If someone had told me 17 years ago that I would leave a TV marketing career to become a self-taught carpenter and founder of a kids’ furniture company, I would have said they were crazy.
Truth be told, it was kind of crazy to think I could compete with multimillion-dollar brands founded by folks with big money and fancy design degrees from Parsons School of Design. (SIDE NOTE: I don’t have a BA in Design but I did go to the ‘Barry Parsons’ School of Design in Ohio (wink, wink). And I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Watching my dad take old high school bleacher boards, plane them down, and build furniture out them taught me more about design, hard work, and perseverance than a four-year design degree ever could.)
Today, on December 31, 2023, I’m honored that you’re reading my goodbye letter to my company/crazy idea that helped make me who I am today. All the exhilarating highs (like Shark Tank and NOT accidentally cutting my fingers off) and the heart-wrenching, embarrassing lows (too many to list) now slot together in my mind like mortise and tenon joints. Without one, I wouldn’t have the other; however, I sure do wish I’d done a few things differently. The path isn’t always clear, is it?!
What was clear from the start is that the calm, quiet voice (aka, intuition) that encouraged me to climb into my minivan and drive down to the lumberyard was and will always be a gift. It changed my life.
While I never reached millionaire status with Mod Mom (despite what the internet says) and I’ve had pride-swallowing conversations with my incredible investors telling them, “I’m sorry I couldn’t do what I set out to do with Mod Mom,” I’m most proud of the fact that I tried. I kept on keeping on, as they say. I kept the faith, even when the dream job known as the Frank Lloyd Wright design deal fell apart at the beginning of Covid (top tip: don’t launch a new product at the beginning of a pandemic.)
I kept going…
Even when the one female shark I thought would have my back on Shark Tank point blank said on national TV that the two male Sharks offering deals were doing so in part because, in her words… “you’re pretty…it’s an advantage, play it up.”
Even when multimillion-dollar licensing deals (plural) fell apart.
Even when my manufacturer stopped paying my royalty checks more than two years ago.
Even when I started getting calls from other designers and vendors telling me that my manufacturer was using my name and brand to get new clients, only to cheat them out of tens of thousands of dollars.
Well, in that last case, I kept on but in a different direction. I was grateful to be able to connect her with the only manufacturer I’ve ever fully trusted: Ray Yoder and team at L&J Woodworking in Dundee, Ohio. I love full-circle happy endings. (Check out these adorable mud kitchens from Monarch Studio!)
With all that said, the hard stuff will always pale in comparison to good that came from my startup journey and the invaluable life lessons I learned along the way. I am forever grateful for the beautiful families (my own family included) who bought and/or supported my line of products, the investors who believed in me, the bloggers, journalists, artists, interior designers, industry colleagues, distributors, and producers all over the world who have supported Mod Mom Furniture over the years. You helped me believe in myself, even when the odds were stacked against me.
I never dreamt I would be an entrepreneur, let alone a thirty-something mom in a garage without a design degree or carpentry experience who somehow caught lightning in a bottle in the early aughts. During the first three years of Mod Mom, I built and sold close to 400 toy boxes and play tables, fielded inquiries from retailers from 17 different countries, and sold my garage-made furniture to celebs Camilla Alves and Matthew McConaughey, Christina Applegate and Martyn LeNoble, and Rachel Zoe and Rodger Berman. This was all before I stepped onto the Shark Tank sound stage. I have so many great memories from those days.
I realize that when most companies close shop, they go quietly into the night. And that’s a wonderful way to bow out. I considered that; truth be told. But I also know that I’m not exactly someone who doesn’t talk about the ups and downs of life.
So, here I am talking about the sometimes painful, many times wonderful, life-changing rollercoaster of entrepreneurship and the end of an incredible 17-year journey.
Last night, I spent some time looking back on photos from my years in the garage, and I am most proud that my girls saw me covered in sawdust, creating something from scratch. In those moments, they learned that they could be anything they want to be, regardless of what others think or say. They just need to muster the courage to try.
Even if it means you risk falling flat on your face.
Even if it means you’re in tears during hard moments.
Even if it means it’s time to let go of what was to open the door for what’s to come.
It’s that time, now. I’d like to say I’m ready for what’s to come, but the truth is, I don’t know that I am.
All I know is that I’ll muster the courage to try, whatever it is.
Here’s to endings, new beginnings, and the next crazy idea….
Mod Mom Blog