Interview With Rachel Bentley

Meet Rachel Bentley, one of my amazing business partners!

This is becoming one of my favorite things to do, interview people I look up to for different reasons. I realized how great of a designer this girl was 10 years ago now, when she was the designer for one of my television station clients. When business started to become overwhelming and I knew I needed help…I knew the first place to go. I didn’t put out a resume search on Indeed, I didn’t post a job on Facebook…I simply asked this friend, hey, you wanna partner our companies up? I’ll send you design work and keep you busy. That was over 7 years ago and this girl has become not only an integral part of 3Zero but one of my dearest friends. 

I want you guys to meet Rachel Bentley, the owner of RB Design, and frankly one of the best artists I’ve ever met. She’s been a stay at home mom business owner since 2014 and we’ve grown together since then. 

Thanks Rach for taking your time from our usual daily conversations for this special email conversation! Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your start? When did you know you wanted to be some kind of artist? Tell us a little about RIT, your jobs and what made you start your own business? 

I grew up always drawing and doodling, it was my outlet and release. My mom is a graphic designer and had her own business when I was growing up so I would always watch her work while working on my own drawings, even if it was scribbles. My favorite subject in school was always art and as I got older and my passion for all art grew with me. 

When it was time to decide on a college I picked RIT to pursue a major in Illustration, concentrating in graphic design, animation and creative writing. I visited RIT with my parents at the end of my junior year in High School and I immediately knew I wanted to go there. It was one of those moments where as soon as I saw the school I knew it was the place for me; there was an instant connection. I applied for early action and was accepted in December of 2004.

Fast forward to now, I met the love of my life at RIT, we moved around upstate NY a little deciding on a little town called Marion, NY to settle and make our family. When I found out we were expecting our first child we were currently living in Waterville, NY where I met you. Both my husband and I felt like we wanted to be closer to family and didn’t want to settle down in Waterville so we picked up, quit our jobs and moved when I was 8 months pregnant. I don’t recommend this. It was a very hard decision to be a stay at home mom, I had been working since I was 14 and I didn’t know anything different than working during the day. Following in my mom’s footsteps, I decided to start my own business. My business started mainly when you proposed we work together. It’s been through your support and help that has helped me with the confidence to continue and grow my company.

I actually had no idea your mom owned a graphic design business! That’s awesome. Were you able to equate that your mom’s specific set of skills translated to being able to make your own money or did that come later on? 

And I didn’t even have to force you to say those nice things! You were the first person that I truly thought of. I believed I can help you grow, mostly because every situation and scenario that you encounter in the beginning, I’ve already gone through. The biggest difference with us was my sales experience. I was more or less forced to learn how to deal with all kinds of customers, especially unhappy ones when I was at the tv station haha.  

When you first got started was your mom supportive of your decision to start your own business?  

Also, I have zero clue what it’s like to be a stay at home mom (yet, cause it’s 2021 and I can do that), and try and run a business. Can you give some other stay at home mom’s some tips on how to differentiate between parenting and working? I obviously know based on our conversations, it’s sure as shit not easy haha. But I think we’re going to see a spike in the number of people starting their own businesses and being able to avoid the usual pitfalls, especially if you’re a stay at home parent, can be helpful for folks. 

I guess I get to put you on the spot and I can ask ya…what have you learned, good or bad from me? What to do, what not to do? I never thought of myself as a leader until recently, and it’s still strange to feel like I’m leading anyone…but it’s good to learn where your faults lie too.

As a kid I really didn’t realize that she made money or what it meant when she ran her business. When we moved from Colorado to Syracuse she started working at an ad agency because I was old enough to stay home and watch my sister after school so she stopped her business before I could really understand more about it. 

My mom was supportive of me starting my own business, but more worried about the struggles she went through as a business owner and a stay at home mother. She didn’t want me to have the same struggles she did, probably with financials and supporting my family, she never really explained her misgivings in detail however (she’s a worrywart). 

When I was younger though I was never aware of the struggles she went through, I loved that she stayed home and I was allowed to draw while she worked. I remember when she got the Adobe products and she was going through the tutorials, I would actually play around with the products too…at that point they only had Photoshop and Illustrator, so I’ve been familiar with the products since I was 8-9 years old. 

Being a stay at home mom and a business owner is a lot…you have to find a balance between getting your work done and being there for your kids. It was a lot harder when they were 1ish because there were less naps, still nursing and diapers. I would say work above the hard times, do what you can when you can without sacrificing your family’s happiness. I’ve changed my schedule many times. I’m not a morning person, so at first when my oldest was little I would put her to bed and then work until 12-1 in the morning and then take a nap when she took her first nap. Now though I have to get my kids to school so my schedule has changed to working in the mornings before my kids get home, so when they are home I can focus on being there for them. It’s about being flexible, working with how you feel at the moment, giving the attention where it needs it. Also reach out to other business owners, talk to them, become friends with them because the friendship and support I’ve had from you since I started out helped me more than you probably know. 

All small business owners are in the same boat. They feel the same struggles and hardships but it’s about how you rise above them and give each other support that can help you overcome them and be successful. 

What have I learned from you…how to run my business, how to work with sales and get clients. You’ve taught me to value myself and to not let people take advantage of my talent which has probably been one of the hardest struggles for me, since I don’t see my value or how talented I am sometimes. The bad…make sure I know exactly what my client is looking for before I spend a ton of time on something and it’s not even close to what they are looking for. Haha    

Haha yeah mom’s definitely tend to be worrywarts, right Stephanie Rauscher? Your statement about what you really remember about your mom’s business is awesome. That you were completely unaware of any struggles, you were just happy she was home. I think that statement should help a lot of people feel more comfortable in their upcoming choices of working for themselves or working for someone else under uncomfortable circumstances. Your kids care, they notice that you’re around more. Some of you know my lady quit her salaried 9-5 job 2 years ago. She now has full control over her entire schedule. The kids notice. She drops them off at school, she picks them up, they never see a babysitter, she’s around for every school day off, every holiday off…they will remember that stuff forever. Do your kids notice that unlike Daddy who does the 9-5 job, Mommy is home all the time? 

It’s wild to me that you’ve known about the Adobe products for 20+ years. I didn’t touch Adobe Photoshop until maybe my 3rd year in college. That was just one class. I didn’t really become fully comfortable with the main designing programs from Adobe (Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign), until I started at Paige Group in 2005. I think that really shows the difference in our abilities and why I sought to have you as part of my team when I asked…you’ve had literal YEARS of experience over myself as a designer. It just made perfect sense for me to focus on other parts of the business. They say it takes 10,000 hours of “practice” to become a master of something…you are well on your way if you’re not there yet. 

Working from home, it’s so important to BE FLEXIBLE with yourself. Your first instinct is to continue working 9-5….which, if that is your best working time, continue it. For me, I’ve been the opposite of you, my mind is sharpest the minute I wake up for about 4-6 hours. After that it’s a complete crapshoot. My work speed ebbs and flows during the weeks/months and I’ve just learned to go with it. When my mental energy isn’t as sharp, I do tasks that are really mundane but need to get done. When I feel like my creativity is flying off the charts, I get as much stuff done in that time as I can. You’ve done a great job of trying to switch your schedule up based on the kids’ lives…I’ve finally gotten to a point here where I have a good routine for a long stretch. 

I hate tooting my own horn so it’s not easy asking a question to be evaluated haha…but my point really is, my business and honestly my happiness level started taking off when I learned that I was helping you. The more excited you got about your business, the more excited it made me. I really started to apply that to every client. I became genuinely more excited about their business, their goals, and doing whatever I could to help them move the needle forward. You’ve simply become my first “student” I guess in a mentorship type program that I’d love to establish for new entrepreneurs. Help people do what’s taking me upwards of 10 years to accomplish, and have them figure it out in a quarter of the time. Avoid my mistakes, do things the right way from the start, don’t cut corners, learn from others, then teach others. It’s why I keep saying to you that I think your next step in business someday will be to find the next “you” like I did. You’ll be handling the higher end stuff while your partner in crime starts off small and builds. What kinda goals do you have for yourself in the next year, 5 years, 10 years?

My kids understand that daddy does go to work and mommy stays home so she can be with them. I tell them that daddy works really hard so we can have this house, food, the toys you have. I hope they appreciate how hard he works, and I feel like they’re really happy mommy gets the opportunity to be home with them. 

Yes, having been around the Adobe products since they essentially came out has made the whole program really second nature to me.

I am trying really hard to stay Flexible and work when I can, you know I am not a morning person so I try to work in spurts and take breaks and I feel like I get more done that way than forcing myself to work for multiple hours. I feel like we’ve both taught each other a lot for our businesses to do well.

For the next 5, 10, 15 years I really want to grow my business, and focus more on sales and be the person people go to for their brand and design needs. I want to be the expert, the one people see as an asset to their company for it to grow. Who knows what the future holds but I’m hoping things will be clear and I can grow.

Well I guess my question on that first part becomes…would you want your kids to recognize your business success early enough that perhaps they want to become entrepreneurs themselves? These two over this house seem to have it in mind they want to start a pizzeria or something of the like in the future together…and as someone that’s an entrepreneur, I’d do nothing but encourage them to do that. 

With so many people looking to start their own business or side hustle…which of the Adobe products, if people wanted to start learning one, would you recommend they start with? I never really had any truly “formal” training in any of them. Couple of college classes, a couple of hotel type day seminars, but mostly everything I learned was through online tutorials, reading Adobe books, and more or less trial and error. I learned Photoshop first, then got most comfortable in Indesign through my agency days, but now probably use Illustrator the most. I actually find Illustrator to be the most difficult to learn though. 

So much of working for yourself is just learning all your own personal nuances of how you like to work and how you work best. I sometimes move from spot to spot after a couple hours if I can’t get any or keep momentum going. I’ve accepted naps as a way to rejuvenate on days that I’m struggling. Sometimes I play music, sometimes I have random tv shows on, sometimes it’s a podcast or complete silence. 

