I am a wife. I am a mother. I am a daughter. These things do not define me, but refine me. These roles make me a better person. The responsibilities associated with these roles require that I be a leader and innovator. The strength and knowledge I've gained from performing these responsibilities have helped me successfully launch a new and exciting business in a highly competitive and male dominant industry.
I'm not a health nut, but I can't ignore the news about pesticide risks. As a mother, I see it as my duty to protect my family from anything that may bring them harm. As a member of the same small community for my entire life, I also care deeply about the health and well-being of all the people around me. The area that we live in tests high for nitrates in the water due to farm runoff. We made a significant investment in water purification systems in our home and places of business, so that I know my family and customers - both local and national - have the healthiest option.
When I was advised that I needed to spray the inside of our local restaurant once a month for insects… I cringed! I eat there. My family eats there. Thousands of other people eat there. I don't want a mystery chemical sprayed where food is stored, prepared and served! I quickly sought a solution. Luckily, it wasn't far away. Along with our small restaurant, our family has always been in the limestone business. We were able to naturally convert the strongest type of limestone, hydrated lime, into a safe form that still dehydrated and repelled insects. Unlike, the normal hydrated lime, or barn lime you've always been able to find in stores, our new limestone based product is both safe and non-caustic to humans. So, with my sister's support, we started our business.
We made it for ourselves and anyone else who was in need of a pesticide alternative. We researched, built our plant, and hit the market. First Saturday Lime was made to be applied once a month, on the “First Saturday" of the month. We offer a subscription service as well as fun giveaways and reminders on the first Saturday of every month. The demand for our product grew exponentially.
Through production, study, and customer interaction, we discovered this all-natural product, due to its harmless nature, had a host of other uses!
After some student testing, we found that it qualifies as a sanitizer, and has now taken off with the farming community to treat chicken coops and horse stalls for bacteria.
It is also used as algae and mosquito prevention in standing water. It can also be used as a chalk paint. A few customers used First Saturday Lime to successfully deodorize some stinky situations and now it is widely used for just that. The list of uses keeps growing.
I mentioned my sister earlier, but what I said wasn't enough… not nearly enough. I wouldn't have started this business without her. She is my driving force and my strongest ally. We are highly critical of each other's work, but we complement each other well, and together we've built and continue to grow a company in which we are both extremely proud of. We have both learned to not take anything personally. We accept feedback and step in when one or the other needs help. When you're related, it's often better to keep family matters separate from business matters. But on the other hand, I consider the other employees in our privately owned businesses as family. We care about each other. We care about the product. We care about our customers. We care about the world!
I don't know what it's like to be a white man… or African American, or Mexican, or homosexual or transsexual, and so on, but I do know what it's like to be a woman. Although I do feel very fortunate, I can admit that at times things have been tough and seemed unfair. Ok, they were definitely unfair. But, as I often tell my children, “That's life!" It has made me who I am, and I see myself as strong. Sometimes, I imagine trading it for the ability to pee standing up. Oh, to be able to take a 5 minutes shower! And it would be nice to know I'm not being judged differently because I'm wearing a dress instead of a suit. However, it doesn't take much consideration to know that I would never make that trade.
The lawn and garden industry may be historically male dominant, but the purchasing power of customers has become more and more female-driven. As women working in the industry, we recognized, respected and most importantly related to what women want. It turns out that many men want the same thing. They've just been doing it the same way too long without any alternatives.
We were happy to shake things up! One thing I have learned, male or female, is don't be afraid to accept help. Also, keep close the important things in life. Don't let the things that can't be replaced slip away. Choose your time wisely. It may be fun to “network" but make sure it's with people who value your time as much as you do. Know your audience, recognize the situation, and always act accordingly. Starting a business comes with a series of unknowns, but always maintain your composure and confidence when it counts most. It should be fun, but it's still serious business. You invest so much time and money, don't let an opportunity to impress slip through your fingers.
Communication is key. New ideas and exponential amounts of new tasks are common occurrences that must be delegated in a startup business, and as Owner and CEO, I often forget people can't read my mind. Furthermore, the more brains, the better. Yes, two are better than one, but you don't have to stop there. Let as many people as you trust critique, proof, edit and contribute to everything you can. My brain is wired for engineering and math. So, I get as many eyes on things as I can before hitting send. For example, I consulted with my sister on the content of this article. Also, this would also be a good time to thank my wonderful husband for proofreading the final product. (Editor's note: Her husband is happy to help and is a very lucky man.)
I try to live with no excuses. For anything. Stepping on toes rarely breaks bones. You have to open some doors yourself. In the hectic pace of a startup company that is full of passionate people, it's easy to overreact and lose one's temper. But I try to see all people for who they are. I try not to judge. The only thing I care about is treating people kindly. I care about caring. If what you believe and want to do doesn't hurt others, I support you and your decisions. I am no better than anyone else. I do, however, work very hard.
We created First Saturday Lime to help people, to protect children and animals, and to provide safe alternatives to other people who care. It brings me joy to contribute something that is safe for the environment when the alternatives can be detrimental. Maybe it's that sense of accomplishment that compels me to move forward. Maybe that's selfish. But if that's my downside, then I will take it.
