Meet Ashley and Victoria, founders of Flora Stationery

 

Ashley and Victoria, Founders of Flora Stationery that gives back | HeartStories

This interview brings me so much hope. There’s such a purity and love that pours out of these two beautiful sisters.  I want to be like them when I grow up.  😉

Hi Ladies,  I’m so excited to be sharing our first dual interview today.  I love that you are sisters and have decided to take this journey together.  Will you tell us a little about your lives to date?

Ashley: Victoria and I both grew up in a small-town in Northeast Ohio with two brothers and very loving, supportive parents.  Although we were always together growing up and throughout high school, we went our separate ways in college. Victoria went to Grove City College, I went to Miami University. We both studied similar areas, I graduated with a Journalism degree and Victoria graduated with a degree in Communications.

I currently live in Grapevine, Texas, and moved here after getting a job in Southlake, Texas at a public relations firm. Victoria currently lives in Columbus, Ohio and works as a legislative aide for a state legislator.

What were you doing before you started Flora Stationery?

Ashley: We were both still in school full-time. I remember the morning Victoria and I decided to pursue this idea. All I could think about was this idea for a non-profit or business that would help fund scholarships, I sat throughout my classes, doodling business plans and ideas.

We launched Flora Stationery my final semester at Miami University and then I moved down to Texas to start my first job and Victoria moved to Columbus to do the same. Ever since, we’re been working on Flora part-time and as our schedule permits us.

Tell us about the moment you knew for sure you had to do something. How did you muster the courage to actually do it?

Ashley: Meeting the young woman who inspired Flora Stationery in Kosovo was a complete coincidence – but as soon as I heard her story – and saw her faith- I knew I had to do something. I stayed the day in her village with her family and as I rode back to my hotel in a creaky, old bus, my head was full of ideas of how to help her.

I scribbled them out in my journal – and my life has never been the same.

Gifts that give back | HeartStories

My faith is very important to me – and when I realized that helping these young women was not just a whim – but a calling – I knew I had to get the courage no matter what, because it’s something that I absolutely had to do. I also thought through the risks, and decided that if I failed, it would be the biggest lesson I had learned to date, but if I succeeded, I could only imagine the number of lives we could touch with Flora Stationery.

Victoria: While Ashley was in Kosovo, we mainly communicated via Facebook chat and e-mails. I remember the day that she began telling me the story of a young woman she had just met, and how badly she wanted to be able to connect her with a scholarship to fund her education. Sharing Ema’s story with our peers was truly the catalyst that began Flora Stationery.

Because of Ema’s story, I have learned that stories are powerful.  They have the ability to change hearts and minds, and motivate change as well.

The moment I realized that I needed to do something was when I realized I couldn’t hear about a story like Ema’s and not work to make a change, especially when the paralyzing fear of what I didn’t know was trumped by the incredible power of a need greater than my fears.

How did you get started?  Where did you get the funding?

We initially started with a $350 from two separate fundraisers and a donation from an organization at Miami University. We have since grown by a lot, but we still get the majority of our funds to support the organization through the sales of our products. A percentage of the sales go directly to support the scholarships, while another percentage goes to support the organization. Currently, no one is paid for their work on Flora Stationery. My sister and I both work full-time jobs to support ourselves and the work of Flora.

How did you decide on the specific products you have now?

We wanted to focus on school-related products because we wanted it to tie into funding education somehow. That idea has kind of shifted to more of a focus on feminine and floral stationery products which reflect both the consumer and the women we support – who are strong, empowered, living life to its fullest potential.

What keeps you up at night?

Ashley: I stay up at night dreaming of the possibilities – for how many women we can support and grow our organization.

Victoria: I have a real fear of missing out. And when it comes to something that I am very passionate about, like Flora, it’s frustrating to think of the multitude of opportunities that we have to offer for those we haven’t even met yet. Connecting those in need with those who can support them all the possibilities stemming from those connections keep me up at night. But I also believe that this fear can turn into a paralyzing one where I grow passive in the fear of taking the wrong step. The solution I have found in these two parallels – is to simply begin. I’ve decided to take the first step and accomplishing the small things, which may eventually become the big things.

Tell us about your support system on this journey.

Victoria: We are so fortunate to have such a strong support system that has truly cheered us on the whole way. From college professors and business mentors that are willing to ask tough questions to friends and family that have truly invested their support in Flora, we have been so blessed by so many! There’s a lot of freedom from failure when you have a strong support system, and for that I am very thankful.

Tell us about your give-back model.  How do you do good?

