Natalie Gill owns the San Diego-based full-service flower shop, Native Poppy, so it should come as no surprise that her home is bright and cheery. We love all of the beautiful colors and accents throughout—from the candles and the plants to the rugs and wall hangings. Find out more about Natalie’s lovely space and also what she’s learned from running her own business (hint: she struggles with the oh-so relatable work/life balance).
What is Native Poppy, and how did it come about?
Native Poppy is a full-service flower shop; you can come into one of our two shops any day and build your own bouquet from our epic stem bar, pick up the perfect gift from our gift shop or order off our flower menu online and have them delivered all over San Diego. We also specialize in creative floral design for weddings and events.
The company was created in 2014 as an answer to my own mid-20-something existential crisis. I was so dissatisfied with what life was offering me for career options that I paused and challenged myself to write a list about what I wanted my life to look like—set my own schedule, do something creative with my hands, have a career that’s always changing, etc. And then one day, I had that lightbulb moment; I realized becoming a florist was the answer. In January of 2014, I launched Native Poppy without a backup plan and poured my entire heart into it. Two years after hustling with my wedding floral design business, I opened my first brick and mortar, and today we have two adorable shops.
What do you love most about owning your own business? What do you dislike?
The thing I love most is the ability to be able to spend a majority of my life creating something that is truly meaningful to me and in line with the message I want to leave behind in this life, which is to spread joy, empower people to be creative and kind and to live a life with less hesitation. Jumping into those scary what-ifs and taking risks is where we really grow.
The thing I enjoy least is how difficult it is to ever step away. I find myself working all the time even from my phone since I can check up on the metrics and the sales from wherever I am. It’s been hard to prioritize giving myself scheduled time off, but that it is so important. I actually just started taking drum lessons one day a week in order to have an outlet completely outside of work, which has been the new highlight of my weeks. I hope that one day my company will grow enough that the hours will be able to get distributed a bit more and I can get back to traveling the planet with those I love. My biggest fear most days is that I might tie myself down indefinitely to my business.
How did you go about building and growing your team?
In the beginning, I just tried to hire people that I genuinely liked since I was working alongside them every day. Being a boss doesn’t come naturally to me and three years later, I am still working on it daily. I am a people-pleaser to a fault and sometimes having that trait as the leader on our team can hinder us from our goals because I get side-tracked by everyone’s individual needs rather than focusing on what our company needs to grow in order to support our team.
Nowadays, I am looking to hire people that just genuinely care about my company and show up in a way that reflects that. They care about our planet, fellow humans and strive to be better versions of themselves most days (because every day is asking too much). I realized that everyone is trainable and has their own unique strengths and weaknesses, but caring isn’t something you can teach and is essential to success and personal growth.
Let’s talk about your space. What are some essential elements that you need to have in your home to create the perfect atmosphere?
Candles! I literally live by candlelight after dark. All my lights in my house are also on dimmers so I can always feel cozy and relaxed at night.
I love rugs and carpets. It’s a hate/love thing since they can get dirty so easily and pets and rugs don’t usually mix, but I think they add to the coziness of a space and also add so much texture and color.
My bathtub. There’s no better way to relax after work than unwinding in the tub. Bubbles, essential oils and Netflix on my laptop.
Your home is decked out in gorgeous plants! How can others add various plants in their home without having it look overwhelming?
I genuinely do have a plant-buying problem. When I see a good one at a nursery or plant shop, I have to bring it home. Each plant has a home within my home, somewhere where it has access to enough light and can stretch out. I try to not place multiple plants next to each other or too close together. Also having a nice neutral theme with your pots can help keep everything cohesive. It’s also nice to have a wide range of plant sizes and shapes—tall tree like ones, viney ones that you can place high on shelves and smaller statement plants for tables and dressers.
If you could go back and change anything from the beginning days of your business, what would it be?
I wish I would have implemented stronger accounting systems upfront. I concentrated so much on the art and culture of my company, which was incredibly fun and important, but the most critical thing is that it has to be a profitable business first to survive. I would have found it in my budget to hire a strong bookkeeper who was willing to really learn my business and help me figure our my margins and make sure I wasn’t overspending or stretching myself too thin. This is something I still struggle with, but I’m getting better and better at it because you really don’t have a business at all if you don’t know the numbers with what you’re doing.
You love to travel and explore as a source of creative inspiration. What have been some of your most inspirational trips?
When I was 26 years old, I went on a 30-day solo road trip across the southern United States. I packed up my car and headed east. I ended up at the Atlantic Ocean in Charleston, SC, and turned around the next day for two more weeks of driving back to San Diego. I mostly couch-surfed with strangers along the way, stayed at a handful of questionable and delightful hostels and a few Airbnbs. Every day, I let life guide me, meeting strangers who I still think about often and creating memories that changed me profoundly. I experienced extreme anxiety and extreme freedom, truly falling in love with myself in a way I never had before. I had struggled with eating disorders for the prior decade, found myself in unhealthy relationships and at times truly loathed myself, but after spending so many quiet hours on the road alone, pushing myself day after day into uncomfortable situations and practicing grace, I was able to love myself—and that is the greatest gift I’ve ever received from traveling.
Followed by India, Cuba, Italy.
What are three things you can’t live without?
Spaghetti tacos—you put spaghetti on a piece of pizza and fold it like a taco, but if I’m being perfectly honest, it’s an evening cocktail, conversations with the people who really know me and love me, and the desire to improve my life. If i’m not striving for a higher purpose, what’s the point?
You’re actually moving! Tell us about your new home? How will it be different from your current space and what will you keep the same?
After four years of dating my boyfriend, I’m moving into his home with him. I really enjoyed my independence and calling all my own shots in my space over the last few years, but I’m also excited to start this new chapter with him and experience a deeper partnership. His home is a 1950s fixer-upper that he’s been fixing up over the last 7 years. I am excited to help turn it into something really great and learn the art of compromise along the way—ha! He loves the wood paneling in the living room, so I’m embracing a retro vibe and we even inherited his parents lava lamp, which will be prominently featured. It will be fun to design a space that is a reflection of both of us. I’m also excited to have a backyard and looking forward to eating dinners outside this summer.
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