Maine forest bathing Molly Oliver Flowers Sustainable floral Subscription Service


Well, it’s been a while, it seems! As I opened my laptop to write this morning, I was a bit shocked to see that I see my last official journal entry was last July?!. As we say these days, what even is time? Chalking up my refrain to more regular writing here, as well as on social media accounts, generalized exhaustion. Is that ok to say out loud?

Single stem of Silver Parrot tulip open

Do we all agree that this ongoing pandemic is A LOT? The constant worry for ourselves and loved ones, weighing social time against safety, forgoing milestone celebrations, forgoing travel, avoiding crowds, remembering masks, having the right mask, testing or trying to find tests… I am endlessly grateful to be able to eventually find a test or book an appointment, don’t get me wrong. But I think we’re allowed to feel and say this is all very trying. As Covid has brought a new meaning to the words ‘general anxiety,’ this pandemic and the weight of it has really caused/allowed me to sink (somewhat easily) into my introverted tendencies… I stay home, where I work, cook, sleep, walk in the forest, call friends, and cuddle with my cats.

Lately, as I retreat and replenish as one tends to do in winter, I’m feeling a proportional increase in pressure to put out: posts, reels (Gawwwwd, reels, WHY?!), tweets, newsletters, emails. And in the face of feeling that quasi-real pressure, kind of just NOT doing those things in any kind of regular way. Resolving that it’s more important to get important rest, talk to an old friend, or get in a good walk than to spend an hour staring at my phone. I say that, and, I promised myself I would TRY to make a reel this week. Oops, it’s Friday now…

Chalking up my refrain from all things social to generalized exhaustion. Is that ok to say out loud? Sometimes as a small business owner, you’re not so sure. Every small business mentor, CEO professional, and social media marketer in my inbox is echoing a similar refrain about why you need to create content and how. As a human in the era of an ongoing pandemic, it rarely if ever feels like anyone marketing to small business owners is saying “It’s ok to slow down.” Thankful I can balance out this messaging (sometimes a necessary kick in the butt) with the content coming from wonderful organizations like The Nap Ministry who are unapologetically marketing the art of resting.

I recently took a 5-day trip to visit family in Maine, and while it was kind of a failed attempt at WFH-while-spending-quality-time-with-aunts-and-uncles (in the sense that I didn’t do either to the fullest and got very behind on emails in a somewhat stressful way), it was still very worth it. I forest-bathed among spindly firs and elegant white pines, got a couple of XC skis in, a blissful 40 minutes in my uncle’s homemade sauna, and generally soaked up the lives and daily routines of my family.

I justify the quieting of my social media presence and the intentional downgrading of the energy expense allotted to it by putting in long hours planning for 2022. I spent the last 6 months working with a financial advisor – something that is probably 5-10 years overdue. I decided I wanted someone skilled to shepherd me once and for all over to Quickbooks, and away from my self-designed, convoluted web of Google Sheets for tracking income and expenses. I wanted to create a cash flow projection, to properly understand if I could reach my own personal financial goals – i.e., afford a living – and also, if I could afford to hire someone(s) to help me grow.

A little backstory for anyone new here: In early 2019, I left my other part-time job as an educational farm manager, a job I held passionately for 8 years while also taking on more and more weddings each year. Then, in late 2019, after that momentous decision to walk away from half of my income, in the hopes of making it up with floral work, I went through a major break up with my longtime partner. And you know what happened in 2020. Well maybe you don’t – 45 weddings planned, only 6 of which happened. The rest postponed.

When you move from sharing expenses like rent and food in one of the most expensive cities in the world, to not sharing, to not having much business at all due to a pandemic, you are forced to make some desperate decisions. Like, moving in with your mother with your 2 cats. (And, I am so incredibly grateful I could do this). The Seasonal Flower Project was born in the void of wedding an event work, and through all of the ego bruising and grief, keeping my hands on flowers kept bringing me joy that year.

