The power of the pivot

Gracie Poulson is the Co-Founder of Grace Rose Farm, one of the biggest suppliers of fresh, garden-grown roses in the United States. They’re committed to ethically growing and harvesting more than 90 varieties of roses. Grace Rose Farm started as a flower farm and supplier to florists around the country, born purely out of Gracie’s love for growing roses. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, they found themselves needing to pivot quickly. And they did, by shifting to a direct-to-consumer model. Now they’re continuing to grow their brand, spread joy via roses across the country, and working towards their Series A funding. 

I no longer feel this sense of, I'm just living in my house, surrounded by these roses. And they're all for business. Now, my roses are more for pleasure. And I'm able to fall in love with them again, if that makes sense.

Gracie Poulson

Transcription

Katie Hankinson: (00:00)

Welcome to Building While Flying a Sasha Group podcast, where we interview business leaders about how they tackle challenges, stay resilient and navigate ever-changing skies.

 

Katie Hankinson: (00:12)

You went from a passion project born out of your grandmother’s memory to a completely rethought business, uh, with very much, uh, tied to the world of e-com rooted literally the world of flowers. Can you tell me a bit about what Grace Rose Farm looks like today?

 

Gracie Poulson: (00:30)

So today we have changed, um, our entire business, um, mainly because we were farmers for six years and to be really honest, we decided we didn’t wanna be farmers anymore. um, farming is incredibly difficult. Um, even in California where we really don’t have a winter, so to speak, like we don’t have snow and ice and all of those factors, um, we decided that farming was just not for us anymore. And there are droughts and heat waves and seasonality even in California. So there’s not 12 months of flowers. There are seven or eight months of flowers, which means that as a flower producer, that produced outdoors only we had to make a hundred percent of our income in only two thirds of the year, which as farmers is impossible. right. So we decided that, um, that farming was not the direction that we wanted to go anymore.

 

Gracie Poulson: (01:33)

Um, it became, um, really a decision we made, um, because I lost the passion for growing roses myself. Mm-hmm I loved growing roses as a gardener, and I loved the feeling and the experience of having rose bushes as a gardener, but as a farmer, when they, once they become a commodity, it’s all different, right. It took me six years in the business to realize that, um, that, well, one it’s not profitable , um, it wasn’t profitable. And, and two, um, we literally could not compete with, um, the major growers in the world that grew in greenhouses, right? There’s a reason that roses are grown in greenhouses on the equator. There’s a reason. Right. And right, that is because, um, growing outdoors, even in Southern California, um, our roses aren’t as long lasting. They’re not as they don’t perform as well in the box, you know, shipping in the box, we ship 99.9% of our roses.

 

Gracie Poulson: (02:41)

And, um, there was a very high rate of roses arriving, not in ideal condition, even though they’re shipped overnight, right? Like once we pack ’em in the box, um, our perishable raises from outdoors. We have no control over how ups or FedEx handles those boxes and how they deliver to the customer. And so we had an incredibly high, um, I mean, I don’t wanna say incredibly high, but like for us high, because again, right. When, when you’re a seasonal business, you really can’t have even 1% of your product damaged in transit, right? Like there’s just no room for, for damaged product when

 

Katie Hankinson: (03:20)

Expectation, the expectation of customers as well is at a particular level,

 

Gracie Poulson: (03:25)

Right? So when you have seven to 10% of your product every week arriving late by the carrier, so we’re paying for overnight service, but it wouldn’t arrive overnight. It would arrive in two days or two and a half days, that product is dead. And then as the provider, the provider has to reship that product, which is a huge cost, right? And the seasonality of the business, there’s so many things, but the big, the big move became because of COVID. So prior to COVID, we were 100% direct to Flut. We did not have a retail business whatsoever. Um, it was in the back of my mind that I wanted a retail business because I knew who the other shippers in the United States of, of roses are. Right. And I didn’t like any of their product. And I said, well, this is like all really ugly and just had no personality and just was not.

 

Gracie Poulson: (04:15)

Um, I felt that there was a big space for us. So this was in 2019. And I started to get my ducks in a row to start a retail direct to consumer eCommerce business that year, um, that late that year. But then COVID came in March of 20 and we very quickly realized that there would be no weddings in 2020. And so we spent up the process of switching our model direct to consumer literally overnight. So our website, all of our materials, everything was designed for Floris every, all of our written material, everything was designed for Floris. And once we realized that COVID was not gonna be something short and there would be no weddings in 2020, um, literally overnight, we changed our entire business model to go direct to consumer. And, um, that was early April of 2020. And by May, 2020, we did a million dollars a month in business direct to consumer. Wow. And we had no weddings in 2020 whatsoever. So our model went from a hundred percent weddings in 19 to a hundred percent of wholesale in 2019, a hundred percent retail in 2020.

