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Growing Pains and Forgiveness

December 15, 2013

I’ve been struggling with this post for a few days. It’s difficult sometimes to walk in forgiveness and still tell the story about what we need to forgive. At least, it’s difficult for me!

As I relive the story to share it and talk about the experience, I find myself getting caught up in the anger and hurt of what happened. This could be with anything really, but right now, for me, it’s about some events that recently occurred.

At first, I was going to keep it all to myself. My pride didn’t want people to know what a fool I can be or that I am someone who is so blinded by my goals sometimes I miss the signs or sounds from my gut to slow down.

I don’t want people to know I was stupid and naive when I’m the one who is supposed to “know better”.

I felt and still feel embarrassed this even happened. So that shame kept me from writing or really even talking about it. But that didn’t stop me from being angry or hurt.

And I’ve been through so much worse in my life that this is may seem so small and trivial it’s comical in a way. But it’s not trivial. I put everything on the line for this journey so it all matters to me.

And my ego preventing me from sharing may also be preventing my future success.

The truth is, that not talking only made things worse because I was letting my ego dictate the terms of life and forgiveness and growing. That is never a good thing.

So here I am trying to walk in forgiveness and still tell the story. I will start at the beginning.

A couple of years ago, when I was starting Midwest Crochet, I was  thinking of ways to get the word out beyond the world of craft and
handmade sites, to the mass market.

My husband & I were watching The Real Housewives of New Jersey and he commented how new cast members Melissa & Joe Gorga always wore hats so I should send them some of mine. I let this comment fester in my mind a few days then reached out by email to Melissa to send her some hats.

I had heard of “celebrity gifting” and am familiar with trade-outs from my former career but hadn’t planned on going in that direction…
until now.

A woman replied who was repping Mrs. Gorga with an address to send the hats so I did.

A couple of weeks later I received a lovely tweet from Melissa about the hats and how she loves them. With that also came sales as her fanbase was now exposed to my work.

Ok I thought, this is great!

Melissa Gorga in her Midwest Crochet Cowl

Melissa Gorga in her
Midwest Crochet Cowl

A few months later, I got an email from this rep that Melissa is appearing near me and would I like to “sponsor” it. Oh? Sponsor? What does this mean?

She said I would get my logo on the press materials, the step & repeat where photographs were to be taken, and would have “time” with Melissa & Joe Gorga. All for only $350!

At the time, Midwest Crochet was still in infancy so this kind of opportunity seemed great!

I was working on a reality production in Chicago at the time so worked with my boss to make sure we had the day off and signed up and sent my money.

My logo was not on any of the advance press or promotional material. NOW, would be a big red flag, but at the time I was so busy with my production that I didn’t have time to notice or care or understand what I should be asking for and getting for my dollars.

As a business owner, I need to ALWAYS make time to care!

At the event, we were not seated with Melissa and Joe and the other sponsors. We were seated in the main area with all the people who paid to meet her. Again, NOW, that would be a red flag, but at the time I just tried to enjoy myself and was still learning.

Later, Melissa & Joe posed for pictures. We had about 2 minutes to talk as her rep was rushing me to get the line moving.

Me & Melissa Gorga Celebrating my Midwest Crochet Logo

Me & Melissa Gorga
Celebrating my Midwest Crochet Logo

But Melissa did remember my hats and we laughed about our husbands. Melissa was super sweet and even showed off the new scarf I brought her that day in later pics. We have since exchanged tweets and she has always shown support for me and Midwest Crochet.

As I was leaving her rep stopped me to say “hey you work in production, I do publicity, maybe we can work together”. Again, NOW, that would be a red flag but then I didn’t know better.

All she really wanted I later found out, was access to my money and my contacts. But that comes later.

A week or so later she emailed me some pictures from the event and a handful of “press” links. The pictures were fun but nowhere in the press was my business name or logo. Again, that would be a red flag today but back then I didn’t know any better.

When I started to get more serious about Midwest Crochet, I reached out to this rep to ask about upcoming events with Melissa Gorga. She told me she no longer represented her but had other clients so she will keep me in mind.

Several months later, the publicist contacted me saying she now reps Kathy Wakile and is putting together an event with the Wakiles at the same location as the Gorga event and would I like to sign up for the same sponsorship deal. So I did.

