More Than Scripture Memory Pt. 1: A Panera, Product Re-Launch, and Path unto God's Faithfulness
At the beginning of July 2020, my father, Bill, drove Lauren and I to the Kansas City Airport. We were flying out to Nashville for a wedding, and the time away was welcomed as we had some decisions to make in regard to our limited partnership, Qwill Creative. The decision at hand: buy back the scripture memory product line I founded in college, Membands, from my old business partner, or hang up the product for good and move on with other facets of Qwill. During the car ride to the airport, I told Pops how I was leaning:
“I think it might be time to hang up Membands for good,” I said.
“No,” he said, “Membands isn’t done yet.”
I sat in the car and appreciated his encouragement, but knew that to move forward with the product line just didn’t make sense. Or at least not on paper. Lauren and I didn’t have the money to pay my business partner back for original investments he had made into the business. We didn’t have a manufacturer capable of delivering the product we truly wanted to make—one capable of writing any verse for any business/ministry on a Memband. And on top of it all, Qwill was taking more of my time and energy—helping businesses with their marketing efforts, and carving out a new offering: helping others write and publish their own books.
The following two-part blog series recounts the events that took place following that car ride.
A Discouraging Trip to Nashville
Like I said earlier, we were in Nashville for a good friend’s wedding. And let me preface and say, of the ~36 hours we were in town, we had a lovely 35 hours. The wedding was amazing, and we had so much fun with friends in a beautiful city.
Then there was the hour-long meeting I had at Panera.
In the summer of 2020, as I weighed options about next steps with Membands, I had a friend connect me with a business professional out of Nashville. This individual had spent 20+ years in Nashville working in faith-based products and resources for children. He was well-connected at Lifeway among other Christian businesses in and around the country. Our mutual friend connected us, and when I mentioned Lauren and I coming to Nashville for a wedding, we agreed to meet up at Panera.
Another preface: I believe this man had good intentions in the hour we spent together. I believe, in his professional experience, he was able to lay out the numbers of what buying out Membands would mean for Lauren and I in the months/years ahead. He talked about the logistics of finding proper manufacturing and selling products in a crowded space—children’s ministry and scripture memory resources—and how the odds were stacked against Membands in the process.
We stood up, fist-bumped (because COVID), and I threw away my sandwich I hadn’t even taken a bite of.
I walked out to my car, sat in the driver’s seat, and slammed my hands on the steering wheel. I wasn’t upset because of the bleak outlook for Membands in the days ahead. Rather, I was so frustrated that this man told it like it was—with so much realism in his tone—and left little hope for a pragmatic path forward.
“Screw it. I’m done with this,” are about the words that came out of my mouth.
I drove back to our AirBnB, told Lauren the meeting at Panera went fine, and we had a great rest of the weekend.
The Rest of July
On our way back home to Kansas City, I felt discouraged. But in the weeks ahead, I came to peace with one of two paths forward.
The first path was indeed ending my involvement with Membands as an idea and scripture memory product line. If I’m honest, there was something in that plan that sounded so nice. It seemed easier, cheaper, and a weight off to not worry about anymore.
But the second path was at least a last-ditch effort in how we might take back the business and move forward with a Membands product re-launch. Here are a few components that went into this second path:
- We’d ask my business partner, Darren, if we could buy out his stake in the business over time.
- Lauren and I would assess what worked well the first time we launched Membands, what didn’t, and how we might move forward accordingly.
- I’d create a detailed plan of how we might move forward—from a timeline to specific goals, we’d plan a product re-launch so that many might be equipped with a new method for scripture memory and evangelism.
The rest of July 2020 was spent creating that re-launch plan. And at the beginning of August, I sent the 16-page re-launch plan to Darren in an email—simultaneously asking him if he would consider payment overtime for his stake in the business. He responded, and here are his words from an email sent on August 8th, 2020 at 4:01pm:
“Will, let’s set up a time next week to discuss?”
More than Scripture Memory
We did set a time to talk on the phone. And in the days leading up to the call, I was nervous.
Lauren and I were willing to pay him a significant amount of money—money we maybe had or didn’t have—but were confident God might make a way.
“Will, my family and I have been praying about this.”
Darren dove right in.
“And we’re going to go ahead and give you everything back for free.”
I froze while walking on a Kansas City downtown sidewalk.
Our inventory, the website, marketing material, and 100% equity back in the business I founded as a senior in college. It was all Lauren and I’s again. And God indeed make a way.
It was one of the most exciting and daunting moments of my life, because it meant we were doing this. It meant we were somehow going to try to make this work—even though “failure” was an obvious option. It meant "scripture memory" is where this journey started, but who knows where it might end. It meant that even though we didn’t know what the fall of 2020 might entail, God was proving at least an ounce of truth in what my Dad mentioned on our way to the airport: that “Membands isn’t done yet.”
But if you've read any of the bible, you know God can work with an ounce.
I can’t wait to write down all (or at least some) of what God has done over the last year—since Darren reached out over the phone with a gift.
Because shortly after my call with him, something happened that made a Membands product re-launch possible:
An encouraging trip to Nashville.