Reality TV came calling and we said …

by Mary Duggan

Mary Duggan

I think shut and up are the two ugliest words in the language – any language – when they are used together. Afforded an opportunity to speak up, I perk up, or so I thought. That is until recent developments found me standing shell-shocked in the middle of some sort of open-talk-portal. Requests to speak began to present themselves so quickly that I found myself scrambling to determine what exactly it is I have to share. Radio, TV, print media – even, God forbid, reality TV have all come a calling. It has all been a bit much. A blessing and if not a curse, then at least a curiosity.

It started, as most opportunities do for the Duggan Sisters, with exhaustion. We knew we had to get away, so we took advantage of mid-week, off-season prices and slipped away, we thought, to a lovely B&B in Harbor Country for 2 day and 2 nights. We had just completed a very comprehensive interview with Monica Ginsburg from Crain’s Chicago Business and had a week free and clear before we needed to be in Chicago to meet with the Crain’s photographer. Ms. Ginsburg’s focus on sibling entrepreneurs triggered lots of conversations between us; as we were being questioned and prodded to clarify our relationship and our shared story as sisters in business together.

On the one hour drive to our getaway we retrieved a message from WGN Radio inviting us to “appear” live on a Saturday show at midnight. We would be home by then, but midnight? And on Annie’s birthday? It was so easy to say we’d love to; but, can it be any other weekend? Thank God, they worked with our schedule and our fatigue and voila we made our voices heard on Amy Guth’s Red Eye Remix and it was about as much fun as three sisters can have late at night wearing dark blue sweat suits. Conversation flowed in the fun and easy and overlapping way it does when smart women sit and chat. There just happened to be microphones, an engaging ON AIR personality of national prominence, a producer bearing gluten-free cupcakes, and Chicago’s famed Michigan Avenue just outside the window. The fact that an LA Times piece on gluten-free products that included our lifestinks® deodorant had gone to print that morning made the very long day all the sweeter.

WGN_IMG_7509 on air annie mary amy

I would do WGN’s Amy Guth Redeye Remix again ANYTIME at all. Even without cupcakes. Though I think it would be best if they did in fact get the cupcakes again. That’s my inner diva talking.

Meanwhile, back at the B&B, happy hour beckoned and talk turned to deodorant, as it always does – at least in our world – with fellow relaxers, one of whom happened to be a long-time Producer for CBS News and the brainchild behind their Women 2 Know series. And there you have it, another opportunity for story-telling, only this time there would be cameras and the necessity to hold in our stomachs before a really large demographic. These are the kinds of words I use now instead of phrases like lots of people. The stakes were getting higher. Budget dictated that it would be the same navy blue sweat suits, but this time there was so much more pressure to look our best and to speak succinctly. No matter how much was filmed of us interacting with customers at our local Merz Apothecary and no matter how long the in-studio segment with anchor Marissa Bailey ran – it would all be edited down to 5 or 6 minutes. A blink of the eye for three gals of Irish heritage with a wealth of information to share and the ability to only tell long stories.


Marissa Bailey was such a warm and supportive interviewer that you could almost forget all the cameras and lights – ALMOST! But you could not forget to hold in your tummy.

But before any of that filming began there was work to attend to. A really big decision to participate in the Green Products EXPO (SOHO) in Orlando meant we would have to say good-bye to Chicago’s ONE OF A KIND SHOW AND SALE, held the same week at our Merchandise Mart. That show is a killer; but it is our one chance each year to interact with our base and we are deeply sentimental about it. We came up through the art show ranks and it is a vital link to our artisan roots. Finally, after 5 years, we made the difficult decision to head to Orlando in December (okay, that part was not so hard) and forego our biggest and best retail event each year. Really scary stuff for a still small company.


When a great supporter of lifestinks deodorant, like Liz Simer, invites you to an Earth Day Birthday Party at Mesirow Financial the only answer is see you there!


And what’s a party without food? When it’s pomegranate soaked chia seeds topped with chocolate mousse from LYFE Kitchen in River North it’s easy to “Love Your Food Every Day.” Amazing!!!!

