Michelle Nelson’s Story
Have you ever just woken up from a dead sleep, looked around your bedroom, and realized that your life sucks? How about being divorced twice and left with a broken heart? Broke and eating spaghetti every day? What about being trapped in a dead-end job in small-town, USA??
Well, that would be me on July 18, 2007. I woke before the sun, at 4:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning, looked around my bedroom, stared at the walls, and said out loud, “Is this my life? This cannot be my life; I need a do over!”
I put the pillow over my head and attempted to go back to sleep. That didn’t work. I got up and went to McDonalds for my usual Egg McMuffin and coffee, something I shouldn’t have done, considering I was strapped for cash, as usual. I just sat in my dining room area, eating my “expensive” breakfast, surveying the surroundings, and said, “I am ready to make a change.”
You see, at that point in time, I was $200,000 in debt; and I was always $100 away from being overdrawn on my accounts. The reality of my financial situation was gut-wrenching! In addition, I worked for a company with a boss who didn’t see eye to eye with me on anything, except the fact that we disliked each other very much. Facing the harsh reality of that situation, I decided bravery and boldness were the order of the day. After getting out of the shower, almost on autopilot, I got dressed. With my hair still wet, I slipped on my flip flops and jeans that had seen better days, and went into the office, knowing my boss would be there working on a Saturday morning.
With the promise of new-found freedom beaconing me, I entered her office without hesitation. Vowing to be honest, I sat down and said, “Let’s face it, you don’t like me just as much as I don’t like you. If I stay and continue working for you, I am going to turn into you; and I don’t like the person you have become.”
It didn’t take long for her to call HR, then security; and I was escorted out. I will never forget what the HR director said to me, smiling, as she led me to the door, “Mitzy, you are going to be okay; you are going to be just fine.” It was as if she knew. I held on to those words for the next year very closely.
I drove home; and by that point, my son, Ian, was out of bed. “Where have you been?” he wanted to know.
I said, “I quit my job!”
You can imagine his surprise! “What?” he stammered in disbelief.
My heart swelled with compassion, as I repeated my words and offered an explanation. “I quit my job, Ian. You know, we are always close to being penniless. This house needs more repairs than I can manage; I hate what I do, and I want to experience living somewhere larger than this small town. But I will not move us, if you don’t want to move.”
Ian was my second confirmation that I needed to follow my intuition. He said, “Mom, I agree. If we don’t eventually have to struggle like we do right now, and it would be a better life for us, then we need to move.” In that moment, I loved him more than words could ever express.
The third confirmation came when, after sending out a mass email, my house rented in less than an hour!
Then I thought, “WOW, what do I do now? Now I am not going to have a place to live, I have no job, and no money.” It was then I began weighing my options. I had lived in St. Louis when I was in college and had since visited a friend who lived in O’Fallon, Missouri. After “surveying” the area, I started thinking St. Louis just might be a great place to start another ad agency. “But how?”, I thought. I had no assets to my name, except the $1,000 in rent money I had just gotten, which needed to go to the mortgage.
I did have a wonderful boyfriend who had said he would move with us; and I thought he would be with me the rest of my life. At least we wouldn’t be totally alone! He said eventually he would move there. So with that premise, we started packing. A week later, that house was completely empty; and Ian, the dog, the cat, and I were in the SUV driving to St Louis.
I will never forget all of our family and friends standing on the side road, by our home, waving at us in the rear view mirror. I looked over at Ian, and he was crying. Then I started to cry, which lasted all the way to St. Louis.
Fast forward…St. Louis. We got unpacked and started settling in. We were miserable! We knew no one! Ian had to start a new school! We had no money! We were eating lunch meat sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; and if it wasn’t that, it was spaghetti! Everywhere I went people asked me what high school I went to! (If you are reading this and wondering why people asked me that – it’s a St. Louis thing.) I just believed they thought I was too young to be in business!
Unfortunately, St. Louis wasn’t the immediate answer to our dreams. At one point, I had less than $300 to my name. One particular day, when Ian returned home from school, I had to be honest with him. “I have sold everything I can sell; and we have no money, Ian.”
I had no job, no freelance work, no nothing! On top of that, the boyfriend I thought would be in my life forever couldn’t fathom uprooting his own life to join mine. He left our relationship without even having aconversation with me. On a road trip home, he just didn’t show up; and I have never seen him since.
So there we were one day, Ian and I, alone and friendless on one of our tight-budgeted grocery store runs. Having nothing much in the house to eat, I told Ian all we could afford were eggs, spaghetti and simple things that were long sustaining. Spontaneously, tears began to well up; and I started to cry. Through my tears, I asked Ian, “What have I done moving us here? We know no one. I took you away from the home you always knew, friends, family that was close in distance…”
I will never forget him looking up at me and saying, at age 13, “Buck up, Mom. You did the right thing moving us here. You are good at what you do, now start doing it!”
Just like that, my own son was giving me advice. I suddenly felt like the 13 year old that he was. There was no denying this experience had formed adeep and abiding love between us.
Wiping the tears away, we continued on our shopping mission. As we headed down one of the aisles, suddenly I was tapped on the shoulder by a stranger asking if I could help with a wine display. I thought it was a bit weird…but okay. After helping the gentleman, he asked, “What do you do for a living?” I responded with, “What do you need done?”
Through that connection, I soon had my first client. At the time, I didn’t have a name for my company. One day, not long after our grocery store experience, I was sitting with Ian discussing our current status. “Our life is Back 2 the Basics”, I recall telling him. In that moment, the inspiration came to me.
From that simple thought, the company name and mission were born; and really, that’s what I want to do for companies…take them Back 2 the Basics. I want to remind them what made them go into business in the first place and take their marketing back 2 the basics… back to their inspiration!
In the beginning, I worked three jobs, including running the company. I did that for a year and half, until I was completely debt free. Ian and I still ate spaghetti, but only when we wanted to. On my birthday, June 30, 2008, I launched the business full time – Back 2 Basics Marketing, LLC. Today we have 200 clients nationwide, along with eight full-time team members. We are getting ready to franchise Back 2 Basics Marketing, LLC, by October, 2010; and soon a franchise will be available near you.
My goal in life is to help anyone who has ever thought about having his or her own ad agency. I want to teach people everything I know, including all of the mistakes I made, in order to help that person avoid those same pitfalls, and end up with the most successful business possible.
If you are reading my story, I beg you to take a chance with your life. I was 36 years old at the start of my great adventure, and I am so glad I took the chance. I am glad I didn’t listen to anyone who doubted me or I would still be back in my hometown, broke, restless, and wondering what my life’s purpose was supposed to be. I dared to keep dreaming when there were many who had given up on me. Don’t let other people talk you out of your dreams! Take the chance! Your true friends will always be with you, no matter what…and more will show up. If I have inspired just one person with my story, it is worth the telling.
As my son said to me, “Buck up, and just do it!”