The story isn't over. In fact, I know it's mostly just beginning, but as "fate" would have it, the initial two SeaGlaze demo videos I released changed our life way quicker than I had even bargained for. Within two months, we were encountering problems that I never thought we would even get to have.
I went from begging Jose to find new welding work, to realizing that I was already making this WORK. It took far too long for that to truly sink in. Every week, I waited for our sales to drop, but they didn't. Each week, I would hold my breathe and will my dream into existence. Not that I think this mental exercise accomplished anything except self soothing, but for me that was enough. I spent month after month dreaming with my eyes wide open and playing Eminem's song "Lose Yourself" on repeat to get me through the hard days. You only get one shot and I had zero intentions of not taking it this time. This wasn't a fearless journey. I did it ALL scared. Terrified even. The reality is, I've never been so scared in my whole life. When you feel like you have everything you've always wanted, at the edge of your finger tips, It gives an extra incentive to just keep swimming. So I did. I swam my heart out. There's a vulnerability to sharing parts of yourself with the world and sharing my magic potions with the world proved no different for me, but the reward and the innovation outweighed my fears. It still does. Only now, my fears are fewer and farer in between and I'm growing stronger every day. Crafty Beaches- A New Beginning ......coming soonWith Jose coming on board and assuming many roles that I previously had taken on myself, I dove into trouble shooting and streamlining. Luckily for us, this is one of my strengths. I'm not sure where we would be today without this obsessive critical thought process I tend to gravitate towards to.I became so busy troubleshooting holes in our systems that I neglected a Lot of the basics in the name of existing customer satisfaction. Once I realized which basics were being neglected, I started to tackle those too. It wasn't long before I truly needed a clone. Routine tasks have never been my strong suit. Intuition and trial and error have taught me that there is great strength and profit when we learn to delegate our weaknesses. Do you think it is a complete coincidence that each human has their own area of excellence? I no longer do. We are designed to compliment each other and operate in social circles. It's biological. For this reason alone, it only makes sense to assign those to tasks to which they excelled. It was the most efficient and effective solution to my weaknesses. Little did I know, it was the secret to harvesting my strengths as well. Running my own business has required a fierce honesty with myself that I wasn't always comfortable with. It took me two years, well really my entire life, to learn that I was overcomplicating things. Expectations were the root of my heartache of course so I adjusted those too. Part of the last few years I spent really diving into my sense of self. Improving what I could and releasing what I couldn't. I sought out to a be an organized, focused,efficient business. Ignorantly, I thought each of these traits had to come from me. Thankfully I was wrong. Surround yourself with those that lift you higher and do the same for them in return. This is my key to success. I'm no super woman. I can't and don't do it all, but what I lack in organization, I make up for in creativity and drive. We all have our place in this machine of existence, we just have to find it. In order to go forwards, I'll need to go backwards with this story. In order for the end to make sense, you'll need to understand the beginning. The beginning of Crafty Beaches decline. It was a chaotic time. The falling out amongst our circles, can literally be connected to the same few people over and over. At some point it just becomes an observable science experiment. What happens when exhibit A interacts with exhibit B? Predictable behavior patterns. Sometimes I thought maybe I was the only crazy one for noticing it. Later I'd learn, I wasn't the crazy one after all. Just the only one crazy enough to say something about it. When karma finally came for one of them on February 13th, I can't say I wasn't delighted.I even made sure to tell her such.It was hard to believe, the very same person that sent me running to the door, was the same one that successfully scammed several women out of about $4k. My instinct never predicted this or any of the scandal that surrounded that entire ordeal. If your friends aren't happy for your success or an attempt to better yourself in any way, they aren't your friends. Swim far far way. They will make you their prey. If you let them. Too bad no one eats me unless I let them. Who needs enemies with friends like that? No way Jose. By this time, I was glad that Madison's newish few friends had never seemed to like me and was just glad to be free of them all. I left them to their chaotic world and returned to my peaceful bubble. That night, I counted my lucky stars and dove back into Seaville. The magic was waiting for me. I wasn't the same girl I was in 2016, because