Shine Bright Like a Diamond


'DIAMONDS':

  • rarest most precious stones in the world; one of a kind

  • comes from the Greek word: ADAMAS - 'unconquerable; invincible'

  • formed under tremendous pressure & depth; brought to the surface of earth by force, pressure & fire

  • it's worth is determined by the number of cuts it has

  • basically fireproof

  • deeply rooted

  • not just beautiful but can be used to cut through the hardest of surfaces

  • adds value

  • once was an ugly unwanted invaluable lump of carbon

  • more pure than coal

  • it's journey is a process but priceless in the end

We recently did a podcast on our Coffee With J website, that highlighted and told the story of life issues involving contracts, NDA's, lawsuits, litigation, real estate and breach of contracts. We found very valuable information on our journey and I discussed a little of my first lawsuit.

In Fall 2012, I ran a Bridal Expo with my business. I immediately had very negative feedback, early on. Someone previous had tried to run one and it put a bad taste in the community's mouth. So locals were quite vocal and doubted any rate of success. THIS should have spoke to me. But I'm always willing to take on a challenge. So I went for it. Didn't have many resources but built too big too fast. In hindsight, it was 5 years too soon. AND it bombed. Well, it had some great components to it but lacked volunteers, community support, vendor support, sales and advertising. I wasn't educated on how to run it. I simply wanted to prove people wrong, bring awareness to our new business, and create a memorable event. Well did I ever! I had people destroy me for my lack of organization. And in all honesty, it was a train wreck. I had failed a huge event not only in the eyes of my kids, but my peers, friends, colleagues and community. Vendors wanted nothing to do with it or me. And I couldn't honour a prize that was provided through it. I was a very quiet person back then and in hindsight I was delusional in the sense I just believed it would all pan out in the end. I was left carrying the weight of the prize and went ok, let's go big or go home. On paper I had time to revamp the prize so 2 options were provided: 1. They could get a small monetary prize to put towards their wedding and go get their own vendors, and pay their own way. 2. They took the 2 years with us exclusive and we would bring on vendors that would donate products and services of a specific value and we owned the rights to the photos, coverage, were the planners and designers. They choose #2. Over the next year we started creating plans. It was tough to get anyone on board as my name was linked to a 'failed expo'. I made a big mistake. I didn't go to the couple and just sit down with them and explain. I just kept going and tried to 'handle it'. That next fall we signed the contract, then almost immediately I had demands and issues that I didn't see coming. The couple came to me and asked to sit down and discuss but I was embarrassed, proud and a bit arrogant. I refused and didn't give them an opportunity one on one with me. Our name then again went through the mud.

I worked hard over the next few months of winter and tried to focus on my business. One of the positive things that came out of it was I had quite a few seasoned business people come to me and say shake it off and move on! Run events. Get your feet wet. Go deeper. Stop giving up. So I did. I thought of everything I had gone through and how hard it was for women in business. I wanted to create a community of like minded hard working women who were overcoming difficult challenges and had a business that they could take into other communities, make a positive difference and expand. Again, a fabulous idea but very poor execution. AND ... I didn't let them know about the 'failed expo'. I just believed if I put my head down and worked hard people would forget the failure and we would have amazing events to help women who needed a helping hand and support growing their companies like I had. I built a phenomenal set of events but highly under-estimated the power of ambitious women who didn't have the same vision as myself along with dealing with these 2 set of events now colliding with each other.