Again, like the previous event, I was not seated with other sponsors, the Wakiles or any press. This time I stood up for myself. I was then seated by a lovely blogger named Laura.

This actually worked out better for me because Laura is fantastic and we had a great time chatting and getting to know each other. We still keep in touch occasionally on social media and in an unexpected gesture of awesomeness, she even wrote about Midwest Crochet on her fashion blog.

Ok so back to this story.

Kathy Wakile in her Midwest Crochet Oversized Infinity Scarf

Kathy Wakile in her
Midwest Crochet Oversized Infinity Scarf

Kathy posed for pictures and was lovely and seemed to really enjoy the scarf I gave her. Of course it was my Oversized Infinity Scarf, my signature item.

I mentioned to this publicist that I’m leaving TV industry soon to focus full time on building Midwest Crochet and would be interested in other events.

A few months later, which was over this past summer, I realized Midwest Crochet has the huge potential to grow but I needed help getting the word out.

I’m busy crochetting, designing and filling orders and working on my blog as well as writing my book. I needed someone to help me promote and build the brand as well as create or find new opportunities for exposure.

So I reached out to this publicist to talk about representing me and my brand. And this is where things get ugly and strange.

She says yes and we agree on an amount for her fee based on my marketing budget.  She was to help get me placed and reviewed in fashion blogs, get my work in front of stylists and into 2 online retailers she works with as well as to tv media outlets.

Well, none of that happened and you can read more about that aspect in my post about hiring an amateur. She also asked me if I could get her reality tv show pitch idea in front of my contacts. Again, NOW, this would be a huge red flag but at the time I didn’t think anything of it.

She then sent me a list of her current clients. She told me to go ahead and send her gift packages for them and she will get them to pose in and tweet about my work. Ok, I said. Sounds good.

Special Midwest Crochet gifts bags FULL of product

Special Midwest Crochet gifts bags FULL of product

I look at the list to see if any hit my target market or have shown similar styles that would compliment my work. Several do hit the mark so I package up over $1500 of product in special blinged out gift bags I ordered for this occasion and send it off to the publicist.

She also is supposed to be handling “gifting” to other celebs I reached out to on my own, which she ended up sending to the wrong people if they were ever sent at all.

A week goes by, nothing.

Two weeks, nothing.

So I email “my” publicist. She says she is sending the work that week, she has “been busy”. Um ok. But I’m PAYING her to do this so that should have been a red flag. Now it would be! She should be BUSY with my business!

Finally, a couple of weeks later I still have not heard anything so I ask again. She says they went out and in fact one client, JWOWW from MTV just texted her to thank her and will tweet soon.

Another week, nothing.

Now it’s over 3 months later and I have fired the publicist and start tweeting these stars directly. None respond.

Then; one, Drita D’Avanzo of Mob Wives, finally does reply to a tweet and her new rep says she got them and thanks me but: “we don’t promise pictures I’m sorry for any confusion”.

The others never respond.

I’m livid. I’m hurt.

I’m out several hundred dollars to this publicist for her “fees” to represent my brand, organize these gifts and photos and I am out over $1500 in Midwest Crochet product.

I feel scammed. Truly.

I was sorting through all of this in my mind and then recently, I saw a tweet from this publicist and one of these reality star clients asking for free gifts and sponsors for gifts bags for her birthday party. It made me sick to my stomach and sad to think of all the small businesses that will fall for it, like I did.

I feel sad they will think, oh wow this is great exposure, when all it is is reality stars getting other people to pay for their antics run by this publicist.

I’m sad because what started out as genuine gifting to people who I thought might enjoy my work turned into something of a scam and my goal to build a brand made me blind to it.

I still gift though now I do it more quietly to people I truly want to gift (whether they tweet or promote my work or not) and to people who don’t ask for it or ask for anything else.

I just sent Kathy Wakile and her family some new Midwest Crochet treats for winter and received a lovely thank you and know they are enjoying them.

I have sent other celebrities, NOT reality stars gifts and received wonderful response.

And I need to forgive. I need to forgive them and myself and put my ego aside. It’s hard but I’ve got to do it.

I need to ignore the tweets and madness and not be angry. But share this story for other small business owners that they may ask more questions, even get a written contract and not just emails and phone calls.

I need to forgive, learn and move on.

It’s the only way isn’t it?

