Rick and Melissa Hinnant share their incredible story of overcoming personal tragedy, the “accidental business” that emerged in the aftermath, their record-breaking appearance on the hit TV show “Shark Tank,” and the world-changing mission that propels their business forward.
Rick and Melissa Hinnant were married in 2007. After a tragic miscarriage in 2010, Melissa began sewing and knitting to pass the time as she recovered in the hospital. Melissa began sewing blankets, baby clothes, and socks with lace inserts and at Rick’s recommendation, sold them online.
Their business grew exponentially, and in 2013 they were featured on the show, Shark Tank. Within the five days after their episode aired, their business, Grace and Lace, achieved over $1 million in sales, a Shark Tank record. The business has continued to grow over the years into a multi-million dollar women’s apparel company, featured on many television and news networks.
“Don’t waste your pain, but let your pain transform you.”
“To just work, work, work, work and not take time for your own heart…can be really detrimental in the long run.”
1. You must choose to overcome.
2. Will you hold to what God told you?
3. You don’t have to segment the areas of your life.
4. It’s ok to lean into the different seasons of your life.
5. Don’t waste your pain, but let your pain transform you.
Ray: Well, hello everyone. This is Ray Hilbert. I am your host here at Bottom Line Faith, and we’d like to welcome you back to another episode of the program where we travel the country, and we get to bridge the gap between faith, and leadership in the marketplace. We travel from North to South, East to West and talk with Christ followers who have started companies, who lead companies and organizations. We talk with top athletes, marketplace leaders, and we really are here just to be an encouragement to you as a follower of Christ. To help you to take that one step to become who and what God has called you to be as a faith-filled leader in the marketplace.
We are in Austin, Texas at the headquarters of Grace and Lace, and we are with the owners, Rick and Melissa Hinnant. Guys, welcome to Bottom Line Faith.
Melissa: Thanks for having us.
Rick: Thank you, Ray.
Ray: It’s been a busy day for you already, right?
Rick: It has, a little bit.
Ray: You just allow the little old Bottom Line Faith crew to come in here, but what was your morning like? What were you up to today?
Rick: Not my normal day. We had a film crew with American Ninja Warrior here, so it was with them to the gym, rush from here, shower, get back to the warehouse, have them film us all around the warehouse. It’s been a wild day so far.
Melissa: Lots of cameras today.
Ray: Lots of cameras. You’re so kind to extend some time to us. As we had a chance to prepare for this conversation, we really just want to hear your story today. I know you’ve shared your story many, many times, but not only do we want to hear how the company started, and we know it was out of tragedy, right? We’ll get into that. We want to get into some blocking and tackling, because our audience here, that’s what we’re about is to really help Christ followers become excellent leaders in business, and in the marketplace.
Ray: You call this an accidental company, right?
Ray: Would you just? I know you’ve shared this many times, but share that story.
Melissa: Yeah. The funny thing is that we do call Grace and Lace our accidental company. Really, and truly I believe with the Lord, nothing is accident. I believe that God had this in our story, and we just didn’t see it coming, really. When I call it accident, I say I didn’t start out to start a business. A lot of entrepreneurs have wanted to do it for a while, and have had an idea brewing. That’s what I mean by it’s an accidental company. It wasn’t planned out and strategic for us to start this. It was really birth, like you said, started out of a tragedy for us.
Ray: We’re going to get into the entrepreneurial side of the journey here, and I know, Rick, that’s something… You’re a passionate entrepreneur, right?
Rick: I have been since seventh grade. Starting companies, and it’s something that I absolutely love, so yes, passion, good word.
Ray: Rick, we’re going to talk more about your passion for being an entrepreneur in just a few moments, but Melissa, this story really starts… when you were a child you had some special training that really set the stage for what you all do here at Grace and Lace. Why don’t you tell us about that?
Melissa: I think I’ve just always been a do-it-yourself type of person. Actually, I come from a long line of entrepreneurs. My parents are entrepreneurs, my grandparents are entrepreneurs, and their parents were entrepreneurs. I don’t know if I could run from owning a business if I tried, but I never desired to be one. I’ve always loved working with my hands, ever since I was a child. I learned to sew at a young age. I made my own dance costumes. I made my own doll clothes. I’ve always been inspired by something, and then worked with my hands to produce it. Whether it was training or not, I guess was an inherent desire in me to work with my hands from a very young age.
Ray: It’s almost like therapy for you, right?
Ray: There was an event that really spawned this company, although you didn’t know it at the time. Why don’t you walk us through that part of the story?
