Christine Hoffman saw the need for a market place of locally and organically grown flowers in the Twin Cities. In 2017 she courageously opened Twin Cities Flower Exchange to support the local floral community. She hopes to inspire creativity and create a strong and mindful Midwest floral economy through her upcoming business.
Can you tell us a bit about your business and background?
I opened a retail storefront ( Foxglove Market & Studio) in 2013 and wanted to feature fresh flowers in the shop. But, I only wanted to do that if I could source locally-grown and organic cut flowers. After some searching, I found 2 growers in the area and started getting regular deliveries from them. I also started talking to produce farmers to see if they might be interested in growing flowers for the shop. Eventually, a few did start growing flowers too, but I was still the main sales outlet for most of these growers. My customers were reacting really positively to the quality and selection we had in our local flowers, so I knew there must be more people out there who would want these flowers. I could only buy so much, and it was so frustrating to send the farmers away with a big chunk of flowers I knew they probably wouldn’t sell anywhere else. It was also obvious to me that real interest in flower farming was starting to grow in the Midwest and I kept thinking “how are these people going to sell all of their flowers?” The idea of a wholesale hub seemed like a plausible way to facilitate this, so I started brainstorming and talking to both farmers and designers. Interest in forming a cooperative was not strong enough among the farmers, so I decided to jump in and start the business as a for-profit venture. It was my feeling that the time was right, I had found a perfect location, and we were on the cusp of this movement here in the Twin Cities - so I jumped in and took the risk. The Twin Cities Flower Exchange opened in 2017 as the first 100% locally-grown and chemical-free wholesale flower market in the nation. I source from 12 to 15 farmers and provide a central marketplace and all the infrastructure to sell their flowers to about 70 wholesale buyers in MN and WI. It has been all of those things most startups are - long hours, lots of mistakes and missteps, so much hard work, fits of self-doubt, flashes of triumph, and a lot of growth. We begin our third season in June and everything is feeling especially positive!
How do you think living in the Twin Cities has shaped your business?
From the very beginning - the first few outreach calls I made to other local designers - I have had so much support from the floral community in the Twin Cities (and greater Minnesota-and Wisconsin!). Designers, retailers and other floral professionals have joined, offered their help, and given tons of great feedback and insight. This endeavor is designed to help them do their best work and give them a better option for sourcing flowers. In turn, they are shaping The Exchange by letting me know what they need and what needs improvement. Together, we are creating this community that supports all of us and builds a stronger local floral economy in the Twin Cities.
If you had one piece of advice for someone starting a business, what would it be?
Even if you are a solo act, build a strong support team!
LAB is founded on three key values: connect, create and collaborate. What are your three key values?
Integrity, community, stewardship.
What is the favorite thing about your workspace?
I have the yin and yang of workspaces and that helps me stay balanced. My home studio/office is quiet and creative-my place to work alone and focus. On days I am at The Good Acre, the collaborative nature of that space offers time for valuable interaction and camaraderie.
What is your no-fail, go-to when you need inspiration or to get out of a creative rut?
A walk in the woods.
What are some of your everyday essentials that you can’t live without?
Coffee, Spotify, my Russell + Hazel planner
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
Honestly, I’ve done so many things before this and I am really happy with where I’ve landed. So, I hope to stay here for a good while. But, there is always that Latin degree to fall back on….
This summer! I am honored to be co-hosting the 3rd annual Slow Flowers Summit with founder, Debra Prinzing (of the Slow Flowers Society). The event is 3 days full of farm tours, a farm dinner, AMAZING speakers and a morning at The Exchange….I am so stoked for this whole experience. Debra laughs every time she tells the story of asking me. The word “YES!” was out of my mouth before she finished the sentence:) But, give me a week to recover and let’s talk- I love to collaborate.
Favorite place to meet/collaborate in the Twin Cities.
What’s currently binge watching or listening to?
Playlists have always been extremely important in my work/creative/shop life, so every day finds a new mix in the rotation. I am all about setting a scene, and music is key.
What item in your closet do you wear the most?
Denim shirt dress. I have a selection in different shades and styles.
Three Instagram accounts you love to see in your feed.
Last Adventure: Tucson and hiking in the Saguaro National Park.
Next Adventure: BWCA canoe trip.
By Day Off Season: Home office, river walks and coffee shops.
By Day Flower Season: Hustling flowers.
By Night Off Season: Mostly a homebody, otherwise likely on a barstool at Ngon or Heritage.
By Night Flower Season: On my deck or in my garden.
Latest Craft: The perfect biscuit (still elusive).
Secret Skill: Pie crust
Yes Please: Instagram
No Thanks: Facebook
Spirit Animal: Weasel
Brand You Can’t Live Without: Peace coffee