she died in January of 2017. This new version of me was more focused, driven, determined, and simply more at peace than I had been in a very long time. The different element in my life? I taught myself a beautiful, resourceful gift. Somehow, I was able to begin channeling my anxious or hyperactivity into useful tasks and tying them with big picture goals. It was like an awakening in my soul that I can't quite explain. Everything started clicking. One thing after the other. My brain was firing rapidly and for months on end I forced my body to cooperate as well, which came easy in this state. So very easy. Maybe it's hypomania, maybe its hyper activity, but either way it's a gift that I now welcome verses fight. Working with the wave instead of against it so to speak. The end result was hours and hours of my time went into not only improving company workflow and our processes, but how the customer sees us as well. Starting with our website down to our ship times. We are still constantly improving both and have a long way to go, but oh how far we've come. As SeaPaint continued to grow, I luckily became surrounded with some truly phenomenal people.From friends to admins to customers to employees. Life was perfect, but in the summer of 2017 my stress levels began to grow. The demand had exceeded the supply. Both paint and myself were rapidly depleting. Instinctively and mathematically I knew it was time for me to start delegating more and then some more. SeaPaint was my little love child with myself and there was no part of me that wanted to give up any of my baby, but I knew that in order for SeaPaint to thrive, I needed to start letting go just a little. Once I realized both the cognitive and economical benefits to relinquishing tasks that I didn't love, our numbers magically began to climb. My whole life I was taught to power through boring tasks and occasionally I still might, but my hyperactive mind wasn't made for task work. It was made for innovation and creativity. A bird is not stupid because it does not know how to swim. I'm not broken because I don't fit the perfect mold.I am me and I no longer apologize for it.Nourish your strengths and your weaknesses will appear insignificant. It really works for me, it may for you too.Everything was slowly falling into place. I was slowly understanding that this potentially wasn't a few month fad. Around that time the crazy crafter strolled in, hiding her crazy under the radar. It wasn't until we were enjoying our 7 year anniversary cruise in Mexico, did we start to get a clue. The clues just keep on coming, meanwhile we were off on our long awaited vacation.Part 2Cruising, crafting, and smart assing are my all time favorite hobbies. There was no part of me that wasn't excited about this trip. I'm a sucker for novelty and cruising fills this void quite nicely. New places every day. New food every day. New adventures everyday. It's really my perfect vacation except the room sizes. This year was special though. We had neglected going for 5 years and treated ourselves to a full-size balcony suite. Stoked was an understatement. I'd never left my business baby in the hands of anyone before because I wasn't in a position to do so. Having Nicole come on board was one of the best things that has ever happened to us. She's a rock star. Leaving my business baby in good hands, we were off! To my delight, the ship was covered in mermaid influenced design and decor. It was as if the ship was intentionally selected for me. Except it could have used more turquoise, but that is another story about how I almost painted the cruise ship.One of the main reasons we did select this particular date and ship was that the Florida Keys was one of the destinations. SeaPaint has certainly been inspired and influenced by the charming atmosphere of the keys. From the stunning waters with beautiful, colorful fish to the historic architect and island charm .We have previously visited the keys, but our time there is always far too short. One of these days I hope to escape down there for a long weekend. The peaceful atmosphere is contagious. It's hard not to feel at ease in this laid back paradise. There's something about the Florida Keys that just slaps you in the face with vacation in a beautiful way and I absolutely love it. Hit me again!Truly a tropical paradise. it doesn't get easier each time to leave these beautiful islands behind. Perhaps that is why I chose to name our pale, spring green after my favorite colorful island, so that I don't have to leave her behind. I can bring a piece of her with me home or wherever I go. That evening after dinner I would learn that upgrading to the suite had proved to be worth every penny. That first night I spent out there on the balcony as we were zooming across the ocean, was nothing short of magical as I hovered above the ocean, gazing at the stars. I would spend each night doing the same thing, soaking in every ounce of ocean that I could without drowning it.As much as I enjoyed the Keys, Mexico turned out to be my favorite destination on this trip. I've never seen waters so very blue. I couldn't help but instantly fall in love. When I looked around, I loved