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How One Small Business Trumped Hurricane Katrina With Help from the Local High School

Aug 17, 2007
August 2005 had been a great month for me, as I marked 10 years in business. All month long, the mood was festive and upbeat, and I was pleased at how well the business was going and excited about the future.

But suddenly, my entire world was turned upside down and inside out when the massive storm struck and did its horrible damage.

On the day Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, I was supposed to be filming my 2nd exercise DVD in New Orleans - but the only filming done that day was by the news media, recording the Katrina disaster as it grew ever more ominous and life-threatening.

My family and I were safe, having evacuated to my daughter's apartment in Florida. But we were filled with fear and anxiety about what was going to happen to our home, and to the homes of our friends ... we wondered if we were even going to have a home to go back to.

From Florida, we headed for Houston, where my husband's job called him. We stayed in Houston for one month, during which time I couldn't even find out about - much less do anything about -- my business, which I feared might "go under" with so many other hopes, dreams and physical properties back home.

When we were able to return, finally, we were relieved and grateful to learn that we only needed to have our roof replaced and clean up some minor inside damage. The home front was going to be all right -- but my business wasn't faring as well.

Everyone's top priority was to take care of our properties and to help others who were struggling. With all the trees down and dangerous, filthy debris everywhere, there was no way to even take a brisk walk to help shake off the blues. All any of us could do, day after endless day, was to work at cleaning up the unbelievable mess.

My son's school reopened, so he was gone all day ... my husband was still in Houston ... and I was trapped in a nightmare where each effort I made to move forward was met with a resounding "No way!" I did show up at my studio, but it was wasted effort, since I was usually the only one there. My clients didn't have the time, the energy or the motivation to keep up with their workouts during this troubled time.

I was frustrated beyond words, and depression began to settle in and drag me down into its numbing clutches ... but I also am very stubborn when I believe in what I'm doing ... and my belief in my business was strong. There simply was no way I was going to let it go under without a fight.

With my family's blessing, I began to take money out of our house funds to pay rent and bills for the business. (Thankfully, they shared my belief that sometime in the near future things could be salvaged, turned around and would get better.) Scary stuff ... but there was no other choice, other than the unacceptable one of seeing my business fall apart, fail and disappear ... and I am one stubborn businesswoman when the cause is just and failure unacceptable.

One day I just set aside the mop, the broom, the buckets for debris, the work gloves and the stained, tattered coveralls, and decided that's all the "cleaning up" I was going to do. If the carpets stayed muddy for a while longer, well, that wasn't going to be the end of the world. But thinking about losing my business felt like exactly that - and I simply wasn't going to have it.

First, I decided to go over the script that I had planned to use for the 2nd DVD, editing it and revising it to be a tighter presentation. That exercise refreshed my focus and sense of purpose for the business and I was inspired to take it to the next level of intensity, writing another script called focused on a different kind of exercise. That writing went very quickly, as well, as ideas - long shelved in favor of the more immediate demands of hurricane clean up - burst through to my consciousness. After that, I wrote a script for the next level ... and after that, I began to pull together thoughts and exercises for an aerobic DVD.

Suddenly, from someone down in the dumps, battling depression and a growing sense of futility, I was a house afire once again, with renewed purpose and direction. BUT ... with no clients coming to the studio, with everyone's spirits at least badly bruised, if not crushed, how was that going to happen? And where would the funds come from to pay for the filming?

Never mind. One step at a time. The disruption of daily life would end, some day ... people would return to more normal routines ... and when the time was right I would already have scripts written for whole new set of exercise DVDs.

One day my son came home from school with the news that his media instructor had given the okay to film at his school, saying it would be a great project for the kids to work on. I certainly wasn't expecting a professional result from the kids, but was nevertheless grateful for the offer and thought that at the very least, it would allow me to do a practice run through. Two weeks later we started to film, and the level of professionalism these students could deliver was stunning.

The result was so good, in fact, that I become a mentor for the Fontainebleau High School Media Program and they agreed to film all the DVDs I had written. This was great experience for them and a huge break for me. Between the months of January and May 2006 we were able to film five DVDs plus a redo of our original DVD. To thank the school, I now give them a percentage of each video sold to help support the media center.

I wanted to tell this story to show that while Katrina was a devastating event, with a profound and horrible impact on many lives, it also ignited the spark of all that's best in humankind ... spirits that won't be smothered, hopes that won't be destroyed, determination that will guarantee triumph, and the beautiful symbiosis of people working together for the best interests of all.

My business thrives again, today ... and the Media Program at Fontainebleau High School thrives, as well. And the healing and growth continue....
About the Author
Owner of IsoBreathing Inc. and creator of IsoBreathing(R) Ellen has been teaching life style and fitness over 20 years and is a certified fitness practitioner and personal trainer. Find out about Isometric Exercise, Weight Loss Exercise or buy her Exercise DVD - visit http://www.isobreathing.com.
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