We’ve started the process of turning Outdoors360 into a more evolved business, because admittedly early on it was more of a hobby, a social media experiment, a chance to explore and test ideas and more. Our focus was never on making money. We all have good jobs, so in reality it’s never been a time-pressing issue. Our focus has been on building a brand. We’re approaching 300,000 on the combined social media following with a combined exposure monthly (Facebook, Instagram & website) of over 40 MILLION!!!
Those are MONSTER numbers, and a great foundation, but this dream has never been about money or numbers. It’s about family, passion, chasing a dream, and changing lives with the outdoors. When Kate Byars (our crazy talented “coach” from tinyslicemedia.com) asked Andrea at one of our study/creative sessions last year what her personal goal was for Outdoors360, her answer was simple. She wanted me to be able to spend more time with our family. Period. That hit home. Big time.
Andrea just celebrated her birthday, and with everything happening in our families life and with Outdoors360 it made me take a step back and look at where we’ve come – and where we’re going. She’s not going to be very happy that I’m writing this column, but I’ve already posted a majority on social media, so it’s out there!
We’re VERY different. I’m tall, she’s not (at all), I’m a beach bum with Yankee parents, she’s as southern as boiled peanuts and real sweet tea, I tend to be a “little” outgoing, she tends to me much less outgoing, I’m similar to an old Sasquatch (in fact, I get chosen at the Monsters Inc. at Disney for this trait), she still looks like a 20-year old Disney princess, I like to eat cake…actually, she loves cake (as long as it’s chocolate on chocolate). Neither one of us are fans of PDA either, but I’m going to break it for this column (as I did for my annual social media appreciation post.)
My personal PDA (Public Displays of Affection) rule is Anniversary, Birthday, and one other day for a little surprise factor! She has always been supportive of me (and my dreams), and I’ve alluded to that fact many times, but words can not truly summarize the sacrifices she has made for me — and our family. I currently work full-time at Florida Gateway College, and then I spend at least an additional 50-60 hours a week on Outdoors360. This includes late nights, early mornings, fishing trips, working while she’s getting the girls ready for bed, bathed, taking them to gymnastics, getting clothes laid out, all while working multiple jobs herself. Admittedly, she’s not always happy about the grind, but she does it. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month. Year after year.
It started on our honeymoon when I took our new camera and started taking photographs around Cape Cod, and one month later when I went to Wyoming to hunt and photograph for ten days on top of a snow-capped mountain (while she drove to Gainesville and earned a consistent pay check). That’s not easy on a set of newlyweds. She’s always been a rock. Steady. Solid. I chased dreams, and she grinded so that I could chase these dreams. When I traveled all over the Southeast U.S. to ten plus shows a year, she stayed behind, when I went on fishing and hunting trips, she kept working, and nothing changed when our daughters were born. She sacrificed for both of them all of the way. She was determined to nurse both girls (sometimes hiding in closets to pump), while continuing to work, and maximize as much time as she could with both of them.
These few paragraphs can’t fully do justice to what she means to me (and Lilla and Molly), but it’s a start … and I guarantee you she’ll hate the fact I’ve now made it public. But, it’s the least I can do. She doesn’t have a selfish bone in her body, she treats everyone with respect and kindness, she’s an amazing speech-language pathologist, and she never asks for anything.
So, here’s a great big public THANK YOU … and, yes, she did get that chocolate on chocolate cake. I was such a nice husband, I even helped her eat it!