 

Katie Hankinson: (05:28)

And who were the, were these, these were basically presumably in the pandemic, a bunch of people stuck at home desperate for something beautiful to look at.

 

Gracie Poulson: (05:36)

Yeah. And a lot of gift giving. So I think something like 60% of our orders were for gifts. Um, coincidentally like it coincided with mother’s day of 2020. Yeah. Which is obviously a big gift giving time of the year. So a tremendous amount of our orders obviously were for mother’s day. And we just really rode that wave. In 2020. We also had some large, um, uh, print, um, press that came out in the spring and summer of 2020. That was from the prior year shot at our farm mm-hmm . So we were like a large spread in Martha Stewart, living country, living Victoria, and our particular demographic, our type of buyer women, um, particularly with, um, a level of disposable income. They still read magazines. Right. They still subscribe to, to paper magazines. So it worked out really well for us, um, to switch our model in 2020.

 

Gracie Poulson: (06:32)

And so now today, um, we are obviously there are weddings coming back and we still supply our Floris, but we realized in 2020 that our outdoor grown garden roses were not quite right for direct to consumer people. There’s an expectation. I’ll backtrack. So with Floris, if we ship the garden roses on a Wednesday or Thursday, they only have to live until the wedding on Friday or Saturday. Right. Right. In general, they, they throw the roses away after the wedding when they still have several days of life in them, but, or they donate them to like a old folks home or something, or a bunch

 

Katie Hankinson: (07:13)

Of just go home with a, with a, with a, a table decoration.

 

Gracie Poulson: (07:17)

Yeah. It’s a lot of work for Floris to do that though. So in general, like I would say 80 or 90% of them get tossed at the, after the wedding. Right. And so, um, for base life was never an issue with Floris because they only needed the roses to last for, you know, two or three days. And so then when we started our direct to consumer model, we were hit immediately with consumers that said, oh, I’m spending X on these roses, but they only live three to four days.

 

Katie Hankinson: (07:47)

Right. Right, right. Right.

 

Gracie Poulson: (07:50)

And so we did everything we could to try to like extend the base life on our roses. Um, we already had a very short shipping window cause we always shipped overnight, you know, mm-hmm so we would ship the roses would leave the farm at 3:00 PM on a Monday. And they’d arrive to the customer’s house Tuesday morning by like 10:00 AM. I mean, it was such a short window, but still even with that, our outdoor growing outdoor grown garden roses are not bred for base life. That’s just not what they are bread for beauty, for whimsical. They are there’s, there’s nothing more beautiful in my opinion. And a lot of people’s opinion than an outdoor grown garden rose there’s just something that you cannot replicate in a greenhouse with outdoor grown roses. Mm-hmm but are they right for consumers? And we’re talking, you know, tens of thousands of consumers cause our business was growing very fast right.

 

Gracie Poulson: (08:43)

In these cases. No. So there are certain consumers, um, that love our outdoor grown roses and they have the disposable income to replace them multiple times a week. Right. So they get multiple, multiple shipments every week of our outdoor growning roses. But the average consumer is looking for something that is going to last, you know, seven days at minimum. Yeah. 10 days, right after shipping. And so Ryan and I, my husband went down the path of buying land and building greenhouses and trying to grow greenhouse roses in California. And I wrote a big blog about this, but ultimately after several months of research and meeting with people and realtors and greenhouse builders, it was not possible. Um, because here, um, the cannabis industry has monopolized greenhouses. Yes. There are hardly any flower growers still in greenhouses in California. Well, cannabis is just so more profitable.

 

Gracie Poulson: (09:44)

And so, um, and it was going to be like per acre, over a million dollars to build a greenhouse before you even put in hydroponics and plants and labor. And it would take us, we’d be probably in debt 40 million before we would start to make a return. So, and we still here could not grow them as well as on the equator. because there’s a, there’s a standard. Um, they have, you know, they have 12 hours, a daylight, 12 hours of darkness, right. 12 months of the year, um, they have a mild temperature between 65 and 70. They don’t have seasons. And so here we would have to like heavily cool and heavily yeah. Um, light or greenhouses.

 

Katie Hankinson: (10:28)

Yeah. I was reading, I was reading so much about how these E there there’s this sort of equatorial, but also quite high altitude growing.