Sales is the one differentiating factor between free-lancers and actual businesses in my mind. Making sure you take an active approach to finding new prospects, working on building relationships, finding their pain points, coming up with solutions to those problems….that’s where people seem to lag a little bit. Doing sales work is uncomfortable. There are a lot of “No” responses, a lot of answers you know are bullshit but are just part of the game. Talking about money with prospects can be uncomfortable. But, the good thing to understand is, it’s all a numbers game. The more people you meet, the more businesses you interact with in some way or get to know the business owner…the more likely it is you’ll get new sales. Where do you find your biggest struggles to be when it comes to the sales process? 

Absolutely, if they want to be entrepreneurs, I would hope my experience would help them and I hope they could come to me with questions. Hopefully they are inspired and know they can be a stay at home parent and still work and it doesn’t have to be one or the other. I even feel like getting into trades and not going to college could be possible if they have a good work ethic and they love what they do. I would never tell them or make them do something that wasn’t for them.

As far as adobe products, I would say the easiest to learn is Photoshop, like you said. They are all so different though that you would have to take on learning one that would be most beneficial to what you are going to use it for. Illustrator is what I use most and there’s so many options in Illustrator it can be a little overwhelming, I still don’t know all the functions you can do. I use Illustrator to draw, design, play with text, logos, more creative artsy applications. 

InDesign is best for layouts, magazines, books, other collateral options that are very composition and word heavy that takes up multiple pages. 

Photoshop is strictly photo editing and free hand drawing, it’s great for digital artists that have Wacom tablets, that want to sketch, paint, etc.  There’s so many other Adobe products that you can get into and pretty much one for every facet of the art world but those three are the staples I use. 

I’m right there with you having to move around and taking breaks and I must have something on in the background. It’s mostly my kids’ shows but I cannot have a quiet house. Sometimes I’ll watch my shows on my computer while I work or have the tv on in the office. I love and hate naps, I love them because it’s so relaxing and sometimes I really need them and I hate them because I feel like a part of my day is gone and I almost end up more tired.

My biggest struggle in sales is clinching the deal. I can talk about my business to anyone but getting the logo or being confident in my prices and what I need can be hard. Putting myself out there is a struggle, when people say no I typically just walk away instead of following up and trying again.

At 38, college is still the worst financial decision of my life. 

I’ve kicked around the ideas of doing digital classes for those beginners in some of the Adobe products. But so much of it, and I think you’d agree, is simply trial and error. Don’t know what a certain tool does, well that’s easy…make a new document and use it, or download a template and alter it with tools. What most people tend to lack is just the knowhow of what certain terminology means, or how tools interact with each other. There are no less than 6 dozen ways to do the same thing with every Adobe product I’ve used.

As we finish up, what projects or work are you most proud of since becoming a “designer”? This can be anything from college through business ownership. Certain projects must stick out positively for you. And are there any clients that you’d like to make mention of that you’ve worked with along the way and are proud of what you’ve done for them? 

Thanks so much friend for taking the time to talk to me outside of our daily talkings. I’m beyond proud of what you’ve accomplished in the last 7 years together and so grateful for the partnership we’ve formed. Side note for folks, Rach and I hadn’t actually seen each other since I worked at the television station in early 2013. We finally got together and hung out in person outside of a client relationship for the first time….needless to say, even in distance, our partnership and bond is strong as ever. 

Yeah same here, I learned more experiencing and working with graphics everyday than I did in school. Although, I did love RIT and I would never take that experience back. That’s where I met Matt, and having RIT on my resume doesn’t hurt either but we will be paying student loans for a while. 

It’s funny you say that because yes there are a lot of different ways to do the same thing and even I don’t know everything the products can do which I feel is saying a lot. 

I think my biggest project I’m most proud of is illustrating a book for RIT. It’s called “ RITchie Finds His Stripes” and I am so honored to have been the illustrator for the book. Rick and his family are so amazing and we really brought RITchie to life. A copy of it even got placed in the RIT Hall of Fame, also some of the players signed a copy and sent it to Rick (Author) and were so excited to be drawn in the book, so that was pretty awesome.

I’m also proud of how far I’ve come as a designer. I look at my work from when I started to now and I feel like a whole different designer. I’m way more confident in my talent, yes I still have a far way to go but I’m starting to see what others see.

That book was such an awesome accomplishment…huge projects like that tend to be, with so much time and energy devoted to it…especially when it’s recognized by others. 

I would tell you how proud I am of you also, but I tell you that all the time! You’ve helped my company grow and also given me the confidence that we can quite literally do anything a client asks of us. I look forward to the next 5, 10, 20 years together and growing our businesses together. You’ve become a sister to me over the years and I’m beyond grateful for this partnership. Thanks for opening up a little about yourself and your business. 

If you guys wanna give Rach a follow head over to Rachel Bentley Design on Facebook.

Living & Working with Anxiety

The bitch herself, anxiety.

Discovering you have some form of mental health disorder is never as simple as finding out you have a physical problem. Physical complications tend to manifest quickly, you notice pain or discomfort and you go into diagnosis mode. For me, learning about my own anxiety has been a JOURNEY. The beginning of it wrought with some shitty moments.  

I can trace my anxiety all the way back to even childhood. Going to the doctor’s and having to have blood work or a shot, and my body instantly went into panic…loss of color, vomiting, passing out…and not one time in the 80’s or early 90’s did any medical professional say, hey, that’s not normal and here’s what we may be able to do to fix it. Nope, here comes Nick, reads here, have garbage can handy, check.

This manifested itself throughout my entire school age years, into college, and part of my adult life before I even understood even a little what the hell could be going on. I can remember back in time to my Nonnie having panic attacks and blowing into a paper bag as she hyperventilated. She was even a nurse, and nothing about mental health at the time. It wasn’t until I was close to 30 that I began to learn what anxiety and panic attacks were. I can remember my first panic attack…sitting on my kitchen floor, heart feeling like it was going to burst out of my chest, having complete lack of feeling in my extremities, having cold chills….truly sensing like I was going to die right there. I didn’t tell many people about this, I didn’t even know how to describe it at the time without sounding insane.

Having a job and working with anxiety was absolutely brutal. Alarm clocks started my day off immediately with anxiety. I’d either wake up 2 minutes before, or wake up terrified from it no matter what the sound was. The stress of work lead to horrible stomach pains that I can actually attribute directly to work. I believe they were stress ulcers I know this because the day I put my two week notice in, it never happened again. Anything unplanned that would happen…think forced overtime or the boss calling a meeting… would send my brain into a tailspin. I finally got to a point where I was in a position where I was forced to choose between staying at a job I felt was actively killing me or going. I chose to go knowing anything had to be better than feeling that way. 

That was 2013…it wasn’t really until 2016 that I REALLY took my mental health seriously. Again, I didn’t really have a choice. I had completely lost myself. My anxiety lead to pill addiction to try and “cure” the feeling of dread of having any sort of anxiety or panic. Here are a few of the things I’ve done over the last few years to work to fight back against my anxiety, which is EXACTLY what it is, a fight. 

I started going to a counselor. If you’ve never been…I can not speak highly enough of finding the right person to speak to about shit in your head…shit that tends to be way more common than we think. Check your insurance immediately and see if it’s offered, do it once a month if you can, even once every 6 months would be good…even if you don’t have insurance, invest in yourself. Having a neutral person to go to for those self doubt thoughts, the things that confuse you, scary you, worry you, bother you….is completely invaluable. 

I’ve been on an SSRI (Anti-depressant/anxiety), Paxil, since 2016. This can be a dive into a whole ‘nother post about my distrust in the pharmaceutical industry. I’ll just say that, if I miss my daily pill more than twice, I get complete brain fog, dizziness, heart burn, brain zaps, exhaustion and random outbursts. The full withdrawal effects of Paxil are similar in nature to that of heroin withdrawal. I now consider myself a socially accepted drug addict. When things we’re REALLY bad at the start, I was also taking Xanax for bad panic attacks. I’m trying like hell to get away from using Big Pharma pills.

The Lovely Paxil Withdrawal Symptoms

Meditation. Ugh, this one was REALLY difficult to admit to mostly because my Mom preached it haha. Frankly I thought it was all a bunch of garbage. Any time I tried to close my eyes, things seemed to get worse, so meditation felt like a waste of time. There are so many great apps out there for meditation that just help guide you. I think I’ve only meditated a few times without a guide. Meditation can happen in many places, I’ve done it while fishing, done it while driving. Part of it is simply being THERE, not being anywhere else in your head. It’s amazing when you actually FEEL it work though. You almost feel “high” and you finish feeling full of energy. Or if you’re looking for the opposite effect, it truly helps put me to sleep. This video always helped me with sleep immensely. It’s called Yoga Nidra…props to my former business partner Dan for telling me about this.

 

Booooks….check em out. Read books. Read personal development books. Read books about anxiety, I recommend DARE: A New Way to End Anxiety. Read books that take you away from your mind. Read real books. Read on your phone or tablet. Read non-fiction. Read fiction. DO NOT read shit that GIVES you anxiety. Just read, every single day. I read before bed every night and it helps me fall asleep also. 

Cannabis. Pot. Weed. The devil’s lettuce. The Electric Lettuce. It’s become legalized in New York State now. We can talk freely and openly about it. I could write an entire book on my experience with cannabis. I’ll keep it short though. DARE worked on me. I didn’t even try pot until I was 30 years old. I truly believed the notion that potheads amounted to nothing. And it’s truly further from the truth. I use it very much for anxiety/depression, but with all the information out there on sites like leafly.com to educate yourself on the benefits of cannabis, there are dozens of ways it can help…not just smoking it…if you’re on the bandwagon still that it’s a “gateway drug”, I’d highly recommend researching some of the 8000 strains and see the ways each one of them is used differently. If you’re looking for 100% legal relief though, check out quality CBD products. We have a local company that I’ve become an affiliate marketer for, Utica Hemp Company. If you head over to their website, shop.uticahempco.com and put the code 3zerocreative in at checkout, you’ll get 10% off your purchase every time! If you’re unsure what to get, hit me up and I’ll help guide you with your purchase.

