Deb May, founder and now-retired owner of Wholesale Supplies Plus, really never thought she was going to sell her company. She grew it out of her basement and thought that one day, her children would step in and take over.

“And probably four or five years ago, we realized that our children didn't share the passion that we had,” May says. “And to continue to serve our customers years and years into the future, we were going to have to take on partners or sell.”

But hearing that her children weren’t interested in taking over the family business wasn’t the stinging blow that some might expect it to be.

“There was almost a sense of relief,” May says. “The company was nearly a hundred employees and the heartburn you go home with every day is pretty tough. And I don't think anybody has kids thinking they're going to make the road harder. You want to make your kids’ lives a little bit easier. And I started thinking, ‘Are they going to have a spouse that's going to support the business? Are they can end up divorced because it's just too difficult? So I supported their decision.”

Once it was clear she’d be selling the company to an outside buyer, May spoke with an accountant and an attorney and decided to test the private equity market. She interviewed a lot of firms, some of them several times, all the while keeping a number in head through the process. Ultimately, everything worked out.

“We were able to exceed our expectations and really find a company that was able to bring not just money to the table in terms of no longer having home equity loans to fund inventory, but they had a really good growth strategy that we were comfortable with. I always like to say I grew the company through high school and now this private equity group is really going to help our baby fly and become an entity that we may not even recognize in the future.”

May shared much more about her process — preparing for a transaction, talking with potential buyers and preparing for life after business — in the Smart Business Dealmakers Podcast.

Listen to the podcast