I learnt some tough lessons and went on to revamp my business plan, had many successes and wins, and was finally learning that failing wasn't the end of the world. I had put my head down and worked hard. I focused on my family and business and was doing really well. Business was actually so good I had gotten to a point where I couldn't keep up with the resources and demands and this led to revisiting launching a newer version of the Women's Events. I believed that there was strength in collaboration and it came down to the right partners. Ironically enough, news of me doing well had started to circulate in my circle, a circle I didn't button up and tighten, or vet. I was approached to help with a fundraiser and was asked about my business. So over an innocent coffee I shared what we were working on. There was immediate interest in being a part of my journey. It led to meeting a couple of other parties who seemed like a fit and planning started underway. I had thought, this time, it's maybe best to not be the only organizer and collaborator. It would probably be best to have 1-2 partners who could help carry the weight. They would need to monetarily contribute if my staff, my resources, my connections, and exposure to event plans I had taken literally years to create and build were in any way made accessible to them. We didn't know each other well but were part of the same organization so it seemed safe to me. Things went smooth for a time but I had received some unpleasant news about my partners and decided it was time to remove any risk. I wasn't going to allow any failed or tainted business in connection to me or my events, I had worked too hard and come too far. Also during this time frame, completely unrelated, I had 2 women start to befriend me. They were complimentary, seemed so kind, I had no friends to speak of because I worked too much and too long so I was thrilled to have these great friends. They were inquisitive about my events, business, loved design and budgets and seemed like great volunteers in the future. They also were a part of the same organization as my family and the other family in the events.

While planning all of this I had hit my pressure of a growing business and resources not coming in fast enough. I was a few days out from a business commitment and a personal commitment and I needed financing. I went to an established business woman I knew and laid it out. She had to decide because she had no time to properly paper it business woman to business woman and in essence she was wise and vetted the situation well. Time was not our friend. It was suggested I go ask our mutual friend who was one of the two ladies who had befriended me. I said no way. I didn't feel good about it. But, I also had immediate pressure of time and I took a chance. I needed short term financing to get through the commitments. I called the younger one of the two ladies and refused to accept anything from the mother. I said no. Both wanted to be a part of things and I went against my better judgement and said ok. It was too short of time and I had no idea that both of these parties were friends and privately discussing their own conspiracies and assumptions. Also in recent weeks I had made a donation confidentially to an organization we were apart of and it was brought to my attention from the two ladies their awareness of this detail. I remember being so confused. How did they know? It was such a breach of privacy and confidentiality. Months later I learned that the one lady had that knowledge for a role she played. Her background had been banking and securities and it was clear a breach was made. They went from 0-1000 basically overnight. In 6-8 short weeks both parties joined together and sued me.

I won't get into the full details of the last 4 years, but they made sure to invest their opinions, assumptions, conspiracies, hate, and stories to almost anyone and everyone I had in my world, came across, family, friends, etc. They didn't have time to even vet their opinions and 'facts' prior to fabricating information on their claims and I had no idea the hate and damage that was caused until 2 years ago. When I was served, I was dumbfounded. One set was a business parting of ways. On valid grounds. The other was they demanded paid immediately. They weren't remotely related to each other. I laid down and died. They had served the claim to my place of work, and a few other sources. I thought ok....we are in the same organization, I'm not going to be unchristian and fight this...I'll just own it and pay it. So I didn't hire a lawyer to fight it out, nor did I respond within the standard 20 days. I let it go to a default judgement. Shortly after collection ensued and my accounts were frozen for months. I lost my job, volunteering, friends, family, income, business, at that time my bank, house, belongings, literally everything. I fell into a deep depression. I had been trying to purchase my home. I had had help from family and a couple friends on many things in my life. I owed them. I couldn't pay them. I had gone from my life looking like it was succeeding to I had fallen hard. I finally read 2 years ago the words they put in their claim and affidavit. They were founded on lies, fabricated and embellished stories and I went into a further depression. I couldn't get out of bed. I cried all day. I was getting hate emails from many people who these parties had told their version of the events too. I woke up on Sundays before church to hate emails that said I wasnt loved, accepted or forgiven. I was of the devil. I was a fraud. A conartist. A criminal. 'Known to the police' from my arrest with my husband. I was hated by everyone in my church and they all wanted me to leave. I was an abomination, a humiliation and a violent and ugly mutation of death and darkness. Demonically possessed and not of this earth. That I was watched and mocked when I raised my hands to worship or bowed my head to pray. I spiralled. I called my mom many times a day in tears. I clung to what I thought was a health and wellness place just to breathe and survive another day. Over time I learnt that too was not a safe place for me. I wanted to die. I thought everyone wants me to die. I quit going to church. I felt I had nothing to live for. I made constant excuses why I couldn't pay my bills. I wasn't wanting anyone to know the mess I'd made and the screw up I was. When my mom was working my step dad would call me. He'd get me through the day by encouraging me. I screamed at my kids for volunteering and betraying me. My daughter and son were in our organization's college and I was so unbelievably angry with them for choosing them over me. I'd curse at my family when they'd tell a story of someone there, or shared their day. I would drive my daughter to school in the morning and cut her down for her loyalty to people that didn't care about her(my words not theirs). I became ugly. I went from 160 lbs to 210lbs. I didn't give a shit about life. I didn't share it with anyone because I wanted to protect them from these toxic people. And because I couldn't face the embarrassment. The shame. I had let them down.