I dedicated 2021 to learning if and how I could develop Molly Oliver Flowers into a business that really sustained me – and hopefully others – for the long run. I’m cautiously optimistic that it is.

Running a small [floral] business alone is no joke. You often feel like you work 24-7. You often feel like you’re a total novice, likely reinventing the wheel and learning everything you do from scratch. You often feel like there are many other more worthy endeavors to help the world that you could be devoting your “working years” to. You often feel like you could probably be making more money and working less if you chose another path. Despite these moments of doubt, which I’m sure we all go through in our own ways, your support and enthusiasm for locally-grown flowers and our farmers, for reducing waste and composting, for seasonal beauty – keeps me ploughing ahead.

With flower subscriptions based on payment plans, my business is more well-rounded in terms of cash flow, and my ability to purchase flowers 10 months out of the year instead of eight really makes a difference to farmers.

As you may know we’ve launched our 2022 Flower Subscriptions, including a first “premium subscription” of specialty tulips in February. I’m really jazzed about all of them.

The 2022 subscription offerings are largely based your feedback, received through our end-of-year Seasonal Flower Project survey; BIG thanks to over 100 of you, we were able to learn why you love our flower subscriptions, and what you’d like to see changed. Mostly, you wanted more flexibility in the subscription plans. Well, flexibility you shall have! Head HERE to learn more about our 2022 Flower Subscriptions.

Thanks to your support, through subscriptions and/or event design work, and the partnerships we’ve forged with 16 small businesses around the city, I am so proud and excited to have hired my first full-time employee, a BIG step!

Paige Haroldson came on board in 2021 as an assistant designer for events, and she’s consistently impressed me with an intuitive sense for design composition, her can-do attitude in the face of hours of candle wax removal and vase cleaning, and her fearless attitude towards ladders and scissor lifts. I also don’t at all mind her penchant for 70’s rock. Paige is coming on in a dual leadership role as the Seasonal Flower Project + Sustainable Event Coordinator. I look forward to introducing her more officially soon!

Family obligations and life change are taking beloved Adrienne Sorg in other directions this year, though we hope to see her in the studio here and there for event work. VERY happily, beloved Sophie Bromberg will stay on as our SFP Assistant in the studio on Tuesdays. I’m really looking forward to making weekly bouquets again with these two.

We’re also hiring 2 part-time drivers, one on Mondays and one on Wednesdays. If you’re at all interested or know someone who might be, please feel free to get in touch!

In other fresh news, one of my big goals for 2022 was/is building a larger walk-in cooler. 
Heading into our 3rd season of flower subscriptions, we’re doubling down on cold factor. We’ve relied on a small cooler, and a decent A/C unit to keep flower subscription bouquets cool since 2020, but I’ve always known we’d need to upgrade our cooling if the project continues.

Flower “vase life” — how long stems will last in the consumer’s vase — is determined by a handful of factors. Several important ones are 1) how cold the flowers are able to be kept during their journey from the farmer’s field, 2) in the farmer’s cooler, 3) on their trip to the florist’s studio, 4) in the florist’s shop and 5) on their journey to the consumer’s home.

“Coolbots” are a popular hack for small farmers, where you can DIY a cooler using some basic wood framing and insulation, and trick an A/C unit into going colder than the traditional electronic limitation of 60 degrees F., for a fraction of the cost of an industrial cooler.

Molly Oliver Flowers first flower cooler selfie

I worked out of apartments and used my home refrigerator for 5 years. When I graduated to purchasing a used floral cooler in 2016 for $1800 from a restaurant supply store on Atlantic Ave., it was the most expensive thing I’d ever bought. It felt like a HUGE deal. I have literally carried around the now-tattered receipt in my “money pouch” ever since.

Molly Oliver Flowers first cooler receipt

I recently came into some free insulation so I’ll be posting a bit more on that process as we enter the building phase next week most likely!

I think those are all of my wintry updates for now. If you know someone who needs a used floral cooler, holler at me!

Till next time,

January 21, 2022 — Molly Culver

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