How 3 Failed Businesses In 5 Years Makes Me A Success

How many people can say they have failed at 3 businesses by the time they were 27?

I sure hope I’m not the only one raising my hand here. But wait, there is a story here.

About 6 years ago, our world view began to shift. Becoming debt free, living frugally, and the dream of Financial Freedom all came into focus for our family. This idea of living differently: in a way that would allow us to both be involved deeply in laying the faith-based foundation of our kids while also having more ability to make a difference in the world around us took hold inside of both of us.

With this newfound desire for this life we could see but not touch yet, we were excited to get moving towards the goal. The big problem was that we were a one-income family.

How can a one-income family get to FI before they’re 60?

I was sure this was an impossibility, no matter how fast Hubs was promoted. But since I’d always loved to work, I figured it was partly my responsibility to contribute financially to the cause. Despite having 3 kids in the first 5 years of this journey, I was sure this was what I was supposed to do.

Well, 5 years and 3 failed businesses later, I have come to realize that you can only do what God calls you and allows you to do. Or you end up miserable, with very little to show for the effort. The best thing is that I can share with you how I failed, and what we learned (and hopefully you can too) from our experiences.

Business #1- Babysitting

If you are a SAHM, with any semblance of sanity, you will at some point and time be asked to become a babysitter. Our daughter was a little over 1 and I was asked to babysit for a couple friend from church. While the little girl was a sweet thing, I learned very quickly that babysitting is NOT my cup of tea. Let me share why:

  • I can’t handle other people’s minions kids. My nieces and nephews, sure. Probably due to the fact that my siblings handle theirs similar to my own, but other people…. nope. Apparently I’m “tough” on my kids, because spending hours a day just holding a baby (that is 8 months old) so she can sleep is not what I plan in my day. Also, I’d rather cuddle my own baby during naptime. They stop being tiny so fast!
  • I am pro spankings. Yes, although my babies are extremely well loved and have probably too much time with me daily, they get spankings if they need it. It’s not an everyday need, but when the situation calls for it, we do spank. (We always follow up with hugs and love, to all you softhearted readers thinking I’m a mean mom.) I do not feel comfortable spanking other kids, even my relatives. That’s not my place, and when babysitting…. the kids figure that little detail out quick. The corner doesn’t make them obey. Trust me. That’s experience talking there, y’all.
  • My day was dependent on the parents. If they were running late, we couldn’t do anything. If they had to go in early, we had to do an early drop-off. It was very inflexible.
So, while I learned a lot about myself while babysitting, I would label it a FAIL.

The money I made from babysitting did fund my next business though.

Business #2 – Photography

Lots and lots of people have photography businesses. Not lots are very good at it. I worked hard and learned alot quickly. Within a year, I had already shot many couple/family sessions and 2 weddings. I really enjoyed the process. But, like babysitting, it didn’t pan out.

  • People expect alot for a little. I loved what I did and worked hard at it. But people wanted a whole lot of quality, but did not want to pay for it. I wasn’t trying to make a quick buck. My purpose was to create quality and build the business. But the pricing strategy took away my joy.
  • Just like with the parents, my time was dependent on the availability of the clients. I had to schedule on nights and weekends, the time we spent together as a family. Add in the time spent editing and planning the sessions, and I was spending excessive amounts of time away from the family. Which was exactly opposite of my purpose of being at home.

I discovered a talent and joy in photography. But I also learned that building that into a business took away the enjoyment. Having to worry about pricing and planning a marketing strategy to grow made the whole business less enjoyable.

So again, learned a lot, but FAIL.

Business #3 – Shaklee

After two failures, we learned that we needed flexibility and control of our own schedules. Now, my father-in-law has been part of sales businesses his whole life. For about 15 years now, he’s been with an MLM company called Shaklee. He put my Hubs through college and fully supports my MIL and himself on the income still. But, it didn’t matter. I was dead set against anything like that. Sales was not something I wanted to do. But after 2 failures, I thought it seemed like something that would fit our need.

So, while pregnant with our 3rd baby, I started my own Shaklee business. For the next 18 months, I built a business. And now, while we still use the products every day, I’m no longer an active distributor. Here’s why:

  • Very slow growth – Okay, so I obviously knew it was going to be slow. I had no problem with that. I was actually encouraged to see it growing at all.
  • Rejection – Any business built on selling is crazy hard. You will spend hours calling/texting/emailing/FB messaging people, only to have 3 people interested. In a whole week. Let me tell you, that’s a lot of rejection, folks. I’m talking, 15 people a day minimum. I’m a very positive, optimistic person who is usually very happy and talking way too much. Hubs would come home during this time and I would be half depressed because of all the no’s from people. It was not a good fit for my personality.
  • Back to the same issue, it took up crazy amounts of time. Add in the in-home meetings, and I was back to the hours away all over again.

