An interview with Jim Hyatt – Let’s Learn About Crypto

This is such an exciting time to be alive. At any moment, the world may end, our country may crumble, the dollar becomes more worthless…BUT, creating wealth has never been simpler in the history of mankind thanks to the internet. Let’s talk about TRUE passive income, something I’m extremely passionate about building for myself and others. What is passive income? Well it’s basically money you can make without much or any labor at all expended. Rental properties tend to be the first thought of passive income, but these can come with risks and of course having to deal with PEOPLE. 

Crypto. Did you just roll your eyes or clench your butt cheeks a little because it’s scary and new? Well it is the pure definition of passive income in this day and age and it’s helping to create generational wealth for regular folks that you probably know. I got involved just about a year ago now and I’ve seen my portfolio at it’s low at 12% up and at it’s current high of 180% up. This is real money and I started investing $5-25 bucks at a time. 

Today I want to help teach you guys a little more about the basics of crypto with a little help from my buddy. I’d like to introduce a very good friend of mine, we go way back to high school…Jim Hyatt. Jim and I are going to talk a little about something we’re both very passionate about…cryptocurrencies!  Jim digs even deeper and has been involved for years longer than I have. He’s agreed to help folks get started with understanding the basics of crypto, why you should invest, the real world possibilities and potential dangers of investing, when the “right” time to get started, and how to get started. 

“Hey buddy, thanks so much for taking the time and doing an old school ESPN Bill Simmons email interview. Why don’t you give us a little background on yourself, when you started investing in crypto and can you remember your first investment? Mine was a $10 buy of bitcoin in November of 2020.”  

Hey Nick, I’m glad we are finally able to connect with our schedules to have this discussion on crypto. For those who don’t know, Nick and I went to high school together and have become good friends since we graduated. As far as my personal background – I spent 16+ years in law enforcement and I have recently joined a friend in a business venture which is going very well. 

Like many other people, crypto (specifically Bitcoin) was just background noise that I would occasionally hear about in the news from the early 2010’s. I would hear rumblings about how some person became very wealthy by owning this magic internet money but I never really took any time to understand it. Truth be told, if I would have spent the same amount of time learning about crypto as I did researching fantasy football I would be a very wealthy man (albeit probably missing a couple fantasy championship rings).   

In late 2017 I was involved in a car accident at work which resulted in my being home for several months.  During that time I had quite a bit of free time while my kids were at school and this was right when crypto was on fire late 2017 early 2018.  I wasn’t invested but I had the time to learn. 

I made my first crypto purchase in August of 2018 after really diving into one particular cryptocurrency, XRP, and became enamored with the use case and potential of it.   I think my first purchase was about $1,000 worth of Bitcoin which I then used to purchase XRP.  Back then it was still set up to where you needed to buy Bitcoin on Coinbase, send the Bitcoin to Binance, and then buy XRP on Binance with the Bitcoin.  It was confusing, scary, and a bit ridiculous compared to how easy it is now.   

Since then I’ve been researching and learning every day about the whole crypto space and I am invested in many different projects with many different use cases.  Crypto has become a passion of mine and I really believe it is going to have a profound effect in society and become ingrained in our everyday life to the point where we will look back and wonder how we ever functioned without it.

How much would $1000 invested in Bitcoin in August 2018 be worth today?

$ 0
Bitcoin, August 2018
$ 0
Bitcoin, November 2021
$ 0
Your investment now

Absolutely my friend, when I learned how into crypto you were, it made perfect sense to skip talking about fantasy football for a little bit and see if we can’t help create some wealth for other folks like we’ve both seen in the crypto world. Funny that you mention fantasy football and the amount of time we used to spend on that. I think so much of that was we both saw it as an opportunity to make some extra money. At the time working at Paige Group and the tv station, winning a few hundred bucks in fantasy was game changing. Now we’re waking up to look at crypto gains, some days in the hundreds and thousands. 

Isn’t it wild to think that a twist of fate like a car accident, that essentially lead to your career “ending” at the time, could lead you into what is basically brand new technology to many? This is just another story where you could have EASILY sat around, played video games, became unhealthy physically and mentally…but instead you took the time to invest in yourself and your future. I think too many people take for granted how simple it is to use the internet to create wealth for yourself. 
 
