BEgin Again by Lindsey Stone
At the top of our game.
And it was the best change we could have made.
Clean Getaway Soap Company was our lives for seven years – sometimes it demanded more attention than others, and at the end my husband and I were each working 20-30 hours per week for the Soap Co, on top of bartending full time for me and grad-school for Mr. CleanGetaway.
We made over 15,000 bars of soap in those years, in teeny tiny little batches in our second bedroom-turned-soap-laboratory. We handcrafted each bar from start to finish. We built a robust and lively brand with a dedicated (sometimes fanatical) following. One could purchase our wares in shops across the country from California to Florida, Chicago to Tucson. We loved Clean Getaway – it allowed us to travel for shows, to expand creatively without limit, to be the agents of our own destinies. Things couldn’t have been going better.
Yet we decided to scrap it all in order to take 9-5 jobs. What the hell? It was like the total antithesis to the DIY ethic and damn-the-man attitude that Clean Getaway represented. Our friends were skeptical, our wholesalers were baffled, our fans were bereft and we were so very relieved.
From the very beginning, or more realistically from somewhere in the early-middle stages of Clean Getaway’s life, the Mr. and I fleshed out a pretty clear list of the things that we wanted Clean Getaway to do for us:
- It had to be enjoyable and collaborative.
- It had to allow for expansive creative expression across a variety of mediums.
- It would be nice if it subsidized regular travel.
- It had to pay for itself, it couldn’t be a net-negative on our monthly finances.
- It had to be for ‘us,’ which is to say the rewards had to scratch the itch du jour.
As it turns out, around the end of year six, both Mr. CleanGetaway and I were secretly ready to get out of the soap business. So secret was the desire to get out that we had hardly even admitted as much to ourselves. But, as we stared straight down the barrel of maturing our scrappy startup into a legitimate, sustainable business, the romance and the fun of the whole endeavor started to wane. The bloom began to wither on the proverbial rose, but no one was ready to see it.
Throughout Clean Getaway’s life, and indeed well beyond, one theme has been consistent: Sticky Thinking = Death, which is to say, everything changes and digging in one’s heels won’t make it not so. More than rolling with the punches, one must anticipate and evade, stay ahead of the curve and the trends, jettison stale products, stale thoughts, stale ways of doing things; one must be both willing and able to fundamentally change the way they see the world around them, and that is what shuttering our company was about.
There’s sort of a universal assumption that those indie-preneurs, who decide to go into business for themselves, all have the ultimate goal of ‘going big’ – whatever that means – and that they’d rather die than ever take a 9-5 job. That’s certainly how I felt at the beginning, but not how I felt at the end. For us, the decision to chuck it all came down to risk and comfort. You could argue that we sacrificed freedom for stability, but I might suggest that there is freedom in stability.
There are tons of boring details about closing a business – filing paperwork with the state, discussing discounting with retailers, offering to buy back unsold stock, cancelling subscriptions and services, trying to strategically run out of ingredients and packaging. There’s also the esoteric stuff like, how to establish a new identity after 7 years of being “Clean Getaway,” or how to fill the seemingly endless hours that used to be spent mixing, molding, wrapping, schlepping and hawking.
On its surface, and indeed for quite a while, as things came to a close with Clean Getaway, it felt like a very large, somewhat sad loss was underway. However, in the space created by the void of Clean Getaway new things quickly took root. It turns out the space wasn’t really empty at all, but rather, it was a fertile, vital place where the seeds of new projects and expressions have been quick to bear new fruit. You can’t be ready for the next thing until you’re done with the current one.
“All things change, but nothing dies.” ― Ovid
Lindsey and I discussed what it means to BEgin again, and how quitting or retiring something can allow more space for something new. To hear more, listen on…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lindsey Stone was born and raised in Denver, where she now resides with her husband and their two cats. She devours approximately 12.5 library books per week and is currently obsessed with knitting. In college at University of Colorado, Lindsey trained as a mammalogist and has studied chipmunks extensively. She is an outstanding cook and is currently learning to juggle and whistle really loud.
Images via Chapter Be, Confluence Denver, OC Register/Lida Degroote & Lindsey Stone