Most of our Featured Member articles share the stories of our members who are moving and shaking, growing their Maker businesses, and using them to define success on their own terms. But once in a while, we celebrate a member's decision to move on. Today, I have one such “moving on” story to share with you.
This post showcases a husband and father who has decided to follow a new path, and it does not include his business baby: Bath Nation. Here is a bit about Curtis, and some of the reasons he has decided to walk away from Bath Nation.
dM: Curtis, tell me a little about your life.
Nicole and I were married in 2004, and in 2005 started our first business, Bathed & Infused, where we customized individual bath and body products for clients.
I know it goes against common advice to start a business with your spouse, but for us, it was a natural fit. I think it made us even better partners in marriage.
We had our first child in 2007, and we also bought a commercial building for the business that year.
It wasn't long before we discovered that baby businesses and baby babies are a challenging mix. Both require inordinate amounts of time and brain energy, and obviously the baby baby always wins over the baby business, so that was tough.
And because there wasn't enough stress in our lives at the time, we had our second child in 2010. They are now nearly 10 and 7 so some of our brain bandwidth has returned, but they still require a lot of time.
For those with good time management skills, this does not have to be a big problem. But if you're easily distracted like me, and you like to learn new things, it can be an issue. And it has been. And it's all connected to why I am closing down Bath Nation.
dM: Please share how Bath Nation came into existence.
Nicole and I had been running Bathed & Infused for about three years when an opportunity to buy Bath Nation arose. We wanted to get away from the customized, labor intensive nature of Bath & Infused, and with Bath Nation, instead of customizing everything, we were able to have a fixed number of product and fragrance offerings.
After a year of re-branding and re-tooling the formulas and fragrances, we re-launched Bath Nation in 2009.
dM: When did you begin to think about moving on from Bath Nation?
It really didn't take long. A year into owning Bath Nation, in 2010, we sold Bathed & Infused to an employee. We also sold our commercial building, and moved to a new home. (It was a stressful year, to say the least.)
If I could go back in time, that is when I probably should have seen the signs. Nicole's professional career had started to take off, so she was no longer as much of an active participant in Bath Nation as she had been. The babies were still very young, and my product photography side business had started to generate a decent bit of work.
While Nicole was still involved in the business, since her career was in full gear, it was mostly me. I did a bit of everything. I handled products, packaging, and website maintenance. I also handled most of the customer service. While I'm pretty good at it, the truth is that any kind of sales, especially cold calls either by phone, visit, or email, is a horror to me.
The problem is that I'm pretty much just a regular guy. I like getting greasy working on my car or doing DIY house projects. Going into spas and salons and selling lotion is completely out of my element.
I guess I should have known then, huh?
But maybe I'm just stubborn.
Since then, there have been a few times where I thought I should hang it up.
The last time I decided to call it quits was at the beginning of 2016, but when I was introduced to a sales person by a friend of a friend, I decided to hire her.
I wish I could say it all worked out, but after a couple of meetings and emails, she and I parted ways and I was right back where I started.
I decided I would try to get out again at the start of 2017, and here we are.
dM: Wow! It must be hard to go back and forth like that for such a long time. What are some of the other factors you considered?
Well, I just don't have all the tools to make Bath Nation happen by myself. As I mentioned above, my front-end skills are lacking. I'm just not good at selling lotion. Because of this, while Bath Nation has always supported itself, it has never been as profitable as I wanted it to be.
There is just no point in running a business if you can't sell the product effectively. If you don't sell consistently, you don't make consistent money.
At some point you just have know when to quit, and apparently I'm very bad at recognizing that. Another factor is that my photography business is slowly growing. Who knows what I could turn that into if I truly focus on it? And I enjoy it more. So that's what I might do. But I'm undecided on that at this point.
What I know now is that I want my Bath Nation journey to end.
dM: When did you make the final decision, and what was that like?
At the end of 2016 I decided it just needed to be done. My plan was to be all done with it by the first quarter of 2017. That passed. Then, the second quarter of 2017. That passed.
Part of the delay has been that we still have quite a bit of really high quality retail and bulk unscented inventory on hand, and it just makes sense to sell as much of it as possible before closing up shop. So we are working on that now. (See sale items below!)
dM: Now that you've made a final (final final) decision, how do you feel?
While the feeling is definitely freeing, it is also a little sad and bittersweet. I'm embracing it though, because what's worse (terrifying, actually) is the thought of being trapped in an endless cycle of my head deciding to get out, and my body deciding to stay in. That's been pretty miserable.
dM: How are your customers taking the news?
It's a mixed bag. Some understand, but many just can't accept it.
dM: So, what's next?
I had a meeting a few weeks ago with someone who is interested in buying the back bar portion of the business, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to just shut down the retail side of things and mothball Bath Nation. I just don't have the customer base and sales on the retail side to want to put in the time and headache of selling it.I have been considering holding onto the bathnation dot com URL, however. I actually think that may be more valuable than the inventory. I could hold onto it and maybe start a business I actually like in a few years. Maybe bath accessories! Or maybe I'll sell it. I'll figure it out, as it's not a priority right now.
Curtis Durham, Bath Nation
dM: What lessons can you share from your experience that will help other Makers?
I think I am the poster child for what not to do in the “fail fast” category.
When we started all this, we had no good exit strategy in place. Of course, in my case things changed over time with kids and Nicole's career, but still, it is good to have a plan to get out and to stick to the decision.
The mentality of “never give up” and “don't quit” are harmful, in my opinion. Sometimes never giving up leads to a lack of productivity on your part (earning money for yourself and your family) as well as a sense of resentment towards entrepreneurship. You can't pursue possibly better future opportunities if you keep hanging onto something that's not working right now.
I think that's a good lesson to pass on to everyone.
dM: Indeed it is, Curtis. Thank you for sharing so openly about your experiences.
Prices Slashed on Bath Nation Products!
You can get a hefty 50% discount on all Bath Nation products at their website, using the code: indie-business. Everything is moving quickly, so get over there before the Out Of Stock signs take over.
If you are interested in any of the company's bulk inventory, including body lotion and shower gel in 5-gallon pails and various bottles and jars, you can contact Curtis at curtis @ bathnation dot com to find out what is available at this point.
Join me in wishing Curtis the best on his next journey!
More Going Out of Business Success Stories
I've shared a few other “going out of business success stories” previously.