In January 2012, a group of strangers gathered around me to form my team for a local business building competition. Fifty-four hours later, this same team emerged victorious. We had won the first-ever Jacksonville Start Up Weekend at the University of North Florida, developing a company concept called “The Pinstitute”, a business which monetized projects on Pinterest. For the first half of that year, the work of turning “Team Pinstitute” into a real company, later renamed Mystikit, had become my extracurricular obsession. Every minute not at work or with my boys, was around a conference table at CoWork or on my laptop at home, trying to launch a start up.
And then I had coffee with a friend.
I learned about her decision to start her own business. She had begun selling a new (to me) anti-aging skin care line developed by Kathy Fields and Katie Rodan, the same two dermatologists who developed Proactiv. The company was attracting clients all around the US using a newly launched web-based business model, having already succeeded in retail (in places like Bloomingdales, Niemans and even Nordstrom, where it was a #1 clinical brand by 2007.) Consultants like my friend promoted the products and processed orders, while the headquarters handled inventory and took care of shipments direct to the clients.
She was running this business around her own full-time job, activities with her husband and two small children, and her many fitness and faith obligations. She did not host monthly meetings or parties. She did not have to drive around town delivering her orders. She had the full backing of the company with a money back guarantee on all sales, and was growing her business leveraging little pockets of time in her day. Three months in, she was killing it.
I compared the two businesses. MystiKit was a huge challenge and an adrenaline rush to work on. It was time consuming, untested, expensive and all-new, but it was so very exciting and I believed it could be a huge success. Rodan + Fields was a business that I could do while I was sitting in my car at red lights, waiting for my kids at soccer, or sitting in bed, drinking tea at 9 pm at night…and make money immediately. The products were terrific and I had an out, if I needed it. (60-day money back guarantee on new consultant kits.)
I wanted to do both.
I realized I could do both.
I should do both.
I would do both.
Three years later, when most studies say that more than one-third of all new businesses will have failed, I am happy to report that both businesses are still alive and well, albeit they don’t look like I thought they would.
MystiKit still operates today under the leadership of my co-founder, Felix Frayman. I left my post as CEO after more than 2 years, realizing that the only way for this idea to achieve maximum success was to have a full-time CEO. The decision to step down and let Felix take over was not an easy one, but it was the right one. I was not interested in leaving my full time job to run our business full time. That was that.
The 2+ years I spent as the CEO of a true startup are invaluable to me. Learning first hand about what it takes to get a new company off the ground from scratch, about how to raise external funding, how to take a concept from idea to reality, and to recruit top talent in a competitive market was like earning a second, and much more real, MBA.
My Rodan + Fields business is a whole other story. After nearly 3 years, I have been privileged to serve more than 100 clients around the US and work with dozens of women (and even a couple of men) on starting their own companies. And while this business is my own, I am not saddled with any of the significant overhead costs or administrative headaches that a “from scratch” business bears on its back.
The time I spend on my business is minor, compared to the personal, professional and financial rewards I have gleaned from it. What I thought would be a way to pay for the car payment or fund Christmas each year has far surpassed my expectations. Not only has the income been a boon for our family (more on that in a sec), but I have honed my coaching skills, strengthened my time management abilities, and thickened my skin. (I came into this business having harbored a few negative preconceptions about direct selling and I get that a lot of people do as well.) I have new friends and business partners all over the US and have learned from watching this company deal with its own “start-up” lessons due to unprecedented growth.
As for the profits, my R+F business has been in the black since October of 2012. Even better, it has been our family’s second largest source of monthly income. And the travel?!? Free trips to Napa Valley (April 2014), Nashville (September 2014) and San Francisco (November 2014 and the first kid-free vacation for me and HH since 2007!!) Now, I am on track to earn a trip to Mexico in the Spring of 2016.
I look back at my decision and I am still amazed I took the leap. With a full time job, three kids, AND another company to run, the least of my worries didn’t even seem to be that I had no knowledge of skin care. (I am embarrassed to admit I washed my face with a bar of yellow soap and I had the red, uneven skin to prove it.)
But I did it anyway. I jumped into a multi -billion dollar industry with what is now the 4th largest US skincare company. I have learned from amazing people, changed people’s skin, and helped others grow their own businesses. I am a better person for having taken this risk and it is only just getting started.
I’m always looking for smart, busy, and driven folks. It doesn’t matter if you live in Miami or Maine, New Mexico or Newfoundland (yes, we are in Canada), if you want to give it a go, we should be talking over a cup of coffee or connecting via cell while you are in the car running around in your own busy life.
Who knows where we’ll both be three years from now.