'We don't quit, we never give up': How the stars of HGTV's 'Fixer Upper' overcame mountains of debt to build a small-business empire


Chip and Joanna Gaines

Joanna Gaines/Facebook

Chip and Joanna Gaines debuted their book "The Magnolia Story" on October 18.

When Chip and Joanna Gaines - now the stars of HGTV's hit home-renovation show "Fixer Upper" - returned from their two-week honeymoon in 2003, they were met with some harsh realities.

Their New York City vacation left them "basically out of money," forcing them to move directly into a vacated house they'd been renting out to college students back in Waco, Texas, they write in their new book "The Magnolia Story." The house smelled of rotting food and desperately needed new flooring and paint, so the newlyweds got to work. While Chip was a seasoned pro at renovation, Joanna was just discovering her passion for design.

The pair now run Magnolia Homes, a real estate, renovation, and design company, transforming run-down properties into character-rich homes for families in the Waco area.

But as their post-honeymoon disaster indicated, the path to success wasn't easy. Chip and Joanna found themselves in deep financial trouble on numerous occasions, including one incident where Joanna had to empty the cash register at her retail shop to bail Chip out of jail, and another where the couple found themselves $100,000 in debt after starting a large residential-development project in the wake of the financial crisis.

Time after time, they were able to move beyond the hardships.


"Jo and I don't quit. We don't quit, we never give up. Failure is not an option, losing is not an option. We fight and we have fought through some really tough, challenging times," Chip told Business Insider in a recent interview.

Chip believes the pair share two qualities that keep them moving forward.

"Somehow, even though we we're so different, so wildly different, the two things that were our common denominators ... we both love to work. We're passionate about what we do, we love waking up in the morning and giving it our best bet," Chip said.

"And the second thing is, we hate to lose. When we woke up some mornings, realizing we don't have the money to pay back some of these debts that we had accumulated over the years, we realized we were going to have to be very creative, very quickly, and really fight for this. We didn't want to quit, we didn't want to declare bankruptcy - some of those things were just literally not options for us," he said.

"And here we are, at a place that we're really proud to say 'Look, we're really proud of some of the accomplishments we've made.'"


In addition to Magnolia Homes, the couple now owns several small businesses under the Magnolia brand, including a retail shop, bakery, furniture line, paint collection, and a "Fixer Upper"-style bed and breakfast. The Gaines' book, "The Magnolia Story," debuted October 18 and chronicles the growth of their small business empire.

Watch more from the Gaines' interview with Business Insider below:

NOW WATCH: Drivers are wasting $2.1 billion on premium gas a year