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Skinny Mom: Brooke Griffin has big plans for the business she founded and controls once again

'Now I'm kind of doing it alone'
Posted: 7:00 AM, Jun 14, 2016
Updated: 2016-06-14 14:31:18Z
Skinny Mom: Brooke Griffin has big plans for the business she founded and controls once again

CINCINNATI — It would be easy to understand if Brooke Griffin wanted to take a breather.

After all, she just reinvented her company Skinny Mom after buying it back from her investors at the end of last year. She published a cookbook called "Skinny Suppers" in March. And she has an energetic 5-year-old son at home.

But rest is the last thing on Griffin's mind. She's far too busy.

"Skinny Suppers" book cover.

• She's piloting a Skinny Suppers business to deliver pre-packaged ingredients for 500-calorie meals to customers in Greater Cincinnati.

• She's poised to release a brand-new product — low-calorie protein powder that Griffin describes as low in fat but with the protein that moms need. Protein bars and multi-vitamins for moms are in the works, too.

• And she's planning an event she calls the "Created for More Women's Conference" to encourage women to "dream big and find their purpose through faith." It will be held Sept. 10 at Solid Rock Church South.

For Griffin, the pressure is on to realize her vision for Skinny Mom, the company she founded nearly five years ago to try to build a better life for herself and her baby boy after a difficult divorce.

"I truly now am taking on all the risks to say I'm going to do this with the amazing team I have," said Griffin, 34. "Now I'm kind of doing it alone."

With 12 full-time employees and three interns, Griffin is keenly aware of the pressure to succeed and make payroll. But she also has learned a lot in the nearly five years since she started Skinny Mom. And she's counting on those lessons to pay off.

From Ben-Gal to Blogger

Griffin started her company as a blog. She had moved back home to live with her parents after a difficult divorce following the birth of her son.

She was anxious, depressed and worried about what the future would hold.

A former pharmaceutical saleswoman and Ben-Gal cheerleader, Griffin was looking for a job that would give her the flexibility she wanted as a mother.

Griffin grew up in Corbin, Ky., in Knox County, a poor county in the southeastern part of the state. She was the first person in her family to go to college. Her dad owned an auto-body shop, and her mom worked long hours in retail to help support their family.

She graduated from the University of Kentucky with a marketing degree as a success, but she felt like a failure after her divorce.

"I had lost everything," she said. "I lost my home, I lost my job. And I had my son."

Griffin rediscovered her Christian faith and decided to rededicate her life to it.

"Something changed in my life," she said. "It was, 'I don't care what anyone thinks of me. It's OK if I fail. I'm going to try things.'"

That's when she launched Skinny Mom. Her goal was to create a life for herself and her son where she had the ability to go to his school in the middle of the day or take time off to watch him play sports.

"My parents missed out on so much," Griffin said. "My mom did because she worked full-time. I wanted to have some kind of flexibility."

Purpose and Persistence

The blog spoke to moms of all kinds. It was such a success that it attracted the notice of investors — people such as Fred Mayerson.

Mayerson saw a write-up in a local newspaper about Griffin and her company, and he was inspired by the fact that she was doing it on her own from her apartment.

"She had done it with a purpose because she had her own newborn and was trying to think of things that could be helpful primarily for new moms in being fit and healthy," said Mayerson, founder and principal of The Frederic H. Mayerson Group based downtown. "The idea of seeing an entrepreneur who was bootstrapping — that really seemed inspiring to me."

Brooke Griffin cooking at home.

Mayerson got in touch with Griffin and met with her. Before long, he was an investor.

"She is very spiritual, and I think that's a check mark in the positive category," he said. "She's an extremely determined person in that she's determined to have and realize her dream because it's really deeply felt by her."

Those factors, in addition to the fact that Mayerson considers Griffin a "quick learner," has made him a believer in her company, even after she decided to take back control.

"She's pivoted a couple of times in terms of what Skinny Mom is, and I think she's done that in a very smart way," he said.

The key to the success of Skinny Mom — and the company's founder — will be Griffin's persistence and resilience, said Phoebe Wood, the retired chief financial officer of Brown-Forman and principal of Louisville-based CompaniesWood. She has served as an advisor to Griffin for several years.

"When you're an entrepreneur, you face so many obstacles," Wood said. "And if you have that depth of commitment that she does, it can take you through a lot of adversity."

Wood called Griffin "remarkably tough" and "very purpose-driven."

Griffin considers Wood one of her most important advisors.

"She gives me hard truths all the time, but at the end of the day, she still supports me," Griffin said. "She has encouraged me to be true to who I was."

That's just one of the lessons that Griffin has learned as an entrepreneur.

'Stay True'

Here's the advice Griffin said she would give other women entrepreneurs, based on what she has learned since starting Skinny Mom nearly five years ago:

Stay true to your original vision.

"If you have a passion for someone and a dream for what it is, stay true to that," she said. "So many people want to help you, but they all have different ideas of what your dream should look like."

In the case of Skinny Mom, Griffin's investors encouraged her to build a media company focused on creating content and selling advertising.

After a while, Griffin decided that she wanted to go back to her original idea of building what she calls a "lifestyle company." Think Martha Stewart or Oprah Winfrey, entrepreneurs who have built brands based on themselves and the lifestyles they support.

She understood that not all her investors were comfortable with a company built on the "Brooke Griffin" brand. But she decided that she was, and she's going for it.

Brooke Griffin stretching.

Do it afraid.

Being an entrepreneur means taking risks, Griffin said, and that can be scary. But she has come to realize that it's OK to fail sometimes, and it's OK to be afraid.

"That is probably the biggest. There's a lot of fear involved," she said. "I'm not fearless. It's OK to be afraid, but you just have to show up every day."

Lead with love.

For entrepreneurs, their teams are their greatest assets, she said, and the people they hire will help determine any company's success.

"Show your team that you not only appreciate them by caring about them as individuals and caring about their families and their lives outside of the office, but also empower them to be leaders and trust that they can carry out the jobs that you hired them to do," she said.

Surround yourself with smart people you trust.

Griffin considers both Mayerson and Wood to be invaluable advisors to her and to Skinny Mom. Wood has been especially important, she said, because she is a woman in business who understands some of the challenges that women can face launching a business.

"If I had not had her, I would not be sitting here," Griffin said. "Find at least one person who is smarter than you, wiser, that has done this and isn't afraid to give you hard truths."

Those hard truths and tough lessons have gotten Griffin to where she is now, building the company she envisioned from the start.

Griffin declined to say how much annual revenue Skinny Mom makes. But she said the company has been self-sustaining since August 2014, making enough revenue to pay her and her employees and turn a profit.

The company's future will depend on how big Griffin's dream is, Mayerson said, and all the many other factors involved in building a successful business. 

For Griffin's part, she's confident that she's heading the right direction and is in a good place — both spiritually and geographically.

After all, Skinny Mom's offices are located in The Gwynne Building downtown, the site of the first office and factory of The Procter & Gamble Co.

And it seemed to work out pretty well for those guys.

One of Skinny Mom's offices in The Gwynne Building.

To learn more about Skinny Mom, click here .

To learn more about the upcoming "Created for More Women's Conference," click here .

Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and also shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. She has been writing about women- and minority-owned businesses in Greater Cincinnati for more than 18 years. To read more stories by Lucy, go to www.wcpo.com/may . To reach her, email lucy.may@wcpo.com . Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.