Guys, here’s the deal though, anxiety is very real, it’s very common, and it’s becoming much more talked about now than it ever was. It’s not something to be embarrassed of. Many people take anxiety they don’t know they have and channel it into alcohol, drugs (the bad kind), sex, gambling, eating, working out, skydiving, and any other number of great and not so great ways of relieving stress. Being able to recognize anxiety and fighting back against it every day is really the key to getting it under control. I’ve accepted it’s just part of me, I know when it’s overwhelming now, I know how to avoid the truly awful panic attacks…but that took a lot of time and practice. Hopefully you guys do whatever you can to take your mental health more seriously. 

Thanks for coming to my TED talk on one of the few things I’ve unfortunately had the pleasure of becoming an expert on.

An interview with Jessica Kellogg, Founder of Lincoln’s Angels

Thanks for reading my latest interview with a true inspiration.

My last blog post was about enduring and my next guest has endured what has to be considered one of the most difficult and life altering experiences that any person goes through…and she continues to endure, inspire and help others that have gone through similar experiences or to make sure no one ever has to. I’d like you guys to meet Jess Kellogg, Founder of Lincoln’s Angels, Inc. Jess has a story that will bring you to tears but also hopefully inspire you to be able to learn from tragedies and even find the strength to help others like she has. 

Hey Jess, thanks so much for sharing your story with people. I know you’ve told it a million times and I’m sure it probably never gets any easier, but without your story there isn’t Lincoln’s Angels, so I guess we should warn everyone to grab their tissues and sit down especially if you’re a parent of a young child.

Hey Nick!

 

May be an image of 1 personLincoln’s Angels Inc was formed in October of 2018 in honor of my son, Lincoln, who passed away at 4 months old in April of 2018.  Lincoln was my miracle baby.  My (now ex husband) and I tried for nearly a decade to start a family.  After countless fertility surgeries and procedures, our first round of IVF worked in March of 2017.  Lincoln was born, quite fittingly, on Thanksgiving day in 2017.  He was absolute perfection.  He had the chunkiest little cheeks that everyone just loved smooching.  We were absolutely in love with him.  

May be an image of 2 people

At 4 months old we were starting to get to the “fun” stage of infancy.  He started to recognize people when they walked into a room.  He would smile the biggest smile.  He was starting to giggle and have a little personality.  We just loved life with Lincoln around.  He had a big cousin, Tyler, who just loved to play with him and show him all of his toys. 

On April 3rd, 2018, at Lincoln’s second day of daycare, he was found unresponsive during his nap.  We will never truly know what happened to him.  I flashback to the frantic call from his daycare provider.  The panicked drive to the hospital.  The vision of doctors trying to resuscitate him.  The scream from my sister who was in the room when the doctors pronounced him dead.  I flashback to kissing his lifeless body goodbye.  There are no words to describe the feeling of having to call friends and family members and actually say the words “Lincoln passed away.”  There is no feeling quite like coming home to an empty nursery.  A home without Lincoln in it.  

The next few days were a blur.  I wondered how I could possibly make it through an hour, a night, a day, a week, without my son.  We had his funeral, and buried our son the Saturday after his passing.  The outpouring of love we received from our community was amazing.  It is honestly one of the only things that kept me going.  The cards, the go fund me donations to help with funeral costs, the visits, the meals, everything.  It was so inspiring.  

I began to think of ways I could give back.  How could I help similar families the way our community helped us?  My first “fundraiser” was selling In Loving Memory Car Decals for Lincoln.  We donated all the money we raised to a local non profit that provides counseling to parents and families who have lost a child.  I then started to think bigger.  How could I keep Lincoln’s memory alive?  How could I help other families deal with the tragedy of losing a child?  

Smart Sock Monitor for Babies & Toddlers – Owlet Baby Care USIt was not long after Lincoln passed that my mother discovered the OWLET sock.  This is a sock that monitors a baby’s heart rate and oxygen levels and alerts you when levels drop.  I decided that was it.  I could donate those socks to families in need.  Families who could not afford one.  Families who had lost a child and were now expecting another one.  I can only imagine the anxiety that brings.  

I formed Lincoln’s Angels.  Our mission is to help and inspire the bereaved to grieve, those trying to conceive and fall families in between.  Our main purpose is donating OWLET socks to families in need.  To date we have donated 300 socks in over 35 states!  We have also donated to go fund me’s for families who have lost a child.  We have also been able to completely pay for 2 headstones for sweet babies that passed too soon.  We operate solely based off of donations.  

Our most successful fundraiser is our annual Golf Tournament at Barker Brook Golf Course in Oriskany Falls.  The support of our local community has been amazing.  I have big visions for this non profit.  I want to be a nationally recognized non profit.  You will see me on Ellen, or Oprah one day, talking about the thousands of babies we have helped.  Lincoln may be gone, but his memory has touched more lives than I could have ever imagined, and we are just getting started.  Babies have been saved because of him.  Babies have been named after him.  His name is spoken daily not just by me but by people throughout the country.  Sometimes we do not totally understand why things happen.  I guess Lincoln was meant to change lives and help families in need.  Even though I do not get to smooch his chubby cheeks everyday, I find peace in knowing that I wake up everyday to honor him and keep his memory alive.

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Number of Owlet Socks Donated
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Number of States Donated To

Man, this is one of those stories that even though I’m not a biological parent, nor a woman who has gone through infertility or pregnancy, it’s still a complete gut punch….and even more so now that we’ve become close friends. Just can’t imagine the pain and agony you went through. I often times say everyone experiences a level 10 pain in their life, and my level 10 may be your level 2, but I think we can all agree that your level 10 pain would be level 10 pain to anyone. We’ll try not to dwell too much on that day as it is the most important part of the story, it truly is just the beginning. My first question is how long after the funeral…which it seems afterwards is kinda the “exhale” moment where all the rush and blur and frantic moments of the last few days finally calms and you’re actually trying your best to get back into a daily routine…when did you get the idea to do a fundraiser and give the proceeds to other people in need. That’s such a huge step in one’s mind to take a tragedy that they’ve endured and turn it around to help others. 

Can you tell people a little bit more about the process of getting in touch and working out a deal with OWLET to provide these monitoring socks to families? Was it a phone call or an email to a representative or were you introduced to someone? 

The OWLET conversation started when my mom discovered them in her google searches.  She was researching SID’s 

and ways to monitor babies and came across the OWLET product.  She runs a medical supply store, typically supplying local Fire Departments and Ambulance Departments with medical supplies.  Although the OWLET is not a medical device, she immediately decided she needed to carry it in her business.  She reached out to OWLET and established a relationship.  She then began carrying OWLETs in her store. 

Smart Sock & Baby Monitor: Track Heart Rate, Oxygen & Sleep – Owlet Baby Care US

After I began my non profit, I initially purchased OWLETS from Walmart, Amazon, etc.  My mom put me in touch with the representative that she dealt with from Owlet.  He put me in touch with the OWLET non profit division.  Little did I know that there are a bunch of non profits very similar to Lincoln’s Angels across the country with the same goals and missions as me.  All of them set up in honor of their babies who also passed away. 

It was then that Lincoln’s Angels was brought on as a non profit working with OWLET.  We have yearly meetings where research on SIDS is shared.  We also get insight into their newest product developments and research findings.

I think this really does show people that if or when you need to reach out or build a relationship with a bigger partner, it’s never a step 1 and then step 2 type of connection. There tends to be numerous connections to get to your end goal. It had to be a nice feeling to know there were other people out there with the same goals as you, and many of them based on the same tragedy that you’ve experienced. Have you connected with any other of those similar groups across the country? Tell everyone a little about some of your first fundraisers you did? Did they accomplish what you had hoped?

May be an image of grass and text that says 'Welcome to Lincoln's Angels 3rd Annual Golf Tournament Lincoln's Angels'

I have definitely connected with other families who have lost a child.  For example, the first baby to receive an OWLET from us was also the first baby I held after Lincoln passed away.  We have a lot of OWLET recipients that donate to our golf tournament every year as a way of giving back.  

Our biggest fundraiser has been our golf tournament every year.  We just had our 3rd annual tournament on 7/24 of this year at Barker Brook in Oriskany Falls.  It is always SO much fun with a great group of people.  We have a lot of fun, a lot of alcohol and raise a lot of money!

I know we’ll be a little late to further promote the tournament this year, but tell us a little about what it’s like to run an annual golf tournament? I want people who have this same idea to get an idea of what it’s like, is it worth it for you? I know as a golfer in the tournament it’s been one of the best put together tournaments that I’ve played in year in and year out. When these are done well and consistently, golf tournaments can be a great annual fundraiser for a charity or an organization. 

Finally what are some of your future goals in the 1-3 year range? I know Brantley Gilbert is on your radar…and then what are your dream goals? Talk a little bit more about being on Ellen or another show type that? What does that look like in your dreams? 

