unphased by the cacophony of concerns I was dealing with. I DO aspire to that equilibrium, though. Maybe in my 50s, that’ll be me. I hope so.)
At this moment, every wrong turn I made over the years is staring me down, like proof that I was never going to succeed. I need to work hard to give myself grace. “Fraudsters are a dime a dozen these days; there isn’t a person I know that doesn’t have a story…”
But anyways, what irony to utter those words, and then to be in the midst of a microcosmic mini shit show: snow pouring down as you finish the chuppah design (the ceremony was outside!); a race to finish a set up as the snowstorm really kicks into high gear, so that you can get your 2 Uhauls w/out 4W drive down a twisty turn-y hill and back safely to your Air BNB 35 min away while its continually snowing; the knowledge the entire time you might be dealing w/ major identity theft… whew. I am tired.
However. I’m sitting here, now around the corner of this major event that I knew would test me, test the business, and ultimately be a fantastic challenge to rise to, and I’m while I’m feeling exhausted, worried + vulnerable, I am also feeling… really proud. So many of the hopes and dreams hatched in the pandemic year have begun to come true.
On the exterior we did great. REALLY great:
- We got some consistent work with corporate clients. We completed 41 weddings, mostly to rave reviews.
- We were hired for 14 non-wedding events, including Mara Hoffman’s spring ’24 collection launch, the StoryCorps 20th Anniversary Gala, the Barnard College Annual Gala, as well as a few baby showers, private fundraisers, and public programs.
- We supported our local flower industry grow with 97K worth of direct-to-farmer flower purchases via our subscription program!! I’m staggered by that. Amazed. So proud – THANK YOU, members!
- We waded – metaphorically and physically – through a 100-year flood (9/29/23 is a date I’ll never forget) and still managed to pull off the 2 weddings we had booked that weekend.
- We increased our social media following. I have no idea how much but I know we did and every follow means a lot to me. I am still pining for 10K! One day!
- We grew our subscription business a tad more – SO thrilling and we can’t wait to grow some more!
- We took on holiday arrangements in November and December for the first time in what feels like ages (essentially since pre-Covid).
- We had our FIRST true, documented, bona fide profitable year. (This is never guaranteed in your start-up years, and while I am technically in my 12th year of business, 2023 was more like Year 2…that’ll have to be another post).
- I paid myself and my employees a bonus for the VERY FIRST TIME. That was HUGE!!! Felt so good.
But I feel even better about how we’re doing on the inside:
- We grew our team in ’23, adding on another full-time employee. (Thank you, Sophie Spencer-Zavos, for bringing heart and care to the work of floral design!)
- We ran our first full-season design internship: Thank you Sanjana Pothugunta, for bringing an open mind and willingness to take on any new task!
- We had a stellar team working on the Seasonal Flower Project, Tuesdays and Wednesdays: Corinne, Krystal, Liz, Leyla and pinch hitters Eliza and Emma – everyone brought great minds and energy that helped to make these days go smoothly, efficiently and not without a lot of good vibes, podcasts, tunes and laughs.
- We developed new systems for preparing for our events – creating new systems for inventory tracking, pulling, cleaning, storing, and packaging is a huge part of what we do!
- We grew our Sustainable Breakdown team from 1 solid person (Josh!) to 3 – Tina and Rebeca have been incredible additions!
- I, Molly, feel more solid on understanding my numbers better than ever. Feeling like I’m in a really good place for decision-making about the business. I’ve worked incredibly hard on getting our accrual accounting and accurate expense reporting set up in Quickbooks… and it's paying off!
- Paige and I, working together, I feel have really hit our stride and we are entering 2024 feeling super excited about what’s to come.
Back to the present reality…
There are a million other small things I could point out here, big and small that made 2023 our best year yet. Unfortunately, the exhaustion is taking over, and its mostly from spending 3.5 straight days on the phone with Citibank, trying to fight for my money (my clients’ money) to be credited back to me.
I never thought, 5 days ago, this was where I - or this 2023 recap post - was headed – some quite tormented, dichotomy of hope and despair. I’m not sure I’m doing a good job of hiding my fear. I am doing my best to stay positive. Think positive thoughts.
I’m hoping that in a few days to a week, this nightmare will be behind me. In the meantime, I’ll hold on to the successes we had in 2023, and continue to remind myself I and we, as a team, have the combined strength and wherewithal to run a great business.
Thank you all so very much for your support this season – it has been such a privilege to purchase flowers from you, or deliver flowers to you, or create flowers for you. We hope to continue!