I was a bit reluctant to write this post. Not entirely sure why. Call it pride, call it fear… whatever you call it, it’s how I felt. But I decided to go ahead and write it anyway. Something I’ve learned in the past 5 years is that life lessons, no matter how rough they are, can work to help others. And I think that what I have to share may be exactly what someone could be looking for. My wife and I are known for taking a risk every once in a while. From meeting online to our most recent adventure. I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m going to start a few years back. 4 years to be exact.
Self Employment can be an awesome thing when business is booming. Bills get paid on time, food gets put on the table and while you have hours that typically extend past the usual 9 to 5 of standard work week, you sleep pretty good at night. That’s where we were 4 years ago. Business had been going great and growing leaps and bounds. New clients rolling in, as we were building our reputation around town for being easy to work with. We were feeling pretty good. We landed a major client and were able to expand our living space a bit. We had been cramped in a smaller sized house and, with a growing family, we needed the extra space. We were still novices as business owners and, frankly, we thought that this type of success would continue for the long haul. However, a seasoned entrepreneur knows that it’s not always the case because…
Self Employment can be stressful as all get out when business tanks through the floor. You know that one client I was talking about above? Yeah, due to circumstances that I will not discuss on this post (or probably ever), out of past client confidentiality, about 3 years ago we ended up severing ties with them. And if there’s any advice I can give you, it’s that you should not mix business with anything as important as housing. Large client happened to also be our landlord for the rental we were in. Awkward, much? But when that happened, we instantly were living beyond our means. Before you go on, we understand that it was a poor decision to not have back ups, savings, etc. But that is what happened. And after 3 months of trying our hardest to make up for the gaping hole that was left after losing them, we were now faced with one of the most difficult things we ever faced. The big “E” word. We were told that we were going to be served an eviction notice and by now, things had turned down right hostile with the former client. At this moment we didn’t have any options for a new place to live.
As a husband and a father, this was something incredibly hard to deal with. By now, we are actually running one business and have recently launched a second one. We were already working on monetizing the second one, but it was on a smaller scale. It wasn’t doing THAT much to help unfortunately. The only option that we were able to find, sadly, was an extended stay hotel by the name of Value Place, to the tune of $200 a week. It was a one bedroom suite with two beds, a stovetop, full sized fridge and a microwave. We moved our furniture into a storage unit and “moved in” to Value Place with our tails between our legs. My wife (Tash) has suffered from back pain ever since the birth of our third. Luckily, Value Place allowed us to move our bed into the room (Who does that? Plus 5 points for that, guys). I reached out to one of my friends locally who had a truck and he helped get the behemoth into the room. Let me tell you something about keeping up appearances. I was worried that no one would want to do business with a virtually homeless business owner so, to the outside world, we were fine. There were only 3 parties that knew where we actually were, and we did that on purpose. I think it was a mix of two things, really. I was concerned that people would have either felt pity for us, and I didn’t want that at all. I was also fearful of being viewed as a failure. I didn’t want to be viewed as not being able to keep my ‘house in order’. So I made public appearances, blog posts, and more. No on was the wiser. A P.O. Box was established to manage our mail and we pressed on.
3 Months Later, we are getting back to being able afford a house for rent. Only problem is, no agency will rent to someone fresh off of an eviction. We pretty much felt like we were destined to spend many more more months at the Value Place. Nights filled with construction workers cooking (burning) fish and setting off the fire alarm at 1 a.m., or fist fights happening in the hallway (I actually may still have footage I shot of one of the fights somewhere) were quickly testing my patience… until one day, while riding around Augusta looking for a house that we saw online as available (it wasn’t), we turned down a side street on a whim. And there, we found the “for rent” sign in a yard that would later become our home for the next 3 years. A huge thanks to Tommy Hawk for taking a chance on a family that needed a break. Once we were established at the new place, we played it smart. Many smaller clients, building a tighter web, a thicker network of businesses. That way, if we did lose one, that we wouldn’t feel the full weight of that ever again. But we also knew that it was time to go. We chose Bend, Oregon as our next destination because it was closer to Tash’s family, fairer temperatures and frankly, we were looking for a place that we could walk down the street without being looked at as if we were from a distant planet.
I’m not playing the race card, either. You have to realize that being in an interracial relationship, let alone an interracial marriage, brings out a certain level of bigotry in people. This is especially true when living in the South, and unless you’re in a relationship like that, you don’t see it. The experiences that Tash and I have had while being in certain parts of Georgia (and South Carolina for that matter), would make a lot of people’s head spin. Regardless…
3 years of a great renters history, repairing the blemish created from the last house, we decided to move to Bend, Oregon. We picked out several houses to look at when we got here, thinking they would be available for when we arrived. Read up on the saga of our trip West on the Oregon Trail and you’ll see we were minorly delayed. What we weren’t expecting was for Bend to have a 1% vacancy rate for rentals. Everything was gone that we had our eye on (probably the same day it was posted).
Something that we’ve run into here is that rentals go fast. Faster than fast. Faster than you can imagine, and with the history of everything I mentioned above, that has made the ability to find an affordable place to live in that people will take a chance on all the more difficult. No matter how clean your rental history is before or after an eviction.. the word “Eviction” is like walking into a hand modeling agency announcing that your name is Leprosy McEczema III. No matter what you can prove, no matter the references, it just scares people. So, we’ve had to opt out of going through an agency to find us a place and rely on private renters (and once we find a private landlord, we need to find one that will be willing to work with us).
The whole purpose of me explaining this entire bit to you is plainly put, we took a leap of faith. I explained the other day that one of the biggest motivators in us leaving Augusta was a conversation between me and a close friend. He used the analogy of a scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I won’t explain it rather than just show you:
Being that I love all things Indy as it is, this really resonated with me. I’ve sort of taken it on as a personal mantra actually. Sometimes, when faced with an impossible path, you just need to stick that foot out and let yourself drop. As of this post, we’ve been here in Bend for around 13 days and we still have not found a place to live. The hotel that we’re staying in has been nothing short of awesome. Great staff and close to everything, but it’s damn expensive to live in a hotel. You would think that, if someone is paying 70 – 120 dollars a night (I’m being ambiguous on the exact amount) for a hotel, that they’d be able to afford rent on something that would cost half that amount, no? I’m still able to take care of these bills with the fact that we are still running our web design business with the mobility that modern technology affords us. We’ve retained our web design business, affectionately called “Evince Unlimited” for the past 5 years, and have recently picked up a number of new clients as well. However, being that it was born in Augusta and we are now gone, I believe it’s time for a change.
Whether this change is temporary or not, for the mean time, Evince Unlimited will be officially laid to rest in name only. Being that the scene from Indiana Jones has a lot of meaning behind it for me, and like Indiana, we have essentially taken a massive leap of faith “from the lion’s head”, we are changing the name to LionLeap Design. All current clients, look for the name change to happen to the bottom of your sites soon and the forthcoming LionLeap site will go live soon.
So guys, that’s the story. I’ve been told over the past two weeks that people are watching to see how things end up for us, as we’ve done something that people always say they want to do; break free and change their surroundings. We’ve changed our lives significantly and it’ll be interesting to see what we life has in store for us. Regardless of what it is, it’s given us a great story to tell and memories to hold on to.