At this point Wondermill was 6 years old, and we'd accomplished quite a bit. We had served over 300 million website visitors and brought a million dollars into the local economy in wages.
We learned everything as we went along and accomplished our goals as a team, on our own terms and in keeping with our values.
The launch of our online dating service was delayed again and again as we added features we thought we needed to keep up with the industry, in addition to adding our own ideas.
We've come to realize now that launching something simple now is worth more than something perfect launched later, because later often doesn't come, or in our case it doesn't come fast enough. We were losing money, and because we had scaled up in size we were losing money fast.
Everyone understood the situation and jumped in to helped out, going above and beyond to try to turn things around. Over the course of eight months we worked hard to bring the ship around.
We cut expenses to the bone. People offered to take a pay cut. People worked late. We took out loans, we asked family for money, we ran up $50k in personal credit card debt, we cashed in our retirement savings and cut all the expenses we could find.
And in the end, we simply ran out of money. We owed over $180,000 in company and personal debt. With bankruptcy looming large and no other options, we had to do the unthinkable. We had to lay off people.
For a company who's entire purpose was people, it was crushing. We gave everyone a full severence package, made good on all unpaid vacation time and sent people home with computers, desks, chairs, whatever we didn't absolutely need to keep going.
It didn't make it any easier.
Letting go of wonderful, talented people feels like cutting off your own hands.
For many months we worked on the business and with our creditors. We said goodbye to our cool office space, sold everything we could get our hands on and went back to working from home.
It was humbling.
Somehow we made it through with a few scars and a lot of knowledge of what not
to do next time. In the rear-view mirror of time our mistakes were so obvious, but perhaps that's how people learn best.
In business you last as long as you survive your own mistakes, and through some miracle we were still standing when the dust settled.
The people who left landed on their feet and found jobs or launched new ventures. We've stayed in touch with each other, and many of us are still close friends.
In 2005 our tell-a-friend service was acquired by Note LLC, and we went on to acquire Freedback.com, a service that helps companies receive and handle feedback from their customers.