Marketplace Op-Ed Series: I chose to rely on myself, not become a statistic

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.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you Lynsi O’Dell for sharing your experience of building a business and how small business’s actually have done more in building up this nation and therefore, our government would be nonexistent if it were the other way around.

    We too (my wife and I) own a small business here in the great state of Michigan and I’m thrilled to see any success story coming out of what seems to be a continuous dismal stream of bad news stories. My daughter and her husband have recently moved to Jackson Mississippi in a need to increase their annual income, my son-in-law transferred for a better job position within the company he’s employed. They have triplets just over a year old.

    Thanks for sharing your story

  • http://www.artinphoenix.com/gallery/grimm snowleopard (cat folk gallery)

    Excellent, I am already making plans to try and start up a fourth home business; mostly due to the limits of my disabilities (lungs and nerve damage) it will involve typing up reports, posters, flyers and the like for other small businesses in here that do not have the time or ability on their own. As I am close to the major ASU campus here in my home that may become another source as well for revenue as term and research papers come due.

    I know its not much for a beginning, yet it has a chance as anything to grow as God will have it. Right now I have to wait until Obama is out of office, or the business is finished before it begins with his massive damage to the economy. Under Romney we have a chance.

    Thanks Glenn for sharing this story, and may more be shared as well.

  • http://www.artinphoenix.com/gallery/grimm snowleopard (cat folk gallery)

    Congradulations with being a business owner; I hope to be up and running with my fourth soon after Obama is out of office. Had three of my own back east and lost two to fires, one to a hurricane, have founded my own church and aided many non-profit groups in AZ.
    We understand what makes the nation grow; small business and not government. I hope and wish the best for you the children and grand children (triplets, wow!) and may God bless and magnify and bless you in the years ahead.

  • Anonymous

    Before you start up your forth business, you may want to acquire – sandstorm (AZ) insurance along with your standard coverage, seems that danger is the only one that hasn’t come your way.

    Good to know that there are still a few out there, who are ready and willing to test the business climate – we employ two part-time workers and if needed have a third stand-in, for case’s of emergency. No threat of union, healthcare etc, although we do pay our help very well, at the present time though, this is all we can do. About the only way things will change for us, is to increase the scope of our business and at present at least, the banks aren’t lending.

    If Obama is removed, that will probably change, but we are prepared to continue -as is- until after the election.

    Keep up the great attitude and don’t give up on your dreams, God will see you through….Z

  • Anonymous

    Before you start up your forth business, you may want to acquire – sandstorm (AZ) insurance along with your standard coverage, seems that danger is the only one that hasn’t come your way.

    Good to know that there are still a few out there, who are ready and willing to test the business climate – we employ two part-time workers and if needed have a third stand-in, for case’s of emergency. No threat of union, healthcare etc, although we do pay our help very well, at the present time though, this is all we can do. About the only way things will change for us, is to increase the scope of our business and at present at least, the banks aren’t lending.

    If Obama is removed, that will probably change, but we are prepared to continue -as is- until after the election.

    Keep up the great attitude and don’t give up on your dreams, God will see you through….Z

  • Anonymous

    First, congratulations on the success of your business and I mean “YOUR” business. You will be in my prayers today for your continued growth ! You give me hope…I am in the process of launching a website and small business that has to do with sterling silver jewelry with a message..it is a scary time to try to open a business. I too am unable to get financing and have taken the long route of saving money for each step of the business. I pride myself in the fact that my product will be made and produced in the USA. Everywhere I turned I was presented the product that was made elsewhere for much less. I will not compromise my mission of USA made. I hope someday my business can work with the MarketPlace. God Bless you.

  • Anonymous

    First, congratulations on the success of your business and I mean “YOUR” business. You will be in my prayers today for your continued growth ! You give me hope…I am in the process of launching a website and small business that has to do with sterling silver jewelry with a message..it is a scary time to try to open a business. I too am unable to get financing and have taken the long route of saving money for each step of the business. I pride myself in the fact that my product will be made and produced in the USA. Everywhere I turned I was presented the product that was made elsewhere for much less. I will not compromise my mission of USA made. I hope someday my business can work with the MarketPlace. God Bless you.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHETWQlwxfg&feature=share&list=PL5FABE780A13D231D Rahm Kota

    God bless the U.S.A!

  • RR2012

    Loved this story. Thank you so much for sharing. It takes a lot of hard work and determination to start a business. And yes “YOU DID BUILD THAT” with the faith of our Lord and for the future of your family, you saw a dream and went for it. Congratulations goes out to you . I too will pray for you and your business that it keeps growing. We have to give Obama his “Pink slip” in November, we all must do our part to see we hire a man who will do the job we voted him to do…and I believe Mitt Romney is the one who fits the job discription perfectly. Vote in November Romney!!! God Bless this great country of ours and God Bless you and your family.

  • yingling777

    White people in the New Orleans area who are going to get food stamps after Hurricane Isaac are being made to wait in lines for a much, MUCH longer period of time than black people. For example, one white man entered the food stamp office at 8 am, and there were 10 people in front of him. When he got to the front of the line, he was told to go to another line, and when he reached the front of that line, was told to go to another line again. By this time, there were over 85 people in front of him. When he reached the front of the third line, he was given a ticket with a number. That number was 582! All the people after him had smaller numbers except for one other white person who had a number similar to his! When they were just about to close, one of THEM yelled out, “is anyone left who needs food stamps?”, and he was the ONLY person left, which was not necessary! He had to wait almost 5 hours. That is just one example; this is happening to all white people who are in dire need of food after the hurricane.