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There is a huge misconception among many of my newer acquaintances that I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth and that life has always been somewhat “easy” for me. Hence, building a business from scratch was not as complicated a task as it would’ve been had I endured different circumstances.
First of all, I am not writing this to have pity or get recognition for pulling myself out of a burdensome situation. I do not give a shit what people think about me, but I realized that by sharing my story, I could possibly motivate another single mom to attain her goals. I simply want to share the fact that anything is possible, no matter what cards the game of life happen to deal you.
Growing up, my family was pretty well off. We weren’t wealthy by any means, but I never went without necessities and was always able to participate in extra curricular activities with ease. My dad made decent money, and me being the only child, I benefited as expected.
When I turned 18 I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of my hometown of Parkersburg, WV. It was a great place but I had bigger plans for myself.
I packed my car and headed to North Carolina with two of my cousins. We all resided in a one-bedroom apartment (how the hell three girls managed sharing a one BR apartment is still a mystery to me today). I got a job waiting tables but my plans were to save as much money as possible and move to New York City. That was my dream.
Then, I met “him”. He was extremely charming and I was young and naïve as hell. He convinced me to marry him, rather quickly (I was 20 years old. Gulp.) For reasons I won’t go into here, I knew within the first few months I had made the biggest mistake of my life. I filed for legal separation and moved out.
About a month later I found out I was pregnant. I will never forget that day. It wasn’t a joyous moment for me. I tearfully begged for the test to be negative. Why me? Why now? I felt as if all of my dreams, goals, and aspirations had been ripped out from under me and stolen for all eternity.
Hesitatingly, I went back to my husband. Not because I loved him, but because I felt as if I had no other choice. My dad had suffered a great loss and my parents were in a terrible situation financially. I had no insurance, and I couldn’t rely on anyone to help me at that time. Besides, I knew that going back to the father was the best option for the baby.
Fast-forward one and a half years later. My life was crumbling around me. I was in a miserable marriage. I wanted to escape but I had no money and an 8-month old baby. I felt trapped in a quagmire of misery and sadness. I was depressed beyond belief.
One day, it hit me. If I stayed I was going to lose every bit of zest for life that I had. I was already close, and as uncharacteristic as it was for me, I had almost given up. How would my son look at me if I crumbled? How would I ever teach him to stand up for true happiness and be something extraordinary if I, myself, settled for miserable mediocrity?
I packed a suitcase and with a baby on my hip, I left. I will never forget that day. My husband looked at me as I walked out the door and said, “What is this, a joke? You’ll be back, crawling on your hands and knees, begging me for my help. You just wait!”
As I walked to my dad’s car (I didn’t have one), he stood in the doorway and laughed.
“Do me a favor,” he boomed, “When you get out on your own, call me and we can compare bank accounts!”
His laughter grew faint as we drove off into the dusk.
I never went back, and it wasn’t easy. As I mentioned earlier, my parents were experiencing financial turmoil and I was not experienced to work anywhere other than the service industry. I wanted to go back to school but it just wasn’t possible.
I finally landed a job working for a newspaper company as an advertising sales rep. I got a good reference from a friend who worked there and was able to get my foot in the door. My measly start-up salary, combined with a couple nights bartending, was enough to get Cameron and I our own apartment.
I couldn’t afford a crib, or a bed for that matter, so the both of us slept on a futon. I had a small television but no cable. I remember taking Cameron to the Laundromat and reading him stories. He used to scoot on the lint-coated floor as I would fold our clothes. There were many weeks that groceries were scarce. I cried myself to sleep numerous nights.
I finally swallowed my pride and went to apply for government help. I still wasn’t making much at the newspaper, and we could barely live off what I brought in from bartending. When I arrived at the welfare office, the woman looked me up and down as if I were from another planet.
“We have nothing for you,” she said through a snarl.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“We can’t help you. You have a job. I’m sorry.”
“I have a job?” I repeated, in bewilderment.
She explained to me that as long as I had some sort of income, there was nothing she could do. Her attitude infuriated me, but rather than get upset and discouraged, I suddenly felt motivated. I was too good to accept a handout, anyway. What the hell was I thinking? I didn’t belong here. I was supposed to be a successful businesswoman living in Manhattan! I was supposed to be feeding the economy, not draining it!
From that point on, I dove into my job and really started busting my ass. I would arrive at the office early, and stay late. I picked up additional bartending shifts and saved every penny. I finally worked my way up to sales manager and eventually, after four years of working my ass off for the newspaper, was offered a golden opportunity by one of my best advertisers, Harley-Davidson.
That’s right, I had landed the role as marketing director for Harley-fucking-Davidson. Hard work and determination had far surpassed a college degree, and for the next 6 years of my life, while working for the best motorcycle company in the world, I learned more about business than any University could’ve come close to teaching me.
When I made a decision to start my own company, I didn’t have tons of money in my bank account. I didn’t have huge investors with deep pockets. I didn’t have government grants or a rich uncle. But what I did have was a work ethic that had been ingrained deep in my head, a burning tenacity to create something great, and a deep desire to go to sleep at night knowing that the grueling past ten years were not done in vain, but merely a learning curve in the circle of life.
I’m obviously leaving out many, many details in this story, but my main goal in sharing this is to let everyone know that nothing in life that is worth anything, whether it’s financial freedom or just plain happiness, is ever easy. It takes work. Hard WORK. The great thing is that most people just aren’t willing to put in the hours it takes, so if you are, you’re already ahead of the game.
Sometimes I secretly think about the day I will go to my ex-husbands house, knock on his door, and when he opens, look him in the eyes and say, “Wanna compare bank accounts now? I’m ready…”
But I won’t ever do that. I just don’t need to.