Before we scare too many folks away with the details of buying crypto…let’s give people that may have literally never heard of this technology beyond what they hear in the news, a little background. When people hear discussions of cryptocurrencies, most people have no clue what is being talked about, some folks only think of Bitcoin, while there is interest amongst a few to learn more. How would you describe in the simplest of terms what people are investing into when they put money into the crypto space?

I think you’ve honed in on the biggest hurdle for most people regarding crypto and that is the propensity to just write it off as a fad or something foolish that people are throwing their money into.  The biggest detractor for people in my experience seems to be they have a hard time grasping the “well what is it though” as if they want it to be something tangible – something they can physically hold.  My response usually goes something like this… “Do you get direct deposit?  Do you pay your bills online? Do you buy stuff from Amazon?  At any point during those transactions do you physically hold that currency that you receive/spend?  No?   Well how is that digital form of money any different than crypto currency?”   At that point I typically see the light bulbs kind of go on.  With crypto if your question is “ok how can I turn this into real money”… well the option to turn it into the US dollar is always there.  You can always cash out into the dollar.  The question is why should you want to?  The US Government (Federal Reserve) has spent the last 20+ years inflating the national debt from 5.6 trillion to 28.4 trillion due to a variety of issues that have been “solved” by printing more money.  Eventually those chickens come home to roost and the US dollar will lose its purchasing power which is what we are seeing currently with inflation.  Do things actually cost more or is the dollar we use to pay for things worth less???   That’s a different conversation altogether but my point is the option to convert your crypto to the dollar is always there.  

The most basic reason I can give you to invest in crypto is it is a hedge against the form of money we currently use. Right now if you keep your money in a savings account/money market at a bank you are currently getting a hefty 0.5% APY on that money. So you keep $100,000 tied up in a bank account for 1 year and you receive a tidy profit of $500 dollars at the end of the year.  Honestly the traditional banking system should be embarrassed.  If you put that $100,000 in just a simple stable coin crypto (stable coin is a crypto that is pegged to the US dollar value) you could earn a 4%-6% yield on that just by keeping it there instead of the bank.  The way I look at crypto is the way I wish my father would’ve looked at home computers and the internet. I’m pretty sure the same people today who laugh at crypto and say “we’ll never use that” are the same people who laughed at Apple or Microsoft and said “people will never need e-mail, people will never need computers in their houses” and now we walk around with computers in our pockets and have no idea how we’d function without them.  Invest in the future today. Any wealthy person or wealthy family at some point became wealthy because they or a member of their family took a risk. Risk is where the opportunity lies. I made a decision about 3 years ago to dive in head first because I refuse to miss out on our generation’s personal computer age.

Just about every new technology has started out as a “fad”. Personal computers, the internet, E-mail…you can easily find “experts” out there at the time that said these things had no staying power. All great points you bring up, we’ve been using “digital currency” for years without ever batting an eye at it. Now all this technology comes out with the word “CRYPTO” in it and people’s first instinct is to be hesitant. I think there’s a few reasons for that hesitancy. Obviously one being the newness of the technology. Another being some of the verbiage that’s used. I think “coins” is a misleading term that’s used amongst the crypto community. I tell people that each “coin” is a form of technology that you’re investing in, some are huge ideas that could transform the world…other’s are micro ideas that work within certain platforms. I’d be lying if I said I could explain all this technology in layman’s terms for people to understand, so why don’t we go through some of the common terms used and questions asked and you can give people a little explanation on what this technology means, and how it plays out in the real world and essentially in their lives now and in the future. 

What’s a blockchain and how does it relate to crypto? How can De-Fi (Decentralized Finance) change the way they look at “banking”? What are smart contracts and where can they apply in the real world? Do you think the concern about energy use of cryptocurrencies is truly something to worry about?
 
It’s funny you bring up that example of savings accounts with banks. I’ll even use a smaller number than 100k for people that really do just want to start micro-investing. I showed my Mom last night my ALGO “coin”, honestly I don’t even know what it is, but I know it gets me 4.00% APY in Coinbase. I’ve had only $400-500 dollars invested in there, however I get almost 3 cents per day in interest, which has added up to $15 dollars in interest made in less than a year on $500 bucks. I’m not sure bank accounts have ever made me 15 cents over the course of the 20+ years I’ve been banking! I also use Apple and Microsoft as examples…this is our generations opportunity to get invested in these future technologies on the ground floor. One of my favorite statistics I’ve seen is that only 1% of the entire world’s population is invested in the crypto space right now. To think how much more growth potential there is, just boggles my mind. 
 
