My Bootstrapping Story

Bootstrapping

I’m feeling a bit nostalgic today so I’ve decided to share a little information about the origins of Flourish.  Flourish was born out of another company that I co-founded almost 13 years go with my dad and brother.  It was called Pink Office.  In 2000 my wife and mother were both Mary Kay sales directors, my mother still is actually and my wife is now a Thirty-One Consultant.  Back then they were both very frustrated by the amount of time it took to keep track of their businesses.  My background is in information technology, so I quickly sought out a software package to assist them with their mutual struggle.  However we all quickly realized that the prevailing software of the time came with its own set of frustrations and pitfalls.

Well that was all I needed to spark my entrepreneurial fire.  I immediately started researching what it would take to build a more affordable and easier to use program to help my family members and any Mary Kay consultant  manage and track their businesses easier.  I was working as an Information Technology Director for a small local company at the time and had become friends with a software developer.  I met with him one evening and shared my ideas for software that would run from a website.  At this point the concept of running software from the web was still pretty new, even in tech circles.  My programmer friend thought I might be on to something so armed with his endorsement I approached my father with a business proposal.  As luck would have it, he had recently retired from a successful career in the insurance and investment business as was actively looking for his next business venture.  He went for it.  This came as quite a surprise given my Dad hadn’t ever owned or turned on computer for that matter.

So in January of 2000 we founded PinkOffice.com.  That following July we attended Mary Kay’s annual sales convention in Dallas, Texas, called Seminar.  It was an interesting 3 weeks stuck in the back of what closely resembled a circus tent.  There was roughly 100+ vendors setup their wares in this tent on an abandoned parking lot that was adjacent to the Dallas Convention Center.  Unfortunately 3rd-party vendors weren’t allowed into the Dallas Convention Center by Mary Kay, unless you were one of the big boys like Visa, Dell or ProPay.  So we were left to congregate as close as possible to the convention center as allowed, sorta like peasants at the gate of a castle.  We spent the next 3 weeks working from 9am-11pm in 85+ degree heat inside that tent.  Since this was our first expo our booth was located in the very back corner of the tent.  To our misfortune the vast majority of Mary Kay consultants would do a quick 180 before getting near our booth.  Mainly because from a distance they assumed we were just selling “boring” software and not the cutting edge web application that was Pink Office.

So my Dad has the ingenious idea about 4 days into the conference to rent a Culligan water cooler and set it up in the isle.  This served just like a mirage in the desert, luring sweating and heat exhausted  MK Consultants to our booth for refreshment.  This action alone increased our foot traffic a hundred-fold and netted us our 450 initial sign-ups.  We were off and running.  We have continued to attend Mary Kay Seminar since, with the exception of a couple.  I’m extremely grateful to my Dad for taking such a huge risk on a young man’s idea.  He took a huge leap of faith that year.

After having great success with Pink Office, we decided to branch out to another direct sales company called BeautiControl. They have a similar business model as Mary Kay, so it made it somewhat easier to take that jump.  In 2004 with the assistance of a local BeautiControl director named Margo, we launched BeautiOffice.com.  I’d like to say we had as much early success with BeautiOffice as we had with Pink Office.   Instead we were ordered to change our name since BeautiControl felt it was in violation of their trademark.  Then our first attempt at selling the application to the consultants resulted in us getting ran out of the hotel room we had rented during BeautiControl’s annual Celebration conference.  Leaving us to feel pretty much doomed to fail.  However we perserved, changed our name to ConsultantOffice.com and have since become BeautiControl’s vendor of choice for their consultant’s business management.

It had always been a hope of mine to launch a version of the application that could be used by any direct seller.  But since our business had always been bootstrapped, we never had enough staff or resources to take on supporting a 3rd variation of the program.  This all changed when I went searching for a new UI (user interface) designer.  I was referred by my lead software engineer Keith to a young man named Danny.  Danny was a very talented UI & web designer that was working as a contractor for Ascend Financials, a Spokane Washington company and a valued business business partner of Pink Office.  Danny would eventually start working for me and become a great friend and a co-founder of Flourish.  With Danny on board, we launched Flourish in 2011 with the mission to build it into the premier business management system for direct sellers world-wide. *

* minus of course, Mary Kay & BeautiControl consultants who already have access to Pink Office & Consultant Office ;-)

And that’s the story of how Flourish came to be.

Are you a direct seller  or know someone that is?  Then I would strongly encourage you to check Flourish out.  It is the best system available that caters specially to the business management needs of direct sellers and party plan consultants.  If you have any questions, then shoot us an email, facebook message, tweet or better yet catch us on live chat.  Your feedback and input will be crucial to help us continually improve Flourish.  We have lots of cool things in development and hope we can help you reach your personal goal of growing your direct sales business!

Have a blessed Thanksgiving holiday!

Luke Catlin
Co-Founder & CTO

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4 comments

  1. I can’t tell you how excited I am to have found your site today and to have just read your story! This is my second time trying to make a go of it in the direct selling space. I am really excited about the product I represent, butt having a business backround, I crave organization, reports, tools that will make me more efficient. Until now it has been me, my husband, and Excel and a few flops that we found online.

    After doing the tour on your site and watching the video and now reading your story I am more excited and confident than ever that I can make this work as I will have the organization to do so.

    Many thanks to you and your family!

    • Thanks for the kind words Melissa. We have some really exciting things planned for this year so stay tuned! Best of luck to you in your business and please feel free to let us know what you think about the app!

  2. [...] an earlier post I recounted some of how Flourish started.  If you’ve not read it, I suggest you do. [...]

  3. My relatives always say that I am killing my time here at web, however
    I know I am getting knowledge all the time by reading thes pleasant articles.

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