May be an image of 4 people, golf course, grass and natureSo the golf tournament – it is definitely a labor of love.  It takes about 6-7 months of planning to make it run smoothly.  We start with our date, getting a flyer printed and posting to all of our social media outlets.  That’s the easy part.  Then we are tasked with the chore of funding the golf tournament.  The goal is to get as much of it covered in donations as possible, so that we get as much profit as we can.  Between myself, my friends, family and my board members-we start our hunt for hole sponsorships, meal sponsorships and alcohol sponsorships.  We go to local businesses, etc.  Then we have a basket raffle (typically around 30-40 baskets).  We ask friends and businesses to donate baskets, gift cards, items, etc. to be used to put into the baskets.  We also do a lemonade and cookie stand that my nephew runs at the tournament.  He gets to keep half the profits and then learn philanthropy by donating the other half back to our organization.  May be an image of 1 person and text that says 'LEMONADE NT'

May be an image of 5 people, people standing and grassThe 2 weeks before the tournament are the craziest.  I am going everywhere to pick up baskets, but together goodie bags for the golfers, cellophane all the baskets, getting hole sponsorship signs printed, getting logos to our printer for our banners and setting up for the tournament the day ahead.  Overall I probably put over 100 hours into the golf tournament.  Is it worth it? ABSOLUTELY!!!  Everyone has a great time and we raise alot of money between our teams paying to play, 50/50, basket raffles, merchandise sold day of and the lemonade stand.  We have done 3 tournaments so far and in total between all 3 years we have raised over $20K for our organization!

Future goals-I am having a very hard time with our government changing us from a private foundation to a public charity.  This is my number one goal right now.  When I can finally get us changed to a public charity, we will be able to receive donations through Amazon Smile.  This will be a great revenue generator for us.  Our goal is to go to local businesses that order through amazon and have them select us as the recipient for their Amazon Smile order.  Additionally-we are working with Brantley Gilbert and his wife to play a role in sponsoring our tournament.  Each year they have been willing but the timing has been off and he has already committed to charity events for the year.  This year we are trying to get to him about a year in advance.  Lastly-I have said from the beginning that you will see me on Ellen or Oprah or some sort of national show, sharing about the families we have helped save.  Ideally, I will get this organization to a point where I can pay myself a salary to run it full time.  The sky is the limit in my opinion! 🙂

Thanks so much for taking some time and introducing yourself my friend. You have an incredible story, heart and drive that so many strive for. Keep giving and you’ll get everything you can in return. 

I can tell everyone that we made sure to hit our goal this year getting the golf tournament information to Brantley Gilbert’s wife in a timely fashion and hopefully we’ll hear back from him shortly on any sponsorship for next year’s tournament. 

Check out the flyer for this years tournament and the official letter we went to Brantley that we designed for Jess. Thanks for reading everyone and any feedback is truly appreciated.

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Entrepreneurship IS Enduring

Life is a struggle…at least it has been much more in my adult life than it ever was in my childhood. That’s no fault of my parents, actually quite the opposite, I really didn’t have any major trauma occur in my child years, even through all of high school. Then the typical struggles of your college years and adult life spring up. For me it was breakups, bad grades in college, losing a job and losing myself. All these traumas set me up for the ultimate struggle though…entrepreneurship! 

Entrepreneurship is enduring. Every day is going to be a struggle, if you’re doing it right! It’s trusting the process and believing that NOTHING great ever happens over night. My Mom has a great sign up at our camp that says “Every step of the journey IS the journey.” Too often we get caught up in the end goal that we forget that going through the process, is actually the part that we should be addicted to. 

So the big question is, how the hell do you endure through all of life’s or business struggles? Part of getting through is having your mindset right from the beginning that giving up is NOT an option. No matter the financial struggles, no matter who says that maybe this isn’t a great idea, no matter the days where you may not be able to do one second of work…getting up every day remembering WHY you’re doing what you’re doing. My motivations have changed over the years. At first, I just needed to be free of the stress of corporate sales. Then it was about proving people wrong. Now it’s all about preaching and teaching people about the FREEDOM OF TIME. Helping people build their lives how they want through the skills they’ve built. And being consistent doing it. Waking up every day…with NO alarm clock since 2013 unless I was going on vacation…with the intention to keep moving forward. I’ve become addicted to the process of being an entrepreneur. There are most definitely days where mentally, I just don’t have it, can’t stay focused…but part of my mindset is, all those days in the past where I would give 0% work could have turned into a win by just taking 1 tiny step, just 1% on those HARD days. 

Now my motivations run much deeper and stronger than they were in the beginning. If you’re going to build your business and your brand you need to think big. Money is not a motivating factor, it can be to start, but eventually you’re going to reach the level you want. Build wealth, that includes knowledge which you can never have enough of. Your kids are not a big enough motivating factor…they will only need you for so long. Finding your true WHY, your real purpose, the thing that helps you JUMP out of bed in the morning…or afternoon if you’re a night owl kinda person…that is what will keep you enduring day after day for the long haul. 

It took me a solid 5 years to figure out WHY I was doing what I was doing. Graphic design is fun but it doesn’t get me out of bed in the morning. Web design makes me some good money, but I don’t get goosebumps from making pretty websites. The goosebumps come from “younger” clients (in terms of their entrepreneur journey, not necessarily by age) asking for my advice or telling me they’ve used something I’ve said to help motivate them. It comes from my close friends telling me about their self-realization of what it takes to get through and endure through the worst of times and realizing, hey that’s exactly how I said it worked for me. It comes from that addiction in improving. Knowing that only 33% of small businesses ever created in this country have made it to the 10 year mark, drives me to be of that small minority. 

Learn to endure through the struggles, find a deeper motivation than money, and go all in on yourself and your dream. 

Interview With Ashley Verrill

Man I’m pumped to introduce you guys to one of the most bad ass chicas I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. She is a REAL, live, completely self-made CEO of an international events & entertainment company…sorry friends just calling yourself a CEO, does not actually make you one. She’s an unbelievably creative artist who just recently started putting her paintings out there for the world to see. We met wayyyyy back in another time and world, of 2001 when we were both in high school, and strangely haven’t seen each other since. Our friendship blossomed about 9 years ago with a random message to her when she asked about help with her business…it was a simple solution from me, and since then she’s become one of my go-to business friends. We’ve hit many of the same roadblocks in business and personal life and live by many of the same moral and ethics codes…she’s obviously much more saintly than I am though lol. 

I’d like everyone to meet Ashley Verrill, CEO of After Dark Events & Entertainment. Thanks so much for taking a little time to switch from us talking on Facebook to us talking through email Ash! Why don’t we just kinda start with your initial journey into entrepreneurship and being a business owner, and eventually becoming a CEO. 

Hi Nick! I’m honored that you reached out to have this chat. We’ve certainly seen each other through some crazy professional adventures (and life adventures too)! I’d love to elaborate a bit on my journey and my road to entrepreneurship.

Since we’re throwing it so far back to when we officially met, I feel like even as early as high school, I’ve always been someone who loathed being told what to do. I rejected the whole notion of “taking orders” from someone above me, especially if I could see a better way of doing things. At that time, it reflected in my competitive cheerleading career and come to find out, it later spilled over into my professional career in a big way.

So, where to start? Directly out of college I moved from Buffalo NY to Baltimore MD to work as a Regional Manager for a travel agency in the area. That same year, as a result of hard work and a very high sales volume from my cubicle, I was promoted to become the Program Director for their Cancun student travel program. I traveled to Mexico regularly, and during my time there I saw the opportunity for significant growth within the agency I was working for. There was a white space that hadn’t yet been filled in the event industry and it just seemed like the obvious next step. When I pitched my idea to my boss at the time, I specifically remember him blatantly laughing in my face. Within seven days, I had quit my job, sublet my apartment, and moved to Mexico to see if I could fill in that white space myself… fast forward a couple months, I did it!

Needless to say, I learned rather quickly that I was not meant to work for someone else. I wanted my potential for success to be in my own hands. I wanted to motivate myself and answer to only myself. My goal was to create a career that allowed me to LIVE my life every day however I chose to. So, yes, I left my 9AM-5PM grind living as a young professional in the US and ran away to Mexico where I spent the next six years of my life becoming fluent in Spanish, learning huge life lessons, and building my professional empire. I am now a proudly bi-lingual entrepreneur, a business owner and the CEO of my own LLC.

I appreciate you mentioning my art as well! That journey came as my “pivot” when the pandemic temporarily shut down travel and I needed to find a way to sustain my overhead and keep myself sane. I am technically trained and hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art but before this year, I would simply paint to fill my empty walls. Whenever friends or family would see my artwork, they would ask when I was going to start selling it. My answer was always that I was too busy I didn’t have enough hours in the day (as any fellow entrepreneur can relate to). Well, as you may have heard time and time again, life is too damn short, so I took a really difficult time and tried to find an opportunity in it. Travel is coming back now and I’m so grateful but as a result of the insanity that was 2020, I also see how important it is to diversify your streams of income because someday the rug can be swept from under you and you’ll need to flex to survive. Just one of life’s many lessons I hold near and dear!

Aww I’m not sure anyone’s ever used honored to describe anything to do with me lol. It’s interesting to see how people’s journey’s really do tend to parallel each other. We face so many of the same challenges just disguised differently to one another.
 
Loathing being told what to do is a common trait amongst us entrepreneurs…I think a lot of people struggle and bounce around jobs because they’re entrepreneurs at heart. I’ve also known you long enough to know that you do often find a better way of doing things, it’s helped get you where you are now. 

I used to think of myself as a control freak. My Mom often called me a “bull in a china closet” growing up and man, how that would offend me. Now, I see that it is actually a positive trait. Yes, I have a presence. I’m not shy or quiet. You know when I’m in the room. I don’t let things happen TO me, rather I take hold of the reigns and manage to navigate the path myself. Love it or hate it, I’m better for it and I attribute a lot of my success to crashing into a few walls on my way out the door.

I actually think the “control” thing is just all part of the entrepreneurial personality. Fear of the unknown or lack of control in a situation was always a driving factor of my anxiety…but I’ve taken that same exact mindset of not letting things “happen” to me anymore. Shit happens to everyone, honestly I think if we each delved deep into one another’s stories across the board we’d find a lot of similarities in situations and feelings attached to them. It’s the reaction that separates the helpless, from the good, from the great, from the unstoppable. I recall us both going through similar personal issues back in the day and I really drew strength from the way you approached it rather than the way I was approaching it. I realized looking back I made myself a victim when really, plenty of other people have been in similar situations and came out on top…why couldn’t I?