 

Gracie Poulson: (10:35)

Yeah. Very high altitude. So for long stems, how they get low stems and big heads. Yeah. And so I even try to compete with them if I’m gonna go in debt tens of millions of dollars. Right. And I still couldn’t grow a product as well as them. And it would cost significantly more. I mean, it would like, I, it would take a decade to recoup our costs. So then we decided to partner with the largest garden rose grower in south America. And we took very small baby steps in the beginning with this because we wanted to make sure that our customers would be happy. Um, we worked very closely with David Austin in the UK, um, who created the relationship with us and is kind of like the guiding force of the relationship because, um, David Austin wants us to be sort of the premier, uh, source for their roses in the United States. And so it’s been going great. And our consumers now, um, get, you know, 7, 10, 12 days of base life from garden roses. They still have fragrance, not as much fragrance as my roses outdoors, but, um, overall they are a Supreme product for, um, our retail business. And we’re the only ones exclusively dedicated in the United States to offering these beautiful, um, garden roses. So that’s

 

Katie Hankinson: (12:02)

Phenomenal. That’s a fascinating arc. And what, what a, what a double pivot as well to have experienced mm-hmm because, I mean, you, you had a wonderful opportunity that was born out of passion. COVID presented this, this new chance to kind of build out that audience yeah. In, so doing the product market fit began to fall away as such an interesting, you know, clear insight about the difference between wedding needs versus individual consumer needs. Yeah. And then what I think seems to have, I’d love to hear more about that’s really come through is the strength of the brand that you’ve built and the eCommerce capabilities to go direct to consumer is the thing that’s enabled you to make this new pivot that is essentially representing garden roses, which may be sourced from elsewhere, but still represent that same ethos that, that kind of race rose was beginning to be known for.

 

Gracie Poulson: (12:59)

Yeah. Cool. Cause we still own 40,000 rose bushes. So, and we still cut our rose bushes from our rose bushes for Floris and certain VIP clients that have a longstanding relationship with us who love our garden grown roses. And don’t have, you know, these pie in the sky, um, uh, expectations of them. They know what they’re getting, you know? Yeah. They appreciate my roses for what they are. Those are the people that we sell our garden grown roses to, but in a way, um, our estate, um, our, you know, roses state has turned into really like the backdrop and the storytelling for our brand, right? So we’re still growing these roses. And in many ways, like I enjoy them so much more now. So before every single day we cut every single rose that we grew. So when I would come out in the evening to walk, my gardens, my plants were bare. They were naked, right. They were just green shrubs. Right. And now I actually have roses on my bushes. , you know, it’s like, they’re no longer a commodity. They’re no longer, I no longer feel this sense of, I’m just living in my house, surrounded by these roses. And they’re all for business. Now, my roses are more for they’re for pleasure. And I’m able to fall in love with them again, if that makes sense.

 

Katie Hankinson: (14:23)

That makes total sense. And I think the it’s important, the point that you made there, sorry, if you can now hear this massive downpour that is falling down outside my window, um, is not only are you able to enjoy again, what got you into this in the first place and you are also not in that tense that almost contradiction of looking out of the window and not seeing roses as being a signal of your success, but almost being bittersweet. You now importantly have something which is a marketing tool. Cause, cause I, what I’d like to chat about briefly is it seems in a lot of your early success was really discovering how to leverage the visual appeal of your garden roses through social. And presumably now you have much more of that available to be the, the beautiful beauty shot side of things versus having to celebrate one of them. Can you talk a bit more bit about the, your kind of the beginnings on social media and how that really helped you grow the, the business in the early days of direct?

 

Gracie Poulson: (15:26)

Yeah. So when we started on Instagram, it was 2016 and that was when you could still actually grow on Instagram. Right. Um, we just started sharing. I just started sharing photos of my roses without any expectation to ever sell them. It was just like for fun, for me, it was a hobby. Um, but very quickly within several weeks or a month, we started having like local Floris contacting us, asking us to sell roses to them. We gave them away we didn’t sell them. But, um, I think social media has, it’s definitely been frustrating cuz my account has not grown at the rate that I wish it would, you know, like it’s, it’s definitely like a slow burn um, and retention is hard. Coming up with new ideas is hard. Um, I’m not one to like overshare my life, my personal life. Right. So there’s always that too.

 

Gracie Poulson: (16:19)

It’s like coming up with like beautiful content that also isn’t like showing too much and getting too personal, which people want that personal connection, which is so important. Um, because that’s really been the foundation of our brand. So right. Coincidentally right now we’re in the process of like a series, a round of funding. Um, we’re going to hopefully take our business to be a, you know, hopefully a billion dollar business. I don’t know. But, um, and we are, we’ve been working on this pitch doc and we’ve been pitching and um, the core that all of these investors that we’ve talked to have said is that we have not only like a 55% return customer rate and we have a high conversion rate and we have, um, a beautiful like owner founder story, but it’s that, it’s what makes us different. And that it has come through on social media and it comes through like with our product and blogs is that, um, is the, is the story, you know, like we have a story that people want to follow, feel connected to are engaged with it’s different than, and I think this is like so important for e-commerce brands because there’s not a brick and mortar.

