Kimberly Lewis

Back from the brink: How we bet on ourselves, pivoted our business, and created our own lane - The CurlMix Story

CurlMix Throwback website cover

I cried. 

Tim lifted me up and encouraged me, let me know we were on the right path. 

He doesn't let me quit but I sure felt like it this time. 

January 2018, we had just pivoted our business and recorded our lowest month in sales EVER. 

I was 7 weeks postpartum and I felt like the world was crashing down on me.

How did we get here? 

Everything was planned out and going so well, what went wrong?...

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

Check out part 2 of 3 below and if you missed part 1 hit the link: https://curlmix.com/blogs/curlmix/the-curlmix-story-part-1

We hope you enjoy it!...

 

CurlMix Kim and Tim Dancing in Zanzibar

2017 started as a great year.

Tim had a great job that let him work from anywhere, we got to travel the world, and I was killing the entrepreneurship game.

CurlMix Party on Fox 32 Chicago

CurlMix was growing every month and we were all in.

It helped that we lived in the same building that we ran our business in.

I could make coffee, go downstairs and fill orders.

No more driving to the storage facility, those days were over.

CurlMix Premier Collection Photo

As CurlMix grew we looked for ways to capitalize.

Few people know this but we actually tried to launch a product line and it completely flopped.

We had fancy custom, hand-made, wood and glass packaging.

But we had terrible recipes that were not stable.

Shoot, half the time our products would spill out or break in transit.

It was tough going, so we killed it quick.

We could decide what to do with the 10 pallets of, now useless, custom boxes and jars in our basement some other time.

Custom CurlMix Butter Jars

We figured we would stick to what we do best and keep killing the subscription box game.

CurlMix was turning 2, and we launched over 2 dozen new products and had even more recipes, waiting in the wings.

We even got up to 400 subscribers a month!

CurlMix at the Chicago BWE

Things were going so well in fact, we decided to fulfill our childhood dream and buy a house.

Then, wouldn't you know I found out I was pregnant a couple of weeks later!

2 life-changing events for the price of 1.

Kim and Tim in front of the new house

But right as the summer was coming to a close, we realized there was a problem.

Things started slowing down and we weren't quite growing anymore.

After some serious discussions with our advisor, who we met through Backstage Capital and some soul searching interviews with our customers

We learned that people loved our products but don't have a lot of time to DIY.

Boxes would stack up in their house and they would unsubscribe.

CurlMix was a novelty, not a necessity.

Gilbert Gong at CurlMix Sharktank Party    

Our advisor, Gilbert, seen here looking proud of us at the Sharktank Party asked us one meeting, "What is your best selling product?"

I said " well, it was our flaxseed gel, but we stopped selling it. It was too hard to make, it kept going bad, separating, or spilling out so we scrapped it"

He said, "What?! You NEVER stop selling your best selling product!"

I told him that nobody sells flaxseed gel at scale, his response:

"That's great, so you can be the first, now just figure it out!"

 CurlMix Flaxseed Gel Box Ingredients

So now I had a new mission, save the business, and invent a new way to make flaxseed gel commercially available.

Piece of cake...

Oh, I forgot to mention that I was 7 months pregnant at the time!

Kim 6 Months Pregnant with Zuri

I called every manufacturer I could get my hands on to figure out how we could get this flaxseed gel made.

They all turned me down.

"It won't work, making flaxseed gel isn't scalable, it will never stabilize, you can't preserve it..."

Every new rejection was a different reason.

So, I decided that in the spirit of CurlMix I would own my own future and just do it myself.

Testing out the first CurlMix Flaxseed gel

I spent a month on my feet, in the kitchen making over 50 different recipes, until I finally got something even close to good.

Let me remind you that, I felt as big as a house the whole time. The third trimester can suck.

With every new recipe, I would do a test wash and go but this time I knew something was different.

I couldn't walk outside for 5 minutes without someone telling me they LOVED my hair.

I rushed back and told Tim, "I think I cracked it! It passed the microbial testing too!"

Of course, he responds, "Then let's test it, you don't actually know if people will even buy it."

The first CurlMix Flaxseed Gel

We decided to do presells and launch a single test batch to our audience.

I mocked up a bottle (check out the first Flaxseed Gel bottle above), set up the product, sent the email and...

BANG!

Within minutes we were completely sold out.

So we launched another batch, sent an email, and we sold out again!

So we did it again and again! We sold hundreds in a matter of hours!

We had never launched anything this successfully before and we knew we were on to something.

Here is a pic of the first batch going out below:

CurlMix Pure Flaxseed Gel Batch 1

Now came the big decision...

Do we keep a business we know is failing but we love or do we risk everything on a new idea and pivot?

I know what it's like to get swallowed by a dying business, and I never want to feel that way again.

We chose to take the risk and bet on ourselves.

We decided to pivot CurlMix and manufacture our own flaxseed gel starting in January 2018, just 3 weeks after giving birth to our first baby, Zuri.

We kicked everyone off their subscriptions, stopped making boxes, and sold off everything related to the DIY boxes we could over the following weeks.

We even had 6 months of unreleased box recipes that might never see the light of day.

CurlMix First Flaxseed Gel Line

That January, we pivoted our business and recorded our lowest month in sales EVER. 

I cried. 

Tim lifted me up and encouraged me, let me know we were on the right path. 

He doesn't let me quit. 

February, we doubled.

March we tripled. 

Hockey stick growth is what they call it. 

We knew that with this kind of growth we would not be able to handle it on our own.

It was way beyond what we expected.

We needed a new, bigger facility to actually make our products.

CurlMix First New Staff Photo

We needed professional help and not just anybody.

We needed money, guidance on running a business, hiring staff, scaling manufacturing, and more!

So much stuff was coming at us it was hard to handle...

Bring in the Sharks!

CurlMix Founders Kim and Tim Lewis on SharkTank

More on that part coming soon in part 3.