In those first two years, we made a number of operational mistakes. While the product was selling like hot cakes, we were in trouble trying to navigate unchartered waters.
The largest challenge was that as a new category to most retailers, pet fashion had no historical sales forecasts to align to, and we landed in an over-inventory position of several million dollars at wholesale.
There were also a host of supply chain issues—a result of the business scaling up fast without the proper knowledge or infrastructure to steer the ship.
Add to that, our first Chinese sourcing agent turned out to be a shady group; it felt like we were dealing with the manufacturing mafia. At one low point they held our samples hostage before a large customer meeting…talk about being Shanghaied!
In summer of 2008, with financial markets crashing and widespread retail panic, the pet category was proving recession proof. However the banks became less risk-tolerant, and we had our line called for failing to meet the over-bearing bank covenants.
We had six weeks to pay back our outstanding line of credit to the bank. Shipments of products were being held at port as our cash flow restricted.
What happened next was nothing short of a miracle—just as the bank began freezing our assets. First, Walmart agreed to buy our outstanding inventory. Second, a dear friend led me to an investor, who within 48 hrs lent us three million dollars based on the friend’s personal endorsement of my character.
I have spent the last three years painstakingly rebuilding my business from the inside out—new people, new financing, reliable sourcing operations, transparent product costing and inventory controls.
We have had several consecutive seasons of profitable growth and positive ebitda, and our sights are now set on additional market channels and product offerings. The future is bright.
My experience with entrepreneurship has given me more than just learning about how to run a business. It has given me the chance to learn about myself, celebrate the highs and survive the lows. At the end of the day its greatest personal reward is the ability to put my head on the pillow at night and know that no matter what tomorrow brings – I have nothing to fear.
'How I Made My Millions' premieres Monday, July 18 9p | 12a ET
Maria Peevey is the founder of SimplyShe. Peevey launched SimplyShe, Inc. in 2000 as a boutique line of women’s apparel, books and stationery which quickly expanded into 8000 high-end retail outlets including Fred Segal and Henri Bendel in the U.S. as well as international distribution in 23 countries worldwide.