I think all entrepreneurs (even those that don’t know they’re entrepreneurs yet) have that similar mindset. You must have it in you to take the leap, risk it all, self-reflect, accept defeat and get up kicking and clawing until you ultimately have a breakthrough. Once you’ve “made it” you’ll probably fail again…. and again… but those lessons are the most important ones. You cannot control what happens around you, but you CAN control your reaction to it, and THAT my friend is an important thing to remember. Fail your way right to the top and keep on keepin’ on!

And wow, to be laughed at by a superior for an idea could have easily derailed your entire career…instead it fueled an entire life for you. 

Moments like that are hard, they’re embarrassing, and it would be easy to bow your head and let it defeat you. He will never know how pivotal that moment was to me. Publicly laughed me right out of his office and into a new adventure that I’d later be forever grateful for.

It’s quite the amazing story to go from little Oriskany to turning your life upside down in a different country. We’re you on your own at that point in your life, where it was a “simple” decision to just say, screw it, I believe in myself enough to give this a shot? It’s funny to hear some people say they “can’t” do something like start a business when there’s plenty of proof in people like you that have thrived after dumping the 9-5 life. 

I was on my own. I had no strings attached to where I was living, or anywhere really at that time. I can’t say it was necessarily a “simple” decision to have left my country and taken on that kind of risk with literally no money, but I remember that I didn’t hesitate. I was so busy DOING that I didn’t question myself once. I was fearless at that time in life. Maybe it was confidence, maybe it was ignorance? I’m not sure but I’m certainly glad I did it!

Well I put “simple” in quotes for that exact reason…no strings attached, no other humans feelings or life to worry about at that time. It was sort of the perfect storm to be able to follow your dream at that time. And isn’t it funny how confidence/ignorance can sometimes be interchangeable? haha. They say “ignorance is bliss” for a reason. How did others in your life react to your relatively split second decision to dump the life as you knew and become Mexicana? Parents, close friends, other family members? We’re they extremely supportive or did they think you were out of your mind?

That’s a great question. I think at first, the person I was most nervous to tell was my Dad, but not very surprisingly, he was SO SUPPORTIVE. He shared with me that ever since I was little,  growing up in a cushy comfortable life in my small hometown of Oriskany NY, he would worry that I may not branch out… see new places… make myself uncomfortable in order to push myself.. yet there I was saying “hey Dad, I think I’m going to move to Mexico in a few days and try and start this ambitious business.”. He basically said; Do it, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. He was right. My Mom and Dad both work for the airlines and they’ve always traveled for a living, so I don’t think it was as big of a deal to them as it would be to most parents.

As far as my friends go, mostly supportive, some judged and talked about me behind my back (those ones are no longer friends, because real friends don’t do that to you). The thing is, I didn’t give myself time to care what anyone thought. I just went full speed ahead and somehow landed on my feet. This kind of move weeds out the toxic people in your life. As a result, the friends I hold near and dear to date are THE BEST. I only surround myself with those who uplift me, and I return the favor unconditionally.

So when you say you “did it” by filling that white space, what exactly are you referring to? And obviously this didn’t come without fighting tooth and nail with giant competitors, and my favorite, unscrupulous Mexicans who thought they could pull one over on the tall blonde American girl…. oh little did they know hahaha. Like bringing a knife to a gun fight. Some of my favorite stories involve some speaking Spanish under their breath to you and you bust out the fluent Español! Did you naturally have the confidence to deal with these types of people and companies or is it something you built along the way? 

Well, when I arrived in Cancun, I remember I had $740 dollars in my pocket from my last tax returns. I had no idea where to start. I mean hell, I went to art school and there I was trying to start an international event agency with zero capital to invest. I used my contacts to find leads who would produce a customer base and eventually I formed a relationship with a small travel agency in Canada, then another small travel agency in France, etc. They would send me their Cancun travelers and I would set them up at the clubs. After a few solid months and a heap of positive reviews, word spread and I began generating my own direct client base.  

You’re right that the Mexico side of it was a bit trickier. Luckily, I had contacts in place from my previous time spent in Cancun so I knew who I needed to talk to in order to secure working contracts at all the major venues. That said, knowing who they are and getting an actual sit-down meeting with them are two different stories. Back at that time, Mexico was (and still is in a lot of ways) full of that macho sexist mindset where women “can’t be” leaders, “can’t” run businesses and “don’t deserve” the same respect professionally. There was one Director of Sales specifically that refused to meet with me. He happened to run the accounts for the biggest clubs in the entire city of Cancun so I had to find a way. After weeks of reaching out the old-fashioned way and being snubbed, I decided I would sit outside of his office and wait until it was time for him to leave for lunch. Eventually he came out and on his way to his car, I forced our first meeting as I trailed behind him not taking no for an answer. It wasn’t as easy for him to say no to my face, so I got the sit down and ultimately made the deal. To be honest, I look back at that moment and I think “How in the actual hell did you find the nerve to sit outside that man’s office uninvited? How did you have the balls to follow him until he agreed to meet with you? You’re a crazy woman, woman!” Full disclosure, 10 years later and he still looks the other way when I walk by, but I now run one of the most well-known vacation event agencies in Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas so it is what it is. Don’t let one single person road block your success, no matter how hard they try.

That story is freakin fantastic and I’m picturing the movie….he looks like Pablo Escobar

Who is playing Ashley in the biography of your life? He comes out of his office and there’s this tall blonde American girl speaking Spanish, asking him if he’d like to extend his car warranty. Can you remember the exact conversation you had with him? This is sales(wo)manship at it’s finest. You used the regular channels of communication, and being ignored certainly isn’t a “No”, at least not in my book haha, so you just randomly show up at his office. Did he have a secretary at the time? 

He did have a secretary, two actually, but there was a glass wall separating them from me. When I walked up there was randomly a single chair sitting outside, so I planted myself there and what I do remember like it was yesterday are the nerves I had in the pit of my stomach sitting there and waiting for my moment.  

To answer your question, if anyone is playing me, I’d like it to be Blake Lively because #GOALS.

And aren’t those feelings in your stomach crazy when you’re doing this for yourself? Like you could puke but would totally do it again like a rush of adrenaline.

We often hold ourselves back because of that pit in our stomach but we shouldn’t let it stop us. How will you grow if you don’t make yourself uncomfortable? The simple answer is you won’t. Butterflies are a positive thing when it comes to your love life, right? What makes your professional life any different?

People have a much more difficult time ignoring someone in person than they do through email or phone calls. Sometimes it’s just that next step you have to take in sales to get what you need/want. When I have people ask me, how do I get more sales, or more often it’s someone just starting off and asking how do I get sales…I’ll tell them, I literally make a list of close to 100 people and I then message them…people balk at the idea. I think back to when I started at the tv station, which was only 10 years ago now, and I was going through the PHONE BOOK to make a list of prospects that I would then DRIVE TO in my suit and tie and drop off a business card…..that entire friggin sentence is dated and disgusting to me lol. So I can empathize with you sitting outside an office and waiting for someone to be there…however not in a foreign country where I was also looked down upon because of my gender haha. 

When you first started did you use your ex boss as a motivating force? I know when I first started out so much of my motivation came from wanting to simply prove my previous employer wrong about firing me years back. I don’t think it’s motivation that can be sustained long term because if you reach beyond what they’ve done, now you need to find new motivation…but I feel like a lot of business ideas are born out of “pain” or trauma and the feeling of “what do I have to lose?” 

YES, I did. Gotta love that revenge-driven success. My favorite moments in the beginning were when the same guy that laughed me out of his office traveled down to Mexico and saw my team (which was often bigger than his own) manning our section full of happy clients at the clubs. I couldn’t care less about him now but you’re right, that is the beauty of it. His mockery drove me to prove him wrong. Once I did, and once I saw how incredible my business, and quite honestly entire lifestyle, had become as a result, I look back at the once mortifying moment with gratitude and amusement.

And Blake is a lovely choice. Love her in Accepted and Savages!

Blake Lively's Preserve: An Obituary | Vanity FairMay be an image of 1 person

She’s such a boss, isn’t she? On an unrelated note, I’d also love to own her shoe collection… hey, a girl can dream.Blake Lively Shoe Collection news | Glamour UK

I think your art is a super important part of your journey…a passion that you were more or less nervous to unveil, but 2020 with another example of, sorry about your plans, butttt how well can you adjust type moment.  You took the pivot as gracefully as you could and tried to turn things into a positive. Of course 2020 is difficult to look at as a whole from a positive perspective, I think it helped people find new ideas to survive. And you’re absolutely right, it’s those streams of income that differentiate you from most of our peers. I learned growing up, you got a job and you just lived. Wasn’t until a few years ago I learned that those little streams of income, tend to lead to even bigger bodies of water. 
Haze_RoomAllure_Room
 
With travel coming back, what’s your focus on now? After Dark had started to make great progress in Cancun and you also added Cabo and Puerto Vallarta to destinations you can provide entertainment option to guests…Will you continue growing that while also building out your new venture? 

That’s right. 2020 taught me a lot. It was NOT easy to accept that my bread and butter business was going to suffer for a bit and there was very little I could do about it. Depending

 on the government (barf) to assist to keep my doors open wasn’t going to do it, but neither was accepting my role as a “victim” in the situation.  So, I used the time as wisely as I could. I spent a great deal of time enhancing After Dark’s website and beefing up our offers for when travel started to thrive again. I also began to monetize my artwork and my husband and I dove into real estate investing a bit! To answer your question, yes! I have an awesome team working alongside me, specifically my incredible assistant, and as a result of that I have full confidence that I can continue to do it all. Who needs sleep, anyway right?   

