I turn 39 this Friday, and I started my first biz when I was 22. It feels like a long time ago. I took $1500 of babysitting money, and over the course of the next ten years, turned it into a business doing almost two million dollars gross annually. It was awesome, until it wasn’t. Young, and lacking knowledge about leadership or business, I made some assumptions about life, my skills and abilities as a business person.
After ten years of business, the business ended up filing bankruptcy, due to a multitude of reasons. I believe in taking ownership of mistakes, so I have to say some of it was my fault; but some of it, truly, was out of my control. Ultimately, we ended up suffering from the hit of a bankruptcy roll-back, when the trustee of the bankruptcy of one of our customers came to us and asked us to pay them back the money that customer had previously paid us. We barely had the next week’s payroll, let alone the sum they were requiring of us.
Around that time, I had been working on an idea for a planner for about two years. The same week I found out we would have to file bankruptcy, we had launched Day Designer as a separate company. It was a last-ditch effort to try to make the money to keep us from filing, but it didn’t work fast enough.
Life was at the lowest of low points. Between business bankruptcy, three small kids under the age of three, and a marriage that was struggling with my husband’s own financial indiscretions, there was so much self-doubt. I felt like a fluke, and didn’t know if I had what it would take to get another business off the ground, and keep it running, sustainably.
With one business already failed, I wanted, and started praying for, a redemption story. I didn’t know what that would look like, and I didn’t expect it to be financial. I just knew I wanted to do something different with this business, this time around. It took me six months to sell the first 500 planners, and then, by the grace of God alone, sales started to double and triple.
About two years into the planner business, we were approached by Blue Sky, a company that had a relationship with mega-retailer Target, and they asked if I would ever be interested in designing products for Target. (ha!) That was the start of a licensing relationship that, under my leadership, would release three years worth of product into Target stores nationwide. In so many ways, that success was redemption enough. But as the business was succeeding, I was also starting to feel pulled in another direction—the desire to be a mom. In 2016, Blue Sky asked if I would be interested in selling, we came to an agreement, and the business was sold.
Long story (literally) short, I was on cloud nine. It felt like a literal dream come true. After four years of praying for a redemption story and having that deep, deep desire to spend more time with my kids placed on my heart, it was finally happening. I started last year so full of joy. The kids were part of a part time homeschool program, and we were going to spend that year reading books and making memories and I was going to be a “real” mom! (You know, like the ones I see on Instagram?)
And then my husband came to me. Again. In debt. Again. I won’t go into detail on this here, except to say that I have his permission to discuss this and our lives are a work in process in this area.
We were able to sell his business, by the grace of God (I should throw in an “again” for that) and now we’re this weird spot again. It feels like valley and famine, not mountain top and feast. And here’s what I’ve learned:
- It doesn’t matter how many “successes” (by the world’s definition) you’ve had in life. In that valley, at the start of every new mountain, you’ll wonder again if you have what it takes. And that means you’re human, you’re learning and growing, and thankfully, you’re humble enough to know that it’s not you at the helm anyway.
- Fear never really goes away. Starting two multi-million dollar businesses doesn’t mean I’m any less afraid to try to start a third. Having done it before isn’t a guarantee I can do it again. The fear is always there, and on top of that fear, in order to create action, I have to develop the habit of doing it scared. Start despite the fear.
- Telling the story helps lessen the fear. Telling puts that habit muscle into practice. The story is old news to me, something I want to bury under a pile of shame, which I successfully do when I DON’T tell it. But when I do tell it, I get to own it, free of shame, free to live in the light, free to encourage others.
- Comparison is the lie Satan will use to keep us from telling our stories. I know we all have stories of failures and fears, restarts and quitting, rough edges and dark spots. Those of us who feel those weights need to be a voice, especially now, in this day and age of curated perfectionism. There is nothing wrong with excellence and beauty, and we should all pursue those traits, as they are reflections of the Gospel that is so graciously offered to us all. But if we allow comparison to silence us, because we think we are not enough, we are hiding our lights, and the evidence of a merciful Savior at work in our lives.
So that’s where we are.
The story doesn’t get easier to tell or own, but it’s part of a continuous redemption story He has promised to make of my life, and that means He has tasked me—and all of us—with the telling of it.
What’s your story?
Side note: several people have asked “what’s next” for us. David is currently working on establishing a real estate career over at Front Porch Family. I’m dabbling in local retail with Gingham Home, wrestling with knowing I’ve been given entrepreneurial gifts, but also want to “just be a mom” during these long days/short years. We are praying a LOT. The best place to follow our journeys is currently over on Instagram.