Kimberly Lewis

We started in a storage unit and grew to a multi-million dollar business - The CurlMix Story

CurlMix Storage Facility Office

You read that correctly.

We started CurlMix in a storage facility. 

We couldn't even get a garage like a "normal" startup.

Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to be sharing some of our story, The CurlMix Story, that has never been shared before.

Check out part 1 of 3 below and we hope you enjoy!...

Kim working the CurlMix Custom Body Butter Bar

A manufacturing startup is tough because there are so many things you need before you can even get started.

We needed a place that could accept mail, be accessible 24 hours a day, had heat, was exceptionally clean, and had plenty of space to pack boxes. 

We also needed access to running water, to clean materials and sanitize surfaces. 

Oh yeah, and we needed it for less than $300/month. 

Our apartment wasn't big enough, we couldn't afford a retail location, we didn't have a garage, co-working spaces wouldn't allow us to distribute raw materials in and out, incubators were more for office space, we couldn't rent an industrial kitchen (no cooking license)...

We honestly felt like we had no options. 

There were so many barriers to starting, I came to understand why so many people never start their business idea, you have to become extremely resourceful!

Packing CurlMix at the Storage Unit

It wasn't until we decided to move back home from Atlanta to Chicago and needed a storage facility for our things.

In that transition it dawned on me...a storage unit was the answer to our problems! 

At the time, I was ashamed. I barely told anyone.

CurlMix at the Storage Unit

We got really good at hiding it too, check out those camera angles.

We spent the first 8 months in business packing in a storage unit. My mom, cousins, Tim all spent hours packing and filling boxes in cramped little hallways.

Some times it got really tough, but we stuck through it all.

Eventually, we were lucky enough to find an amazing new place that had everything we needed.

CurlMix Bridgeport Chicago Location

It was a beautiful two flat with a big basement, and a storefront on the ground floor that used to be an old millinery.

That's a hat store for the young folks.

We lived and worked there for two years, packing boxes and hosting CurlMix parties.

Tim working the CurlMix Custom Body Butter Bar

 

My favorite part of every CurlMix Party was my Custom Body Butter Bar, it was so much fun creating products live.

We even rented it out for showers and birthdays.

Kim teaching at a CurlMix Party

We made so many memories in that place and eventually we left the boxes behind to pivot and start the product line you see today.

This time two years ago I was 39 weeks pregnant, terrified of delivering my son, running a struggling business that was shifting into a pivot, and in so much physical pain being 1 week out from delivery.

I was unsure about so many things.

Motherhood.

Entrepreneurship.

If I was cut out for either.

Over time, I collected the little comments from doubters.

"Oh good luck with that entrepreneurship thing, it doesn't work out for most people, but you never know". 

"You're running a start-up and having a baby?! Good luck."

"You'll never have time for him."

"What you're doing is more of a hobby than a business". 

I should've stopped collecting their doubts before they became too heavy.

I didn't.

I started to believe them. 

I can't do both. 

I have nothing to give a child yet, I can't be a mother. 

I can't grow my business with a baby on my hip. 

How were we going to make this happen?!

The night before delivering Zuri I packed dozens of DIY subscription boxes.

I should've been at home resting but anyone who knows me knows I don't stop.

I'm not that bad anymore. 

I was so nervous about the kind of mother I would be and the kind of entrepreneur I'd become. 

I was dedicated to spending my pregnancy getting ahead in our business, so I could have time for him when he got here. 

Silly me. 

I was birthing two babies at the same time. 

My new business and my new baby boy. 

That winter was the best season of my life. 

I rebuilt our business while nursing my newborn son.

 

I spent evenings snuggled up to him, inhaling the intoxicating baby smell, and simultaneously developing the "NEW" CurlMix. 

I spent mornings with Tim and Zuri, waking up to more love than I could have ever imagined.

Good morning kisses from Tim, and "I love you" snuggles from Zuri. 

And I spent evenings testing new products, designing labels, redesigning the site, signing up for pitch competitions, and removing the doubt that it can't be done. 

It had to be done. 

And I could do it. 

That kicked off one of the craziest periods of our lives where we bought a house, had a baby, and grew the business to over $1 million in sales in 2018.

More on that part coming soon in part 2.