"Steal the mesh underwear you get from the hospital," a friend said upon learning I was pregnant with my first daughter.
It was the single best piece of advice I received before giving birth in December 2013. My best friend delivered her daughter eight months previously, and she was the first to pass along this shared code among new moms: you'll need mesh underwear for your at-home postpartum recovery, and you can't find them anywhere for purchase. End result: steal them. And tell your friends.
My delivery and subsequent recovery were not easy. To my unexpected surprise, after almost 24 hours of labor, I had an emergency C-section. Thankfully, my daughter was healthy; however, my recovery was quite a journey. The shock to my system caused my bloated and swollen body to need weeks of recovery time. Luckily, I had trusted my friend and followed her instructions: I had stolen some mesh underwear from the hospital to bring home with me.
Unfortunately, I needed those disposable underwear for much longer than I anticipated and quickly ran out. As I still wasn't quite mobile, my mother went to the store to find more underwear for me. Unfortunately, she couldn't find them anywhere and ended up buying me oversized granny panties. Sure, they were big enough, but I had to cut the waistband for comfort.
I eventually recovered from my C-section, survived those first few sleepless months, and returned to work. At the time, I was working for a Fortune 100 company and happily contributing to the corporate world. But becoming a new mom brought with it an internal struggle and search for something “more" out of my life--a desire to have a bigger impact. A flashback to my friend's golden piece of advice got me thinking: Why aren't mesh underwear readily available for women in recovery? What if I could make the magical mesh underwear available to new moms everywhere? Did I know much about designing, selling, or marketing clothing? Not really. But I also didn't know much about motherhood when I started that journey, either, and that seemed to be working out well. And so, Brief Transitions was born.
My quest began. With my manufacturing and engineering background I naively thought, It's one product. How hard could it be? While it may not have been “hard," it definitely took a lot of work. I slowly started to do some research on the possibilities. What would it take to start a company and bring these underwear to market? How are they made and what type of manufacturer do I need? With each step forward I learned a little more--I spoke with suppliers, researched materials, and experimented with packaging. I started to really believe that I was meant to bring these underwear to other moms in need.
Then I realized that I needed to learn more about the online business and ecommerce world as well. Google was my new best friend. On my one hour commute (each way), I listened to a lot of podcasts to learn about topics I wasn't familiar with--how to setup a website, social media platforms, email marketing, etc. I worked in the evenings and inbetween business trips to plan what I called Execution Phase. In 2016, I had a website with a Shopify cart up and running. I also delivered my second daughter via C-section (and handily also supplied myself with all the mesh underwear I needed).
They say, “If you build it, they will come." But I've learned that the saying should really go more like this: “If you build it, and tell everyone about it, they might come." I had a 3-month-old, an almost 3 year old and my business was up and running. I had an occasional sale; however, my processes were extremely manual and having a day job while trying to ship product out proved to be challenging. I was manually processing and filling orders and then going to the post office on Saturday mornings to ship to customers. I eventually decided to go where the moms shop...hello, Amazon Prime! I started to research what I needed to do to list products with Amazon and the benefits of Amazon fulfillment (hint: they take care of it for you).
Fast forward to 2018...
While I started to build this side business and saw a potential for it to grow way beyond my expectations, my corporate job became more demanding with respect to travel and time away from home. I was on the road 70% of the time during first quarter 2018. My normally “go with the flow" 4-year-old started to cry every time I left for a trip and asked why I wasn't home for bedtime. That was a low point for me and even though bedtime with young kids has its own challenges, I realized I didn't want to miss out on this time in their lives. My desire for more scheduling flexibility and less corporate travel time pushed me to work the nights and weekends needed to build and scale my side hustle to a full-time business. If anyone tries to tell you it's “easy" to build “passive" income, don't believe them. Starting and building a business takes a lot of grit, hustle and hard work. After months of agonizing, changing my mind, and wondering if I should really leave my job (and a steady paycheck!), I ultimately left my corporate job in April 2018 to pursue Brief Transitions full-time.
In building Brief Transitions, I reached out to like-minded women to see if they were experiencing similar challenges to my own--balancing creating and building a business while raising children--and I realized that many women are on the quest for flexible, meaningful work. I realized that we can advance the movement of female entrepreneurs by leveraging community to inspire, empower, and connect these trailblazers. For that reason, I recently launched a new project, The Transitions Collective, a platform for connecting community-driven women entrepreneurs.
As is the case with many entrepreneurs, I find myself working on multiple projects at a time. I am now working on a members-only community for The Transitions Collective that will provide access to experts and resources for women who want to leave corporate and work in their business full-time. Connecting and supporting women in this movement makes us a force in the future of work. At the same time, I had my most profitable sales quarter to date and best of all, I am able to drop my daughter off at school in the morning.
Mesh underwear started me on a journey much bigger than I ever imagined. They sparked an idea, ignited a passion, and drove me to find fulfillment in a different type of work. That stolen underwear was just the beginning.