I think you prove a great point with what I’ve seen from most of my clients and friends is that the “unstoppable” ones took 2020 and went with the flow. Every single person in 2020 could have easily found a reason to be a victim or to take the year off or to blame someone else. People I look up to all took the appropriate amount of time to “grieve” the loss of the lives we had prior to the pandemic and then adjusted. The ones that stood by waiting for the government or for help from outside sources, floundered or failed. I will never forgive any government that forced small businesses to completely shut down operations without fully compensating them. The big corporate companies were allowed to remain running while the smaller folks struggled, that part was horribly mismanaged and crushed millions of people’s dreams. How long into 2020 did it take you to say, ok the realist in me says, yup this is going to suck, but what now? I think I was in a fog for about 3-4 weeks of the shut down until my mind finally decided that this is gonna go for a while, it’s time to figure out a plan of attack for not only myself, but for clients too.

Man, it’s so true. It took me about 8 weeks if I’m being totally honest. I felt really sorry for myself for a hot minute. Then I tried the optimistic mindset; “This will be over soon”. When it turned political and I saw the world go into an actual uproar, I buckled in for the long haul. I knew we were in for a bumpy ride. I just didn’t know how bumpy it would get. So much to unpack there…. but I digress. A topic for another day, I suppose..

I think we could talk 2020 for hours on end, from benign to the crazy, but I want people to understand that the initial trauma was certainly common for many people, but again it came down completely to reaction! First way didn’t work, next way nope, finally the realist in you sets in and you turn to problem solving. 

Our world is always changing. We’ll never be able to stop flexing and 2020 showed us this hard and fast. Stay ready. Stay on your toes. Have a plan, and a backup plan, and a backup plan for your backup plan.

I’m grateful to have learned about passive income and how to make money from the online space as it’s become the necessity rather than the option now. Building up all these revenue streams is truly the only way to become wealthy. How many different revenue streams have you opened for yourself now? Obviously you have After Dark, your paintings, expand a little on your real estate stuff (are you buying and flipping, leasing, air b&b’ing)? Do you do any investing in stocks or cryptocurrencies? I used to think growing up, that’s all you needed to live was a “job”, but life is really changing for many, and it has been for a long time. The pandemic I believe is going to speed along automation, robotics, and AI and even more people are going to lose their “job”, so I think it’s good to see what other successful people are doing to sort of safeguard themselves from any kind of repeat of 2020. Some of my passive income involves starting my online shop through Zazzle, setting up a partnership with an IT company to handle client hosting and I get a percentage from them. I do affiliate sales through Utica Hemp and receive 15% from them for sales I generate. My crypto portfolio is up over 50% since starting. My goal is to never let anything in life crush me to the point of business non-existence, or to be too reliant on one source. 

Well, After Dark is now in Cancun, Cabo and Puerto Vallarta. I also recently started another branch of the business called The Trip Planning Experts. I’ve hand-picked some amazing team members from my After Dark crew and we now offer full fledge trip and event planning with a focus on celebrations within the US. The world hasn’t haulted, people are still having huge life events and they deserve to be honored. So, whether it’s a bachelor or bachelorette party, a weekend road trip, a full-on wedding or even a small baby shower in their own backyard, we take it on and make it unique, creative and unforgettable. I actually get incredibly excited whenever I am working on anything related to The Trip Planning Experts because this is where I thrive. I love planning the perfect getaway or an event that people will talk about for years to come. I could ride that wave all day and night!

Outside of the tourism and event space, I have my artwork, real estate and diversified investments. I haven’t jumped on the crypto currency train but I’m so glad to hear that it has been successful for you! There is no one size fits all when it comes to investing, I just do what works for me based on my circumstances. For those reading, Dave Ramsey is a great starting point for someone looking to invest for the first time.

I agree with you whole heartedly that passive income is the real MVP, which brings me to real estate. Long story short, my husband and I bought our first home when we moved in together in Florida and when we moved to Texas this year, we decided to try out the short-term vacation rental strategy with our Florida home. There are so many ways to invest in real estate. Everything from REITs to BRRRs, to flips and the list goes on. Real estate is not a get rich quick investment, trust me. It takes time and patience and as fun as it can look on HGTV, my best advice is to tread lightly, talk to other people who have done it before you and don’t over-extend yourself. The guys at Bigger Pockets have some awesome, easy to digest podcasts that really take away the intimidation that comes with the world of real estate!

Real estate is one of the initial passive income thoughts people pursue as it’s one of the most trusted and you can become quite wealthy…but boy that doesn’t come without risk and annoyances haha. Other passive income ideas to pursue for people include writing ebooks, teaching an online course, selling your knowledge or experience in any number of ways. Is there a way people are able to book your place in Pensacola? 

Sure is! Linking here: https://abnb.me/xXwjkocqqfb – Pensacola is an incredible hidden gem on the emerald coast of Florida’s panhandle. The beaches have been voted #1 in the entire US and Downtown Pensacola literally has something for everyone; from history to shopping to local cafes, restaurants and bars galore!

I’ve learned a whole lot in the last 8 years working with business owners and deep down were all so similar. I’ve attributed so much of my growth recently to reading self help and entrepreneurs books along with listening to a couple of great podcasts, The Mike Dillard podcast and RealAF with Andy frisella which used to be the MFCEO…hearing stories from truly successful people and how much their stories and struggles mirrored my own, that really helped guide me more towards helping others. Helping others is one thing I can fully control and it almost always makes me feel better. 

I’m the same way, I’ve finally reached that comfortable level with my decision that I look back at that time as a great experience that put me on the path that I am now. How could I possibly be angry anymore about it? Same for you, not like youd be angry and want to still work there. Success means not too much time for grudges and regrets. 

That initial fear of acceptance from whoever it is in your life also seems to be common. I remember telling my parents what I wanted to do basically with no notice. Said I want to quit the tv station and get back into doing graphic design. They were extremely supportive even though I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times of struggle where I was fairly asked if this was worth it…it is and always will be to me. 

Friends are difficult for sure. I’ve noticed that some people truly can’t understand just the mental toll business ownership takes on someone unless you do it. I’ve had a couple of different types of jobs. Hourly jobs, salary jobs, commission jobs…owning a business is something entirely different times 50 because not only do you have to strive to make sure your product or service that you specialize in is near perfect, you have to somehow learn alllllll the other aspects of owning a business. Your brain never stops. When 5pm rolls around I used to leave work at the office and fuck off. Now I still fuck off, but my mind is almost always in motion with ideas or song lyrics haha. It was hard to find genuine friendships with people that really understood everything I’m trying to do.

They say you are a product of the 5 people you surround yourself with most, so level up! Dream big, work hard and keep your circle dynamic!

You’ve taken a fantastic approach to this…you started off VERY micro in the sense that you gave people the perfect CANCUN vacation experience. Then you’ve slowy added new locations over the last few years and now opened up the opportunity to plan party trips for the entire US…that micro approach to JUST Cancun helped you really become a true expert in the nuances of travel and especially international travel, now outside of obtaining the audience, planning the trips opens you up to so much more…do you think if you had done this in reverse you’d have the same success or the macro approach to the entire country would have been harder? 

I tell people ALL THE TIME, do not rush your success. Start small, perfect what you do well and grow slowly. I wouldn’t have even known where to start if I did this in reverse. I saw the path for After Dark in Cancun, and I mastered that before expanding elsewhere. Now, I can confidently say no matter where you are going, I got you. My talented team and I will meet and exceed your wildest expectations. If you’re coming to Mexico, After Dark holds a five-star reputation for a reason: https://afterdark-entertainment.com – If you’re looking to plan an amazing trip or unmatchable event in the US, we’ve truly earned our title of “planning experts” and we’re here to help you: https://thetripplanningexperts.com  

I think we need to let folks know about your art and the types of pieces you’re looking to do for people. I’ve seen your simplistic woman themed art you’ve done and I think that can be a great idea to keep pushing for all the strong women friends out there. I’d love to help you get some more pieces to add to your collection! 

I appreciate it, Nick. Through my creative work, I hope to express empowerment, appreciation and feeling above all else. Emotion is what makes art powerful. If you profoundly feel my artwork, I’ve done my job as an artist. My website can be found here: https://artbyashleyverrill.com and my Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/art_ashleyverrill/

Ash I can’t thank you enough for taking some time to do this and help me build out my blog. Eventually a podcast will be born and I hope you’ll be one of my first guest so everyone can continue to follow along with your awesome journey. Can you drop some links to where people can reach you for any trip planning to Mexico or within the US now, commissioning you for art pieces or even ask you about your rental properties?  Rock on boss lady and keep kicking ass!

Thank you for having me. It’s always fun talking with you and I humbly hope my story can give someone the courage to take their own leap of faith. Consider me on standby for that podcast!

After Dark Events & Entertainment: https://afterdark-entertainment.com / https://www.instagram.com/afterdarkcancun/

The Trip Planning Experts: https://thetripplanningexperts.com  / https://www.instagram.com/thetripplanningexperts/

ART by Ashley Verrill: https://artbyashleyverrill.com / https://www.instagram.com/art_ashleyverrill/

AirBnb Pensacola Vacation Rental: https://abnb.me/xXwjkocqqfb

Scott Grates Interview

This week’s blog post is going to feature someone pretty damn special. He’s someone I’ve known since high school, not that he knew me because he was WAY older than me. I consider him a friend, mentor, and one of the most successful people I know. He’s managed to succeed in an oversaturated service industry that every single person in this country needs, even though they may not necessarily want to pay for it. Not only that, now he teaches others how to do exactly what he’s done, while focusing on the most important part of any company….its customers. Scott Grates owns a little State Farm Insurance Agency in Ilion, NY and while it may be small in size, it’s impact on the community is huge. He’s also taken that success and founded Insurance Agency Optimization, taking everything he’s learned and built and helping other insurance agents do the same.

One of the main reasons Scott has succeeded is the importance he’s placed on trust, honesty and always making sure every situation for every customer is a win/win. With how much I’ve learned from him personally and just from indirectly seeing the impact he makes, I thought it would be great for people to hear straight from him how and why he’s making the moves he’s making. 

