'We Had a Feeling of Failure And Guilt' Says This Founder Who Shut Down Her Company and Relaunched With the Help of Her Mentor
In the Women Entrepreneur series Mentor Moments, female founders sit down to chat with their own mentors (and us!) about how and why the relationship developed, and the lasting impact it’s had on their careers.
In 2015, Kelly Love and her co-founders at Branch Basics -- a Minneapolis-based company that makes non-toxic cleaning products -- made a devastating decision. They hit pause on their company, pulled their products from the shelves and laid off their staff. The business was enduring some growing pains, and Love and her team needed to revisit their strategic partnerships and firm up their product lineup. Quietly, they began the hard work of building new partnerships from scratch and working slowly toward relaunch. When a friend introduced Love to Katie Forrest, the co-founder of protein-bar brand Epic Provisions (which was acquired by General Mills in 2016), there was an instant connection. Love found a fast friend and confidant in Forrest, but she also discovered a wealth of business-building knowledge.
Women Entrepreneur: How did you two first meet?
Kelly Love: My co-founders and I were trying to relaunch our company, and we needed partners to help with operations and finance and the business side of it. We’re really passionate about health, but we just weren’t super business savvy. Plus, two of us were pregnant. So a mutual friend suggested that I talk to Katie, who has so much amazing experience, and I'd heard she had a great team. When we got on the phone, it was just a natural, instant kind of fit. We had a lot in common -- it turned out we lived down the street from each other, we’re the same age, and we were both pregnant with our first child.
Katie Forrest: Yours was due a day before mine!
KL: It was just like, Whoa, this is crazy.
WE: What was the timeline of your relaunch?
KL: At the end of 2015, my co-founders and I discontinued our products and basically shut down. We had some supply chain issues and decided to discontinue. We needed to reformulate, find new partners. A year and a half into that process, I met Katie.
KF: I had been a huge fan of the product for so long and then it just disappeared off the shelf. So when our mutual friend introduced us I was like, “I want to know where the product went!”
KL: Well, we hadn’t announced that we were coming back.
WE: As you were working toward the relaunch, how did your relationship with each other evolve?
KF: Probably a month and a half after we both had our babies we talked and decided to go for a walk. We both needed to get out of the house. And we did connect primarily on babies at that time.
KL: We talked a lot about motherhood, but through the lens of a mother that’s an entrepreneur and is running a company and has employees. No question was off limits. “How do you do this and that and when do you pump and do you still go to meetings?” A lot of basic questions and insights that I was able to gain.
KF: I don’t mean to undermine how amazing Kelly is, but her kid is so much easier than my kid. Her kid sleeps, takes naps and Kelly can work. My kid is like, Oh, you opened your computer? I’m going to come press on your keyboard! So, I’ve also gained a lot of advice from Kelly about how to operate as a mom.
WE: Kelly, what are some parts of your business where Katie has been particularly valuable?
KL: I’m new to public speaking and Katie is a pro. So anytime something comes up or I have to put together a presentation, I’m like, Katie, what’s the best way to do this? It’s a very natural, organic relationship and mentorship. We don’t have set times to talk. As things come up, I’m comfortable asking her for advice and to hear about her own experience.
KF: For me, I’m not necessarily coming to Kelly for direct business advice -- we have such a big, built out team at Epic Provisions and I’m lucky to have a lot of internal resources. But there’s so much to learn from Kelly and her partners, just observing how they relaunched their new product. It’s taught me a lot, and I’ve been sending a lot of their content to our team, saying that this is how a scrappy, badass, successful business can relaunch and come out with authentic and meaningful content.
WE: Kelly, what makes you feel more set up for success this time around?
KL: Our issue in the past was nothing but a people problem -- from accountants to suppliers, different partners just did not pan out and caused problems. When we relaunched, we needed to make sure every partner was someone we wholeheartedly trust. And a lot of people look good on paper, but Katie encouraged us to wait. And I’m glad we did, because after declining one partnership, two weeks later the most awesome partners who we fully trust came into the picture.
KF: Every business decision revolves around gut instinct. Gut is more powerful than any info a spreadsheet or data can give you. And I really tried to push Kelly to trust her instinct.
KL: It was what we needed to hear. When we had to let everyone go and shut down, it was just a really, really hard and awful time. We had a feeling of failure and guilt.
KF: It takes a lot of courage to start over. These girls were willing to try it again because it was important to them and their consumers. I don’t like saying they failed, because I don’t think they did.