everything as far as I could see. Mexico stole my heart and gave me one of the best experiences of my life. Swimming with dolphins. Far more intimate of an experience than I initially gave it credit for. I can still remember being surrounded by tropical fish and majestically blue water. The world was so very still in that moment. For the first time, I understood what men mean when they refer to a woman's appearance as breath taking. The ocean surrounding Mexico was just that. Breath taking. I hope it is a memory that stays with me until I leave this earth. For now I remember it vividly. I even remember the dolphin's name. Scarlet. Maybe she was a little rebel like me. I swear she had a twinkle in her eye.We shared a swim, a smile, and an awkwardly intimate moment when she shot straight between my legs attempting to propel me across the ocean surface with where her nose finally firmly implanted itself into my foot, shooting me straight across the surface towards Jose. Needless to say, I opted to not pay $150 for those adorable dolphin swimming photos that revealed my face wearing a violated look of shock. I could always just laugh at myself for free, right? And there were pictures of dolphins already all over the internet. I could just look at those.Not ready for Mexico to be over, we spent the rest of the day swimming amongst tropical fish in the vividly blue waters of Mexico. To many this doesn't sound all that appealing and maybe even dangerous, but to a mermaid I felt right at home. The intensely painful sunburn that resulted in return was worth it. Almost. Don't judge me. It was really painful. Wear protection out there kids.While we were blissfully cruising through life, our family back home was boarding up for what was reportedly the worst hurricane to hit the Florida shore in a 100 years. It wasn't long before we would catch wind of this via Facebook. Before we knew it, our well planned vacation was being cut short. The storm was heading straight for our Florida coast. We had an option of setting back out to sea for an additional 5 day vacation in the opposite direction of the storm, or cutting our trip a day short to prepare our home. It wasn't a question for me as my kids were back home in Brevard County. There was zero chance I was willing to be separated from them during this time. All I wanted in that moment, was to get back back home to my kids. Panic had began to set in as the memories of last year's hurricane revisited me. Replaying in my mind over and over. Like a nightmare on repeat.I closed my eyes and willed myself to breathe. It was the fall of 2016 and category four hurricane was heading our way. If you know anything about hurricanes that isn't good. Naturally, I wanted to bail. Having three children without neccesities as a mom is terrifying, but a category four could easily be a fatal situation which added to my anxious thoughts.The sounds that accompany a hurricane alone are extremely scary. You can't turn the howling off. It's like speeding screams racing straight towards your windows. When you pair this with the realization that your roof could rip off at any moment, you get panic. At least, if you're me. During this time Madison and I weren't really speaking. The Madison conspiracy theories were at full force by that point. While I was begging Jose to let us leave before it was too late, Madison was offering to fly our family of five to stay with her. When I refused she offered to pay for the plane tickets. I had wanted to say yes, but by now Jose had gotten wind of the conspiracy theories as well and like me, became overly skeptical of everything. Except my funny friend. I trusted her. I trusted the picture she painted of Madison. I trusted her intentions were good. I don't blame her for this. It is my fault that I did either of those things. I chose to believe things that sounded off because it explained the catty behavior of Madison's friends. It all seemed to make sense in a weird way. Except this invitation really put a damper in that. What kind of narcissist gives a family $1500 to flee a hurricane? My head was spinning. Nothing made sense. Who was I kidding? By this point I was doubting these piled on theories from my funny friend. They weren't just her theories after all. There was a whole group dedicated to these theories. Looking back, I became ashamed I didn't ask the right questions sooner. Instead of gleefully accepting Madison's offer and possibly reuniting then, I spent the night listening to the screams of the wind for hours on end, the warnings of narcissism from my funny friend, and the sound of my own sobs, battling to outdo them all. Comforting both myself and my children that night tested my inner strength. Maybe there is a value in faking bravery in front of our children, so that they too may grow up to be brave. Then again, maybe there isn't. Who even really knows?When it comes to unanswered questions, I can't help but wonder how much of 2016 would have happened in the horrible way it did if I had accepted that invitation. If I had seen her sincerity first hand months earlier, could the collapse of our little crafty kingdom been avoided? Would I even be where I am if I