Why I Sold My Multi-Million Dollar Business

As you may have heard, a journey that started for me just over 7 years ago came to an end. I’ve promised to write this blog post a few times now but for the past month or so, I couldn’t come up with the right words to describe, not just the journey, but what it felt like to have such a huge part of my life come to an end. I can promise you, it’s been a weird transition!!

Of course, most of you know that I, along with my partner Layla, were the owners of Poppy & Dot. And just over three months ago, we completed the sale of the company to its new owners and stepped back from our roles.

Where do I even begin?

It seems like a lifetime ago that Layla and I got together for a datenight at the movies. Our husbands were working for the same company and we knew each other socially. But it was the night at the movies where we truly hit it off and after a few discussions, decided we might want to try this whole “business thing” together. Her ‘ying’ complimented my ‘yang’ and we knew we had found in each other the parts we needed to succeed.

What You Don’t know can’t hurt you…

You’ve heard that saying before, right? Had someone told me that an estimated 543,000 new businesses open every single month and the majority of them fail, I don’t know if I would be sitting here writing this blog. Hah! Ignorance (in our case) was bliss. Not knowing we could fail and just how many people were trying to do the same thing made us brave! We knew we had something special and we knew what we wanted to do for women.

Armed with our limited know-how, when it came to running an online boutique, and a whole lot of “we can do it” mentality,  we started Poppy & Dot from the basement and we started selling on Instagram immediately. And over the years, it graduated from the basement to the garage, to an employee’s basement, to a fulfillment company and then to our very own warehouse where it still operates out of today. Kinda crazy, right?

And it allowed us to jump in headfirst. But it was scary!

We had no idea if this whole e-commerce/Instagram thing was going to work because people hadn’t shopped this way before. Everyone we knew had Instagram but people weren’t really using it in a way that was facilitating their everyday life the way that it is now. So Layla and I were doing something that was really revolutionary at the time, which was so exciting to me. 

An Entrepreneur at Heart

I always knew I wanted to be my own boss. It was and is important to me. I feel deeply passionate about helping people, today even, to improve their lives and spread joy. I know that by helping others live a life less encumbered and sharing things I love, that it might really be useful and resonate with other people. Nothing beats authenticity. So when the time came to start Poppy & Dot, I just felt it was exactly the right opportunity where I could figure this out and see if I could really uplift and inspire women.

It was 7  years of not just forming Poppy & Dot, but really forming a part of myself that wasn’t as defined as it could have been. And it worked. Within 7  years we went from a small start-up to a multi-million dollar company. And through that time, I forged a path for myself as well. It was really life-affirming in a lot of ways.

We Built A Company For Women By Women

The thing I’m most proud of with Poppy & Dot is that we built a remarkable, global community of women both offline at warehouse sales and online through multiple social media platforms and our website that no one had pulled together before. We listened, we engaged, and we were able to build a community of inspiring women who wanted clothes that they could live-in at every stage of life.

Over the years we had so many people come to us with platforms and websites that were never able to figure out the community-building side of the equation – it was just a mystery to them. But with Poppy & Dot, it seemed to happen organically.

When Layla and I first spoke and shared our vision for what we were going to build, we knew it would take a ton of self-reflection, of listening to our community, and that we needed the capacity to say, “Look, this isn’t working. How can we make better choices or do this differently to better serve the women who buy from us?”

I’m proud to say that during our time with Poppy & Dot, we hired women who were mothers, students, newly-weds, and everything in between. We provided an environment that didn’t exist anywhere else. They could put their kids down for naps, be home if needed, go to school, and so many other things. We knew that we wanted the community first and the job to come second. It wasn’t always easy but I feel like our community of women was stronger because we were so insistent on supporting women in all their roles.

Growth Is The Best Problem To Have

I think the other thing that really stands out for me is that we weren’t building a company that was married to the traditional beliefs about beauty. We used real women (mostly me and Layla) as our models. Let me tell you what… we started out AWKWARD as can be. Hey, we still are actually! We didn’t really feel like we identified with traditional women’s boutiques at the time because they didn’t really speak our language. I think that having a really strong, honest and active mission that you can not just talk about but you can actually live and practice in your work and in your everyday life has been the game-changer for us in a lot of ways.

And in 2017, that became a lot more defined. We asked our customers to:

Do Good. Choose Happy. Be A Rockstar. and to Live Poppy & Dot.

And they embraced it with totally open arms. 2017 became the year where we almost tripled our revenues and connected with our community like never before.

 
 

It was also the hardest, busiest year I’ve ever experienced in the business. So busy, that we weren’t even fully aware of how well we did because we didn’t have the time or luxury to slow down and appreciate how far we’d come. I’ll say it again.. IT WAS HARD. But it was so so fun.

We had to innovate and decide how best to communicate with our community. We had to bring in new styles and more of them. It’s quite a humbling process because you have to set your ego aside and really think about what is going to be best for the company. I’m very secure in my skillset, my experience and in my ability to make great work, but it also had Layla and I asking ourselves if we were the right people to take Poppy & Dot to the next level. We had done so much hard work and it was poised for massive growth. It wasn’t something we wanted to allow our egos to get in the way of. We even toyed with the idea of bringing someone in who could lead us into that next stage of growth while we still retained ownership. We sat down with multiple investors, friends and acquaintances doing similar things and in the end, we weren’t sure about that either…

These are hard conversations to have and really had us looking inward, at each other, and most importantly, at our community and asking, “What’s the very best decision for Poppy & Dot?”