Melissa: Sure. Shortly after Rick and I were married, we desired to have a family. That was something that we’ve always wanted, to have kids. We didn’t think it would be hard. We didn’t think it would be a challenge. We struggled to get pregnant for a long time, for over a year. Not thinking anything was wrong, just wondering why it was taking so long to have a family. We finally got pregnant, and it was a phenomenal pregnancy. I didn’t have morning sickness, I felt great. I felt everything was going right. Everything was going great until I was about halfway through the pregnancy and at a routine doctor’s visit. Everything checked out normal until my doctor walked in and she said, “Melissa, you’re going to give birth to your daughter in 24 hours, and she’s not going to survive.”
To say that was Earth shattering for us… To hear those words of losing a daughter, losing the baby, this pregnancy that was going so well, was… I don’t have words, even reflecting back to being there. They rushed me into emergency surgery, and Rick was gone. He was out of town. They said, “We’re going to do everything to try to save her, but the chances of her surviving the night are very slim.” They rushed me into emergency surgery, and the surgery was successful, which was really good, but the news was that I would be in the hospital on my back for the remainder of the pregnancy. Potentially, for months in the hospital.
At that point I would do anything that I had to for her to survive. If it’s laying on my back for four months, I would. Really, it was at that time of being there on that bed rest with Hallie, in the hospital, stuck on my back, was where the dream, I guess… I didn’t know it was a business then, but I really picked up working with my hands. I started sewing, and knitting, and crocheting again. I was making baby blankets, and that was really the start of our story.
Ray: That chapter did not have a happy ending from our earthly standpoint. Tell us a bit about that.
Melissa: Yeah. I lived in the hospital for several weeks, and everything was going great. In fact, there was not one doubt in our mind that this wasn’t going to be some amazing miracle testimony.
Rick: There was even, to expand on that, we just brought joy into the situation. It was a joyful situation. About a week in, one of our nurses said, “Hey. What’s the deal? Everyone here is in a terrible situation, but you guys are happy, and full of joy. What’s going on?”
Ray: What’s different?
Rick: Yeah, and we got to share the gospel with her, and she received Christ.
Rick: Which was amazing. We didn’t have a doubt, exactly like what Melissa was saying. There was no doubt in our mind that God’s going to bring this baby, and I’m going to be fine.
Melissa: She’s going to be a testimony, and have this amazing story of how I laid on my back for all these months, and she was born full term. We had that. I knew it. I didn’t have one doubt that that wasn’t going to be the story. We had all the signs too. The doctor’s reports, my checks, everything. Like, “Wow, things are going great. She’s healthy, she’s growing. You’re keeping her in.” We just knew. It was just part of the story. Then, one night my body just said, can’t keep her. We just can’t hold her in. She was born too early. Her lungs were not developed enough to survive, and so our little Hallie girls was born.
We went through the Earth-shattering time of getting the news that we were going to lose her in 24 hours, to then having this hospital stay that seemed like a positive turn in her story, to now losing her, and now going, “What now? God, what happened to the story? What happened to these things that we felt? How powerful this testimony was going to be, of what we thought the testimony was going to be.”
Ray: Rick, at that point you said, “We have a decision to make as a couple.” I think this was a very critical part of the story that, as tragic as it was, and you wouldn’t guess this in the moment. This was probably one of the most encouraging parts for the body of Christ to hear. Tell us about that decision that you presented.
Rick: Yeah. I think it’s huge for everyone on the planet, Ray. The reason is, we all go through heartbreak. You don’t get through this side without something tragic, something heartbreaking happening. It was about an hour after the delivery. I had cried more than I have ever cried. We were, like Melissa was saying, so full of faith, and believed that it was going to be great, and it didn’t turn out that way. I told Melissa that, here’s the decision. As Christ followers who prayed, and believed, and didn’t waiver at all in faith. That didn’t get the outcome that we wanted. We can be bitter. We can be mad. We can be upset. We can be mad at God, ask, “Why didn’t you answer our prayers?” I think that’s valid.
Rick: I told her, “We’re not going to do that. We’re going to trust him that something good is going to come out of this. I don’t know what it is. We may never know.” I said, “That’s okay. We may never have understanding, and that’s okay, but our stance is, we’re going to trust God that something good is going to come.”
Melissa: Here’s me and my small faith going, “But I know what the good was supposed to be. I was supposed to lay in this hospital bed for four months. I know that she was supposed to endure that, and be born full term, and have this amazing story.” Little me and my faith of what I think the story should be versus allowing God to write the story. You know that when Rick came into that room and asked me, “We have a choice to make. We can either choose to blame God, say, ‘Why would a good God cause something like this to happen,’ or we can choose to believe that some way, somehow, something good will come out of this.” It wasn’t like I could snap my fingers and say, “I’m going to believe.”
Ray: Of course.
Melissa: I’m going to believe that something good is going to come out of this. It wasn’t that for me. It was… I don’t know. I know biblically what I should do, but when you are in that moment of pain, and when you’re in that moment of, you’re faced with a very real decision, it took me a bit to choose, you know what? You’re right. We’re going to choose. We’re going to see what God’s going to make out of this.