Victoria: Our model is 40/60. Of all of the profit from each product we sell, 40% of it goes directly to our scholarship fund, and 60% goes back into our business in order for our operations to stay sustainable. We are also a 501(c)3 which enables us to maximize our impact in regards to how much we are able to give to the women in the scholarship fund. Because of our nonprofit status, we also accept donations that go on to grow our scholarship fund as well as assist in our programs we are developing for the future of Flora in Eastern Europe.

From mentoring programs that every woman we fund will complete throughout her school year to internship stipends and opportunities to help the women be job ready by the time they graduate into the workforce, we are excited about the ‘good’ we are able to do with so much support!

What’s the biggest sacrifice you’ve made?
Ashley VanBuskirk, Founder Flora Stationery | HeartStories

Ashley:  Time.  I was once asked in an interview if I ever thought I would regret dedicating the majority of my life in my early 20’s to something like this, and I realized after that question that I could either live for myself in this time or work hard to support the organization. Yes, I’ve spent an enormous amount of time working on Flora Stationery, unpaid. But the reward of supporting these young women and seeing the success of the organization is completely worthwhile.

If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?

Ashley: I would like to say that I should have started Flora Stationery after I had more years of experience in the business world – but I am so thankful for how we started Flora Stationery. I think our lack of experience and age isn’t a bad thing, in fact, I think it has been a positive thing pushing us forward.

Were there people who didn’t see the vision along the way?  How have you handled that?

Victoria: I think there will always be people who don’t believe in what you are working towards. I think the best way to handle those moments is with grace and understanding. Understanding why someone feels the way they do is not necessarily a stumbling block, but can actually be a positive opportunity to change the organization for the better.

What brings you the most joy?    

Ashley: Hearing the stories of the women we support and the impact that Flora Stationery’s support has had in their lives.

Victoria: Last summer, after our story was published in a local newspaper for the first time, the journalist reached out to me asking for my address. After sending it back to her, I received a letter a few days later from a 93-year-old woman, Gloria, who wished to order a journal, but did not have a computer to order our products online. Experiencing the determination of Gloria’s heart and the effort she took in order to support our cause was a moment that I won’t soon forget.  Her determination to pursue a cause she believed in was something that still inspires me today.

Victoria VanBuskirk, Founder Flora Stationery | HeartStoriesWhat would you say sitting across the table from another woman who says, “Sure. But you had money saved up, a spouse who can support you, a business degree, a support system, a platform, etc... You’re brave. You’re fearless and I’m risk averse, I’m … fill in the blank.” 

Victoria: We began this initially as a project that developed into a full-time passion in college. We were fortunate enough to not need a large amount of capital to develop and a supportive family. However, aside from those two components, starting a company with also a mission of directly supporting and managing scholarships has not been easy, but it has been worth it.

I have seen it to be true in my life and in many others – there will always be an excuse for inactivity, but rarely is an excuse needed for action. Start something that matters, pick up a book and learn from someone who inspires you to action.  Invest your time in places where you can combine your passions for a purpose, network with those who inspire you to do more, just do something!

Life is too shallow if lived for ourselves.

What advice would you give to someone, like me, who feels guilty about not buying everything from socially responsible companies? 

Ashley: It’s all about the intention of the consumer – don’t feel guilty about living in a world where convenience is valued above purpose – just choose to give and purchase with a purpose when you can and don’t stress about when you can’t purchase items with an impact!

Is there a quote you have on your desk, your wall, or just stored in your heart that keeps you going or lifts your spirits when you’re down?

Ashley:  “If the world is cold, make it your business to build fires.” ~ Horace Traubel

Victoria: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”  ~ Thomas Edison

What’s your favorite of all your products and why?

Victoria: I really love our new “A Note to Me and You” cards. They’re perfect for jotting down a quick reminder or sending a sweet note to a friend. The dual purpose of both a note card for notes and a post card is a concept I really love. And their design is subtle and confident, not over the top, so they match everything!

Do you feel like you’re the same person you were when you started Flora Stationery?

Victoria: I think everyone struggles with sharing and verbalizing their passions with their peers. Although I have been passionate about encouraging women’s education for a while, it was never something I vocalized. Since starting this journey with Flora, I have found that I am bolder in sharing my passions with others – because I know the power they have to make a difference – through Flora or whatever organization aligns with their interests.

How can we support you?

The best way to support our organization is partnering with us through giving time, money, or resources to help us continue to fund futures.

Simply purchasing our products supports our mission!

Thank you so much for opening your hearts to share your stories with us ladies.  I’m thrilled you’re joining us on this journey to live our heartstories.
Thank you both for leading the way.

 

To more love,

Crystal

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