“I quit my job in the city to become a florist – now my business earns £1million a year”


Making a career change is a difficult step for many, especially when it comes to quitting a high-paying job to follow your passion. However, a city banker called the decision to quit his job the best decision of his life.

While working in finance, James Folger, then 26, developed high anxiety. Looking for an outlet, he started an online plant store and has since made a fortune.

James remembers working such long hours that he would often finish work in the morning, take a taxi home, get changed, and then put the same car back to work, The Mirror reported.

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The Stem eventually expanded into its own warehouse on the 2nd floor of a Victorian warehouse in Wembley

He said: “After school I went to UCL to study economics and followed the well-trodden path of internship and work in a number of investment banks like Goldman Sachs, Jefferies International and recently at Rothschild & Co.

“I was working around the clock trying to move up the ranks as an investment banker. But I quickly realized that it was an unsatisfying life of chaotic hours, without social life and without stress.

“I often worked at night until the early morning and on several occasions even had to take a taxi home, ask the driver to wait outside while I took a shower and change to go straight back to the taxi to work again.”

James said it was sometimes punitive. The entrepreneur, who grew up in Dulwich, said he knew change was needed – it was just a matter of finding the courage to take a leap of faith.

After successfully interviewing for a new municipal job in 2019, he was put on gardening leave.

“That’s when I decided to start The Stem,” he said. “During my three and a half year career, I developed increasingly severe anxiety and used vacation time to travel in nature to escape the city.

“That year I was preparing to join a new bank in Canary Wharf and was put on gardening leave for three months. I continued to travel during this time and while out in the wild I decided I had a light bulb moment.

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The Stem aims to reconnect people with nature through plants and gardening. He says being grounded in nature could have huge benefits amid all the turmoil of the world.

“I started the business with my work savings and also got a start-up loan of £25,000. That was enough to get the business started in earnest in March 2020,” he said .

Initially it started from his house and later from his family home. “We started with a soft launch on Shopify before moving to a full launch with our own website in March 2020,” James said. “In February 2021, we launched our first round of external funding with a crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube.”

The Stem then expanded into its own small 150 square foot warehouse on the 2nd floor of a Victorian warehouse in Wembley. James said he wanted to create a shared community and give his customers the opportunity to be part of the business.

“We loved the idea of ​​building a business in partnership with our community, giving our customers the chance to shape our future and share in our success,” he said. “We had a target of £150,000 and we blew it, overfunding by 341% and raising over £500,000 from 900 investors.

“We enjoyed our 1.0 crowdfunding campaign so much that we took to Crowdcube again for our 2.0 campaign almost exactly one year later. We are currently live on the platform with over 400 new investors and £440,000 with the campaign at its mid-point.

In its first year, The Stem’s earnings topped £240,000. That same year, she sold 1,000 Christmas trees. Last year it hit £1.1million and quadrupled its Christmas tree sales. This year he is on track for £2million, James explained.

Full team: The business is getting better and better
James started the business from home and now has several employees

“Working nonstop to deliver 4,000 trees last Christmas when our delivery partner ran into issues was tough,” James said. “We worked 24/7 for two weeks to overcome the situation.

“The first year all the trees were stored in my family home in Essex as we had no space to keep them. I had to drive up and down the A12 every night to restock in the electric van!

James says his vision is for The Stem to become one of the UK’s leading digital garden retail brands. He said: “We launched all over the UK in January this year, so we’re running to the beat. We have delivered to so many amazing clients including musicians, celebrity chefs, sports stars, musicians, actors, royals and high profile business people. I am so grateful for all the support we have received and that I have the opportunity to build a business like this. Starting a business with a mission to help others connect with nature has transformed my life. My anxiety is gone and I have a new direction.

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