 

Gracie Poulson: (17:31)

There’s not a place where you can have a personal relationship with people is if you really want to succeed in a, in a market that has a decent amount of saturation or a decent amount of like, um, consumption, right. Um, like the flower world, like there’s so many, many choices online for people to buy flowers, right. Is what makes your brand different is having that like personal connection with people. Right? So we’re told all the time, like our, our customers, whether they’re a first time customer or they’ve ordered a hundred times, we have customers that have ordered a hundred times from us in two years, they follow our story. They look forward to our Instagram stories, our behind the scenes, our blogs, like they feel a connection to us, even though I no longer physically grow the roses myself. Right. Yeah. I’m still storytelling. I’m still taking people on walks throughout our gardens. I’m still sharing a part of our life that I’m comfortable with. Right. Yeah. And I think that in a world of so many faceless e-commerce businesses in order to really, really, really find your niche and find your people, whether it’s like a large pool of people or a small pool of people is to be as open and transparent about the journey and, and, and the story, um, everything from sharing like recently we’ve been sharing about the drought. Um, yeah.

 

Katie Hankinson: (18:55)

I was about to say that, yeah,

 

Gracie Poulson: (18:57)

Yeah. We are not, we’re getting fined thousands of dollars every month because we’re watering, but we don’t have a choice to if we’re gonna water or not. Right. We have an employee who, um, has end stage cancer. And our customers had been seeing him on my Instagram and knew his story for four years. And they have raised tens of thousands of dollars for his family, for us to support his family. Cause he can’t work. Like those are the things, um, that by telling your story and like showing the employees and showing the life of a business, people engage with and people want to support.

 

Katie Hankinson: (19:36)

I think that’s a really interesting point as well because you be BA you began this saying that, you know, you are a naturally private person and there are certain things where you don’t necessarily wanna put your lay your life bare to, for everyone to see. And, and yet what strikes me is that you found a really nice balance and see the, the, the line that there is between documenting the journey of the business and the learnings, the pitfalls, the relationships, and, you know, and having a point boundaries that you don’t necessarily want to push past because that’s your personal life. And, you know, you can make those choices and completely feel ownership over them. I’m also interested to hear, because I think, you know, in some ways it, it might, well, I’m curious to know what your thoughts were when you were shifting from being like the grower, you know, everything’s in the farm, that’s such a key part of the story to now, presumably there’s new, interesting things to be told around the new relationships and connections you’re making. Mm-hmm, have there been surprising things about the story that has almost like deepened your ability to, to tell this. And does that tie back to your overall mission?

 

Gracie Poulson: (20:44)

Absolutely. I think that, so now where we are in our business, um, it’s actually better for the overall rose industry. So now, okay. I’ll try to explain this as best as I can. So in the United States, we are the largest purveyor, whether you wanna say grower or source, whatever for garden roses, right before, when we were just growing roses ourselves, it really didn’t benefit the overall rose industry because breeders weren’t paid royalties, cuz we owned the plants. It was a different experience now with us working closely with breeders. So, um, I’m traveling to Europe, I’m traveling to Columbia, I’m getting to choose the roses that are going to be in production in the next two to five years. Like I’m getting to be that person that is, um, really sort of like at the forefront of the rose industry and selecting roses that are gonna be available to not only brides but to consumers. And I think that it’s, it’s a bigger story now it’s a, it’s a more

 

Katie Hankinson: (21:56)

Cool whole

 

Gracie Poulson: (21:56)

Story. It’s a more international story. Um, like we just went to Columbia in may and we got to, um, see, um, this huge, beautiful farm that so many people are working at and are happy and we get to be a part of something bigger, I guess. I think that’s like, I think that’s important. And also the, and the roses that we are selling to people are directly benefiting all of these people in, in Holland and in the UK and in Germany and France that spend their lives breeding roses. And so they’re getting advancement now and they’re getting paid by us selling these roses. Does that make sense?

 

Katie Hankinson: (22:42)

Totally makes sense. I, I, I, it spark, it strikes so many kind of chords with, we me one in this space of almost biodiversity, you know, you are in this garden rose space, it’s less about monoculture. And it’s about finding these heirloom varietals that are so gorgeous and like tucked away, forgotten in the midst of time. And now you have the opportunity to bring them forward. Also just the connecting of people through this very beautiful kind of evocative product. And that I’m curious as well. Are you having, what are the conversations around sort of the, it sounds like you’re working directly with farmers and communities. So are there, is there a very clear kind of sustainability, fair trade type conversation that’s also being had?