Ray: My best friend back home in Indianapolis where I lived for almost 30 years was a chaplain. He has this great statement. He says, “In the Christian life there’s a lot of things that preach real good, but live real hard.”
Melissa: That’s good.
Ray: That’s really what you’re sharing with us is, you had the essence, you knew, we know what it looks like, how we’re going to glorify God in this. The outcome wasn’t what you had hoped, and even prayed for, but then you had that choice.
Before we go on and hear the story of the company, what word of encouragement would you have for someone who’s watching this conversation, or listening to this conversation and they’re in a moment of discouragement, or maybe things aren’t shaping up the way that they even felt God was leading? What would you say to them right now?
Rick: I would say, like our story, tragedy to triumph. I think that resonates with everyone on the planet. If someone’s in a really difficult situation, they’re in that tragedy situation, they have a decision to make. It’s a choice. It’s not a simple choice, but they have the choice to allow the tragedy to overcome them, or they can say, “You know what? I’m going to overcome this tragedy.”
A great mentor of mine, John Eldredge, wrote the book, Wild At Heart. He told me, “Never waste your pain. Let it fuel you for good.” It’s such incredible wisdom, and advice that we have used, and that anyone out there that’s going through difficulty, they can use that. People, they want to hear a story of overcoming.
They want to see, “Hey, I can make it too.” They can, and that story of the difficulty will have a much greater impact than this wildly successful thing that just took off. People don’t relate with that all the time, but they do relate with the difficulties, because we all go through it. That’s why Jesus in Isaiah 61 said, “I’ve come to heal the broken hearted,” because we’re all broken hearted.
Ray: Yes, we are.
Rick: It’s really a decision.
Ray: It’s still real. It’s still raw. It’s obvious to that, but just thank you for sharing that part of the story. Here you are, you begin knitting this blanket, right? That you then began to look at creating other things. Tell us how this company, this accidental company, this amazing company really got its start. This is kind of fun.
Melissa: The awesome thing is, when I was in the hospital with Hallie, and I could only lay on my back, I’m not one to just watch TV all day. That’s when I was like, “I can bring back this knitting, and crocheting,” and that’s when I was making baby blankets for her, and some other women in the high risk pregnancy area. I was starting to knit that while things were going well in the hospital. When we lost her, I stopped because now I don’t have a baby to make a baby blanket for. I just really felt this nudging of, pick up those crochet hooks and keep making that blanket.
From the moment we came back from the hospital without a baby, I continued to make it. Ray, I can’t tell you how many tears I shed on that yarn, and on that fabric. There was something that was so healing for me to be able to create when I lost the very thing that my body was creating. It was like, I cried tears and I’m like, “You know? I don’t have a baby to wrap this in, but somehow I felt like I was supposed to finish it.” When I finished the blanket, I suddenly was like, “Now, I don’t have anything to create anymore.” I opened a little baby clothes online store, where I sold these baby clothes, and baby blankets I was making.
Rick: We were killing it. We were making between $10 and $20 a month. It was amazing.
Melissa: It was an outlet for me. This is where the creating piece comes in. It wasn’t-
Ray: Well, the scripture does say, “Do not despise the day of humble beginnings.
Rick: Yes. Exactly.
Ray: There you go. This is fun. I love it.
Melissa: I was doing it, it was more for me. Feeling like those healing stages that the Lord was just really working through me in that. One day I just, back to my do-it-yourself, I was inspired. I come from Minnesota where you wear boots all year round. I wanted to make a pair of boot socks with lace under the top of them that would stick out of the top of my boots. I had the vision. I knew exactly what they were supposed to look like. I knew I could figure out how to make these, what is in my head. They took me five hours to make.
Melissa: Seven hours, okay? To make one pair of socks.
Ray: Our first corporate dispute.
Melissa: It was one pair of socks, okay? I came downstairs and I said, “I finished them, finally.” I said, “I am never making another pair of these boot socks again.”
Rick: She looked at me with that look that every husband knows of, oh my gosh, do I leave, do I run, do I flee? What do I do? Then, she spoke. All I said was, “Whatever, hun.” Whatever you need, whatever you want.
Melissa: I had spent so much time on them, I was like, “I’m going to wear them wherever I.”
Rick: That’s right.
Melissa: I put so much time into this pair, and everywhere I went them, people, random strangers would stop and ask me, “What are your socks? Are those socks? Where did you get them?” I’d say, “I made them.” They’re like, “Can you make me a pair? Here’s my email, here’s my phone number.” I had a collection of little, torn-off pieces of paper in my purse of strangers who wanted this pair of boot socks. Rick suggested, he said, “We’re getting so many of these requests. Why don’t you just put them up on your little baby Etsy site and see if they sell?” I took a picture of myself in them, the one pair I had, put them up for sale and they sold instantly. Within 72 hours, 3 days…
Rick: 46 hours.