Now that you’re out of the law enforcement world that was about minimizing risk I’d assume, now you join the entrepreneurship world with your business pal, and entrepreneurship is inherently risky. You’re taking the comfort and security of that every 1 or 2 week paycheck and trading it in for the freedom of time. Crypto for me was right in my wheelhouse of “risk taking”. I’d been on my own for 7-8 years so I was comfortable with taking chances. I look at this as a calculated risk though. I didn’t take out a home equity loan or wipe out my savings account (fun fact, I didn’t have one of those until investing in crypto haha)…I literally started investing in what I called coffee/lunch money. Instead of snagging a coffee from Dunkin during the day, I’d toss $5 bucks into crypto. Forget lunch out, another $15 bucks into crypto. Before I knew it, I was over 100% and it just keeps going…sure there’s periods of volatility, but I just look at those as buying opportunities now as I’m in this for the long term.
 
So if you were to tell an absolute complete newbie, someone who maybe wants to spend $100 bucks to start…what are maybe 3 coins you would tell them to put that money into to get started? I think we both know there’s probably 100 answers to this, as just about every 1 year chart to every coin looks the same…UP UP UP. 

Blockchain in its simplest form is just blocks of data/info that are stored in chronological order which make it difficult/impossible to change or alter.  If there is ever any question about a transaction or piece of information it can always be retrieved on the blockchain and the information is unable to be altered.  

Decentralized Finance or De-Fi is the ability to get a loan based on the cryptocurrency you own.  You can leverage the crypto to an entity and receive cash back and the lender will utilize the crypto in whatever way they want to use it.  Defi also enables you to lend your crypto out for a percentage rate which is more commonly referred to as “staking”.  The best part about Defi is that it cuts out the contact with a bank or lending institution.  You can do all this from the comfort of your home.  If you have the crypto and meet the requirements necessary you can get whatever you want.  This of course is not without risk and the risks associated with it should be vetted prior to any decisions.
 
Smart contracts is best described as a programmable contract that is similar to a math problem.   If X and Y and present then you can receive Z.  A real world application would be a DMV transaction.  The smart contract would be laid out where you are getting ready to purchase a car.  Instead of going to the DMV you would upload your license, appropriate paperwork (title, DMV forms etc) and complete the necessary forms that are required by the smart contract.  Once complete the info would be reviewed on the DMV’s end and they would “sign” the transaction (basically confirming that all the necessary parts are there for the transaction) and the DMV transaction would be complete without waiting in line.  In the future titles for cars, deeds for home, wills, and many other contractual forms will be held on the blockchain which will alleviate all the unnecessary paperwork and expedite most legal proceedings.  
 
As far as energy consumption I do believe Bitcoin and the “proof of work” protocol does use an absurd amount of energy.  A recent example was the Bitcoin transactions over a year equate to the same energy use as the country of Argentina.  Bitcoin is the original and the most valuable so it still has long term value but the proof of work protocol is no longer necessary.  There are new protocols that are faster, cheaper, and much more energy efficient.  
 
Now you want to put me on the spot regarding three crypto’s I would suggest to buy.   The first thing I would suggest is to set up an account on Coinbase as it is the easiest way to enter into the space to purchase things.  There are other exchanges such as Gemini, Robinhood, Uphold etc.   Some of them restrict your ability to buy based on what state you live in.  Right now I wouldn’t feel great about suggesting certain crypto because as you stated the market is really high right now (still has room to go) but several mainstream assets are at or above their all high time prices which is a bad time to buy.  The market is cyclical and there will be downturns and that is where I would look to buy.  I would suggest investing in anything that has a real world use case and has utility.  You may be tempted to jump into the latest canine based token Doge, Shibu and the like.  There are people who have made money on these but they have no use case and once regulations come around they will most likely become vaporware.  Tread carefully with those.   