 

Gracie Poulson: (23:26)

Absolutely for sure. Um, in particular the farm that we work with, um, they’re at the forefront of, um, you know, ethical growing first of all right, so like pesticide management, mm-hmm, um, not those horror stories you hear about, you know, pesticides on the loose in south America. Um, they have a foundation that benefits the single mothers and working mothers of their farm that we directly contribute to. Um, they have employees that have worked for them for 10 years. So what does that say? Right. I mean, that’s, to me that’s the biggest indicator of like where I want to put my money and to source roses and to grow roses with someone. Um, and so yeah, that’s all part of the conversation for sure. And I think another component to that is, um, how do I put this? Um, for us it has been incredibly hard to find and retain workers in California, California has become a state that has been extremely hard on agriculture to, um, have to train workers and to keep them right.

 

Gracie Poulson: (24:39)

Every farmer that I know in California has the same problems that we have, right. And so by having our growing done in a place where the foundation has been laid and where, and where people, this is what they do for a living like this is they have multi-generations of growing flowers. Um, it just makes more sense. Like it’s, it’s a struggle that we, that Ryan and I, and our operations manager no longer have to be burdened with the turnover rate. And the seasonality has also always been a thing for us. It’s like, if you only have product for seven months of the year, right?

 

Katie Hankinson: (25:16)

How keep mercy of drought and fire and all the things which should obviously now becoming ever more common, right?

 

Gracie Poulson: (25:22)

And then if you only need one third of your workforce over the winter months, trying to rehire people in the spring every year is impossible. So you have this high rate of turnover as a small farm, you can’t afford to keep 30 or 40 people all year cuz you, and you don’t need them in the winter. Right. And so for us it just became so expensive. We encourage so much debt to keep people working that we didn’t really need in the winter cause there wasn’t

 

Katie Hankinson: (25:50)

Right. Cause they were trying to do the right thing by yeah. Seasonal workers

 

Gracie Poulson: (25:54)

And now, and then, and we also didn’t have any product for our customers was like, we didn’t have product for our customers. So we like had to stop all of our marketing, all of our advertising, everything would stop in the winter and then we would have, we’d have to lay off employees. And, and then in the spring we’d have to start everything back up, try to hire like two thirds more of our staff. Right. Train them. And now it just feels like it’s just there’s that seasonality aspect has been removed. And we’re able to actually like focus on the bigger picture and not like this, like this constant struggle being a small farmer in, in California.

 

Katie Hankinson: (26:34)

It’s very much, I feel like this is a story of, of adjusting fast and also playing to your strength. I, I love it. So I mean, I’ve got a couple more things. One quick one, cuz I, I think it’s interesting. You are, you are really, you know, you’re going through a series, a you’ve built out a brand, a re a recognizable reputable brand that has a story attached to it. You recognize the importance of, of that storytelling. If you think about the, the, your marketing wins, like where in this last period, when you did that pivot to direct to consumer, where, what would you describe as your marketing wins? And some of them could be overt, paid advertising, type marketing. Some might be more on that organic level and some might just be finding the right person to target. So I’m curious to know, yeah. What, what would it be your greatest wins on that side as you’ve grown the business?

 

Gracie Poulson: (27:24)

Well, paid media is absolutely hard because especially with the iOS changes last June, nobody is seeing the, the, um, the conversion rates that they saw from Facebook that we used to see. Yeah. Um, we do, um, do very well on Facebook in general because the roses are pretty . So people see our ads, even they come and follow us and somehow they get into the funnel. Right. And we convert them at some point, usually, um, our biggest win, like I mentioned, we have a 55% return customer rate. So our biggest win is like nurturing. So doing blog posts, um, concentrating on like that bottom of funnel, those people who have already purchased from us and making them, um, feel very, uh, special and being really grateful for them and offering them exclusive, um, discounts and products and things that we don’t offer to, um, like the top of the funnel.

