I have some news that I can barely believe I’m writing: Mama Bath and Body is going out of business.
If you’ve followed us on social media, I’ve shared how much of a struggle these past 2+ years have been. Running a small business is hard even when it’s going well. With all of the additional challenges the pandemic created (unending staffing issues, ongoing supply chain delays, increased costs in literally every category, and these are just a handful of the challenges) it has become unsustainable.
My dream and my vision for Mama was a company of retail stores. We were doing just that and things were going great until March of 2020. (As many of you know, in 2020 we had to close our 2nd store at Krog Street Market and halted our lease negotiations for a 3rd store; click here to read more about that)
. After that, we lost a lot of momentum and given the many continuing challenges of a post-covid retail business, it became clear that opening more stores was not an option for the foreseeable future. We probably would have closed in 2020 if not for a fortuitous event that allowed us to stay financially afloat without taking on debt while we swam upstream for 2 years and waited to see how things settled out. During this time it became clear that the only real option to survive was to rebuild our business and grow as an exclusively online business, which meant a big change in my role and running a very different company. Online marketing is an increasingly expensive and ever-changing landscape with no guarantee of a successful ROI, plus we have the additional hurdle of making products that are best experienced in person. It would require my day-to-day focus to change to things like Google Analytics and Keywords and Paid Ads and SEO and Customer Acquisition Costs, none of which are things I'm particularly passionate about or interested in doing as a job. Not to mention, rebuilding a company takes a lot of energy and enthusiasm that I simply don’t really have right now. So after much soul searching, I came to the difficult but inevitable conclusion that this isn’t the right move for Mama. In case you’re wondering, we also tried the wholesale route early in the company’s trajectory (we were even in Whole Foods for a minute) and it wasn’t for us for many good reasons.
Another important piece of this is my health. I contracted Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever last year, which ultimately revealed a chronic Lyme disease diagnosis in August of 2021. (My love of the outdoors has led to multiple tick encounters over the past 5 years, so this wasn’t a huge surprise). I struggled greatly through the initial months of treatment while continuing to work and eventually got back on my feet, but some symptoms persist and I haven’t felt truly well in many months. The deep deep stress of running a business with so much struggle has taken its toll on me physically as well as mentally; I have come to understand what true burnout feels like and I’m extremely determined to get my health back on track, which I don’t feel I can do in these present circumstances.
I have been exploring this outcome as a possibility for a while now while dearly hoping it wouldn’t come to this. This decision has truly been one of the most excruciatingly painful decisions of my life and I have been dreading the coming months as I dismantle the pieces of this entity that has been my purpose and my passion for as long as I can remember. But now that the decision is made, I have found some peace, for the first time in a good while, knowing that I truly gave this business everything I had. I turn 50 at the end of the year and I have been doing this for 20 years. That is a really long time to keep a small business alive and thriving (thriving until 2020, that is) and I’m really proud of this company and of all of these wonderful products that we put into the world for so many years. And now I’m ready for my next chapter.
SO WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
My 2 main concerns are my staff and our customers. I plan to make sure my wonderful team members are all able to comfortably transition to their next roles without financial stress and I’ve offered them an incentive to stay and help me through the closing process over these next 6 weeks. But obviously, they need to do what is best for themselves given this big and unexpected change, so I do have a plan but it may be adjusted in real time as we work through this process together.
I also know this is also big news for our dear customers who rely on our products in your daily lives and I take this very seriously! My goal is to try to give our regulars the opportunity to stock up on your favorite products while you search for alternatives in the marketplace but we also have to take into consideration the raw ingredients we have on hand, which is a very complicated math equation. So I have a plan and I will communicate any changes in the plan as they arise.
Our retail store will be open through June 26th and our last day of business operations will be July 22nd.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR ME AND MAMA?
I’m trying to figure out how to keep doing the work I love on a more sustainable level. I had commissioned a beautiful new website that was due to launch in August and I have 2 gardens full of plants that I grew from seed that were intended to expand our product line in an herbal direction. I would really like to see both of these projects through, so I’m going to try it with a much smaller product line on a much smaller scale and without all of the financial overhead and pressure to grow the business. I’m hoping this will free me up to do work that feels more meaningful to me, which means spending more time tending the earth and working with plants and less time sitting at a computer and making a million decisions. I want to focus on making products that add value to a crowded marketplace, so I will continue to distill hydrosols and then I plan to create some herbal and therapeutic salves and serums that have been in my brain for a while. I’ll also continue making our Herbal Bug Spray because I grow the herbs we use in it and I feel that it's an important alternative for other bug products that contain toxic ingredients. There is still a lot to figure out and right now my focus is on closing out our current operations, so I will communicate more about all of this as it comes into focus. I know these offerings will appeal to a much smaller segment of our customers and honestly, that works for where I am right now. But the good news is, you will still be able to buy our hydrosols and bug spray after July 22nd!
In some ways, I feel like I’m leaving so much potential untapped and in other ways, this company reached further than I ever could have dreamed when I started it so long ago. But the one thing I know for sure is creating these products and cultivating such an incredible group of customers has truly been such a joy for me over these past 20 years and it's what kept me going through the many ups and downs of running a small business. I will dearly miss serving you and seeing your smiling faces and reading your sweet notes on your orders and everything else about this wonderful community.
With love and so much gratitude,