She Turned a Job Loss Into a Million Dollar Company – During a Global Pandemic
Three months before the Pandemic hit, Atlanta, Georgia-based Krystal Wilbanks suffered a huge blow at her job. They were cutting her salary by $30K and she wasn’t sure how she was going to pay her bills. Fast forward to the outbreak of COVID-19 and Wilbanks was at a loss in her job search. What at first seemed like a very untethered situation quickly changed pace, when Wilbanks decided to take the plunge on starting the business she’d always dreamed of – because if not now, then when? In the height of the pandemic Wilbanks created a gel padded bra for smaller breasts and founded her company KEEKS olivia. Over the past year this first time entrepreneur hasn’t just managed to survive, she’s thrived, finding her initial sales far beyond what she anticipated and turning over a million dollars in profit in her very first year in business. Talk about a pandemic success story.
Willbanks’ story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
I knew I was always meant to be an entrepreneur but I kept getting stuck in jobs where I felt secure but but never fulfilled. I always let fear keep me from “starting my own thing” even though I knew what “my own thing was” all along. It wasn’t until I was recruited by a company who brought me on board (paying me the same as I was being paid at the company I was recruited from) and then absolutely knocked the wind out of sails by slashing my pay by $30,000. That was their plan all along; to get me to their company, capitalize on my experience from the other company, then slash my pay.
That was in December of 2019 and as I was on the hunt for another job COVID-19 starting ramping up in the United States and no one, and I mean NO ONE in my field was hiring. Needless to say, I was completely overwhelmed and a month later I committed to starting KEEKS olivia and I am finally fulfilled!
I am obsessed with our products, culture, the brand, the customers, our foundation that educates and empowers women who desire to become entrepreneurs. I am obsessed with the business as a whole! It’s fun! A lot of fun, and at the end of the day I am thankful the pay cut happened because if it didn’t I am almost positive KEEKS olivia would still just be a thought in my head! Oh wait…did I mention…KEEKS olivia is a multi-million dollar earning company?! In just a year! Who ever thought I would get so caught up with loving my job that I would completely forget about the earnings!
For me, the ultimate success would be living life on my terms. My biggest (non-monetary) success to date was overcoming the fear of failure by placing my first order of the first bra of it’s kind that I designed. The second biggest success was seeing that order arrive because it meant I actually followed through with the commitment I made to start KEEKS olivia!
My top challenge was finding a manufacturer to bring my concept to life. Because this bra is completely different than any other bra on the market companies didn’t believe they could produce it so I kept getting a lot of, “We can’t manufacture that.” Then I had this one company who said they would give it a try. The bra turned out even better than I thought it would and I am very thankful I found such an amazing manufacturer to work with.
In terms of my role models, I would say one is my mental coach, Tony Robbins, and the other is my business strategy coach, Sara Blakely. While I have never met them in person I follow their strategies closely and both have equally contributed to me starting KEEKS olivia.