Scott, thanks for taking the time to do an old school back and forth email. I think it’d be good to give people a little bit of background on how you got started on your own, how did you fare those first couple years out in the scary business world, and now that you have that perfect 20/20 hindsight vision what would you have done differently, better, or sooner?

Thanks for having me “young Nick.”

My background in a nutshell…

Graduated with a journalism degree (I planned on being the next great sports reporter for the newspaper).  Now, many reading this may be asking what’s a newspaper.  So, I guess I am really old!

Unfortunately (or as it turns out fortunately), I had a ton of debt after graduating college. the newspaper offered me a job, but it was for $6 an hour at the time.  Yeah, that wasn’t going to cut it.  I hit the job boards and saw an opportunity to sell furniture on nights and weekends and thought to myself, how hard can that be?  As it turns out it was REALLY HARD.  But, it turned out to be a fantastic way to cut my teeth in the sales industry.

Now here is the part where I “yadda, yadda, yadda” the next 14 years.  During that time I become a top 5% producer nationally in the new home construction industry.  Then, the housing bubble burst and I was out of a job.  What came next?  I became a top 5% producer nationally in the mortgage industry.  Then, the market crashed in 2008 and I was out of a job.  What came next?  Insurance.  Why?  RESIDUAL INCOME.

I was sick of the month to month sales grind and I was sick of working like mad to build somebody else’s business (only to be back to square one) as soon as markets shifted.

At the age of 32 I decided to start over.  I put my family on a “beans & rice diet,” cancelled all future vacations and drove an old Honda Civic with over 100,000 miles.  Starting your own business from scratch is less than “glamorous.”  I was working 70+ hours a week, stressed to the max, paying through the nose for employees and keeping $0.00 for myself.  Just the opposite actually.  After all the dust settled after my first 18 months I still hadn’t taken a paycheck and was over $30,000 in debt.

Honestly, it was the most fun I ever had.

Yes…I’m that kind of strange.

This is why I consider you a mentor. Your path and my path have been very similar. You had to have felt on top of the world during years in sales where you were in the top 5%, and then to have it all ripped out from under you, where was your mind at when that happened? I think a lot of people can relate to that with everything that happened in 2020, and honestly what’s probably even going to happen in the next couple of years. Do you think all of these major ups and downs have helped build who you are today? I think a lot of people look at success as something that either just happens or it’s immediate and long lasting, and I’ve sure as hell learned that it couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Sacrifice. That’s the key to take away from your story to starting your own business. It’s so hard to think that, “I built a great life early on and now to think I have to start over and suffer again?” I think that thought stops many people from chasing their dreams. It’s so hard to say to yourself, alright self, I did what I was supposed to, I went to college, I got a career, and I’m completely unfulfilled…now what the hell do I do? My opportunity was simply born out of straight frustration with life, and I didn’t have a family to support at the time. How did you convince your wife that this was the way to go? Obviously you’re a great salesman/woman/person (see, I can attempt to be PC) so that helped, but she had to be slightly hesitant to the thought of working backwards, or was she completely on board because you’re just that awesome? 

I was lucky in the sense that I only had myself with no overhead, no office, no employees…just trying to fill my schedule with projects. You went full bore and 18 months in you were having a blast, but the numbers were showing red…was there a point where you thought I have somehow offer something different from other insurance agents?

Regarding my mindset when things crashed in 2005 and then again in 2008…it was tough.  It was humbling.  It was frustrating.  I was angry that I had spent so much time and energy, late nights, weekends, missing out on social events all to advance my career only to learn I was nothing more than a number on a spreadsheet in the end.

It was also scary financially.  When I left college I was obsessed with making money.  I chased money so I could buy materialistic crap that I thought would validate my “success.”  I wrote down $30,022 on a post it note.  That was the HIGHEST ANNUAL income my father ever earned working in an awful factory (pre-OSHA days) during his entire career.  I vowed to do better.  In February of 2014 I earned ONE monthly commission check of $32,000.  I obsessed about money, I found it and quickly realized I was never more UNhappy in my life.  How is that for irony?

One year later I was out of work, forced to sell a house we couldn’t afford at a $70,000 loss and was on the verge of bankruptcy.  Through tough times and adversity, you find out who you really are.  It was then I realized money wasn’t my WHY.

Regarding the sacrifice question…you are spot on.  Too many people don’t take chances and pursue their dreams because they are working towards somebody else’s agenda.  They are trapped in the “this is what I’m supposed to do” or “who I’m supposed to be” mindset.

My wife…I can truly type all day about how amazing she is, truly.  Funny you talk about “selling her” on the idea of starting a business.  I say all of the time the greatest “sale” I ever made was convincing her to marry me.  But here’s the simple answer…I build teams and family is no different.  My wife and I lead “Team Grates” and we have since 2002.  We have a clear vision for what makes our team successful, we have clearly defined roles, we have very open and honest discussions around all decisions and we trust and respect each other.  Do we always agree?  NO WAY!  But that’s healthy and part of what makes us a great team.  We are both passionate about winning and living the vision for our best life.  With the decision to start the insurance business (and each business there after), we weighed all options and ultimately trusted that we’d both do what needed to be done to move us closer to where we wanted to be.

Speaking of  “all in with no return question”…self-doubt will cripple a person’s ability to take action and with no action nothing ever happens.  We’ve always had a “No Plan B” mindset.  It’s either “all in and don’t look back” or don’t bother with everything we do.  I can honestly say even during my darkest, scariest moments I never questioned the path I was on.  I like to gamble.  I learned early in my life that the best bet I could make…was going all in on myself.

I had those same exact feelings when I was let go as a graphic designer in 2010. Unemployed for 365 days on the dot from that point forward. I beat myself up constantly over this “missed opportunity” of having my career job established and then to find out I was the most expendable of a small group of employees, it hurt like hell. Then I was stuck in unemployment hell where I had at least 40 interviews for graphic design type jobs over the next year, didn’t have enough experience for some, had too much for others, most were less than I was making prior, some were even less than I was making on unemployment. I was a top 3 candidate for a dozen jobs and never could quite get the offer. I had a horrible view of myself during that time. Finally getting that job at the tv station in sales I think really changed everything. I had no choice but to, as you said, “cut my teeth in sales.” And I definitely learned that selling television advertising just after a financial crash in the 170th ranked market in the country was easier said than done…well I learned that selling was the easy part, getting people to keep going and paying was another story. Having to go through those struggles helped forge the business I’m growing today though. 

Chasing money seems like a blast when you first start doing it right?? When I had a job, you know what you make for the year and you budget it out, now, I make as much as I put into it, and that chase initially is exhilarating. But that’s exactly what it was, a constant chase, figuratively and in my case sometimes literally…had clients putting money in their garage, under shit, around shit…just exhausting. I finally learned that even if I got “rich”, this formula just isn’t sustainable. I keep saying, and I probably heard it from somewhere, that “rich people go broke because they lack the main thing wealthy people have and that’s knowledge.” And I think part of that knowledge is without question to figure out WHY the hell do you get out of bed every morning? Then how can you leverage that into making money? I ran across a podcast with Simon Sinek right around the same time we connected and you both were preaching the exact same thing that resonated with me and it was trying find your WHY. It finally dawned on me that I wasn’t really a graphic designer at heart, and I wasn’t a salesman at heart…but what I did find out that I loved to do was to help small business owners or even Multi-level marketers how to create success. Everything changed for me from that day forward.

I think you give a lot of great advice for folks that may want to follow their dream but so much of their life is intertwined with their partner. It’s one thing to go off on your own with no one else to worry about, but it’s a completely different story when your decisions affect your loved ones. You started right in your own home with honesty and integrity and respect…and then built your entire company around those same qualities. I think most people can agree that the insurance industry as a whole, to the consumer, is full of shady convoluted bullshit to confuse us so we have no idea what the hell were paying for? I’m right, right? Do you think this is how you’ve been able to take a small insurance company and corner a huge market share in our area? I think so many people can benefit to learn how to sell to people in an industry that’s oversaturated. I have a lot of friends doing MLM (multi-level marketing) and frankly social media is flooded with stuff constantly from everyone. Then there’s plenty of small business owners in the trades that know their trade, but don’t know a lick about customer service or sales…what advice do you have for these folks to stand out in a sea of nonsense? 

Ha ha ha…well, I’m not sure I’ve ever been told my industry consists of “shady convoluted bullshit” before, but you do bring up a good point.  Regardless of the product or service you are offering it’s important to understand your market and also the perceptions and/or misconceptions associated with it.  I quickly learned that people dislike things they don’t understand, and most don’t understand insurance.  This industry is also much different because we sell an “invisible product.”  People make purchases based on emotion, not logic.  So, when something looks, good, smells good, tastes good people want it.  However, insurance is a logical product which extracts zero emotional attachment.  And finally, insurance is a commodity.  Yes, there are differences company to company and policy to policy, but at its core about 90% of the protections are the same.  

Knowing all of this I took a contrarian approach to the agency.  For starters, I do not SELL insurance.  Instead, we educate people on how it works when they need it the most.  We share real claims stories from our community to bring to life the reality of the hidden risks we all face.  Once people understand how it works, then they can make decisions that make the most sense for them should they ever find themselves in certain situations.  

Next, I had to create a unique and memorable customer experience.  My mantra is “If you aren’t unique, you are weak.”  When everyone is doing business the same way, do yours the other way.

And finally, people want to feel special, they want to be a member of a tribe that makes them feel appreciated.  We always lead with our hearts and everything we do is to improve the lives of our customers (big or small).

So my best advice for other small business owners?  Answer this question…what problem does your business solve for people?  Then, become OBSESSED with satisfying THAT problem.  Too often new entrepreneurs focus on their own needs or their products and services and they miss the boat on the ONLY thing that matters...how does what you offer make the person’s life you are offering it to better?  What’s in it for THEM?  Always start and end with that question.