hadn't? Who really knows? What I do know, is that neither she nor myself were angels as things began to unfold. Neither of us had a good understanding of the chaos we encountered. Only the chaos of what we were being told. Little did I know, by the end of 2016, I would realize that my funny friend wasn't so funny after all. Who was even laughing anyway? Certainly not me. Flash forward to present hurricane. Maybe I carried some of those feelings with me from 2016 which influenced my downward spiral. In 2017, it was hurricane Irma that was threatening our beautiful coastal town. As the ship was inching towards our state in our titanic sized boat, I began to respond to customer service related questions in our Facebook group. I also immediately alerted not only the staff, but our customers as well that our state was under an emergency situation and all customer service related matters would be resolved next week. Being that it was the weekend anyhow, the announcement was more so of a courtesy and an explanation should we lose power for a substantial amount of time. Thinking this wouldn't alarm any of our customers, we carried on responding to a few questions before our cruise docked. One particular customer was missing 4 jars out of her order. I assured her that I would help her the following week. I mean, naturally with 3 children, securing our home and family's safety would certainly come before 4 missing jars of paint. SeaPaint may be my baby, but I have 3 living babies that rely on me more. Of course she understood, right? She said she did, but within a few short hours she came back demanding to have her issue resolved immediately. Anyone that knows me, knows I don't kindly take orders from anyone, especially not during a natural disaster. Completely appalled by her heartless behavior, I immediately refunded her for the 4 jars and removed her from the Facebook group. For some reason, my solution enraged her. She spent the entire night during hurricane Irma, harassing me on every social media outlet she could find. I couldn't block her fast enough. She was belligerent and rude from the beginning and somehow I was the bad guy? I knew then that her reality was skewed, but it wouldn't become clear just how very much so until a little later. Within a few hours she was messaging my customers. When that didn't work the hate pages on Facebook started. That's right I said pages. One simply wasn't enough I suppose. What a horrible human I was putting my kids before her. The nerve of me I suppose. Where is the sarcasm font around here? The harassment continued into the evening and then into the morning two. She had launched this social media smear campaign against me while my family was going through a natural disaster. Spreading rumors and lies one after the other. It was rather vicious and I couldn't wrap my head around where her anger was coming from. It wasn't until later that I would learn she has at least 6 active warrants in her neighboring state for ...guess. Violating protective orders. Shocking right? If you see Jennifer Racioppi out there , you have her to thank for the Crazy Crafter special. Her antics inspired a sale. Today we've sold nearly 800 Crazy Crafters. It's a seacult favorite for sure. You can get yours here https://seapaints.com/products/the-crazy-crafterIt's stories like these remind me that feelings aren't facts. Just because you feel a store should be open, doesn't mean it is or will. That doesn't stop her from frequently ranting her latest rumors or occasionally using fake profiles as a means to re-enter our group. The difference between then and now, I'm not afraid of her anymore. I no longer look over my shoulder thinking she will pop up under another account just to harass myself, my admins, or my customers. It didn't take long for me to come to the realization that even bad press, is very good. Thanks to the Crazy Crafter, we began to spread like a rumor or better yet, like SeaPaint. Irony is my favorite as she sits right next to karma. Part 3 After recovering from the setbacks of Irma, it did cross my mind that the additional press brought to us by the crazy crafter's antics may be bad press. The most valuable lesson I learned, is it takes more than a crazy crafter to sink this ship. I decided on that day that good press or bad press. It didn't matter. I was going to keep sailing regardless and let things fall where they may. To my surprise, there was no falling. Only climbing. Hmm. Interesting. I took some notes from this experience and decided I didn't want demanding, difficult customers nor the headache that comes along with them.I gave myself permission to fire a customer as needed.Sure, it isn't standard business practice. The customer is always right and a sale is a sale right? Not to me. You see, I had gotten so used to developing friendships and relationships with my customers, that the idea of keeping ones around just for the sake of their revenue, suddenly sounded so silly to me. All for the sake of this word professionalism? for what? So I can blend in with all of the other grown up entrepreneurs? Meh, I can take it or leave it. You see, I'm not in business to blend in anything but paint. I'd