Melissa: We had over 500 purchase requests for that one pair of socks.
Rick: That she’s never going to make again. These are people that paid for them.
Ray: Yeah, now we got to deliver, or refund, right?
Rick: Exactly. We have another decision to make.
Melissa: At that point I was like, “What do we do? I didn’t know I had the settings on where anyone can buy them. I thought I was only selling one pair.” Being that I come from kind of the entrepreneurial background, I’m not going to turn away, or refund people their money. I’m going to figure out a way how to do this. Rick, he comes from the business side. He’s running his own business, running a business at the time, and has his home life. He’s like, “All right. You know how to make it. Let’s teach others how to make it. Let’s find people can.”
Rick: Let’s scale this thing. It’s simple.
Melissa: And, we did. We found a way. I hired my stay-at-home mom friends, my neighbors, and taught people how to sew them.
Rick: I think we found seven seamstresses really quickly.
Melissa: Trained them up.
Rick: Yeah. Melissa taught them how, and within two or three weeks we had shipped all of them. I was just thinking, “Cool. We have some extra cash.” It was over the holidays, kind of close to that. We’ll just get them out, and that’ll be that. Well, hundreds of orders started turning into thousands of orders, and obviously God had a plan that neither one of us had any clue about.
Ray: Yeah. Where were you at emotionally, and mentally at this point? You’re still coming through grief and so forth, and now you’ve got all this energy being taken in this. What was that like for you guys as a couple, kind of being that transition?
Melissa: Sure. I’m trying to think back to that moment. I think-
Rick: We threw this together to be quite honest. When you go through something like that, you can withdraw or just grow closer to each other. It’s so heart-shattering for both of us, I think we had to lean on each other. We did that, and grew closer coming out of it. Wasn’t easy. Wasn’t pretty. It was messy at times, of course. In the end, I think we did grow closer together, and we also knew we can get through something really difficult together.
Ray: Yeah, absolutely. Talk about embracing that pain, and God brought a great purpose to that. I know then that the effect is, many people know then, Shark Tank came along. It didn’t just come along.
Ray: It was part of a vision.
Ray: Walk us through. I know there’s stages before you got there, but for time’s sake, walk us through how that came about for the two of you. You’ve really had some clarity around that. You were spoken to by the Holy Spirit. Walk us through that whole experience.
Rick: Yeah, it’s kind of interesting. We were fans of Shark Tank from the very beginning. It probably was in the first season that Melissa and I were watching it. I said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we had a company that was on Shark Tank someday?”
Melissa: I said, “No, it wouldn’t. It wouldn’t.” I didn’t want to get eaten alive by Mr. Wonderful, so you can be on, but I’m out. I’ll watch you…
Ray: I love it, I love it.
Rick: Time goes by. Obviously, this company starts out of nowhere, out of our tragedy. At that point we were three months old, and we had done a good amount of business. We were in Colorado on a vacation, and I told Melissa, “I really feel like the Lord said we’re supposed to be on Shark Tank.” She looked at me like…
Melissa: I did.
Rick: I love you, but you’re nuts. You’re completely off your rocker. Whatever. She gave me one of those, “Why don’t you just go ahead and apply, and see what happens?” Like, “It’s not going to happen.”
I’m full of faith. This is definitely going to happen. God spoke, and I’m going to apply, and of course it’s going to happen. I apply, nothing happens. I applied the next month, nothing. The next month, nothing. Five months of applying, don’t hear a word. Then, I said, “You know what? Maybe I didn’t hear from God.” That’s okay.
Ray: Sure. Yeah, sure.
Rick: We miss it, on occasion.
Ray: That’s right.
Rick: So, no big deal. Literally, about the time that I surrendered and just said, “Okay, fine. Maybe I missed it,” I get a phone call from a good buddy, Internet marketing genius, really successful entrepreneur. We were talking about partnering, and I asked him point blank, “Do you want to be a partner with us in Grace and Lace?” He said, “I do, but I really feel like you’re supposed to be on Shark Tank.”
Ray: Had you had a conversation-
Ray: Oh, my goodness.
Rick: No conversation.
Ray: I love it, I love it.
Rick: I laugh, I crack up and I said, “Okay. Explain. What do you mean?” He said, “I’ve just been praying for you guys, and I feel like that’s what’s supposed to happen.” I told him about it, and it obviously aligned with what God was speaking to him too. He said, “I know a producer. Let me make a phone call.” Within 15 minutes, producers of Shark Tank are calling us. Within 30 minutes, we’re ending the conversation with them and they’re saying, “We have to have you guys. We love the story. We’re going to bump you to the very front of the line. We’re sending a ton of paperwork your way. Make sure you get it back to us.” It started happening quickly at that point.
