#16 Saying Farewell to My Business
I've decided to close koko's nest. Here's the backstory.
Yesterday, I announced that I’m closing my brand koko’s nest.
Truthfully, I’ve thought about closing it many times. The first time was when we made the move from Brooklyn NY to Washington DC and I was really unsure of how I would grow a new business with a newborn and toddler, in a new town where I knew no one else with a business. The second time was when I added a third baby while starting another retail venture with a business partner. And since then, there have been multiple other times (Covid, closure of said retail venture, fourth baby, etc.) when I questioned whether this was where I wanted to allocate my time and energy — those depleted resources that I was squeezing dry every day.
Last week, I just knew it was time. And as Glennon Doyle says, most of our suffering is in between the knowing and doing. So I put my head down and did it.
koko’s nest, the back story
It was 2014 and I had a 6-month-old baby girl. We had just moved from the UWS to a bigger apartment in Brooklyn. The year leading up to that point, I had been working a consulting job that had provided me incredible flexibility during the tail end of my pregnancy. But I returned to work after about 6 weeks, and even with the flexibility to work from home, I struggled with the stress of feeding my baby, who rejected every type of bottle and wanted to be breastfed. So instead of powering through, I decided to leave. And it gave me a wonderful blank canvas on which to dream up what was next.
I knew I wanted to start a business. I was itching to do something creative (in a broad, build-something-myself sense). But the Type A student in me believed that it had to be “serious” enough. I wanted to create a modern brand focused on knits for babies and families. At the time, there were very few baby brands that were modern in aesthetic, and nothing that was DTC. I religiously followed the principles of The Lean Startup and decided to launch with a small collection of knit baby blankets in a color block design. In my head, this small collection was just the first collection in what I imagined would be an expanding brand with multiple categories.
As soon as I got the collection sampled and produced, I got my site up and running on Shopify. I hand wrote a letter to announce this “launch” to friends and family. (In my head, handwriting somehow upped the sincerity factor, even though I was sending out a scanned copy of it via Mailchimp… i.e., I had no idea what I was doing.) The night before it was set to go live, I lay wide awake in bed, unable to sleep. I was terrified. I wasn’t scared of failing; I was scared of publicly attaching myself to this quaint venture. After so many years being a part of large, established institutions (universities, courts, law firms), I was unsure about — perhaps even a bit embarrassed by — putting my name on something decidedly small.
The so-called “launch” was as uneventful as my toddler’s trip to the potty. Nothing there! It was crickets for a long, long time. But over weeks and months, I learned the ropes of brand marketing and Instagram, which, at the time, was ripe for design-forward baby brands and mom influencers with a keen eye for aesthetics. I gained a broader audience and partnered with notable brands with a larger following. I cut my teeth in branding, marketing, digital ops, partnerships, and more.
Over the years, I’ve come to realize what business books and entrepreneurial blueprints don’t tell you: A successful business is one that works to meet your needs and wants. Logically, it is a simple principle, but it is shocking how much our understanding of business centers around the “health” of business metrics instead of the health and well-being of the individuals that make up the business. For me, I wanted something that was low-risk, minimal overhead, and required 0-10 hours of attention a week, so I had a premium, aseasonal product, few SKUs, and DTC distribution. Whereas all the literature pointed me to fundraising, hockey-stick growth, and category expansion, my core needs as I grew my family dictated that I streamline everything down to the core essentials to keep me sane and my business profitable.
One major reason I have hesitated to close this brand is the product. It’s a great, quality product. The baby blankets have been such an integral part of our lives. They have been the most loved and cherished items in our home. We’ve worked with a genius knitter who is an incredible human and artisan. I’m so grateful that he took a chance on me many years ago and continued to work with me, even though I never followed industry schedules and seasons. The knitting industry in the US pretty much doesn’t exist because it is cost prohibitive, and it was a huge source of pride that we could keep manufacturing here at home.
I’m grateful to this business for being my companion during this early season of motherhood. It accommodated lapses in execution and long pauses in marketing efforts. It gave me a platform on which I could build my voice. It always took a backseat to anything I decided took higher priority — my kids, my family, my sanity. It was accommodating to me in a way that no one and nothing else could be.
And now it’s time to bring it to a close.
In a way, koko’s nest has been my “bridge” venture. It has carried me from the land of my pre-motherhood self, over the often-turbulent waters of early motherhood, and onto a new shoreline. I don’t know this new land… yet. But seeing it has given me the confidence to say farewell to the bridge that has carried me here.
P.S. I have been getting some great inquiries about starting a business, my lessons learned, and general queries based on my experience. I’ll be answering these in a future post so please feel free to ask me anything. No question is stupid or too silly. Send me an email email@example.com.