rather stand out. I treat my vendors with kindness and respect and know I deserve the same. If thats wrong, then I'm not ready to be right. I so very much love where this mindset has taken us as a company. I'm surrounded by customers I adore that are funny, kind, and a shell of a lot of fun. After the crazy crafter disaster, the reviews began pouring in. The amount of support I received during that time was downright beautiful. I've never been so supported by a group of women in my life. Finally, I was surrounded by people that got me. They didn't care that I was quirky, slightly crude, highly inappropriate, and rather cheeky. Why? Because I treated them like gold as customers. Why? Because they weren't rude. It's as simple as that. I'm not sure what kind of sorcery this is, but we haven't stopped growing since. Within a month we were moving our home based business into a warehouse to up production to meet the growing demand. Sleep was limited, but I was so high on my dream that I didn't care. The rapid growth of our following was simply magical to watch. The move was inevitable. Most people hate moving, but I enjoyed setting up the shop and implementing workflow systems to increase our productivity. Business was booming and I spent the next few weeks packing my fins off. Packing orders. Lots of orders. There came a point when the novelty wore off for me. Mindlessly packing orders for hours on end had began to drain my soul.I kept telling myself, I wasn't made for this. I was making myself miserable. I could feel myself going down the rabbit hole. I needed creativity to beat my depression. It was the only thing that has ever saved me. You see, if you aint paintin, you aint livin. The end of 2017-2017 was quickly coming to a close. The next couple months were a blur to me. It was only coincidental that business was growing. My focus had shifted to heart of my business, the #seacult .The additional customer engagement and creativity nearly immediately restored my fallen spirit. I spent hours upon hours blogging, creating tutorials, and improving our website. to many this may sound like work, but to me it was taking a breath. I was finally able to show people that SeaPaint is BIG deal and WHY. Truly in my creative element, business surpassed my initial dreams. Here I was, doing what I loved most everyday and somehow business was climbing. How did I get here??Without the day to day responsibilities of the business weighing me down, I was able to work within my natural rhythms. Occasionally using #thirteentherapy to motivate me when it didn't want to come naturally. I'll get more into that at a later date. During the midst of all of this, I was planning a trip to see Madison in Missouri. For months I had spent all my energy on SeaPaints, but somehow managed to maintain a friendship with Madison amongst being engrossed with the magic of SeaPaint. Perhaps it was because I managed to avoid her new circle of friends that seemed to only be capable of causing chaos. We just simply, didn't discuss it or them. It wasn't applicable to the present so there was no need to do so. It's also possibly that neither of us wanted to relive what was a painful time for us both. I know secretly she was hoping they would one day change their minds and that I would somehow grow on them. I knew better, but didn't bother filling her in. It shouldn't have surprised me when they randomly "came for me" during my visit with Madison. The problem was that they were so far removed from my mind, that at first it didn't occur to me just who this rude stranger was on the internet. Little did I know that behind closed doors, it wasn't just this "stranger" it was the old troubled tribe up to their old tricks. Only this time, they had scored a new friend to join in on their fun, Jess Because I guess. Within a matter of minutes I went from complete confusion, to realizing exactly what I was dealing with. There isn't enough eye rolls to insert. This game was so old. It no longer hurt my feelings or made me angry, it made me YAWN. It was a waste of time and I didn't have time to spare. Seeing Jess Because along side the troubled tribe, egging them on, painted a very clear picture of who was certainly not a friend. When JB de-admined me in a group that I built, it had been a punch in the throat. I poured hours and hours into growing a crafty blank empire and it was less than appreciated. I was shocked back then, but now, I no longer was. Memories came flooding back. These women were just as miserable as I had left them. As it was all sinking in for me, Madison was five steps ahead of me. To my surprise, she swiftly told her "friends" where to stick it. I made a note of this additional betrayal and never looked back. That old cbm group is still there. What once was a booming active group of over 16,000 people is now a quiet group of 14k.Somehow, I'm still one of those quiet members along with Madison, whom was also eventually de-admined, Jess Because.The truth is, jealousy is a thirsty beach. It's as simple as that.Looking back, I can't say I regret any of it. Finding out who your friends are is part of life's journey and I wouldn't trade my journey for the world.