Ray: You filmed in what month?
Rick: June 2013.
Ray: And, it aired…
Rick: November 2013.
Ray: Which is pretty short normally on the timeline, so you got bumped up. We’ll talk more about what’s happened in the company since then, but as to reflect back on the actual experience of being on Shark Tank, what would be something you would share that would surprise our audience about that experience? That they wouldn’t see in the finished product. What was-
Rick: This is a good one, but to back up a bit, when I found out that they were going to film and they wanted us, of course I hit my knees. I’m saying, “God, you brought this. You have to tell me what to do. Do we partner,” and I would go through each shark by name, “or do we not? Whatever. I want to hear your voice.
Rick: This is of you, so you tell me. Every single time, clearly, Barbara Corcoran had to be a part of the deal. That’s what I heard every single time. I almost felt like we were at a tremendous advantage going in, feeling like we heard from the Creator of all creation what’s going to happen. Now, this is where it gets comical. They give us two, three months to practice with the producers on our pitch. It’s a three-minute long pitch. I’m, we’ll say, more organized than Melissa. She’s maybe more of the genius, but I’m maybe more organized.
Melissa: That’s fair.
Rick: We write our pitch out. The producers are helping us. I have my part, Melissa doesn’t have her part.
Melissa: I just keep messing it up.
Rick: I’m thinking, “No big deal. We’ve got two months.” Well, a month comes. A month before we fly out, she doesn’t have her part down. I’m thinking, “Okay, we got four weeks.” Two weeks come, same thing. A week comes, I’m starting to get a little nervous because she hasn’t nailed it at all, one time.
Melissa: Here’s the thing, and you get one shot at it. It’s not like TV where they can cut and paste, they can say, “Start over. Okay, you messed up. Let’s say that again.” It is live cameras…
Rick: Yup, and you’re go.
Melissa: You mess up on that stage of history, and that’s your shot.
Ray: Those things we see on the show, that’s for real.
Rick: Yeah, it’s 100% real.
Ray: That’s happening.
Melissa: They’re not saying, “Start over, pause, start over.” No, no, no. It is live.
Ray: Yeah, love it. Okay.
Rick: We get there a week before we’re supposed to film, and the first thing they do is, they get all the entrepreneurs to do a practice run in front of all of the producers. There’s 30 producers in the audience, and Melissa has not gotten it right yet. At this point, I am freaked out. I am way nervous.
Melissa: Like, this is going to be bad.
Rick: This is a train wreck. Oh, my gosh. I was so nervous. I said, “Jesus, you got to throw a lifeline here. What do we do? What do I tell my beautiful wife?” I felt like he said, “Just tell her that once the time comes and the pressure’s on, she’s good to go. She’ll be ready.” I did, and I’m thinking, “Dear Lord, I hope that was Jesus, and not bad pizza or something.” I told her that. We went out, we did our practice pitch and she killed it.
Ray: You nailed it.
Rick: She nailed it.
Melissa: A little bit.
Rick: Amazing. Now, I’m thinking, “Okay. We’re good. We have more. We have a week to practice.” Producers, they tweaked it a bit, but Melissa reverts, and it gets worse.
Melissa: Forgetting. Just, yes.
Rick: It gets worse. The day of, she doesn’t know what’s going on. We’re about to go on stage before the sharks. She’s so nervous she doesn’t even know her first name. I’m going, “Oh, my gosh. Are you kidding me?” Now, it really matters. Well, “Jesus. What? What do we do?” He just told me the same thing. I told her. She killed it again, so I think the-
Melissa: I nailed it.
Rick: She nailed it.
Melissa: When it mattered.
Rick: When it mattered.
Melissa: Back to your question about what do people see, or what’s something that’s happening that you don’t see. One thing is that, we were in the Tank with the sharks for about an hour-and-a-half. The public sees eight, 12 minutes of that?
Rick: 10, yeah.
Ray: 10 minutes, maybe. Okay.
Melissa: A lot goes on that.
Rick: Sharks are yelling over each other, and cussing, and it’s wild. It is a frenzy in there.
Melissa: It’s not like what it looks like on TV.
Rick: Yeah, they do a beautiful job editing.
Ray: We get the family version, right?
Melissa: Yeah. Definitely family, yeah.
Ray: That is great. You had some other offers. There was some bantering going back. You really held firm, because you really believe you had heard from God on Barbara Corcoran, and she gave you a full offer. She had bowed out. Is that right, or was…
Rick: Pretty quickly, maybe 10 minutes into it she said, “Let’s get it started. I like this, I like you guys. I’m going to give you what you’re looking for.” She said, “I’m only going to give you half. You have to find another shark.” I’m thinking, “This is too easy, God. We’ve got this. This is a piece of cake. We’re going to be out of here in 10 minutes flat.” Well, that wasn’t the case, because an hour-and-a-half later we’re about to walk out of the tank with nothing.