A year later, we still use the products. It’s an exceptional company. Some things cost more than I’m willing to spend, others are exactly what we need and want. I have met many, many people that build very successful businesses through MLM companies.

I am just not one of those people. So, Shaklee was my 3rd FAIL.

You failed 3 times in 5 years, give up already!!

I totally don’t agree with that sentiment. Has it been hard to fail so much in such a short time? Absolutely. But I’ve learned so much to help me in my future business opportunities. I still think that FI on one-income is not only possible, but is in our future. We go where God leads, no matter how much we fail along the way. And we take the lessons we learn and share them with others.

Check out more about frugal living and getting out of debt:
4 Reasons You Have Debt (And How To Fix It)
Why You Should Be Shopping At Aldi

What I’ve learned:

  1. Not every job is right for everyone.

    Some people can take care of kids and not miss a beat.

    They are like freakin’ Mary Poppins.

    But then others are like me and cringe when asked to do it. Had I not made that mistake, I wouldn’t know that about myself. Not every job fits you, but if you keep trying, one will.

  2. Figure out what is most important to YOU in a job.

    For our family, flexibility was the issue in most cases. We figured out that the bit of money we made wasn’t worth the inflexibility for our family. You have something you need most in a job. Maybe it’s being your own boss or traveling on the job. Or you are okay with long hours as long as your pay is high enough. Figure out what is the most important part and you will be a bit closer to finding what fits for you.

  3. Sometimes a hobby should stay a hobby.

    I loved photography. I still do. But the longer I spent building it into a business, the joy disappeared. I do think that sometimes you can turn a hobby into a business. But go into recognizing that some of the joy will (most likely) be gone from it when you do that.

  4. Failing is a good thing.

    That seems like a mis-type, I know. But when we fail, we grow. We don’t keep our kids from falling when they start to walk, do we? Even God allows us to make bad choices, even though He would rather keep us from them.

    Why? Because when we fail, we learn. We learn how to pick ourselves up and keep trying. Keep failing until you find what works for you. If you go through life never failing, I would venture to say you have went through life never trying.

“Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be” – John Wooden

Failing is never easy. From falling at 1 year old, to failing a test, to failing at a business; it doesn’t get easier. But when you recognize what you are called to do, you would rather fail a million times trying to do it, than to live a lifetime spent in the world’s definition of enough. We know where God is calling us. It’s not to be normal or to live in the “enough”. It’s to strive for more.

What have you failed at that has made you stronger and better?


  1. mrspickypincher

    August 10, 2017 at 8:54 am

    Aw dang! Sorry to hear about the fails, but sometimes we need them to figure out what we really do want. I started and (sort of) failed at a marketing business. I had just gotten a few clients but then realized I had to quit my business since I had a non-compete agreement at my new job at the time. Womp womp!

    1. Ember

      August 10, 2017 at 12:45 pm

      I agree! Everytime we fail, we are just learning something we aren’t supposed to be doing. I’m a super optimistic person, but Hubs tends to be extremely realistic edging on the pessimistic side. So he has a hard time looking back and seeing the money we spent as an education and not a waste.
      Oh man! Feeling some success with the business only to have to stop…. that is tough!! But good to know you can do it, if the opportunity comes and fits your situation.

  2. Pellrider

    August 10, 2017 at 10:03 am

    I did crochet for fun. Then started making things for business, because many people told me “you can sell. Your things are beautiful”. The same people were not willing to pay for it when I told them the price.Tried an Etsy store for crochet and jewelry. I was spending more than I was making. So, two failed attempts.

    1. Ember

      August 10, 2017 at 12:47 pm

      It is unfortunate that it tends to come out that way. People encourage you to start something, but aren’t there to support and follow through when you do it. Those two failed attempts have taught you quite a bit about what you do and don’t like in a business though I’m sure! Failure isn’t bad. It means you are learning!

  3. capsulediva

    August 11, 2017 at 6:52 pm

    Great perspective – I’m a strong believer that failure isn’t really truly failure if you learn from it. Thanks for sharing the hard times, I know that isn’t easy to do.

    1. Ember

      August 11, 2017 at 9:01 pm

      The hard times are when you grow. We can’t get better if that doesn’t happen. I’m typically too open 😁 I’m so glad you stopped by!

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