Dani and I are super fortunate to have been invited to speak to various groups of people, most contemplating starting their own businesses, while others are in the very beginning stages of startup life.
The common theme, I think everyone would agree is, “It’s really hard, starting and running your own business.” That it is. I certainly wouldn’t disagree. The long hours, the mountain of paperwork to make yourself compliant and legal, the lack of free time and the even greater lack of disposable income. (NO money). All of these factors contributing to your lying in bed every night, asking yourself why you even thought this endeavor was a good idea.
When we first opened our doors, the feeling of overwhelming exhaustion and lack of industry experience were constant reminders of why not everyone is cut out to do their own thing. Dani and I slowly chugged along, gained confidence, hired wicked smart people and kept the faith, that at some point in time, we would take a breath and look back at what we had accomplished with pride.
From the very beginning of Wicked Good, I had worried about Dani’s changing persona. Her usual carefree butterfly chasing self, changed. It darkened. She became sad, withdrawn and introverted. I initially blamed it on her leaving college, not having clear focus, an achieve-able life plan and living in a failing, toxic relationship with a boyfriend that was eating her alive.
Once we aired on Shark Tank and business literally blew up 600%, things became really tough for her. (Tough for us all but REALLY tough for her.) Now I attributed some of the personality changes on her sheer exhaustion, her having to move back home and her separation from friends.
The defining moment when we knew she needed help was a day at the shop when she dropped a spoon and had a complete breakdown. Not long after that incident she was diagnosed with Bi-Polar Disease. Thank you Life.
Two years after airing on Shark Tank, I received a call from my youngest brother. My mother was in Israel and didn’t know who or where she was. And to top it off, she had fallen into the Dead Sea, completely submerged and ended up with Chemical Pneumonia. My dad, at home in Florida was calling us and was asking us to “Storm the jail and spring her.” WHAT??? Come to find out a few months later, both parents had Alzheimer’s Disease. Yup. Both of them.
You’re wondering how did we not know? Well, it was easy enough for them to hide. They lived in FL. My mom didn’t put my dad on the phone and she sounded fine during a 5 minute conversation. Clearly after the Israel incident, it was evident to us they were in crisis mode and needed our immediate help.
My brother, Dani and I cleaned out and sold their home. Scott and I left our place in Boston, bought a house on the South Shore and moved them in with us. After months of sorting through their tangled mess of financials and no insurance… We began the arduous journey of trying to get them on Medicaid. (Did I mention they had nothing left and we had no clue?) This was now three years after our airing on Shark Tank. We were still growing like crazy, hiring and adding new product. We were traveling to do tv, radio and speaking engagements. It was total chaos.
What’s that Life? That wasn’t enough stress? Also during this time, our CFO and CTO, my husband and Dani’s stepdad Scott, found out his dad was dying of cancer. Scott’s parents were living in Stowe, VT. Taking care of them long distance along with dealing with my folks and their quickly progressing Alzheimer’s and managing a rapidly growing business wasn’t an option. Six months after moving my folks into our home, we moved Scott’s parents in with us too.
Now we had 4 other adults depending on us. One wearing a GPS tracking device, one leaving water running and flooding the house, one dealing with hospice and his own mortality and another preparing to lose her husband and best friend.
Scott’s dad passed 6 weeks after moving in with us. I remember that day so well. I was in PA doing a session on QVC. I was beside myself. Work and Life were at odds and I felt so caught in the middle. I wasn’t there for my husband, my daughter and the rest of my family. It sucked.
My final breakdown came the day I found my father and mother at the top of a massive staircase in the house. He had tied her up with dental floss (you CANNOT make this sh*t up), had both her arms gripped tightly in his hands and said he was “preventing her from escaping the compound.”
OMG. What if he had pushed her down the stairs and killed her? I had hired in-home care but it was apparent 5 days a week wasn’t enough anymore. It was clear they had to be moved into a nursing home where they would have 24/7 supervision and more importantly, be safe.
During this time, we were building out a brand new 21,000 sq ft facility in MA, moving and building our new Faneuil Hall destination, still growing, still hiring and training new employees. There were more speaking engagements, more tv and more products to test and launch.
Work started to become a refuge. It was my escape from my life which was spinning out of control. I had to take my mom’s driver’s license away from her. I had to tell both of them they were going into a nursing home. (Thank God I have a great brother, sister-in-law and husband who were there with me). I had become their parent and I was so resentful and angry that all of this was happening. At work we were planning our franchise model, we had interest in international licensing deals. More travel, more tv and radio, more mentoring and more growth.
I know all of you reading this have similar stories. Please understand I’m not whining. Compared to some, we’ve had it easy. It’s just Life being Life.
But the message I want to share with everyone is simple. You think starting a business is hard? Wait until you have to add Life to the mix. Life is not an option. It just happens.
If I had not had the support of our amazing coworkers who rallied around us and literally pulled our weight along with their daily duties, if I didn’t have a close and loving family willing to put each other first, I don’t know how I would have gotten through such sorrowful, frustrating and dark time.
And while we can’t predict what Life and business will throw our way, we can try and have some contingency plans in place. Surround yourself with a rock star team. Keep the lines of communication open should something appear on the horizon. Contingency plans are life/business savers.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to be human. Cry, shout, scream into a pillow. Whisper in a coworker’s ear. Let others help. Trust me. They want to. And you need them to.
In closing, know this. Life will bring some difficult, sad and challenging times your way. There will definitely be days where you’ll find yourself questioning, “Why me?”
But you know what? it’s certainly better than the alternative. Always remember…You got this.
Now get out there and kick Life’s a$$.