 

Gracie Poulson: (28:27)

Right. Yeah. Right. Um, influencers have been very good for us. We don’t see a direct ROI from influencers. So, um, like in a given month, if we spent $50,000 on influencer campaigns, we would not see like a four or five times row as, um, based upon clicks. But we do see that they work very well for brand awareness, as long as you’re using the right influencers. So for us, it’s home garden, very feminine, um, classy women that are, I guess, I don’t know if they’re like full-time influencers or if they’re like part-time, but they definitely have like a beautiful aesthetic

 

Katie Hankinson: (29:10)

That whole lifestyle, the lifestyle space in

 

Gracie Poulson: (29:12)

General. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. They have beautiful homes in general. So our roses look beautiful like on their dining room table or in their kitchen. So we try to choose influencers that really fit our aesthetic and where it looks like the roses could be in my home, on my farm like that they’re in theirs. So influencers, um, there’s a lot of management that comes along with influencers for sure. Um, and we’re kind of stepping away from paid partnerships right now and just doing gifting because it’s not like a high holiday for, um, for flowers. Like that’s generally like Christmas, Thanksgiving then Valentine’s day mother’s day spring. So this time year’s a little bit slower for flowers. So we’ll just do gifting for more like brand awareness and just to keep our partnerships fine, but influencers are definitely, um, good for us. And I think we have like over a 40 million reach through influencers.

 

Gracie Poulson: (30:05)

So excellent. They’re definitely something that we’re talking a lot about in our, um, like our funding round yeah. Um, is our like influencer relationships. And then, um, like I said, just nurturing and continuing to tell the story. So I, I obviously, like I get email from like all the major flower players, I get their email blasts and their, um, you know, their marketing. And I think that like the, really the big thing that makes us different and it could be looked at like, because we’re smaller or like we were a farm, we’re still a farm, but, um, is like, there’s always like my voice in them. Mm-hmm so everything we do is in my voice and it is from my perspective, um, it’s not like a faceless,

 

Katie Hankinson: (30:51)

It’s not to a company as it were. Yeah.

 

Gracie Poulson: (30:54)

Yeah, exactly. And, um, and that’s all very intentional. Um, so I’ve written a book. My book comes out next year and it’s just an extension of our brand. Um, and it’s very like on the gardening side of our brand, you know, it’s all about the gardening and the roses from the gardening perspective. So it’s all, um, it’s the storytelling, that’s the, the biggest winning for us.

 

Katie Hankinson: (31:19)

I mean, what an appropriate word for, for a, a, a brand that is all about grow, growing actual things is that word nurturing. And I also think it’s important that you’ve come from this kind of authentic space of really knowing all of, because you came from the growing space, even if you’re not doing that under the business. Mm-hmm, , it’s still that knowledge of all of the factors that influence this story that you can now speak with credibility and authority about, and also just, you know, go be the partner to those, um, Columbian growers now that you know what they’re experiencing. And if there’s a, you know, torrential downpour that drowns all the flowers, that’s what that means kind of thing. Mm-hmm I love that. Um, couple more just to, to close us out, anything that you are experimenting with or thinking you’re beginning to experiment with, as you continue to think about the, the marketing mix and the storytelling for a Grace Rose.

 

Gracie Poulson: (32:16)

So, um, from a marketing perspective. Well, so sort of, um, the biggest question we always get from everybody is, um, I wanna buy rose bushes ah, so like I show all these rose bushes on our Instagram, right. And all these gardens and like the big kind of missing thing all these years has been been that, yeah, we sell the cut flowers, but we don’t sell the rose bushes. And that was always intentional. Um, it would be very easy for us to source wholesale rose bushes of the same ones that we offer the cut flowers from and sell those mm-hmm . But I’m, I’m like not much of some, I’m not somebody that wants to like regurgitate other people’s creations. So there’s, there’s a dozen other places online where you can buy the rules bushes that we grow. Right. And it just has never felt special to me. I’m definitely one that’s like, if I’m going to do something, I want it to be an exclusive because of what other reason besides price would people come to me versus another website and then you’re competing with

 

Katie Hankinson: (33:21)

Yeah, yeah. Right,

 

Gracie Poulson: (33:22)

Exactly. So we actually partnered with the largest, um, wholesale rose grower in the United States. And we have imported genetic material from Germany and France and the UK and, um, Holland. And we are, um, growing our own rose bushes. So rose bushes that have never been in the United States, um, they are, they have, they’re wildly popular in Europe for European gardeners, but United States gardeners have never experienced these roses. They’ve never grown these roses. So we will be offering in fall of 23. We’ll have our, will be launching our own collection of rose bushes for gardeners, and they’ll be on our website. And then they’ll be in independent garden centers in the spring of 24. And so, um, back to marketing

 

Katie Hankinson: (34:13)

This

 

Gracie Poulson: (34:13)