Then something powerful happened. One kind person reached out to me. I had someone message me about trying a Biblical Studies course. So...I went to a info meeting. I signed up. And I went back to church. I grew in my faith and developed lifelong amazing friendships with incredible people. I saw over time that yes there were those that held an opinion, but I was loved and I saw such grace and example rise out of all of the leaders and Pastors. I thought of the position they must have been in. Surely, if people had sent me hate mail, they were sending them hate mail too. The forgiveness, grace and love they extended to me just so I could go and grow in faith. So I decided to make every area of my life accountable from time to time as I rebuilt my life and business. And I still do. I further got wise and started educating myself on law and chose my battles. Because when you come out of difficult situations, people will assume the worst and you for a time go into a vicious cycle of cleaning things up. This will also draw out the greedy and needy and toxic. I went from one crisis to another and today and am still cleaning things up. And I can guarantee that your haters will try to be there in the muck making sure anyone in your world is aware of them and your 'dirty deeds'. They won't share their own but they will gladly expose your skeletons. These were really difficult years and after much work and realization, I grew up and understood with the help of incredible mentors and business professionals, we all need help in the growth. Financially, mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Deals like I had done are done daily. However - there is a proper way to ensure no risk of exposure or liability. I simply was a baby in business and had no clue back then what I was doing. I still have good days and bad days. I have an amazing business I've been blessed to grow and pay my debts from. I work hard and I have one day both a week and a month that are my 'accountability days'. They aren't fun. I make my calls or send a message or email on status or update. Sometimes it's not significant or informative at all. But it's all part of being accountable and honouring those who honoured me.

This leads me to 7 strong and powerful points I've learnt:

1. Always carry an NDA and Due Diligence on yourself. And get wise. Get Due Diligence done on every party you go into a deal with and every party who tries to defame you. You will need these down the road.

2. Own your Story. If you don't, someone will tell a very perverted and 'believable' version.

3. Before you move on, go and close the doors of old business. And be open and real about your failures in new business. This will eliminate risk of failure, lack of trust and problems.

4. Recognize you are not alone. Everyone who has succeeded in business has gone through shit. Some have a story worse than mine. Some have a story better than mine. But to each of us, what we experience is horrible at the time. Because it's a new level we need to grow through.

5. Don't throw out the baby with the bath water. Not everyone is there to hurt you. There are really good people and you need to level up to be in their tribe.

6. Red, Yellow, Green. Someone wise educated me: when it comes to money, there's 3 lenders. GREEN: The Willing, YELLOW: The cautious, RED: The Nervous. DO NOT DO any kind of business with the Red people. And be very wise with the yellow. And always paper to eliminate risk.

7. Your family is your best asset. Don't waste time, years and hurtful things on those that don't matter. Spend it on those who support and love you. Haters don't deserve that kind of time and attention. I gave these people some valuable years I can't get back. Thank God I had a praying mama and 3 of the most forgiving and beautiful children inside and out. My daughter and a good friend pointed this out to me long ago: If your haters have no life, no self esteem, no self love, no passion, no drive, no contentment that they spend all day focused on you. Pity them. Thats really sad. And then be flattered. Cuz seriously, you must be fucking amazing! They can't get enough of you!

You failed. So what. Get up. Kick ass. Get strong. Go honour those who honoured you. Pick your battles. And don't tolerate anyone who doesn't celebrate life and positive things.

You get to choose daily who you want to be. Diamonds were once ugly invaluable items. But in the hands of the right people, they Shine Bright. They are Diamonds.

Junella