People do business with people they KNOW, LIKE & TRUST.  Become that person and you cannot fail.  

  • Educate others

  • Help make their lives better.

  • Be unique.

  • Be memorable.

  • Make others proud to be associated with you.

  • Don’t look for blessings, instead BE a blessing.


Ok maybe I was a little harsh about your industry, but I think you’re right when it comes down to, it seems to be made intentionally complicated where you need a specialist to help you…similar to the credit industry, anything to do with law…just seems some things are made harder to fool people. But that’s where you come into the game with your approach on not SELLING insurance, but teaching people about it so they can make the best choice for themselves and their families, and much of the time you’ve proven that they choose you and your team. So much of that comes down to that team you’ve built and how you’ve taught them to talk to people on a personal level rather than a business level. 

That was the major change to my approach that I took about 5-6 years ago also, which you were a major force behind that shift in thinking, where I went from wanting to be this “Mad Men” style advertising agency with the big fancy downtown office and the fancy cars and the power suits and all that….then I realized a lot of that was everything I hated about the business world. The idea that you had to wear a nice suit and tie to be successful. I learned that you’re successful in whatever makes you most comfortable. I don’t want to work with every single person on the planet, mostly because I learned I don’t like a majority of them haha. But the people I do work with, they are like family to me, many of them have become some of my closest friends and confidants. The first thing I try and tell new clients is that we’re in this together…I don’t grow without successful client interactions. Same with you, you could easily just skate by doing the insurance gig yourself, grab up some of that residual income and then retire, but you keep thinking bigger and bigger. I can’t wait to see what else you have in store for the future as I think your approach to sales is something that can translate to any number of industries, especially in this day and age of the “fake” and the “made up”. Authenticity is key and you have it in spades my friend! 

Thanks so much for the chat my friend and I look forward to many more of these in the future!

I often say the driving force behind starting my own business was it allowed me to throw away all of my ties!  I wore a suit and tie for the first 10 years of my career and hated every minute of it.  Why?  Because it just wasn’t me. If you are going to connect with people and be relatable to people you must be authentic. Well, it’s difficult to be authentic when you aren’t even dressed the way you’re comfortable dressing.

Here is some solid “business advice:”

BE YOU!

You have to be your own first believer in life and in business.  Once you truly believe you are worthy of greatness in your own heart and soul, that energy becomes contagious, and others will want to be around you and support your mission.

I’m a polo shirt and shorts guy in the Summer and sweater and jeans guy in the winter.  Nobody has ever been offended or put off by the fact that I don’t wear shirts and ties in the past and if I find somebody who is in the future…well, they just aren’t a person I’d care to work with.  You were spot on with your assessment that we don’t need ALL customers/clients, we only need the RIGHT ones.

As always, I’ve enjoyed our time together as well Nick.  I’m proud of all of the work you put into your business and helping others who are pursuing something on their own too. Keep fighting the good fight brother. None of it is ever easy, but all of it is worth it.

Cheers!

Thanks so much to Scott for the time. If you’re interested in getting a quote for any type of insurance, I highly recommend reaching out. Find his Facebook here or visit his website insurethevalley.com.

If you’re a State Farm agent and reading this, check out his Agency Optimization  system to improve the performance of your agency. 

If you’re looking for a good time, call Scott at 867-5309 (don’t if you’re in the 315 area code, I think it’s still Herkimer County Community College)

Thanks for reading everyone!

Embracing Change

I don’t consider myself much of an “expert” at anything. The expression, “Jack of all trades, master of none,” certainly applies to me. The one thing I’ve been forced to become an expert at is coping or responding to sudden and unexpected change. Whether it was from poor decision making or factors out of my control, I’ve had to deal with numerous instances of sudden change to my plans in life. From being fired as a graphic designer and living on unemployment for a year, to having a relationship end and having an empty house to myself, to losing myself to pill abuse, anxiety & depression, to failed business experiments, to losing my Dad suddenly…all of that from 2010-2018 prepared me for what was coming. Being forced to pivot quickly, sometimes without much thought being allowed to happen. 

I learned the importance of living simply and sacrificing what many people my age were doing at the time. I learned not to put all my financial eggs in one basket. I learned how to be happy by myself and alone in my house for long stretches. I learned how to stare out into the abyss and darkness but to keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how big the step. I learned the importance of becoming wealthy, not rich. Rich people go broke all the time because they lack what wealthy people have…knowledge. I learned the importance of creating as many online revenue streams as possible. Even on my worst of my anxiety days I can still get work done from the comfort of my living room. And where do all streams lead? To a much bigger body of water. 

Don’t let 2021 be a carbon copy of 2020 because of what’s happening, what’s happened or what’s gonna happen. Plans are great, they’re necessary and need to provide a map of where you’re going. But like most places on a map, there’s going to be numerous twists and turns. You may need to get outta your car and hoof it for a while. May have to climb a mountain or slug your way through a swamp to get where you’re going. But just don’t do what many people did in 2020, they stopped moving. KEEP MOVING. Don’t have a job? Crash learn a marketable skill.  Have a great job? Start a side hustle. Have a side hustle? Legitimize it. Wanna make that leap to entrepreneur? Do it. Have one business? Start a second one. Have those revenue streams set up? Invest in stocks or cryptocurrencies. Got all that figured out? Teach your family, friends and others how to duplicate your success. 

Make change happen so when the unexpected comes, you just ride the waves. 

3Zero’s 8 Year Anniversary and our 1st blog post

Eight years ago today, I woke up a different person. I awoke as a boss for the first time. No one appointed me that title. There was no immediate pay raise, as a matter of fact, I was at a couple of grand from a tax refund and a couple of measly commission checks left from the television station and that was it. I didn’t require permission from anyone to make myself my own boss. No one gave a shit about my education (which to this day, no client has ever asked me about where I was educated) or asked me what my biggest weaknesses are. My CEO from my advertising agency days didn’t make me a boss, nope I was fired from there…well I think they softened the blow by “eliminating my position”. My sales boss and my station boss from my tv days sure as hell weren’t going to put me in any kind of seniority position, I couldn’t even get people to buy local tv ads consistently. All I had were some skills like graphic design and some sales knowledge on how to get clients. 

When I woke up that morning, I had the name 3Zero but definitely didn’t feel like a business owner, I was just basically a freelancer out on his own. All I knew at that time was, I didn’t have an alarm clock to wake me up…I happily awoke even before my alarm would normally go off. It was February and I didn’t have to clean off my car, warm it for 20 minutes, or drive in a snow storm to get to work. I didn’t give a shit about my monthly or quarterly sales goals at the tv station…all I looked at was the next bill on the calendar. Professional tip, National Grid and Spectrum I routinely tell to go fuck themselves on payment dates…so far, I still have both. No more stressing about internal meetings, fake deadlines, made up budgets, bitchy coworkers, forced fun or any of the other shit that goes along with being an employee and having more than 25% of your life and time dictated by others. 

These eight years were built on the motivation to never want to work again for someone else. To never have anxiety because of a job or if I will have the rug pulled out from under me again. To never have to lie about not feeling good because I just wanted a day off. To never be told, you were 2 minutes late, you better stay 2 more minutes. To never have to “hope” that I could get that vacation time off and someone else didn’t take it. 

To think it was made this far though without challenges is laughable. Every single day is a hustle, but not that shitty hustle where you’re screwing people over to make a living. And every day you’re not hustling, you’re falling further behind your goals. I spent many days struggling to recover from failed personal relationships and friendships, general anxiety and panic attacks, pain killer abuse along with quitting those cold turkey and also starting on anti-depressants and all that goes along with those side effects. The waves of depression that come suddenly without warning. Having my best friend, my Dad die suddenly and coping with that change. I’ve had months where I made more money than I was used to making in 6 months…and I’ve had months where I didn’t make a single penny. I’ve sacrificed vacations and fun at times for work and responsibility because there was no one else to do it. I’ve sacrificed my once perfect credit score to realize that credit is ultimately for suckers and we shouldn’t have any money owed to large corporations. I’ve sacrificed the thought of “retirement” to live right now. My friend Scott told me, “people work their entire lives for a day that may never come.”, and that really hit home with me, especially after my Dad died. He fought for his country, he drove trucks cross country, and he worked his entire life to enjoy a few short years of retirement. I have vowed to not be that. I’ve chosen to make certain sacrifices in my life to enjoy the freedom of time, because that is the one thing you can never make enough of. 

Of all the things I’m most grateful for over these last 8 years, it’s not just that I’ve built an actual company and I don’t just feel like a freelancer trying to survive anymore. It’s not that I’ve increased my revenue every single year since I started, even during the great refuckening of 2020. It’s not that I have over 150 clients in Quickbooks and probably even more quick projects that involved the beauty that is the barter and trade system. It’s not even the numerous amazing connections and friends that I’ve made as I couldn’t even begin to thank them all. It’s that freedom that I know I own every single second of my day. The first thing I thought about after my Dad died, once that shock wore off, was how thankful I was that from 2013-2018 we spent more time together than at any other points in my life. We had coffee together during the week, we’d work on projects together, we’d go to camp together, we got the dogs together all the time, we talked business all the time….all those hundreds and hundreds of hours, would never have been had I been working my career type job. Time is the one thing you can’t obtain more of, you can’t purchase it, you can’t steal it, you can only take what you’re given and work within it. 

Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone, I still get told that. Most of my friends and family work for corporations, or the government, or the state, or in education…we need all those things…except politicians, for the most part they’re useless twat muscles. But I simply can not stress this enough to those of you that bounce from job to job, or you truly hate where you are at…make those sacrifices for a few years to build what you really want, because it’s true, once you find your passion or your “why”, you really do never have to work another day in your life. 

Thanks for reading everyone.

Nick