Rick: At the very last second, and I think God does this often for us… Are you going to hold to what I told you? I was going to walk out, you know? It didn’t matter. I want to do what God said, period, and hold to that. Well, very last second Barbara said, “You know what? I want to change my offer and give you exactly what you’re looking for.” I’m thinking…
Melissa: Finally. Finally.
Ray: At that point, how long did it take you to accept?
Melissa: Yeah. We were like, “That’s it.”
Rick: 15 seconds, maybe.
Melissa: Yeah. In fact, I think Mark, even at the end said something like, “Why didn’t you just say you wanted Barbara from the beginning?”
Ray: Oh, that is fantastic.
Rick: It was crazy.
Ray: What happened afterwards? Just, the world blew up, right?
Ray: Even much greater than you anticipated, or dreamt.
Ray: What happened with the company then?
Rick: Yeah, it just exploded. Barbara said that you might do 10,000 units of sales based on her experience with other deals, and we sold over 150,000 units in the first week.
Rick: We did over a million dollars in business in five days. That had never been done on Shark Tank. It was just the Lord’s hands, and his anointing on it, and his extravagantly generous prosperity for us. The money, that was amazing. That was never what we were really going after.
Rick: The mission has always been a lot bigger than just making money, or having a good company.
Ray: Yeah. I want to talk about that bigger purpose. Just give us a brief snapshot of where’s the company now. You have tremendous growth, sales. Whatever you want to disclose is fine, but employees… Where are we at? What’s the framework of where we’re at now?
Rick: When we had filmed we had done a little over a million in sales, and now we’ve done over $45-million in sales.
Ray: That’s incredible.
Rick: We went from six employees to 36 within two days of airing. Now, we’ have around 75. Amazing leaders. We’re tremendously blessed to have the people that we have, because I don’t think I’m bright enough to pull it off. Maybe she is, but we have a whole bunch of smart people around us.
Ray: That’s amazing. As you look back, yes, you have the anointing of the Lord, and the favor, and the prayer and those things. What’s one mistake that, as you look back, “Oh, if we could have just seen that one coming we would have done this differently?” Then, how would you advise that to another Christ follower who’s in business and maybe about to make that same mistake?
Rick: I think the biggest mistake that we made by far was… and, it was my fault, it was not hers. I allowed an equity partner to buy into the business that was not supposed to be in business with us. They’re great people. They love God. Tremendous business people, very successful, but they were not supposed to be in business with us. The mistake was, I didn’t ask Jesus about that. He did end up telling me, and kind of interpreting things and said, “Hey, I told you all about Shark Tank. You asked me about it, I told you. I gave you exact details with Barbara, and it’s been phenomenal. You didn’t ask me about this,” and it was…
Rick: …very painful, and it was very expensive. My worst business mistake by far.
Ray: Yeah. That’s an expensive education.
Rick: It was very expensive.
Ray: How about for you, Melissa? That was with Rick in the business side, but how about for you? What would you do differently?
Melissa: I would have allowed for hiring help for me sooner. I really held on to being the designer for too long. To the point where it almost sent me into a stage of depression. I felt so tied to this business based on where it came from…
Melissa: Stemming from the loss, and feeling like I needed to make it happen, I needed to be the one producing it. I took on way too much, was responsible for too much, and had a fear of bringing along people, and trained designers beside me. They’ve allowed me freedom to dream more, and to grow where really I was handcuffed, and I was overworked, and overtired. Now, I have that team of support. I would have allowed that a lot sooner.
Rick: She was working in the business, which didn’t allow her to work on the business.
Ray: That’s right. It’s a common mistake. Especially in that growth mode. Learning to let go of some of those things is really powerful. Now, you have three children.
Ray: Praise God, right?
Melissa: Yes, healthy.
Ray: As a couple, and as business owners… I’m not sure I really like the term balance at all, but how do you make sure that you’re doing everything that God’s calling you to be in business, as parents, keeping your own marriage fresh and exciting? What’s that look like?
Melissa: It’s been a lot of learning. It’s really easy to feel like you have to segment these areas of your life. Segment business, segment family, segment marriage. If there’s one thing that I struggled with, it’s that word balance. I don’t like that word either. Here’s the thing for me. I feel like what set me free the most is to learn that, in life, balance is like balancing to ride a bike. In order to ride a bike, you’ve got to be balancing. There’s a turn coming up. Sometimes, you need to lean to the right when you’re biking. Sometimes, you need to lean to the left. To me, what set me free is a good friend of mine saying, “Melissa, just like riding a bike is balance, so is your life. It’s okay to lean into the business. it’s okay to lean into your family. It’s okay to lean, but there’s different seasons of that, and that’s okay.”