Was, this is literally because that’s the most popular question we get is I wanna buy rose. I wanna, I love your cut flowers, but I wanna buy rose bushes from you because that’s what we’re, that’s what we’re showing people. I mean, that’s what we’re, our property is all about the rose bushes, the gardens, right? So it took me a long time to realize, um, wait, what am I doing? Like I’m showing people all these rose bushes, and I’m only concentrating on the cut flour, but people are looking at the bushes. They actually want the bushes too. Mm-hmm so we’re diversifying that our business will, um, start selling to gardeners and people that are inspired to be gardeners and then will also have our cut roses as well. So I

 

Katie Hankinson: (34:55)

Absolutely love that. I feel like we’ve, you’ve hit on some real killer learnings here. I think for our audience, one really at the core of all of this is a brand and a, and a story and a, a kind of mission and an, and a philosophy that was able to carry you from a farm to a direct to consumer, to partnering with global growers and still maintain the brand of the core, really understanding social and the moving landscape and being able to adapt and mastering the funnel and placing the right level of importance on nurturing versus constantly looking else out in the world to the next audience. I mean,

 

Gracie Poulson: (35:34)

Prospecting is important, but prospecting is important. You always have to prospect. You always have to spend a boatload of money on prospecting, but ultimately we, we try to spend the most energy and money and time on nurturing the people that are already in the, in the, in the heart of the business.

 

Katie Hankinson: (35:52)

I love that. I love that. And then this last one of taking insights, cause they’re coming from direct customer conversations and turning that into the, the kernel of a, of product innovation. And now building something out that isn’t just another kind of channel to get product to market, but actually has a layer of IP and exclusivity. So prompts you a really wonderful, really nice piece of diversification there.

 

Gracie Poulson: (36:18)

Try you’re trying,

 

Katie Hankinson: (36:21)

When does the book come out so we can give you a plug?

 

Gracie Poulson: (36:24)

So it was supposed to come out, um, spring of next year, but I think it’s coming out holiday of next year. So love it.

 

Katie Hankinson: (36:32)

Good time. It’s

 

Gracie Poulson: (36:33)

Written, it’s written and all the photos have been submitted. It’s with a great, great home and garden publisher, um, in New York city. So it’s gonna be absolutely beautiful. Um, it’s just, you know, like paper shortages and like production, everything is taking much longer.

 

Katie Hankinson: (36:49)

The end of supply chain WOS that we all, we all suffer from.

 

Gracie Poulson: (36:54)

I feel like I’ve been working on this book. I have been working on this book for three years. By the time it comes out, it’ll be five years.

 

Katie Hankinson: (37:00)

So, wow. Well, we will. So aside from last question, aside from the book, aside from the kind of the, the, your own very own exclusive varietal, what are you most excited about as you move into the next era for Grace Rose?

 

Gracie Poulson: (37:17)

Um, so I’m right now, I’m most excited about this series. A, um, really like our growth has been prohibited to this point by our own resources, right? So we’re completely owner owner funded at this point. We have no partners. Yeah. And so my husband and I, and have invested every penny we’ve made back into the business and we’ve, we’re, we’re growing at the rate that we can with like the amount of, let’s just say marketing dollars. Cause everything comes back to marketing. We know who our customers are. We know how to find them. We know we inject a certain amount of cash every month into marketing. Yeah. But we’ve never been able to multiply that spend exponentially because it’s just us. It’s literally just us. Yeah. So, um, I’m most excited about raising capital that we’ll just go right into marketing and bringing on some great people. So hopefully, um, like a CMO, hopefully a CFO, um, really like building out and like bringing in amazing people that have experience like growing and scaling female founded e-commerce brands. Um, that’s, you know, that’s where my mind is right now, cuz there’s so much potential. It just is. Um, we’re like on the cusp of really taking it to the next level and as any e-commerce business owner knows it’s all about the marketing ,

 

Katie Hankinson: (38:47)

That’s where all absolutely.

 

Gracie Poulson: (38:49)

Once you have a great product and you know who your customers are, you know how to reach them. It’s literally for us anyway, just about injecting the marketing funnel with lots of money. Yeah.

 

Katie Hankinson: (39:00)

So, and you’ve, you’ve removed the, the previous limitations of seasonal gaps of being able to have product and you’ve now have greater scale with your partners. So it’s all about,

 

Gracie Poulson: (39:13)

We would never be able to raise money if we were just a farm still EV any investor would say, you’re a farm. Like you could have a heat wave in the summer and not have roses for eight weeks or you could have, we get Santa a winds here in the fall. The winds could take out your roses for the rest of the season or right. You know, it there’s too many factors, but having a steady supply chain, um, you know, in south America having a partner who is ready to scale for us, this, this partner is ready to, you know, and they can scale very, very quickly there he’s ready to scale for us and, you know, take our business. Like I said, um, to move tens of millions of rows a year. So it’s exciting. It just takes, it just takes some great, um, you know, I we’re, we’re speaking to female founded venture capitalists at the, for the most part only, um, really wanna work with females. So that

