The Beginning of the Beginning

If you can imagine it, this company was started over 5 years ago as a print business with our "Mama's Handbooks", regional reference guides scattered all over the country. But this story actually starts around 18 months ago.. And it goes a little something like this:
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Preface: I seem to find my greatest inspiration in 2 places... In the shower and on my bike. I typed most of this post on my iPhone on my bike (don't worry - it was my Spin bike).

The beginning of the beginning . . .

If you can imagine it, this company was started over 5 years ago as a print business with our "Mama's Handbooks", regional reference guides scattered all over the country. Over the course of the last 5 years we've done a lot of things. We've worked with newspapers and media companies in local markets, we've rolled out local websites, and dabbled in social media.

But this story actually starts around 18 months ago.. And it goes a little something like this:

I was sitting in my sisters hospital room. I had volunteered to stay late to make sure she slept ok and to give my parents a bit of a break. She was 24 years old and she had cancer. A really rare kind of cancer that we had just been told had spread to an unbeatable state after 2 rounds of chemo.

chemo

I was also dealing with another bit of news - I was 5 months pregnant and was told that our baby girl had a high likelihood of having down syndrome and we continued to uncover little clues that pointed to that diagnosis. The latest: cysts on her brain.

Emi Ultrasound

And then I looked down at the laptop and my inbox. And I was faced with what felt like 10 million bits of other news. A programmer who had bailed on our projects and bailed with our money. Some contracts that were falling through. Unfolding news about an editor who had previously worked for one of our licensees who took off with ad contracts and was misrepresenting us and literally killing one of our publications. And little did I know at the time, but just a few weeks around the bend was what looked to be the beginning of this gigantic economic downturn that has hit so many of us so hard. Little did I know that my husband would lose his job and that this recession would affect our business even more.

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Any one of these things alone would have been overwhelming to me. But all of them together were more weight on my shoulders than I thought I could bare. I felt like an armadillo. All I wanted to do was curl up into a ball and let everything bounce off of me.

But I couldn't. I had a family to take care of. I had a company to keep alive. And most of all, I had a sister to say goodbye to. I had to figure out how to do that. How to help my kids understand that. How to help my parents do it. Above all else that is what mattered the most.

We said goodbye on a late September afternoon. Everyone had left the room for various reason and I was alone with my sister. She had been unconscious for a few days but I knew she was fighting leaving. Someone told me that I needed to be her big sister and tell her what she needed to do. So I told her all of the things I needed her to do. I told her to take care of my parents. I told her to watch over my kids. I told her to bring our little one to us safe and sound. I told her to go. I knew she was scared. I knew she didn't want to. But I told her it was time for her to go. A few minutes later, the rest of my family walked back into the room and I walked out to get a drink and walk around for a minute. When I walked back into the room, she was going. We gathered around her bed. I sat by her feet. And we said goodbye.

Saying Goodbye

The ensuing months were filled with a number of lessons

Learning to let go

I not only let go of my sister, but I seemed to have let go of all control. We decided not to do an amnio to confirm a diagnosis for the baby. At that stage of my pregnancy the risks outweighed a diagnosis. And a diagnosis for me would have changed nothing. So I moved forward with a quiet peace that no matter what happened we would all be fine. And 4 months later it was.

We walked into the hospital early one morning and a few hours later our baby was born without a trace of anything that had been previously predicted for her.

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Embracing Resistance

I've always said that when it comes to running a business, the path of least resistance is generally the right one. Even more I believe that the resistance that we meet is merely there to shape us, to redirect us. I learned even more to embrace the resistance that was in front of me both personally and in front of our company. In every facet of my life it was there to teach me something. But in our business (just as in my life), it was there to refine us, to change our direction, and to make us better.

I read something the other day from a sage surfer who said:

"Water always finds the path of least resistance. It flows . . . As long as you think that you're somehow in control of everything, you're always going to be struggling and striving. That's the opposite of letting things flow. Ask any martial arts master: The power isn't found in resistance. Strength comes from yielding to what is. Counter-intuitive though it may be, fighting puts you in a weaker position."

There are people . . . and then there are "your peeps".

I learned who "my peeps" were. There are certain people who will stand by you through anything no matter what happens. When it comes to our little company "my peeps" have hung in there. You can read more about them HERE. In particular there is this girl that you frequently see all over the site named Erin. I tell her that before we came to this earth I must have given her a high five before I jumped for my turn (I am a few years older than her).

It's important to have your "peeps". Those people who will take you on your worst day, you know, the day with the bleakest outlook. But really, it's also super important that you are friends with people who are willing to make ninja jokes with you all day long. That's a double win. FTW! (ninja images from ninjatown.com)

Ninja Rachael

Ninja Rachael

Ninja Erin

Ninja Erin

Why?

So what does any of this have to do with our new site? Well, not only have I been dramatically shaped by the events of the last 18 months, but our company has been shaped as well. We've changed a lot. We've dropped the stuff that doesn't work. We've tried to put the right people in the right places. We've shifted direction and tried to flow with what's been thrown our way. We've tried to listen and adjust. We've embraced the resistance. This site is a reflection of that.

So what should you do now? Well I'll tell you what you should do . . . go and check out our brand spanking new site! It has over 300,000 lines of code, thousands of articles, events and local businesses to check out. We've got even more up our sleeves. But for now we want you to revel a bit in some of the new features that we are so excited about:

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More Interaction
Yes, you really can comment! It sounds like a small thing . . . but it's like candy after having gone without it for so long.

More Local Content

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We've got local posts pouring in from all over the country. "Local Perspectives" is your new home for local content if you are in one of our local sites. If you are in the national site you can see a thread of posts pouring in from all over the country.

Our Local Handbooks

They've been moved online! Now you can browse local resources for your family online. Even better, you can read others ratings and comments on them or weigh in with your own. (Check out this example of the Utah directory . . . because Utah is awesome).

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Want more than that?

  • You can write for us in your neck of the woods! APPLY HERE
  • You can come and hang with us at EVO this June.

But most of all, we just hope you enjoy the site. You are going to see a few rough edges that we are still working on but we couldn't wait to roll this out to you. If I've learned anything in the last year the only thing you can do with imperfection is to put your head down, keep working, and keep the end goal in mind.

Our company theme this year (thanks to Kung Fu Panda), is to "Blind You With Our Awesomeness". So I suggest you grab your sunglasses and buckle up. This is just the beginning of the beginning for us!

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