When Lynsi O'Dell’s husband suffered a debilitating brain hemorrhage in 2007, the responsibility of providing for their family fell on her shoulders.
She had to leave her job running a day care to look after her husband and immediately set about looking for ways to ease the strain on the family's finances.
So, as a means of conserving cash and addressing her children’s sensitive skin condition (eczema), she started mixing and matching different laundry detergent recipes, looking for the perfect natural blend.
Two birds with one stone, right?
“I received a recipe from a friend and I was desperately trying to save money at the time,” said the Jenison, Mich., resident in an email to TheBlaze.
Juggling a part-time side job, caring for her sick husband, being pregnant with their fifth child, and experimenting with different recipes, it was a full year before she hit on the perfect formula.
“I was working as a server in a Bistro at the time and it seemed like a great recipe. I loved making it, but my kids’ skin sensitivities and eczema were at the forefront of my mind. They were still breaking out so I took a year to tweak it and make it natural,” she said.
After she had perfected the blend, something happened: People really, really liked it.
“Once my friends found out about what I was doing, they wanted to try it,” she said.
And the more it got out, the more people wanted to try it. Eventually,the inevitable happened: The Michigander decided to go into business for herself.
“I thought my Mom was nuts when she suggested I should go into business. Starting a business was not on my radar at all. I mean really -- who wants to start a laundry soap business and compete with big name companies?” she joked.
“Against my better judgment, I sent an email out to my friends and family and sold 15 gallons. I then went to a craft show and sold 75 gallons. I knew I was onto something! It has been nothing but a gift since I made the decision to quit my Bistro job and work it 150 percent!” she added.
And thus was Coconut Rain born. From there, her business continued to grow -- but it wasn't easy.
“I’m going to be honest: It’s really hard sometimes! I have to work in blocks. I produce for an hour then go to a doctor appointment, school party, etc.,” she said. “Sometimes I mail out my daily orders on the way home from getting the kids from school.”
“I am forced to complete orders up until the early hours of the morning. Without a doubt, my family comes first. I will never get this time back with them and I don’t want to miss it,” she added.
Luckily for her young business, it wasn't a moment too soon.
“On the day of launching with The Marketplace, exactly six minutes after, I received a phone call from my biggest client. Their fiscal year budgets were not allowing the purchase of our laundry soap any further. I was absolutely devastated. How would my business continue to thrive? My faith was shaken to say the least and I questioned the future of my company,” she said.
Not all was lost.
“The next morning as I logged into my account, I had more orders than I could have even imagined. In the first four days of the website being live, I generated more revenue than I had with my ‘biggest client’ in a month,” she said.
They received 323 orders in their first 24 hours. In September 2012 alone, Coconut Rain tripled its normal monthly profits. It has since grown by roughly 40 percent since joining The Marketplace, according to Grand Rapids Family Magazine.
"I manage five distributors across the state of Michigan, where the meaning of unemployment is very well understood," she wrote in an op-ed that ran on TheBlaze in September.
"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," she added.
Still, even with the success of her business, there’s still a lot of work to be done -- and the whole family is pitching in.
“My husband has been my biggest cheerleader. He works in Business Development for an Electrical Company so he helps me with marketing and sales. I don’t have a college degree, so I had to learn about the business world the hard way,” Lynsi explains. “He’s a great help – he will make retail deliveries for me, mail orders and help me produce product. OR, just simply make the kids dinner while I am working.”
“My kids are so helpful. My 15 year old is a big help! She loves earning money, so she will help me label product bags and such. My 13 year old son likes to earn his payment in the form of video game time or a milkshake from his favorite fast food restaurant.”
“He helps to load finished product into our vehicle for delivery and helps me lift product boxes. We have been in the media a lot lately and they feel a sense of pride when asked about the family business. They are helping to make it a success by the contributions they make as well,” she added.
So where does she see her business going from here?
“Our business is debt free, so I think that plays a major part in our success. We don’t have any financial investors to pay back with our profits. So I’ve never faced the challenge of thinking that my business is in danger -- because it has been really lucrative,” she said.
"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," she added.
As Coconut Rain continues to grow, seemingly defying this struggling economy, her business savvy grows as well.
Starting a business “can be very rewarding, [but] it can be very trying on your family. Dedication to making any business successful is a must. You can’t put in an hour this week and an hour next week. You need to be devoted 100 percent,” she said.
“Start slow, build a solid foundation and a solid reputation so that people can trust you. My Dad gave me that advice and it was the best advice I’ve ever gotten,” she added.
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Featured image Coconut Rain.