How to Shut Down Your Business

Hand-sanitizer brand Dom saw its sales drop after the pandemic, so its founders closed up shop
(Illustration: Mathieu Labrecque)

Toronto tech recruiter Sam Levinson and her husband, Adam, a sales professional, launched organic-hand-sanitizer company Dom at the height of the pandemic. Demand for sanitizers was booming, and the duo jumped on the opportunity, developing a hydrating product that smelled like rosemary and lavender. Sam had recently been laid off, giving her time to dedicate to the business.

Covering start-up costs with the couple’s own money, Sam worked for more than a year to get Dom up and running, from researching the market and finding the right supplier to acquiring Health Canada approval. Dom launched in April 2021 and took off. At the peak of its popularity, the sanitizer appeared in 150 retail spaces across Canada, including Whole Foods and boutique hotels like The Drake in Toronto.

But in late 2022, the sanitizer market wound down in lockstep with the pandemic. The brand’s sales dipped. “We realized that unless we solicited a major cash infusion to support a pivot into a different product or a push into the U.S., it just wasn’t going to pick up,” says Sam. With inflation and rising interest rates, the economy was precarious. Meanwhile, Sam was pregnant. “Pushing the business forward could have put us in a big financial hole, but the biggest factor was that our hearts weren’t in it anymore.”

In November 2022, the Levinsons made the call to shut down Dom. The first question was whom to inform, and when. Since they had to liquidate their inventory, the pair decided to postpone a public announcement, strategically leaning into the holiday season to sell the products they had left. So, the first stakeholders they informed were their vendors and suppliers. “You never know where your business relationships can lead in the future, so you don’t want to burn a bridge.” Keeping vendors in the loop also helped them sell stock, since they could work together on marketing pushes, like 50 per cent off sales.

Related: How to Turn a Business Setback Into Success

Sam made the announcement on Dom’s website and social-media platforms a month before shutting down for good, thanking customers for their support. Before shuttering their Shopify website, the Levinsons downloaded their financial records for tax purposes.

For business owners looking to shut down, Sam says it’s important to save financial records and close services that cost money, like business emails. Timing is also key. Instead of waiting for sales to plummet or borrowing money to stay afloat, Sam made the call when the tide was turning. “A part of me feels like a failure, and it’s sometimes hard not to wonder why we couldn’t make it work. But I can look at it from a positive perspective because the business ended on a high.”

Liza Agrba
Liza Agrba
Liza Agrba is an award-winning freelance writer based in Toronto with over a decade of experience covering food, business and culture. Her work regularly appears in The Globe and Mail, Maclean’s, and Toronto Life, among others.