In our Meet the Maker series we get to know entrepreneurs who have pursued their dreams and launched a small business. To celebrate Women’s History Month, we’re shining a light on women Makers to hear what lessons they have learned along the way.
We chatted with Milissa Nelson, the Maker behind Spot Stuff natural oil & grease stain remover. It’s eco-friendly, Made in the USA, and it gets rid of stubborn, tough-to-clean stains—even ones that have set.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I was always fascinated with travel. I loved everything about it. I grew up in a family business and always wanted to own my own someday, so when I finally had the chance, I combined the two. I had worked for years as an IT consultant for the aviation industry, and as a million-miler when it comes to travel, I always had a limited wardrobe and tight schedule when spills hit.
I was fed up with the bad results I had from the wet instant spot removal products on the market, I thought there had to be a better answer, so I started my research over a decade ago to create something better. I wanted a DRY product to remove fat, oil, and grease stains, which were my most common stain type.
What personality traits have helped you become a successful entrepreneur?
I’m a daily list maker of the tasks for each day, with constant update to ensure things don’t get missed. I try to plan out in advance as much as possible, laying out timelines of where we need to be with everything. I think one of my most important traits is I don’t put things off if I can help it. My motto has always been, “Do it now”.
Also, I love being an early riser because I find I can get so much more done in the early mornings before everyone is even out of bed. My mother started our family business which grew so fast my father had to leave his job and come in too. I was always inspired by my parents and their drive. They never gave up and always found a way to get things done and done right. They never sacrificed quality or service. Those traits I am blessed to have grown up with and use every day.
What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?
Read a lot about successful businesses and what the common traits are for the owners, the business setup, and the marketing. Learn as much as you can. Most importantly, read about business law and anything to do with your business or product setup and protection, so you don’t have to learn the hard way it will be very important later in life. Don’t be quite so trusting, go with your gut, but check it out and document anything important in writing, so people can’t take advantage of you. Find mentors early in areas of business that you are interested in and learn, learn, learn. Decide what you love and find something to do with that and work will be fun instead of work. Ask lots of questions. You don’t know what you don’t know, until you ask.
What’s one piece of advice you’d share with other makers?
The best advice I was given by one of my very successful mentors was to meet with three attorneys, three accountants and three bankers and find out what works best for your business. I learned a lot in those meetings. Think long and hard before giving away any of your company, because it is a decision that can make or break your business.
What has surprised you most about starting a business?
How many moving parts there are! There is never a shortage of things to do.
What’s been the biggest challenge?
Financing our business without giving it away. I think it’s so important to keep it in my immediate family, so we have grown it as we could afford to rather than selling out.
What has been the most rewarding part of starting a business?
Watching it grow and succeed. I love our customers and it’s so fun to hear when they were able to save a favorite item using our product.
How has The Grommet and our community helped your business since your feature?
Exposure to a really great customer base! The Grommet team has been so organized and easy to work with its amazing. It’s been a wonderful experience.