I used to own a bath and body care company. We started it in my garage in 2009, made soap, bath bombs, shower bombs, body butter, body polish, salt soaks and a bunch of other great stuff with the best ingredients, by hand. It was a great concept, we made wonderful things. So wonderful that lots of people loved them, the business grew, it grew way faster than we were ready for. The project that I originally thought would be a weekend farmers market project rapidly took over my life.
We rented a store front in Silverlake, we had dreams of a little retail space and being creative in a hip little store where we got to hang out and drink delicious Intelligentsia Latte’s making hand-made, organic body products. In the time between summer and the holiday season ,we suddenly had accounts that wanted 30,000+ units of our products and it was just me and my business partner, who had pneumonia.
I called in every moving favor I had ever done, my friends (I love, appreciate and adore you all for saving my ass) and I stayed up all night for weeks, working on the sidewalk and between stacks of container boxes that reached the 15-foot ceilings, to meet the orders. We pulled it off. It was amazing. They ordered again. We panicked and moved the whole operation to an industrial space a few weeks before Christmas and did all over again in 2 weeks what had previously taken us nearly 6 weeks. I slept on the floor eating $.50 cent frozen burritos for weeks to meet our orders. That became the pattern for the next several years starting early October I rarely went home and the running joke around the shop was that my business partner had a yearly cycle and November signaled his “holiday hospital visit” for pneumonia. By the end of our first year we were courting multiple large-scale wholesale accounts, had been to our first large scale trade show, had several permanent employees, and dreams of growing the company to rival Burt’s Bees, sell the company and then retire wealthy in 5-7 years.
As it grew, the daily operating costs also grew, by the time I was forced to step away from the company in 2015 the company was verging on surpassing a million in sales and our monthly operating costs were approximately $40,000 a month to keep ingredients in stock, the doors open, the lights on, the shipping account active, the liability insurances active, and the employees showing up. Some months, like near the holidays, when we had as many as 30 temporary employees to meet our demand, working 24 hour shifts, it was significantly more. We took on investors, selling off shares of our hard work and dreams just to keep the shipping account on and ingredients showing up. This is all without the two of us (the owners) receiving a paycheck most months.
One of my greatest joys was meeting other people who aspired to start their own small businesses or were building a business and wanted to talk strategy and ways to pursue their dreams. This turned into several people I would meet with and mentor. It was some of the most satisfying use of my time, definitely time well spent.
In 2014, 5 years into building our company, my wife was diagnosed with brain cancer, we went from hardly seeing each other because I was working 17-hour days, 7 days a week to brain surgery 2 weeks after her diagnosis. Suddenly my priorities shifted. For the next year or so, while she went through treatment and nearly died several times I was constantly at her side, caring for her, managing her treatment and coordinating with the 27 teams of doctors who were involved with the process, as she reacted so poorly to treatment. I could no longer split my energy between my relationship and my business, and my business partner wasn’t ready to explore selling the company, it took nearly a year to separate with the help of my attorney, but it was for the best.
2 years later, when I could finally think about what we were going to do, because we were finally, fairly sure my wife would survive, our options for earning a living were much changed from what they’d been prior to her illness. While I could go back to my previous vocation of massage therapist and doula, my wife still wasn’t able to do much on her own for a few years (she’s just recently gone back to seeing clients, teaching massage, heck, she just started driving a few weeks ago after nearly 4 years off), we needed something that had the potential of earning us money no matter what was going on in our life, a business that wasn’t reliant on us being present, trading time for money. After having to fundraise and relying on the generosity of friends and strangers to ensure we weren’t homeless and hungry due to her illness, I never wanted to face the lack of surety that having a job or business that relies on you being constantly present brings. We’d been customers of the company I work with for years, the products were key in supporting her during her illness. We looked over the compensation plan and decided to finally go all in to build it as a business.
It’s been about a year now, we have a 4-year plan that puts me retiring from all my other odd jobs and office work that I picked up to make ends meet, in 2020. Which seems crazy when you think of it, retiring at 47. But the industry I’m in now creates wealth for more people than any other industry. In fact, it does this for more women than any other industry. I essentially own a franchise, I can sell it, my family can inherit it when I die, only I don’t carry all the risk. I have to put in work, but I’m not hauling 50 pound boxes of shea butter or cold calling stores all over the world to send out samples of our product anymore, with this business it’s about building relationships and finding ways to help people, with their health or for a small number of them, helping them pursue financial freedom for themselves by building their own business, my focus is about being of service to others now. It’s different work, I have a few part-time jobs right now and still devote 2-5 hours most days to building the business, it’s a lot of work. The thing is, I’m no stranger to the hard work it takes to build a business, and this is a business. The thing about it is instead of $40,000 a month to keep the doors open, my overhead is a few hundred a month, I don’t have to manage shipping, staff, insurances, my stress levels are significantly lower than when I owned the traditional physical business. I’d rather put the work in to build this business, one that has so much less risk for the potential reward. As a bonus, a key part of it all is mentoring other people in finding the path they want to pursue to create their own branch of this business and pursue their dreams. I love it.
Feel free to ask me about what I’m doing if you’re looking for an opportunity!