And that is how a month goes by: you negotiate distribution rights with a marvelous Canadian group and you discuss the pros and cons of being on the shelves of boutiques in Hong Kong and Macau with wonderfully enthusiastic folks. You watch your gutters get cleaned and your windows get washed and the light comes in brightly for about a half hour. And then you watch the necessary screens go on and the light dims as summer settles in. You race to the discount center to buy a new picnic table and then forfeit all the energy involved in setting up your considerable Easter bunny collection and invest the time and energy instead in building your first glider from a Made in China kit and I’ll be damned – you’ve still got it. It turns out great. You join friends at Mesirow Financial to celebrate A Birthday for Earth Day and you try like crazy to get to Curves; because the month still includes that on-camera hold in your tummy time. And for the first time in an eternity you do the work for your life and welfare and make the decisions and there you have it – three of us are insured – finally, pre-existing conditions and all. Squeaking in just before the deadline.


As a woman, there is probably nothing I enjoy more than watching men work. The team from Galbraith Window & Gutter Cleaning are tops! Second generation family owned and phenomenal. Men. At. Work.

And then they call you about having your own reality TV show and suddenly nothing seems real at all. And that actually happened. The three of us were gathered at the dining room table finishing a really late lunch and proofing our WGN blog, when the phone lit up with Hollywood, CA and so we grabbed it in the spirit of well now let’s see what this is all about and there you have it. We listened, in shock, as they made their case to us. They were indeed big-time producers and the creators of some really high-class television and they were sincerely interested in creating a show around the Deodorant Makers of Beverly Hills and I swear on my mother’s grave, I am telling the truth. With a policy of saying yes until anything surfaces that says we probably should say no we agreed to the making of a casting or sizzle reel (as they say in the biz) to be taken to the networks for consideration for a pilot and five-part series. And yes, we will keep you apprised on that one; and no, in my gut I don’t think it will lead to much of anything. I think we are just too committed to peaceful resolution of disputes between us and too Green-Smoothie-chugging-Curves-circuit-boring to ever make it as a reality TV show. But, Lord it did bring on lots of laughter and that is always good. And it brought on plenty of soul searching, as well.


Guess how many degrees separate me and Ty Pennington now. Not. That. Many.

About story. Our story. Our brand, if you can hear that one more time without gagging. And there you have it: April showers bring May contemplation. What are you willing to do to build your business? How much of your personal life should anyone have access to? And does the day in and day out progression of your life actually hold any value for anyone else’s life? What is your story worth? Is it worth anything at all? And do you let anyone and everyone else tell it – or do you tell it yourself first? Does reality TV have any value? And how much time needs to pass before real life reveals itself and the story gains the wisdom and truth that only time and perspective can afford? And you thought all we were doing here at the cottage was making and selling deodorant.


While the pros from Crain’s finalize the shot, Clare slips out of the frame to capture her own take on the Duggan Sisters’ “Big Shoot” at Merz in the Palmer House Hotel.

So, what’s your story morning glory? If you were asked to share it tomorrow on a news show or on your own reality TV show would you know what your best and true story is? Would you be ready and willing to share it? Have you weighed and sorted the consequences, as well as the benefits? Are you ready to tell the big secrets behind your drive, no matter how many lives will be altered in the process? In the crazy world we now all find ourselves inhabiting you just might need to know. Because folks, they are even turning to Midwestern sisters who make deodorant for a living to fill the incessant call for content on TV. They might just call you next. Are you ready to say yes?

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About the author:

Mary Duggan is Co-Founder and President of the Duggan Sisters

The Duggan Sisters cracked the code and created a natural deodorant that actually works: lifestinks. And that was just the beginning. We hope you will spend a few minutes exploring to experience their spirited approach to wellness through their natural products and healing stories.

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3 Responses to “Reality TV came calling and we said …”

  1. Mary Enright-Olson says:

    I feel the increasing need to say “I knew you when…”
    HOW MARVELOUS that these offers and changes and positiveness are coming your way. You’ve laid solid ground-work with fantastic products. The foundation being the dynamic trio of girls~women power.

    • Mary Duggan says:

      Thanks, Mary. Mostly I think you will always be able to say I knew them when they needed a new roof and some house paint. But, all this attention is still kind of exciting. Today we found out our “sizzle reel” has been sent to the network and now we play a waiting game. Surreal is all I can say. Hope you are well. Mary

  2. Cheryl Lynn says:

    Wow, you make my day every day with Lifestinks, but today I read some of your writings/articles, and they made me smile, laugh and remember some of my own memories. You should be on reality TV, I would watch!

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