December 31, 2020
We’ve all heard the saying, “if you love what you do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”
Karen Gellis, owner of SwimLids genuinely loves what she does. She shared coyly, “I wake up every morning and I am excited to go to work; it’s fun. I’ve been dubbed a ‘serial entrepreneur’. Honestly, everything I look at or think about is entrepreneurial… I think it's a sickness.”
On a vacation with their 3 children, Karen and her husband discovered their oldest’s sensitivity to the sun when she broke out in a rash. Karen sat and pondered as she watched her oldest daughter try and enjoy splashing and swimming around with her siblings. It wasn’t long before the entrepreneurial switch flicked on in Karen's brain. She’d remembered she had a swim cap with her because she was training for a triathlon. She popped it on over her daughters baseball cap so she could swim without complaint while being protected from the sun.
As she continued watching her children swim, Karen’s Mom exchanged a glance as she could see the gears grinding in her daughter's brain. Despite the initial excitement, Karen waited to send out prototypes as she had just sold her other business a year prior. Encouragement from her husband eased her uncertainties, and Karen quickly got to work.
“I remember getting the alert on my phone. I was overwhelmed with excitement that someone I didn’t know placed an online order. It’s funny, because I can also vividly remember walking into a store on Main Street in Saco to pitch my first wholesale order. I was so nervous when I approached the store owner. It was a really odd feeling because you try not to get too personal about people judging what you made. I took this idea from concept to product, not thinking it would be long term - and here we are.”
Karen is the youngest of 4 siblings and she’s inspired by them all for different reasons. Her oldest brother has an infectious zest for life, sharing funny perspectives on life and showing Karen not to take life too seriously. Karen and her second oldest brother worked together, and she looks up to him for his business savvy. Karen always wanted to teach, but she said it’s not something she’s good at. She admires and is proud of her sister who is a kindergarten teacher.
Three pieces of advice Karen would give to someone thinking about starting their own small business are:
Karen and her family love to travel. “We went to Australia a few years ago. Our twins were 10 and our oldest 13. We surfed in surfers paradise, the girls held koala bears and it’s really diverse and beautiful. It’s our goal to go back, and if we are fortunate enough, we will!”