11 Comments
  1. Michele…
    First of all, it’s a great lesson, one we can all relate to.
    I don’t know much abt HW & freebies, but it always feels sorta scummy to me. “I want free shit!” it’s gross.
    That “publicist”s career will last as long as reality stars are relevant. Meaning 15, 14, 13…..

    Last, I was one of those people you reached out to & after months of you asking if I got package, finally you had to send another.

    I’m thrilled with what you so generously gave to me, and can’t wait to tweet pics.

    I’ve always believe that while a great publicist is wonderful, when it comes down to it, we (or our product) are each our best publicist,,,,

    An expensive lesson, but important one.

    Thank you for being so honest

    Love

    Kristen Johnston
    @kjothesmartass

    • Thank you my friend. And you are right this was an important, even if expensive, lesson in a lot of ways.

      And KNOW that my gift to you was out of love and genuine wanting you to enjoy!
      xoxo
      M

  2. Michele I’m so sorry this happened to you! However, I am honored to have been included in this post as one of the “bright spots” in the story:) I’m so happy we had the opportunity to talk and get to know one another that day.

    Regarding forgiveness…for me it’s an “all the time” process. It seems that once we choose to forgive we think we should immediately be able to erase the hurts we’ve experienced, but it’s usually much harder than that and at least for me, has always been a lengthy process….one that sometimes when those hurtful memories begin to entertain themselves in my thoughts, I have to remind myself, “oh yeah, I’ve forgiven. I’ve moved on. I’m not going to let them re-hurt me.”

    Keep doing your thing because I have no doubt you and Midwest Crochet are going BIG places!

    xoxo,
    Laura

    • Thanks Laura. YES! Meeting you was in fact a point of light in the story!

      Forgiveness is definitely an ongoing action sometimes.

  3. Sallieannexoxo permalink

    I am a silver lining kind of girl. You learned something, there are always mistakes and growing pains. Your scarves are beautiful and I see your handle a lot on twitter. You are moving in the right direction prob for something very successful. This is just part of your journey! Way to stick w it! That’s how people make it!

    I will tell you my first thought when I saw that just say Jen was doing a giveaway. Hell if I am sharing this post I want to win that scarf! So not sure how good it will be at reaching more people! 🙂

    • Thank you. And I am taking the “lesson learned” approach, although the pity party did almost happen lol 😉

  4. I’m so sorry this happened to you. I am glad you have told the story so that it does not happen to anyone else , I wish you the best, your scarves look beautiful.

  5. momsbirdie permalink

    Forgiving others is hard, forgiving ourselves (no matter the reason) is sometimes much harder. In wanting to better yourself, your business, and your future, someone took complete advantage of your kindness and inexperience. Over time, I hope you forgive yourself first, as you are human, trusting, and hardworking and you deserve inner peace. You have to forgive others in order to free yourself. Such a very hard and humbling thing to do. I wish you continued success, brighter opportunities, and a magic wand and fairy dust to ward off opportunists with no conscience. Best wishes to you. When we trip, we get back up (unless of course, you’re my age…an ambulance may be needed).

    • Thank you so much. YES … “When we trip, we get back up”. That is the real secret to success I believe. And I agree, I needed to forgive this, them and even myself to move forward with peace.

  6. Very generous and brave of you to impart your story. Thank you for letting us know in order
    that we may not be naive.
    As others said, it is the lesson that is important. What is so neat is that you have discovered
    your true authenticity and now only share the gifts with those whom you know will appreciate
    them for their usefulness, creativity and quality.

    Bravo!

    Paula

  7. Patty permalink

    Michelle,

    Forgiveness can be a difficult process. I know this to be true because I’m going through it myself, not on a business end, but on a personal note. I am by nature a forgiving person, but when you keep getting shit on in the process, it’s just hard to forgive. I found you through JSJ, and by looking at your product line, it speaks for itself. I continually try to take the high road and forgive this (evil) person, but they just CAN’T STOP! Your situation is a little different, you can simply walk away. Yes, I totally get that you lost time and money, but you also gained a valuable lesson early on in your business. Remember this, Karma may be a bitch, but at least she’s dependable! That publicist WILL get what’s coming to them! As I tell my kids, you may not be there to see it happen, BUT IT WILL HAPPEN. So Michelle, let go and forgive, and feel better that YOU took the high road in life! (Now if I could just practice what I preach, hmmm)

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