“I quit my job in town to start my own florist – it now brings in £1million a year”



James Folger had a moment of enlightenment two years ago, at the age of 26, when he realized he could no longer hold down his job. The high-flying banker applied for a £25,000 loan and took a leap of faith to launch The Stem

james [pictured] says his job in the city was unsatisfactory and made him anxious

A city banker who quit his job after developing severe anxiety says starting his own business was the best decision of his life.

James Folger was 26 when he quit his high-flying banking job. He remembers working such long hours that he would often finish work in the morning, take a cab home, get changed, and then put the same car back to work.

He said: “After school I went to UCL to study economics and followed the well-trodden path of internship and work in several investment banks like Goldman Sachs, Jefferies International and lately 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, no social life and no stress.

He says reconnecting with nature can have huge benefits on the mind



“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, London, 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 my online plant store, The Stem,” he said.

“Over my three-and-a-half-year career, I developed increasingly severe anxiety and used vacation time to travel to the desert to escape the city.

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



“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 nature I decided to have a light bulb moment.”

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 the savings from my job and also got a start-up loan of £25,000. That was enough to get the business started in earnest in March 2020.”

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.

“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.

Full team: The business is getting better and better



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 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 mid-term.”

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, says James.

But it wasn’t all easy.

“Working tirelessly to deliver 4,000 trees last Christmas, when our delivery partner ran into issues, was difficult,” says James.

“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.

“We launched UK-wide in January this year, so we’re running to the beat.

“We are now a team of six, plus a team of London drivers and five staff including freelancers and agencies.”

“Our strategy is focused on creating a one-stop shop for all things green and building a brand fit for a sustainable future.”

And he says the word comes out.

“We have delivered to so many amazing clients including musicians, celebrity chefs, sports stars, musicians, actors, royals and high profile business people.

“I’m so grateful for all the support we’ve received and for 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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