From left: Spirit Beauty Life, Face Oils - The first Love of My Life, The New Love of My Life, That one time everything was back in stock.
Where Is Spirit Beauty Lounge?
There are facts and myths out there about SBL and what has been happening over the last 2 years. I’ve wanted to share the truth with those of you who feel like in some ways you’re a part of SBL too, and I know there are many of you! There are those of you who don’t know me but have supported everything I do, those who have been shopping at SBL since 2008, those who just discovered SBL recently and haven’t even been able to shop but are dying to, those whose own brands got their start on SBL, or who’s green beauty journeys started on SBL, and those who trusted me implicitly to give you advice about your skin and even health for many years, because you knew that I had committed to doing something with integrity.
I wanted to spare you the details for some time because I hoped that in the end, they wouldn’t matter, but we’ve been out of products for a while now and I want to speak up, for you.
In short: I messed up. I gambled everything and lost.
In 2014 I was approached with a multi million dollar offer to sell the company. For my own reasons, advised by my trusted board, I turned the offer down and decided to accelerate SBL on my own. My plan was to launch a beautiful content site (Spirit Beauty Life) to complement our ecommerce site, and then seek minority stakeholder investors to take the whole SBL package to the Next Level. I got overzealous in self-funding the content site (paying models, photographers, researchers, editors), allowing SBL no reserve safety net and running it entirely on credit. The credit line suddenly, unexpectedly closed and the domino effect was catastrophic. Spirit Beauty Life never launched.
It was only a couple months after this business-crippling setback that I found out I was pregnant. This was the craziest roller coaster year of my life. The agony of slowly losing my first “baby” - my business - and the thrill of having a new baby at the same time. I cried. Every. Single. Day. It’s sort of epic poetry, isn’t it?
Since then there have been false starts and restarts. Friends and family rallied and put together enough $ to buy me more time which I used to prepare a presentation for investors, but in the compromised and distressed position SBL was in, I struggled to raise the investor interest that earlier I had actually been shooing away.
I honestly don’t know yet what will happen next for me or Spirit Beauty Lounge. As recently as last week I thought we'd have a Hail Mary deal with an investor that would allow us a fresh start, but even that is falling apart. It struck me that so many of you are actually entrepreneurs yourselves, or would like to be. I’ve met women at events who tell me that it was my business that inspired them to start their own, and who ask for advice.
If that’s you, through my wins and fails, I’d like to share what I’ve learned:
Raise Money BEFORE You Need Money.
Investors like to invest in inventory, marketing, hiring...things that will directly grow future business. They do not like to invest in debt.
So, while debt financing your growth is often preferred to equity financing (Some entrepreneurs would rather pay a debt five times over than give up 5% of their company.), if you know you're going to want to take on equity investors down the road, make sure you can clear your debts first.
A company's debts are like rotting fish to investors. While SBL looked exciting enough (as a thought leader in an emerging category) for them to take meetings, once they got a look at our balance sheet, for many it was an easy "nope."
It isn't about the amount of money you need, either. I probably could have raised twice as much as I was asking for as long as it was going toward newness and not toward old bills.
No Man is an Island.
People are sometimes shocked when they find out my company's executive leadership is just me. "That's amazing!" they say, as if I should be proud. Actually it's not amazing. Yes, through the seed and startup stage, by all means, do every job and micromanage every aspect of your business. I was proud when SBL reached the first $1M in revenue and I was still shipping out of a closet in my apartment. But if you are growing, there will come a time when you need some extension of your executive team and if you don't get it, the quality of everything you do will be compromised. I hesitated to get help for years because I felt no one I could afford would ever love or know the business the way I do. I never got around to getting the help I needed and the company suffered.
Love the Haters.
Without the gossip, the nasty remarks, the judgement and naysayers, I wouldn't be as motivated to keep going and always do better. So, I embrace it! Some people think that the Green Beauty world is all "Kumbaya"; that we all support each other and lift each other up when one of us needs it, and it can be. Through my toughest times, so many brands and customers offered help and moral support. But just like anything else, it's also competitive, even shady at times. There's jealousy and clique-iness and backstabbing. I don't like to see it or admit it but it's there. It can tear you down or keep you on your toes. I try to let it only do the latter.
An entrepreneur can't be risk averse. Every day you'll take chances and make decisions that have unknown consequences. You may be thinking "but that's what got you into this mess!"
Yeah but guess what - if I hadn't been bold, followed my heart and taken risks every day, I never would have made it as far as I did in the first place. I may lose SBL in the end but if I hadn't taken risks, I never would have had anything to lose. You can't let one failure make you afraid to make mistakes. Every setback and every fuck-up is a blessing, making you wiser and stronger if you let it.