When sisters Stephanie Duncan and Jessica Hall and their mother, Chris Auville, created Harmony Harvest Farm back in 2011, they had no way of knowing that a pandemic lingered in their future. Their product — farm-grown, hand-cut flower bouquets — needs a lot of care, from the ground all the way to ground shipping.
Harmony Harvest Farm, a female-led, family-run flower farm in Virginia, does things a little differently. For starters, their hand-harvested, cut, arranged, and shipped flowers are grown right in the rolling hills of Virginia. This means that every bouquet and DIY Flower Box is handled with personal care and attention. For small businesses like this, though, a pandemic can cause big problems.
“Before Covid, we weren’t shipping a whole lot of volume. We were only shipping to floral designers and doing maybe 10-20 flower boxes a week. And then, with COVID, we launched our first retail product, The Happy Box, and had 100 orders within a few hours. Even though the orders kept flooding in, the virus became more dangerous so we decided to furlough our staff for 30 days and get a safety plan together.” says Stephanie Auville, Director of Marketing and Public Relations at Harmony Harvest Farm.
Listen to our podcast episode with Stephanie Duncan and learn how she was able to adapt her small family-owned Virginia flower farm into a blossoming direct-to-consumer business—from dirt to door.
Time for a Change
As so many ecommerce businesses can attest to, furloughing staff is not an easy decision to make. With the pressure to ship out orders now squarely on the shoulders of Stephanie, Jessica, and Chris, the team knew they had to do make a change to keep their heads above water while waiting out the storm.
“I said, ‘Oh God, we’ve got to do something,’ because at that point, we were actually logging into FedEx, manually entering all the information, and printing out our labels. With the insane increase in order volume, I knew that this wasn’t going to work. And so, I found ShipStation and immediately just set it up and started using it.”
According to Stephanie, ShipStation proved to be just the saving grace they needed.
“Within two days of us being by ourselves, I found ShipStation, implemented it, and never looked back,” says Stephanie.
“I did not have time for issues with tutorials or anything. But the good thing about it is that I think I talked to a ShipStation rep for maybe one 30-minute call and was able to hop right in and use it seamlessly. It was a night-and-day difference for us.”
A Pivotal Moment
Amid the pandemic, the team made a crucial pivot to selling other goods along with their gorgeous flower arrangements. They began selling flower frogs and offering video-based classes on how to arrange flowers at home. And people loved it!
“When our team came back, we were then shipping out over a hundred boxes a week,” Stephanie says.
“It’s funny because I definitely think that ShipStation was the reason that we were able to pivot so easily. There’s no way we would have been able to handle those orders. There is no way we would have been able to do it without error.”
The small team took this massive growth in stride, and with a smile. A huge part of the equation, Stephanie says, was knowing that the shipping aspect was sorted.
“When we implemented ShipStation, we were so happy to see that literally all of the orders people placed online automatically showed up in ShipStation. In a few clicks, I had my labels, and they were set up and ready to go. It just made us realize that we could really do a lot more so much easier. Since then, our online sales have increased over 1,300%.”
From Seedling to Shipping
Nowadays, the family farm is running smoother than ever, while simultaneously enjoying more business than ever. What does it take to see a beautiful bouquet of flowers through, from seedling to shipping?
Harmony Harvest’s field team includes about 10 people who harvest flowers every morning. Then, those flowers are cut and put directly into water and placed in the cooler. The flower design team, led by Head Designer Jessica Hall, then gets to work arranging the fresh flowers into the brand’s unique bouquets.
The 4-person fulfillment team uses ShipStation to make sure that every flower gets where it’s meant to go, fresh, flourishing, and on time, no matter where the order was placed.
“The platform is super easy, and I can connect all of my different stores. We have Shopify, Amazon, Etsy — and they’re all connected to ShipStation. We also have several FedEx accounts for different discounts across our next-day delivery and our ground delivery, and being able to check rates across all of our accounts has been a huge time (and money) saver” says Stephanie.
“Now that we’ve gotten used to it with our core team, if somebody in our core team isn’t there, this system makes it really easy for anybody just to step in and be able to intuitively fulfill orders.”
Now that the Harmony Harvest team is busier than ever, the need for software that works as hard as they do has only become more apparent.
“You can have grit, you can have ingenuity, you can have all the basic instincts that you need to pivot or run a business,” Stephanie says. “But at the end of the day, a lot of it comes down to tools. You need the right tools to run efficiently.”
ShipStation offers a few key features that Stephanie and the team rely on to manage their ever-growing customer base.
Automatic filters have made a huge difference in the fulfillment team’s output.
“Our fulfillment team has stages in their day of when they fulfill different things, and with the automatic filters, we can get a birds-eye view of what’s going out and without having to go through every single order one by one. These filters make it so easy for our team to plan their day and ensure that orders are delivered exactly when they need to be,” says Stephanie.
“We used to have to manually enter and then print out the labels and then put them on the windows of the package. Doing that, it was taking her a few hours to ship 10 to 15 boxes. Now she can ship 50 in the same amount of time.”
They have also relied on ShipStation’s built-in reporting to better understand how to position their brand.
“We’ve been able to trial flat rate shipping on our top product this season because we could easily see what our shipping deficits are. Just being able to see the reports is critical in helping us to better position our products for a higher conversion, especially when it comes to shipping charges.”
Tough Times, Tougher Team
Every business owner (and farmer) knows that the sun always shines after the storm. Now that the team at Harmony Harvest Farm has been put through the ultimate test during the pandemic, they’re coming out of it smelling as fresh as their fabulous bouquets.
“I’m never going away from ShipStation, because of the fact that when we were in critical times, it was a saving grace for us. And it was so easy. I just tell everybody, it’s so easy to set up and your life will change once you have it.”
Find out how ShipStation can help your business bloom by signing up for a free trial.