Flower Friends! As summer comes to a close and fall inches closer to winter, it seemed like the right time to share a “spotlight” about Gina Schley from SHEGROWS. I first learned about Gina when I began my search for local flower farmers. It took me awhile to work up the courage to contact Gina, but I shouldn’t have been so worried. Gina is nothing but kind and generous with her willingness to talk, connect and build flowering community. Gina’s approachability comes through in her story telling posts about flowers, farming, herself and her family. One of the many things that has impressed me about Gina is her enthusiasm for learning and growing, and then sharing that knowledge with others. Gina, thank you for being part of the Middlemist Entrepreneur Spotlight. Thank you for sharing more of your story.
Tell us About Yourself
I own and operate a 3-acre urban flower farm in Arvada called SHEGROWS. My husband and I bought our farm in 2017, spent two years renovating the 1949 farmhouse to meet modern day LEED standards, and the last three years regenerated the soil using biodynamic agricultural principles. Our renovation was filmed for a TV docuseries called Urban Conversion, which airs on PBS and Create TV, and how we regenerated the soil is documented on the sustainability page of our website.
The farm is now in its 4th season of providing locally grown flowers to designers, florists, wholesalers, and CSA members. We are part of the Colorado Flower Collective, where we sell most of our flowers to florists, we have a robust 4 Season Flower CSA where neighbors can buy directly from our farm, and we sell buckets and bouquets to brides. This year we have expanded our offering to include farm experiences and gardening courses—both online and at our farm. You can come learn how to garden or come for a sunrise or sunset Pick Your Own event during the summer.
What was the driving force behind starting your business? What do you hope to achieve?
The driving force behind SHEGROWS was a mother’s pursuit to be worthy of imitation for her daughters. As a mother, you want the best for your children. Ultimately, you want them to live a life full of purpose and happiness, and to be positive contributors to society. I know that if I want that for my children, I have to walk the talk. Children imitate their parents in the most profound ways, and seeing this first-hand as a mother, I knew that meant finding my own purpose and happiness, and my own individual way to contribute to the world—SHEGROWS is all that for me.
All my life I’ve loved gardening. I’ve loved getting my hands in the soil and planting flowers with my grandmother. My mother died of cancer when I was two years old but before she died she planted a garden collective with our neighbors. They tilled up half an acre and gardened together. While my mother died shortly after, her garden lived on through our community and taught me many lessons about life, death, and everything in between. I kind of feel like I am a girl raised by a garden.
I also love selling things. The good ole’ lemonade stand, and garage sale of childhood really sank in and I developed a knack of sales and marketing at a very young age. When I put these two together, growing & selling, I find harmony in my life. SHEGROWS is my ultimate pursuit to make a career out of something I love. Alan Watts wrote, “Do what you love and eventually you will become a master at it and people will pay you for it.” I love growing gardens, teaching, and sharing and I believe I’ve finally become quite good at it. My personal goal is to teach 1M people how to transform their life, through gardening, one season at a time.
What is it about what you do that keeps you motivated and gets you going in the morning?
Knowing how fast the seasons change—in the garden and in life—keeps me motivated to move quickly, take risks, and also stop to smell the flowers. Mother nature doesn’t wait for procrastinators in the garden, in fact she makes you wait an entire year to try again. But she does offer unmatched beauty which is the invisible embrace that I crave every morning. I have a memorial plaque in my office that once hung in St. Charles hospital where my mother was a nurse. It says, “Walk in the World for me.” My mother’s death taught me the gift of life in a very profound way and in essence, I am walking in the world for her. I am struck with awe at every single sunrise, every single bloom I harvest, and every new customer I get to meet. Being a keen observer of life, having a mountain of gratitude in my heart, and a fire in my gut to bring more beauty into the world keeps me going every single day. It is part of who I have become.
What advice do you have for other ambitious entrepreneurs?
Design the business you want. Design it to be part of your life vs. you apart of its life. Businesses are like farms in that they have a life of their own and can be all consuming if you let them. Just as you design a garden, you have the gift of designing the business of your dreams. It’s uniquely yours.
Make a 7-year strategic plan, a roadmap per se, to get your hopes and dreams for your business out of your head and onto paper. Something magical happens when your thoughts move through your hands and onto paper. Then revisit it often, and don’t be afraid to change it. I also think it is important to surround yourself with people who complement your skillset. Become a master at what you love and find help for the other areas of the business where you are weak. It’s equivalent to companion planting.
I believe that when people are planted in the right garden, during the right season, they bloom. This holds true for starting a business. Make sure the business is the right business for you (in that it aligns with your heart), start it during the right season of your life, and trust that when these things are true your business will bloom—and so, will you.
Middlemist is a boutique floral studio in Golden, CO focused on everyday luxury floral design.