Like many small business owners, wife and mother Jen Denslow didn't know what to expect in 2000 when she launched Blooming Lotus, a natural cosmetics company in Kansas City. But she did know she had a passion for creating organic skin care designed with the health of humans, animals, and the planet in mind, and this passion eventually formed the foundation for her popular product line.
Nevertheless, the road to long-term business success is filled with twists, turns and surprises, and Jen (pictured above with her family) negotiated one of the biggest of them in January when she announced that she was closing Blooming Lotus for good. Since most every small business owner thinks about chucking it all at some point, I asked Jen to share a little about her decision.
dM: When did you first begin to feel like, as much as you loved your business, it might be time to consider closing it down?
Jen: I agonized over this decision, as I absolutely love what I do. But the stress was getting to me. My business evolved in a way I'm sure many of your readers can relate to. I was the solopreneur for many years, juggling everything from creative vision and marketing to making sure we had toilet paper. I needed an employee but couldn't quite afford one. In hindsight, I would have hired an employee much sooner!
dM: What are some of the factors you considered?
Jen: The stress of handling everything from the big picture to the minutiae of a business, plus balancing motherhood, began to take its toll. About two years ago, I made a visit to the emergency room with heart attack symptoms. The doctors told me I needed to manage my stress and work cardio exercise into my schedule 5 days a week.
The thing is, I meditate and practice yoga and I eat very well. So the majority of the stress in my life comes from growing the business. I also experience chronic migraines and have some issues with hormone and thyroid balance. When you're curled up in a ball with a migraine, it really drives the point home: without your health you have nothing.
It doesn't matter that I love my work if I can't be there to do it.
All of this was very confusing. I promote health and wellness. I have a very healthy lifestyle. Yet good health was eluding me.
I discussed all of these things extensively with my husband, friends, and business adviser. I received very wise counsel, but only I could make this decision. It was hard. I wanted someone to tell me the right answer. But of course, the right answer is always within your own heart.
dM: When did you make the final decision, and what was that like?
Jen: I took some time over the 2009 December holiday break to solidify the decision. It is absolutely one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. I love to work!
My health issues were a major consideration but more importantly, I have an amazing 6-year old son who actually still likes hanging out with me. I want to create a lifestyle where I can spend the maximum amount of time with him while that is still possible.
I feel it is very important to model a strong work ethic for him. I'm sure I will always struggle with home/work balance. It is the gift and plight of the modern American woman.
However, I was at a point in my business where we were poised for extraordinary growth. Financially I couldn't keep things where they were not also sacrifice family dinners to take things to the next level. I have the passion and the drive to do it, but have to realize in the end love is what is real, not the amount of products I sell over my lifetime.
This sounds good, but it didn't make me immediately feel better. There is some relief in knowing how much my stress level is going to decrease. I'm so looking forward to more time for my son, my husband, my friends, my community and myself.
But I have to say this too. There is a definite grieving process. I have sacrificed so much and nurtured this vision for ten years. I am stubborn and I am not a quitter. It has been something to realize that this decision actually takes courage. Something along the lines of if you love something set it free.
I know I will rebuild something using all the lessons I have learned. But I have to accept that this particular business model does not work for my lifestyle right now.
I'm really excited about some of the opportunities that are already presenting themselves! I think the typical entrepreneur loves to dream and build, so I'm trying to stay focused on all the tasks at hand. There is a lot of work involved in closing down a business.
dM: How are your customers taking the news?
Jen: It's a mixed bag. Some understand, but many just can't accept it. January 2010 was our best month on record, making the decision even tougher.
My two favorite aspects of Blooming Lotus are formulating products and interacting with and educating the best clients on the planet. I have enjoyed hundreds of warm, supportive emails, calls and visitors In some ways, it makes it more difficult now that so many people are expressing how important the products are in their lives. I'm certain I will stay in touch with many of these people and they will be along for the next incarnation!
dM: Did you consider selling the business instead of dissolving it?
Jen: I am considering several options, and am in discussions with a few parties. Options include selling the business in its entirety, or selling it in separate parts like equipment, formulas, brand, website, etc. If one of the interested parties turns out to be a good fit, that would be fantastic. If not, I am just as happy to move forward with life.
I'd like to see the products and brand live on, but not in a diminished capacity. I am a total ingredient snob and my clients expect authentic, organic formulas with the highest quality ingredients. I would much rather walk away than know someone is going to corrupt the integrity of the products and business. The formulas and brand still have great value for some of my potential future projects.
dM: What were your best selling products through the years?
Jen: Fairy Mist (now called Euphoria) and the accompanying lotion Fairy Dew, Mandarin Rose Lip Conditioner (pictured above) and Chocolate Rose Body Polish.
dM: Thank you for sharing so authentically, Jen. As a wife, a mother and a busy CEO, I am listening carefully and learning from you. And by the way, I don't think I'm the only one looking forward to the next “incarnation.” Please keep us posted on your next big adventures and, first and foremost, take care of yourself.
Question: Have you ever closed a business, or considered doing so? What was it like for you? Share your thoughts in the comments below by midnight tonight to enter to win one of the last Blooming Lotus Mandarin Rose Lip Balms!