With the future of their startup, OME Gear, hanging in the balance, South Carolina entrepreneurs Jules Weldon and Stacey Pierce believed that they had to either give up their dream of owning and running a family business or “go all in” and sell their last substantial asset, their beloved house.
It was two days before Christmas 2020, and this was the hardest decision that they had faced in their 10-year, tightknit relationship, including five years as a married couple.
““I just never wanted to live in a should-a, would-a, could-a world.””
After maxing out their credit cards, draining their bank accounts and closing their 401(k)s, they were low on options for raising capital needed to keep the business running. They asked each other how much they believed in OME; both answered 100%.
They were convinced of the importance of moving forward, “even when the dream or goal looks impossible,” explained Weldon. Added Pierce, “We always look at roadblocks as new opportunities to learn.”
Betting the house and its contents
Committing wholly to the outdoor-products company meant they had to downsize their lifestyle and lower their personal overhead, Weldon, 52, and Pierce, 51, sold, gave away or threw out 95% of their stuff, including furniture, clothes, kitchen items, a boat, a truck and a golf cart. They put the remaining 5% in storage.
The story of OME Gear began at the shore some 25 years ago when Weldon’s parents, Jerie and Paul, saw a single mom wrestling with her beach stuff while spending time with her three children on the sand.
Shortly afterward, her parents invented a two-in-one lounger/dolly initially intended for the beach. But despite their hard work, and success in securing a patent, they lacked sufficient capital to take the product to market. Her parents didn’t have the money to keep OME afloat while caring for their family needs and responsibilities. They didn’t have the know-how to make it happen, and her mom was busy operating her bakery.
Weldon and Pierce picked up the family dream and pursued it with more hard work, redoubled determination and four additional patents. They persisted despite many setbacks, including the COVID-19 pandemic, which made raising money and manufacturing products extremely difficult.
Trading down to an RV
The decision to downsize their personal lives came as a result of needing to rescue 2,500 units of their products that the manufacturer was holding in a warehouse in…