'It nearly broke me': Exiting a business is hard to do
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'It nearly broke me': Exiting a business is hard to do

Exiting her business nearly broke Mandi Gunsberger.

"In that last year, for me running and selling a company at the same time were like two full-time jobs," she told Fairfax Media on the sidelines of the Dell Women's Entrepreneur Network in Toronto last month. "I had a nervous breakdown because at certain times of the business, the pressure was so much."

Mandi Gunsberger founded parenting website Babyology, which she sold to Kinderling.

Mandi Gunsberger founded parenting website Babyology, which she sold to Kinderling.

Gunsberger is the founder of parenting website Babyology, which had an estimated turnover of more than $2 million before Gunsberger sold last year to kid's radio station Kinderling for an undisclosed sum.

"You have to keep coming up with ways of making your revenue bigger for buyers," she says. "When you are running a business and raising children you don't even realise you are going at such a fast pace that it becomes normal. My days started at 5am and ended at midnight. I was doing a lot of travel and we had to move house and being offline for two days I couldn't catch up, I had massive anxiety and panic attacks. It nearly broke me."

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Gunsberger says the pressure was enormous.

"It does get to you and it's the longevity of the stress and anxiety that you put yourself through," she says. "Even now I am still on adrenal fatigue medication."

Rather than being exhilarated when the deal went through, Gunsberger says she was exhausted.

"When it finally went through, for me, it was just relief that the whole juggling act was over," she says.

Mandi Gunsberger with her family after selling Babyology.

Mandi Gunsberger with her family after selling Babyology.

'I felt like I was having a heart attack'

The pressure Gunsberger was under selling her business rang true for many of the women entrepreneurs attending DWEN.

Sue Abu-Hakima, founder of Canadian-based business Amika Mobile, says when she sold her first business it required "marathon meetings".

"They were a $100 million company and we were a little SME and my lawyer said, 'They are treating this like a $10 million deal'," she says. "I never had panic attacks until I sold my first company, that was crazy, I felt like I was having a heart attack."

Abu-Hakima says the sale required her to stay in the business for three years but she only lasted two years.

"My first team all stayed in there and that was hard," she says.

'A moment of grief'

Entrepreneurs at DWEN also said they felt bereft once their business was sold.

Kim Holstein, the co-founder of US business, Kim & Scott's Gourmet Pretzels, said when she and her husband sold their business after 17 years it was a huge life change.

"The thing that surprised me the most was how much I missed it," she says. "The emotional attachment and the sentimentality, I cried and cried. All the precious moments and the hard moments, it was really a moment of grief."

Wendy Simpson still has her former employee's birthdays marked in her calendar.

Wendy Simpson still has her former employee's birthdays marked in her calendar. Credit:Nic Walker

It takes a while

Australian entrepreneur Wendy Simpson found it hard to move on after she sold the business she co-founded, Westray Engineering in 2011.

"If you have invested in your employees it is very hard," she says. "We sold six years ago and their birthdays are still in my calendar. It takes a while."

Simpson also felt at a loss as to what to do with herself.

"The other thing I found the hardest is [for] most entrepreneurs it's go, go, go," she says. "We are all action, so when you have sold you are not busy, so who do you hang out with?"

For Gunsberger, with Babyology's sale finalised, she is going to take some time to assess what to do next.

"I really don't know what I'm going to do, to be honest," she says. "I want to start something from the ground up again but I don't know if it will be in this industry. I'm taking a year off first."

The reporter attended DWEN in Toronto as a guest of Dell.

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