by Lynsi O’Dell
This story originally appeared on TheBlaze.com
This column is part of our ongoing series of op-eds this election season from small business owners working with The Marketplace by TheBlaze. We often hear politicians talk about what small business owners want, and if elected, what public officials could do to help these entrepreneurs. But we haven’t heard enough from small business owners themselves. This series will feature small business owners discussing their business, ‘how they built that,’ and what it has been like trying to sustain and grow their business over the last 4 years.
My name is Lynsi O’Dell and I was stereotyped to fail.
In 1997 my husband and I became teenage parents. Based on statistics, our marriage would end in divorce and I would end up depending on the “System” to survive. This is not an op-ed to confirm our failure, but one to confirm our success, built on true American values; hard work, dedication and resilience.
In 2007, my husband suffered a brain hemorrhage at the age of 29 that kept him from working to provide an income for our family (as a Journeyman Electrician) for months. I operated a state-licensed daycare, but after he became dependent on my care, I could not continue. I found a job working as a server in a Bistro to make ends meet. I was five months pregnant with our fifth child.
I started making my own laundry soap to save money. I enjoyed it and the sense of accomplishment it brought. Our family suffers from eczema and other skin sensitivities so I began a quest to alter this recipe to become natural. For nearly a year I tweaked the recipe, tested it and began again until I found the perfect ratio of natural ingredients that not only cleaned exceptionally well, but were also cost-effective and safe for the environment. A friend that I worked with asked to purchase the finished product. Our business was born!
Nothing about running a small business has been easy. I don’t have a college degree. I have taught myself every step of the way–from writing a business plan, to understanding profit margin, to product development and patent law. I have made plenty of mistakes but learned from them as well. I have sat at round tables surrounded by all men and had offers thrown my way to purchase a percentage of my business from people trying to make a fast buck. I have also had individuals attempt to reproduce my product without success and some who believe in the products so much, they want to sell them too.
I manage 5 distributors across the state of Michigan, where the meaning of unemployment is very well understood. With their commissions they provide food for their families, diapers for their babies and gas money for their minivans, which they use to transport their children to and from school.
My business is debt- free and self -sustaining. I haven’t received any grants nor partnered with any financial investors. I operate my business with the same values I was raised with (that I also teach my children). I am self-reliant, honest and hard -working. While working 16 hour days, fitting in a parent-teacher conference and a soccer game is nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, I also serve as the Fundraising Coordinator for my children’s elementary school and teach the preschool class at my church.
In recent months, my business has received national attention because of its success. It is growing quickly and has experienced a 38% sales increase since May alone. The need to expand to meet demand is evident.
Our president made a statement earlier this summer. ““If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. “
I respectfully disagree.
Many Americans would argue that it is the government that helps businesses to thrive through services like roads, bridges, and other infrastructure. But business owners pay back government support in the form of income taxes, business taxes, property taxes, gas taxes . . . Maybe it is business that built government?
I had a choice. I could’ve been a statistic. I chose to rely on myself.