Taking Inventory

As long as I can remember, I’ve run a business of some sort. If there’s one thing I learned with Poppy & Dot, it’s that I don’t know it all. I hadn’t come up against every single problem that could ever occur, and that just when I think I’ve got a handle on something, things drastically change. And a lot of what people saw on the outside were trips to L.A. with Disneyland a frequent pitstop. Late-night hangouts with our all-girl team. And the shenanigans that would often ensue anytime Layla and I are together.

 

But what most of the public didn’t see were the really long hours, the missed events, and the strain that running a full-time business was having on us. I think that when you’re building a company, for better or for worse, you have blinders on in some ways. And I think that’s because you’ve done something a certain way and it’s worked. But with Poppy & Dot and the industry we’re in, things change rapidly. How things are monetized, how things are distributed, how things are packaged and you have to be able to adapt really quickly.

You can’t really let your ego get in the way of that.

Otherwise, you lose.

And as Layla and I talked more and more about the business, we knew to stay at the helm wouldn’t have been right. Honestly, having a husband who traveled ALL THE TIME for work (I’m talking at a minimum, he was gone 7 months out of the year…) while having 4 kids at home while running a multi-million dollar business more than full time, I am surprised my sanity made it.  Most days, I was holding on by a thread BUT.I.MADE.IT.HAPPEN  & it was crazy exciting. At the same time, we also knew we didn’t want Poppy & Dot to lose its momentum and I personally felt like I had other places and people in my life who needed me more. If Poppy & Dot was to grow, it needed people who were prepared for it. People who could devote more of their time to it. I had to ask myself if I wanted to be that person… I KNEW I COULD BE THAT PERSON but I also recognized that it needed owners who knew how to integrate new growth methods.  Owners who could usher in the next wave of growth.  Every single time we asked questions, the last one always asked was, “Is it the best thing for our community?”

Selling Poppy & Dot

Even now, I still can’t believe that Poppy & Dot is no longer ours. After so many hard discussions, Layla and I took steps to hire a broker and officially hang the “for sale” sign on Poppy & Dot. We didn’t go into it with any other expectations. We had never sold a business and therefore, didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into.

And just in case you ever have a business you want to sell, get ready for a process that looks a whole lot like dating! Except in this scenario, someone is ALWAYS checking your financials … and then rechecking them – haha! There is a ton of back and forth, lots of ‘almost maybes,’ and lots of disappointment. But the moment we met Jeff and Tami, we knew we had found people who could do exactly what we had hoped.

There were times when either side wasn’t sure it was going to work out but one thing that really confirmed it for me was the reassurance I felt that if Jeff or Tami was in a room making big decisions about the direction of Poppy & Dot and I wasn’t there, I knew that they were speaking on my behalf. I knew that they had the best of intentions when it came to protecting and preserving and nourishing our brand and making sure that we did not lose sight of the mission that Layla and I felt so committed to.

And so, after a very long year (I repeat.. a VERY long year), we officially sold Poppy & Dot in December of 2019.

What’s Next

That is a good question and one that we will get into later. I have some ideas for myself but I mostly want to take a nap. Hah! Just kidding… I have deemed this year the year that I do whatever the heck I want. Because I am 90 days into being unemployed and loving *almost* every second of it. K that’s a lie. Even as I write this I laugh a bit because as a business owner, you hope that you mostly get it right. And everyday I hope that I got it right when it came to my next move in this life.  I know it was a good move. It’s just weird.. its like I raised a child up until Middle School or High School only to say “see ya later.. can’t wait to watch you grow up”.. but you can still sit on the sidelines and watch..  its a weird feeling but its a good feeling.

I miss it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. But the truth is, we made the best decisions for ourselves, for our families, and most importantly, the community we were so lucky to build and engage with for all these years. And I think one of my biggest fears in this process was that I would somehow lose my connection to the incredible women I’ve met over the years. But I have overwhelmed by your support, your love, and your friendship.

And I hope you stick around. As I said above, I’ve really had some self-defining growth in the past 7 years, a lot of it thanks to Poppy & Dot. And I know, now more than ever, my path and how I want to serve and engage with my community.

I have so much to be grateful for and I am so excited for what’s to come. Thank you for loving and supporting me through this most recent change and I can’t wait to show you what’s next!

Xx Tara

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Tara, that was AMAZING!! I have been waiting for you to share about selling Poppy and Dot and I think you said it perfectly! It has been so fun watching you and Layla build an amazing business with amazing clothing. I’m so excited to see what you do next. You definitely deserve your nap and time to relax!

  2. Congrats on your new venture into the unknown! 🙂
    Will you be starting back up the podcast. I loved listening.

  3. I can’t even imagine how hard the decision must have been to sell. I know I’m a stranger on the internet, but I’m really proud of both of you for putting that fear aside and doing what was best for everyone!

  4. You are awesome! Seriously, for putting your life out there for all to see, you didn’t have to share this but knew we all have been wondering.
    Thanks for sharing and best of luck on the new adventures. I know you’ll have another big thing up your sleeve but for now I always enjoy your deal posts and clothing shares, as well as a view into your home and family.

    Best wishes!

  5. In tears after reading this!! Wow so inspiring! I truly love following you and your family and all you do and share that does create a community!! I feel apart of it and that’s awesome!

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