To my friends and community here at MLMH,
As a small business owner, parent, and provider, the last three years have proven to be quite the rollercoaster ride. We have all collectively navigated through some of the wildest, and uniquely difficult experiences. In 2020, our community was brought together closer than ever before as we bonded over being home with our families and navigating a pandemic for the first time in our lives. I felt honored to have such a loving and supportive and community that continued to bond over what united us, instead of focusing on what didn’t. Many of our community members had no close family to connect with and our little corner of the internet was the only place the felt supported and seen. Witnessing that firsthand was nothing short of amazing.
From a business perspective, we had an exceptionally difficult time keeping up with the demand for our products – that was quite a hectic time, yet a major bright spot! As we moved into 2021, inventory challenges began and continued to arise, we could not secure many products as warehouses and manufacturers were attempting to catch up from months of shutdowns. Behind the scenes, this left me feeling frustrated and unsure of what was to come and unfortunately for us, it continued to get worse before it got better. Whenever I could secure inventory of a product, I purchased a significant amount more than normal because the truth was that I didn’t know when the next time I’d be able to purchase it.
As 2021 winded down, I felt confident as a business owner. We had a successful online and brick-and-mortar store and consistent sales, we were definitely heavy on inventory but I was sure we’d sell through it eventually. It was the fall of 2021 when I was approached by a marketing firm that led me down a path I now wish I hadn’t chosen. I’d like to preface this by saying that I did not launch this company with the hopes of becoming “rich”, in fact, I launched it because I wanted the time freedom to raise my kids, I wanted my friends to feel comfortable and confident in their clothing, and eventually, with the addition of our coffee line, I wanted to share damn good coffee with the world. But when this marketing firm told me I could really scale my business up with some Facebook ads, and reach more people than ever before – I took the bait. I remember the line that made me feel understood as a small business owner, “Your sales are great, very consistent, but at that number I bet there isn’t much left over for YOU at the end of the month, is there?” No. There was not. Which again, was not why I got into small business ownership but the thought of increasing sales, growing our community, selling through our steep inventory, and being able to pay myself more than a few hundred bucks a month was what sold me.
I took the bait, pulled out a loan big enough to make anyone queasy, and over the next six months sunk more than $100,000 into marketing campaign after marketing campaign. I knew this was a calculated risk, but I did not know how dramatically it would alter the course of business. I wanted these campaigns to succeed so badly I put a lot of pressure on myself to create new product after new product and by early 2022 I was exhausted. I cut my losses, fired the marketing firm and attempted to build momentum myself. But the truth is, my heart was not in it, I was tired, and for the first time ever I was creating just to create – not because I LOVED it. By July of 2022, my sights were on our next milestone as we approached the two year mark in our current brick-and-mortar spot, I really had some soul searching to do and some decisions to make.
By this time, many of us were feeling the squeeze of inflation as parents and providers. The cost of gas and groceries soared and we began to cut spending where we could to make up for it. I was doing this, and as a business owner, I could see other people doing this in the reflection of our sales as they drooped. It was late summer 2022 when my landlord gave us the option to leave our current store or commit to another 12 months and feeling stretched so thin, I chose to leave.
By 2022, I am no stranger to moving. I had another brick-and-mortar store in 2016/2017 that I had moved into and out of because we outgrew it, the space could no longer handle the number of orders and products we needed it to contain and so, we closed it and went back to online-only while I attended as many local craft fairs and vendor events as possible. But this move in 2022 was different. I had sunk more of my heart and soul into this store than anything I’d ever done, and we’d hosted more events here than I had ever before. I didn’t want to leave this space, but faced with the unknown of what the economy would do in the next 12 months, I knew it was the best decision for my family, and to save my business. For the next few months I tossed around the idea of closing my business all together, pondered what life would look like, and whether or not I had just “wasted” the last 7+ years of my life.
Here we are 9 months later in June of 2023, and I feel as though I am finally finding my footing again, being inspired to create because I want to create, and knowing in my heart that closing my business at this point in time is not the right decision.
But again, that feeling of confidence and direction is stifled, this time by yet another cost increase. While we have been able to absorb a LOT of cost increases in the last three years without raising our prices, this is one that we cannot absorb.
As many of you know our coffee is a small-batch brand, and we work with a family-owned local roaster. Our roaster sources beans from family farms all over the world and costs to secure, ship, import, and package coffee have increased dramatically in the past few years. Here we are in 2023, finally seeing some steady leveling-off of these costs, which is great. However, the leveling off is at a significantly higher price point than it was pre-pandemic. All of this is to say that I was just notified of a price increase from our roaster that I simply can’t absorb. I have not increased our coffee prices in more than four years, and I’m at yet another crossroads.
We are about to launch our new Mug & Moment line of coffee, which is the same great coffee you know and love from Surviving Motherhood, but with some new additions and more permanent flavors. I want nothing more than this brand to succeed, to thrive, to reach thousands, if not millions, of homes across the globe because I believe wholeheartedly in it. But I now have to launch at new, higher price points than originally anticipated – the absolute last thing I want to do is make our coffee inaccessible in any way.
The way I see it, I have two options: launch or don’t. I know that our coffee is worth every penny and then some, I know giants like Dunkin and Starbucks have increased the cost of their 11-16oz bags of coffee $4-$5 over the last few years, I know that other small batch specialty roasters are selling their coffee for $15-$22+ per bag. I know that one bag of coffee contains about 30 cups. I know that even the cost of two bags a month is less than any daily drive-thru coffee will cost (aside from those $1 gas station coffees).
I know we sell a damn good product, and I know I have to launch it at a higher price. Because the alternative option of not launching at all is not something I am willing to do.
I did not sit down with the intention to pour my heart out to you, in fact, I am sure that some people will consider it less-than-professional. But this is me, real, raw, and authentic, which is the only way I ever want to show up for you. I sat down today to write a note about cost increases and now, an hour later I found myself being more vulnerable than I could have imagined, but this is my reality. Owning a small business is not for the faint of heart, and the ups and downs in this process are so real.
I’m signing off with the hope that you believe in me, my product, and my dream as much as I do. Thank you for taking the time for this today, I appreciate you so much more than you can imagine.