Posted by United Goods on June 26, 2017
Following is the full interview we did with Christine Hoffman of Foxglove and the Twin Cities Flower Exchange. Part of it ran in our monthly email, United Update, which is sent to subscribers around the 26th of each month. To join the mailing list, enter your email address in the field near the bottom of each page of our website.
Hey again, Christine! Tell us about you.
Like most creatives I know, it's been a rather winding road filled with lots of pieces forming a whole. Basically, I left college (Macalester College in St. Paul) with a degree in Latin, then surprisingly discovered that people would pay me to make things look pretty. Say what?! This led to a freelance career in retail merchandising, interior design, event design, and a stint as an HGTV designer. I had a natural eye for design, and over the years I honed that into a business of creating spaces people like to be in. Along the way, I also discovered—a total surprise to me—that I’m good at developing networks and connecting people. I’m now putting that to use by developing and launching the Twin Cities Flower Exchange, and I love this new direction.
When did you start your businesses?
I opened Foxglove Market & Studio in 2013 as a brick and mortar shop that featured home goods, local art, paper goods, and local flowers. As the floral business grew and my passion for that part of the business grew, I made the decision to close the retail side of things and focus on the flower studio, workshops, and slow-flowers education. Seeing the growing interest in sourcing local flowers, and knowing that the farmers I worked with were still struggling to make flower farming a viable career, I hatched the idea of a wholesale market. And, just one month ago, I launched the Twin Cities Flower Exchange.
What do you offer?
As Foxglove, I offer wedding and event floral design, workshops, and speaking engagements. As the Twin Cities Flower Exchange (TCFE), I offer local, chemical-free cut flowers to wholesale buyers.
What makes you different than other floral providers?
As the Twin Cities’ first exclusively local and chemical-free florist, Foxglove is more than just a flower studio. I’m a slow-flowers advocate striving to form a strong community of sustainable flower farmers, small business owners, and folks who care about supporting these mindful endeavors. By providing a local, sustainable option to traditional flowers, putting a premium on collaboration, and reaching out to the community, I hope to foster change.
Have you always had an interest in flowers?
I honestly feel I’m finally setting in to what I'm really meant to do. Flowers in their various forms—garden, woods, weeds, natives, cultivars—have always been a part of my life. They are a huge part of my early memories and my family history. My great grandparents were flower farmers. Finally marrying that personal passion with work feels amazing, and it’s a bit puzzling to me now why it took so long.
Why is the “slow flower” movement important to you?
Oh geez. How much time do we have? The average grocery store bouquet travels around 2,000 miles and encounters up to 127 different chemicals before it reaches your table. The majority of commercial flowers are grown overseas using a mixture of fertilizers, chemicals, and preservatives that are anything but natural. Add in worker exposure, ship time, and resources, and you’ve got one loaded bunch of tulips. It’s easy to grab a cellophane-wrapped bouquet, pop it in a vase, and not give it another thought. Those flowers, however, have a big impact on our environment—both in a broad sense and in your home. Looking at alternatives helps create a sustainable, small farm economy in the U.S.; uses fewer resources; supports wildlife health; supports our health; improves our soil, water, and air quality; etc., etc…. Really, I can go on for hours! If you’d like the long version, consider attending a workshop, or contact me for a speaking engagement.
What's the best part about what you do?
At the moment, creating something—TCFE—that fully supports my mission of offering a sustainable alternative to traditional cut flowers, and building a bigger slow-flowers community here. It’s also extremely rewarding to offer a service that allows others to do what they do, and do it well.
What is the most challenging?
Building a new business from the ground up is incredibly challenging, especially when there isn’t a blueprint out there to glean from. Only a handful of markets like this exist in the U.S., so this is a whole new model for the business of flowers. Exciting, certainly, but endlessly challenging.
How can United nation help you with that challenge?
By spreading the word to interested wholesale buyers and supporting businesses that buy from TCFE. When you purchase flowers [at a shop], ask if they support local flower farmers.
What are your plans for the businesses in the coming years?
Building on what we do with this first season of TCFE to offer a fully operable and sustainable (maybe even year-round?!) local, chemical-free wholesale flower market. At the same time, I want to refine and define my own creative studio offerings to complement the work I do with TCFE.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I have no idea. My sister says I wanted to be a nurse, which is laughable because I faint at the thought of blood. It's funny, that question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Especially in the ’70s, when I grew up (yup, I'm that old), the options didn't seem very broad. I never would have thought that flower farmer, or slow-flowers advocate, or entrepreneur, would be an option. But, here I am. Opportunities are so much broader now than that standard list of occupations.
What do you think we’d be surprised to learn about you?
1. I like muscle cars and classic rock.
2. When I was a kid I wrote fan letters to Art Garfunkel (dork).
3. My high school Knowledge Bowl team placed second in State (double dork).
4. I’m an introvert.
5. I actually enjoy weeding gardens.
I’m a shoe fanatic. So, what’s a favorite pair of shoes you’ve owned?
My thrift-store score: vintage bicentennial boots with “1776” and an eagle motif printed on them!
Find Christine, Foxglove Market & Studio, and the Twin Cities Flower Exchange here:
website | Instagram
(Photos of Christine, above, by Kristine Erickson Photography)