Ray: That’s beautiful.
Melissa: That was the biggest thing that became freeing for me, is to know, “You know what? The business is a newborn right now, it needs me to lean a bit,” or, “You know what? We have a newborn right now. I need to lean, and I need to stay at home.” I can’t work at the office. I stay at home with that newborn. That really has set me free from this, instead of compartmentalizing, and making sure. Just knowing, “You know what? There’s different seasons for different things, and it’s okay.”
Ray: That is so powerful. That’s a great, beautiful analogy. How about for you? How would you answer that same question? How do you work all of this?
Rick: Like Melissa, I don’t know that balance is… It’s never been my goal, and I don’t even know that it’s possible. I am very intentional about my time.
Melissa: Yeah, he’s really-
Rick: I’ll set aside a time for work, and set aside a time for working out, staying physically fit because that helps my mind so much. One thing that we have started doing recently, which is awesome is, we take our cell phones from 6:00 to 9:00, and we actually lock them in a lock box…
Melissa: In a vault.
Rick: …so we can be present, and have time with family. If you don’t, you can be ruled by a business, or ruled by a device. I had a question asked of me which I thought was hilarious, “Would Jesus have a cell phone?” I love it, and we talked about it. We ended on, he would but he would rule it, it wouldn’t rule him. We’re being intentional about our schedule in trying to take back certain things, and just that 6:00 to 9:00 lockup the cell phones had been amazing, because it makes us present with the kids. That’s what they need. They don’t need parents sitting there, looking at their cell phone all day.
Ray: Yeah. Tell us about what the real mission is behind the company, and how you’re leveraging this for your ministry.
Melissa: I grew up in a Christian family. Very faith-filled. I was very involved with youth group growing up in our church, and I just generally loved it. I wasn’t forced to go, but I loved it. In fact, during my high school years I’d stay, instead of pool side with my friends I was out on mission trips, on the mission field. I’ve been to 18 countries overseas since ever since I was 12 years old. Ever since those teenage years, being in countries, the poorest of poor, seeing all over the world… all over the world, I have just had a heart and a passion to help the poorest of poor. Really, to see them come to know the Lord, and to thrive, and flourish, even though they have nothing.
When I was 18 or 19 I was in India. We were working in some Mother Teresa homes in Northern India. I had never seen such poverty out of everywhere I’ve been. Bellies so distended on these babies from malnutrition, and bottles literally strapped to these babies’ faces, because there wasn’t enough workers to even feed them. I’ll never forget. I remember writing my journal that year, that I’ve got to do something more. When I was 19, I thought that meant I’d go off to college, and finish college, and come back and spend a significant amount of time here; years, maybe. Never in a million years would I have thought that the Lord would give us a business that would be able to fund the building of orphanages over there, and the rescuing of orphans off the streets, and pulling young girls that are involved in the sex trade from the border of Nepal.
When Grace and Lace happened, it just clicked. I said, “This is it.” When I wrote in that said, “I need to do something more,” it’s this. I thought it would be me over there, but funny how God works, that he’s just going to give us a business that would be able to be a financial supporter. To be able to literally build… we build orphanages.
Ray: Rick, when you see the vision of that, where do you see that headed?
Rick: We wrote a goal down of 100-plus orphanages, and that could be thousands. I don’t know. Grace and Lace is God’s business, and we’re simply stewards. Wherever he wants to take it, we’re in. We’re all in, but we love the fact that a portion of every purchase of Grace and Lace goes towards helping children that are orphans get off the streets, or helping those that have been abducted into the sex trade. That fuels us, and out of our loss, there’s been well over a thousand kids that are now safe.
Rick: It’s been pretty cool.
Ray: That’s fantastic, and I love reading that on the site. I’ve seen other stories about it, but it’s not just a story, it’s your passion. It is your calling, and I love what you said, that this is God’s business and you’re just having an opportunity to steward that, right?
Ray: Well, how many interviews would you say the two of you have done? Just about your story, about your company. Any guesses?
Rick: A hundred?
Melissa: Close to a hundred. Yeah, I was going to say 70, maybe. I don’t know.
Ray: You’ve been on every major network, all sorts of interviews, all sorts of opportunities. If you were sitting in this chair and interviewing you, what question would you ask you that you’ve never been asked?
Melissa: Oh, man.
Rick: That’s a good question. Yeah, I think if I were in your shoes I would want to know, what do you do to keep, or maintain a healthy heart? What makes you come alive?
Melissa: That’s good.
Rick: That’s never been asked.