 

Katie Hankinson: (40:09)

Good for you. Well, I mean, yeah. I, you know, we all know we, the well-documented challenges of being a female founder, especially when you’re looking for funding. So, uh, a smart move to, to go down that track. Um, I do have one last question for you. What, what do you think has a, you know, the thing that’s obviously kept you from all these pivots kept you through all these pivots and really helped you keep you grounded as you go through the success. What do you think are your, what’s your superpower as it come as a business leader, that’s helped you reach the kind of success levels that you have today? I think

 

Gracie Poulson: (40:48)

I’m, I’m easy to adapt, so I will like change and adapt very quickly. Um, but I think that’s also a negative for me cause I can be impetuous. Mm. So I can sometimes bring on the wrong people or I can sign contracts that I didn’t really investigate very well. Like I’m sort of that person that’s like, yes, yes, let’s do it. Let’s do it. Let’s do it. Let’s move forward. And then I’m like, wait a minute. I have to be kind of slowed down. So it’s a good and a bad, but I’m, I’m very adaptable. And I would say that I am very good at seeing like the, not the end result, but the big picture, like I know exactly where I wanna be in 12 months, 24 months. Um, like I have, I’m like, I, I hate to say I’m a visionary, but I have very like good vision. Yeah. And outlook

 

Katie Hankinson: (41:40)

Say it own it. You’ve got the vision. You’ve got the plan

 

Gracie Poulson: (41:44)

I get in my own way because sometimes I need, I need people around me to say, wait, Gracie, let’s think about this first, before we grow all this money or sign a contract with somebody that we haven’t really scoped out, you know, what they’re gonna offer for us. Like, I, I definitely have that like impetuous nature. Cause I just wanna go, go, go, go, go. So

 

Katie Hankinson: (42:08)

It sounds like, it sounds like both in your business partner are the half and also the team that you’ve built around you with a great deal of tenure. Um, and you know, that you’ve kept around for a long time, which is Testament to the brand. That sounds like you’ve got a really fantastic foundation for growth.

 

Gracie Poulson: (42:25)

Hopefully , we’ll see. Well,

 

Katie Hankinson: (42:28)

It’s been such a pleasure speaking with you. Um, I’m so grateful for your time. I know we went a little bit over, um, you were an excellent guest and, and just told a really fascinating story about, um, what was once a farm and is now so much more with so much more potential to come. Uh, best of luck with series a, we may be in touch with, uh, additional questions if you’re, if you’re happy to stay connected. Yeah. And, um, thank you so much. Thank you so much for joining us.

 

Gracie Poulson: (42:56)

Thank you.

 

Katie Hankinson: (43:07)

Thanks for joining us for building while flying today. I hope you learned as much as we did. We all meet you right back here. Next time for another flight.

Welcome to Building While Flying!

This weekly podcast is brought to you by Sasha Group. We’re the consultancy meets agency arm of the VaynerX family of companies. We help ambitious companies build strong brands that flex with the times through strategy, branding media and marketing.

In ever-changing times, businesses and brands have to shift and adapt. And across all sectors, there is an air of experimentation. Business owners are trying new things out in the wild;  building the plane while flying.

Our pilots, Katie Hankinson and Mickey Cloud, will be talking to a diverse range of business leaders and founders. They’ll explore how these guests tackle various challenges while staying resilient and committed to growth. Through these real-life examples of strategies put into practice, we hope to inspire you to experiment and develop your own strategies as we all navigate these uncertain times together.

Stop and smell the roses!

Gracie Poulson is the Co-Founder of Grace Rose Farm, one of the biggest suppliers of fresh, garden-grown roses in the United States. They’re committed to ethically growing and harvesting more than 90 varieties of roses. Grace Rose Farm started as a flower farm and supplier to florists around the country, born purely out of Gracie’s love for growing roses. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, they found themselves needing to pivot quickly. And they did, by shifting to a direct-to-consumer model. Now they’re continuing to grow their brand, spread joy via roses across the country, and working towards their Series A funding. 

In this episode, Gracie Poulson and Katie Hankinson discuss:

  • Transitioning to direct-to-consumer
  • Partnering with bigger flower farms
  • Finding joy in your work 
  • Building connection on social media
  • Sustainability in the flower industry 
  • Challenges with hiring and turnover rates
  • Wins and challenges marketing a seasonal business
  • …and much more!

If you want some beautiful Grace Rose Farm roses in your home, you can shop their collections here: https://www.gracerosefarm.com/collections/our-favorite-bouquets 

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