A Labor of Love to A Business You Love

Valentine’s Day isn’t just a celebration of the people we love. It’s a day to appreciate all of the opportunities in our lives that make us happy to get out of bed each morning.

Ideally, those opportunities include our jobs. 

Do what you love and the money will follow,” is common advice that may not always sound reasonable, much less possible.

But it can work.

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, here are the inspiring tales of a florist, a jeweler, and a chocolatier who turned their “labor of love” into thriving businesses they love:

Christina Stembel, Farmgirl Flowers

Her Passion:

High energy Christina Stembel always knew she wanted to start a business and “do something good in the world.”

As an event planner at Stanford University, she saw first hand how much money is spent on decor for events. Particularly on the flowers. She began researching the flower industry, and learned how problematic it is.

Her Path to Business Success:

With $48,000 in savings, Christina began Farmgirl Flowers, with a pledge to use only American grown flowers.

In 2010, she began her flower business in her living room, and used bike couriers as her delivery method.

Before starting the business, she held a focus group and found that 86% of customers didn’t mind having a limited selection as long as the flowers were high quality.

In addition to her high-quality flowers and social awareness, Christina also figured out how to make her bouquets recognisable.

Today, Farmgirl Flowers is worth 4.5 million dollars.

Valentine’s Day Social Media Highlights:

Want to see how to build a Farmgirl bouquet in 30 seconds? Check out USA Today to see how we do it! Big thanks to USA…

Posted by Farmgirl Flowers on Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Takeaway:

Follow your instincts, take the time to figure out what people want and need, and find ways to make even your most “everyday” products unique.

WiseStamp signature example

Maya Brenner, Jeweler 

Her Passion:

You could argue that Maya Brenner got her start as a jewelry designer when she was still a child.

“We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, so if I wanted sparkly baubles I had to make them myself. At a very young age I taught myself how to make beaded jewelry and even reworked many of my grandmother’s pieces, reinventing them as my own.”

As an adult, Maya became a social worker and worked with drug addicted teens. She loved her job, but it was the desire for something more that sparked her nightly ritual of beading. On weekends, she spent time on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, California, buying jewelry to adapt and studying what the vendors were selling.

Her Path to Business Success:

One lucky day, Maya wore her jewelry into an Upper West Side boutique. A saleswoman noticed, wanted to see more pieces, and ended up agreeing to sell Maya’s jewelry.

Before she knew it, Maya had a business.

At first, the business side of making jewelry wasn’t so appealing to Maya. Her mother even called her “The Reluctant Entrepreneur.” 

But she got the hang of things, and wasn’t afraid to share her knowledge.

Today, her jewelry is worn by celebrities and she’s expanded her business to include home decor. She’s the author of the book Beaded Jewelry: Create Your Own Style.

Judging by the success of her “state necklaces,” she’s definitely a trendsetter.

Valentine’s Day Social Media Highlights:

Our Caviar Bead Layering Ring in Elle’s perfectly curated guide to the best rose-gold jewelry for Valentine’s Day: http://bit.ly/1TADNoF

Posted by Maya Brenner Designs on Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Takeaway:

Sometimes, we can make our own luck. Step one? “See and be seen.”

Gail Ambrosius, Chocolatier

Her Passion:

According to Gail Ambrosius,

“Real chocolate is strong, earthy, fruity, floral … a whole world that unfolds on your palate. It’s the deepest, densest tropical jungle mixed with the refinement of Paris and the sheer wonder of childhood. Chocolate, in all its mysteries and complexities, is my passion.”

Gail grew up on a dairy farm in Seymore Wisconsin, where her mother spent a lot of time in the kitchen creating “something wonderful.” Chocolate pudding was a favorite.

At 17, on a French Club trip to Paris, Gail had her first taste of dark chocolate. She dreamed of opening her own shop, but took a safer career path instead.

Her Path to Business Success:

After ten years of working as a cartographer for the state of Wisconsin, Gail was laid off. Yes, it was scary, and she was a single mother with a son to support. But it was also a chance to follow her dream. She enrolled in an online course through Ecole Chocolat, and then returned to France to study with renowned chocolatiers and visit other chocolate shops.

In 2004, she opened Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier. Six months later, she hired her first employee.

Twelve years later, she and her ten employees produce several thousand pieces of chocolate by hand every day. Her methods are great for maintaining the high quality of her chocolate and for the environment.

Gail is also a strong supporter of the cacao farmers, who she has taken the time to visit.

“I’ve lived with the farmers and seen agroforestry and biodiversity in action. Although Seymour is half a world away from the jungles of Costa Rica, I’ve lived the farming life and I understand it.”

Valentine’s Day Social Media Highlights:

Did you know we still hand wrap all of our dark chocolate hearts? A labor of ❤️ love!

A photo posted by @gailambrosiuschocolatier on

The Takeaway:

Embrace the curveballs life throws at you. Take the time to understand your product and show your customers how much you care about quality.

And, like Gail, it’s always a good thing to be socially aware.

Gail was kind enough to contact us with some words of wisdom:

“Live all your dreams and love all your chocolates.”


“Have fun, be good to yourself.”

This Valentine’s Day, take a little time to show your career, your business and your customers a little love.

Steve Jobs said it best:

“You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle…”

Did you turn your passion into a business? If not, would you like to?

Leave a comment and share your story.