Ray: Okay, so I’m asking it. How would you answer that? That’s awesome.
Rick: I think, when you’re on the airplane and the masks drop down, and they tell you make sure you put the mask on yourself before you put it on your child… I don’t think we do that enough. I don’t think we take care of our own heart enough. Again, intentionality is really important. This is such a fast-paced world. It’s so frenetic, it’s so crazy. To not take care of your own heart is tragic, because if you’re heart’s not doing good, you’re not going to be able to love well, you’re not going to have faith, you’re not going to have hope. I would say, be strategic about your actual schedule. Plan time to actually get away. By yourself, if that’s what fuels you, or with a small group of others, if that’s what fuels you. I look at Jesus, what he did. Often, he would serve the multitudes, but he would go get away by himself.
Ray: He sure would.
Rick: Just be with the Father. I found that true within my own life, that I get filled up when I can go get away, and be with no one at all but Jesus…
Melissa: Fly fishing.
Rick: …the Father, the Holy Spirit. Absolutely fly fishing.
Melissa: I know.
Rick: Because, I’m on the river and I’m just chatting with God. Oh, it’s just beautiful. To just work, work, work and not take time for your own heart, I think that can be really detrimental in the long run I think it can be a train wreck.
Ray: This was not a setup. You didn’t even know I was going to ask that question, but it was like a setup because, our regular listeners, and viewers here at Bottom Line Faith know that there is one question that I always ask. Always ask, and it’s the last question. I’m going to direct this to you, if I may, okay?
Melissa: Okay. All right.
Ray: I call this my 4:23 question, because it says in Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for from it flows all of life.” Melissa, I’d love for you to maybe just offer your above all else advice. Let’s say that you have a chance to talk with people, and you’re going to pass along the most important, powerful piece of wisdom that you could share. That’s how we’ll end our conversation today.
Ray: Would you just complete the sentence, “Above all else…”
Melissa: Hm… Oh, man. This is such a good one I’m not prepared for. Above all else… Really, to me it comes down to a message, and that is, “Don’t waste your pain, but let your pain transform you.” I feel like, above all else, I don’t know if above all else, don’t waste your pain, but just like we were saying earlier, that everyone goes through it. It varies on levels of what may seem like a lot of pain versus a little bit pain. I think too many people don’t allow that pain, aren’t transformed by that pain. They allow it-
Rick: They’ll stuff it, or not deal with it.
Melissa: Yup, and I think, if all of us were getting healing from that pain, and being transformed by it, I think we’d have a much different world today.
Ray: That’s fantastic.
Rick: Can I give one more nugget?
Melissa: Let him answer that question.
Ray: Of course.
Rick: I am asked a lot about success, and I don’t know what success is for another person. I do feel like God shared with me the secret of success. It’s in multiple places in the Bible, because it says the same thing multiple times. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will grant you the desires of your heart.” When I’m talking with Christians, a lot of times they say, “Oh, I love that verse,” but what did you have for lunch today? I’m like, “Well, time out. Let’s unpack this just a second. Delight yourself in the Lord, that’s part one. Prioritize him. It says the same thing in Matthew 6:33. It says the same thing in Proverbs 20, verse four, and 145, verse 19.”
God, he’s interested in our desires. He’s the one that put them on our hearts. All he’s saying is, “Hey. Prioritize me, and I’m going to give you exactly what you want, and it’s going to lead to life.” We all want life.
Ray: That’s right.
Rick: We are all going after life. At the end of the day, that’s what we want more than anything, is life. What’s that one thing that’s going to make me come alive, that work that’s going to make me blossom? We’re all looking for life. I think the secret is really simple. Thank God it is, because if it was complicated I would be hosed. He’s just saying, “Hey, just come after me. Prioritize me, and let me do the impossible in your life and it will blow you away. It will be an adventure that you cannot imagine.”
Ray: That is awesome.
Ray: Rick, Melissa, thank you for being our guest here on Bottom Line Faith.
Melissa: Thank you very much.
Rick: Thank you, Ray. We’re honored, humbled.
Melissa: Yes. This was wonderful.
Rick: It’s been amazing.
Ray: Folks, that’s what we’re about here at Bottom Line Faith. Hearing stories like we’ve just heard from Rick and Melissa, and the incredible, as they described, from pain to triumph. From absolutely agony, to absolute glory in Christ. Not always understanding every step along their journey as to why things happen, but giving God the glory. It’s really what we want to do here at Bottom Line Faith, is share stories just like this to encourage you as a Christ follower in business, because there’s going to be bumps along the way. We want to help you bridge that faith journey with your business journey.
Check out our episodes at bottomlinefaith.org. We are so glad that you’ve joined us for this episode. Tune in next time, and faithfully serve God each day in the marketplace. I’m Ray Hilbert. We’ll see you soon.