I Create Birmingham: Deborah and Alex Stone
“For as long as I can remember, my mom has been my best friend. I admired her work ethic and vision, and I never questioned her guidance. One piece of advice she gave me is, “Let other people’s ceiling be your floor.” She taught me that it was important to learn from others’ experience instead of the hard way or starting from scratch.”
Deborah Stone knows the meaning of family business. After making a name for herself with her eponymous spa in the 1990s, the skincare maven hired her parents to help run the successful business. So it’s no surprise that now, as the principal of Stone Hollow Farmstead, Deborah would partner with her daughter Alex to launch the farm’s urban outpost Farmstand by Stone Hollow and their home-grown skincare line Botanikō. The duo chatted with Create Birmingham this week about how their farming background and mother-daughter dynamic contribute to their successful business model.
The two of you describe yourselves as “farm girls,” but you have clearly put a considerable amount of work into keeping your branding for both Farmstand and Botanikō design-focused and elegantly elevated. How did farm life prepare you for the challenges of starting your own businesses?
Deborah: I grew up on a farm, and those early experiences shaped who I am. But I also remember being 16 years old, reading Vogue, and feeling inspired to celebrate the female spirit and chase my dreams. Over the course of my career, I certainly feel like I have come full circle and have found the balance between those seemingly separate worlds.
Farm life prepared me for so much. I never worried about providing for my family. I knew that I could always produce what I needed. On a farm, you are only limited by your physical abilities. It was a playground for my children, but I also feel like it instilled in them an entrepreneurial spirit because they experienced those limitless opportunities of growing what they wanted.
Alex: Working on a farm absolutely teaches you to be prepared for the unexpected. You have to make shifts because you can’t always control the conditions. That’s true for life. You’re always learning, cultivating, starting over. It’s like I grew up in a start up.
It’s clear that you two have a special relationship. Mothers and daughters can butt heads, even when they aren’t business partners. What makes your dynamic work?
Deborah: Alex and I are good at balancing each other out. She is much more detail-oriented than I am, and that can be annoying at times! I’m a big-picture person, and I want to dream. She’s always asking those pesky questions like, “Where are we going to do that? How long is that going to take? What do we need to accomplish that?”
Incorporating family into business has always felt natural to me. When I had the spa, we grew quickly and I realized I needed help. I hired my retired parents. My dad ran all the shipping and receiving, and my mom ran the cosmetic store. Working alongside them made me view them differently. They weren’t just these older folks anymore; they were funny and relaxed and kind of hippies, and I hadn’t seen them in that way before.I didn’t expect my children to want to work with me, but Alex had a natural interest in the farm and skincare. After school and an internship out in LA, she was ready to work and embraced the concept of Botanikō. She just jumped right in. She learns faster than I do, and I feel so confident in her ability to move our business forward and carry the torch.
Alex, how has your mom inspired you and shaped your own career?
Alex: I’m not sure if we’ve ever had a typical mother-daughter relationship. For as long as I can remember, my mom has been my best friend. I admired her work ethic and vision, and I never questioned her guidance. One piece of advice she gave me is, “Let other people’s ceiling be your floor.” She taught me that it was important to learn from others’ experience instead of the hard way or starting from scratch.
Mom and I are different, and we have unique skill sets. She has invaluable experience, and I have new ways of doing things, but we also share a lot of the same characteristics and have to push each other. Neither of us are particularly comfortable in the spotlight and realize that fame is relative. That is a big part of why we feel so happy to stay focused on Birmingham and have a strong local presence. We feel driven to serve, and that starts with our community.
Interview by Tonia Trotter
Photos by Ambre Amari