You are like a crypto dictionary…as you grabbed them from crypto dictionary dot com or some shit haha. If one really looks into the true real world use cases of some of this technology, it’s easy to see how so many areas of employment are going to be affected, positively and negatively by these technologies. I told my lawyer buddy/client to look into investing into Ethereum as it will make part of his areas of practice useless in the future. I say that jokingly because I don’t know if that’s fully true, but common sense tells me if so much of every day processes we have to go through “paperwork” wise, get built into basic every day technology, then certain jobs aren’t going to be necessary anymore…am I correct in that thinking? De-Fi and Smart Contracts cut into what, 90% of what banks do? 

Haha, of course no great crypto investor is going to give away all their tips and secrets. There’s plenty out there that capitalize their knowledge into courses and subscription packages for people to buy. And obviously we can’t give out “financial advice” and you really do need to do your research on these things…but vaporware is a real problem. People having “the rug pulled out from under them” is a real problem. I tell people, start simple, Bitcoin and Ethereum, they’re top dogs for now and have been for quite a while. Just to give people a real world example of FREE money we were given in stimulus checks in the last 18 months…Bitcoin traded at $6,926 on April 11, 2020 when most people received their $1200 stimulus check. Today, on 11/1 it’s at $60,868…meaning your $1200 dollars would be worth $9336 today…up 778%. Which sounds fantastic, until you realize Ethereum was trading at $167 and is now at $4295 and your $1200 stimulus would be over $30,000 dollars. This is where I say, if you have a $1000 smartphone, and you can’t figure out how to make money on your own, well, good luck!

Below this paragraph are 1 year charts of some of the cryptocurrencies referenced. 
 
I decided to just learn with trial and error, but I did it with a reasonable amount of money. Some people see opportunities and instantly want to drop large sums of money into it. No matter how you do it, you should find a trusted place to learn from. Do you have have relied upon folks on the web or YouTube that you look to for trading advice or when you were starting to learn the basics?
 
I hope this helps some folks understand just the basics of diving into crypto. I can tell you, it’s a blast to be a part of. It’s very similar to the stock market except it doesn’t feel like the deck is stacked against you or that you need tens or hundreds of thousand of dollars to play. I’ve yet to find any kind of an investment that despite volatility seems to just increasingly grow over time. I say take even the smallest amount that you can afford and see what happens. Whether it’s Five grand or five bucks, just get started. James, I truly appreciate you opening up many to the crypto world for probably the first time and simplifying things in a way that won’t completely scare the shit out of them. I hope to have another crypto talk down the road that’s a round table of “experts” speaking a little more in depth on their experiences and what they see coming. Look forward to having you part of that group and hearing what changes even a few months down the road brings to this space. 

I think De-Fi and Smart contracts have the ability to streamline a lot of the mundane and archaic way of doing things.  I think it will take a long time for people to fully rely on a smart contract so they will still look to traditional financial institutions as it is generally more comfortable to deal with.  I think those same institutions will utilize the tech and make their own work a lot faster / easier but at the same time they will find a way to profit off of it rest assured.  

As far as trusted places I really just gathered a decent following on Twitter of people that I have come to know provide decent information.  Twitter is a great place for information when you filter out all the every day nonsense.  Youtube is also very good as long as you don’t get swept up in the confusion of what is speculation vs. what is factual.  I like positive speculation as much as the next person but there are Youtube content creators who really have little to no factual basis on what they say as long as it gets clicks, likes, and followers because they are paid in ad revenue which increases the more viewers they have. 
 
In summary I would say that your only barrier to entry in crypto is your own willingness to dive into it.  All the information is out there you just have to want to find it.  There are plenty of “crypto for dummies” videos and tutorials out there you can watch to get a baseline knowledge.  If anyone ever has any questions they can feel free to hit me up on Twitter @Twinpop14.  I’m always around to answer a question or give an opinion.  I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you about crypto Nick and hopefully we can continue this down the road.  
 
Take care.  -Jim

Thanks so much to Jim for taking the time to better explain for some of the newbies out there how to best start investing. If you guys know Jim, reach out to him and he can help you get going and probably hit you up with some referral links. Same goes for 3Zero followers, hit me up and I’ll help you get started. 

Thanks everyone! 

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.

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.  

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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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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. 
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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