In the tenth episode of The Ashlee Craft Show, Ashlee reads her article, “This is What Happens When You Choose to Live Life Authentically”, which was originally p& discusses authenticity & loving yourself.
In the ninth episode of The Ashlee Craft Show, Ashlee reads an essay titled “Hello, Beautiful 2017” from her upcoming book “Not a Dime a Dozen”.
Episode 008 of the webseries The Ashlee Craft Show.
If you think you’ve “made it” you’re not working hard enough!
Today, I am interviewing Captain Wendy Longman, the owner of Windsong Charters, a local charter boat company located in New Port Richey, FL. I met Wendy at the wonderful Sip restaurant in downtown New Port Richey while I was acting in Leading Ladies. One of my co-stars was asking her about what she did for a living, & she said she owned a charter boat company & got to sail boats FOR HER JOB. Doesn’t that sound awesome & like it would be a lot of fun? She sounded like she really enjoyed what she did for a living & I found that totally inspiring.
I love when I meet people who really love what they’re doing, especially if what they’re doing is an opportunity they created for themselves. So, when I came up with the idea of interviewing people & then sharing it on my blog, Wendy was honestly one of the first people I thought of. I reached out to her, we emailed back & forth a bit, & here we are with this awesome first interview for my blog.
Tell us a little bit about Windsong Charters & what they offer.
Windsong Charters & Boat Rentals offers private sailing charters, private fishing charters, pontoon boat rentals (drive yourself or hire a captain), and paddle craft rentals (kayaks, canoes, and stand up paddleboards). We also do weddings, memorial services / ash scatterings, island BBQ parties on Anclote Key (bachelor, bachelorette, sweet 16, anniversary, quinceanera, etc), corporate team building…anything you can do on land, we make it more fun on the water or an island.
How did you end up starting your business? Was there a specific moment that made you say, “I need to start a boat charter company”?
LOL! There was no “A-HA” moment. Windsong actually started by accident drinking cheap beers and smoking cheaper cigars sitting on the island back in 2002. We met a retired aerospace engineer from San Diego and he wanted to start a “little retirement business”. He was an accomplished sailor and my husband and I were currently in marketing working for Corporate America. Hubby came up with the name and the deal was, we do the marketing (website, sales, collateral) and he taught us how to sail.
When the 2004 hurricanes played havoc with the area, he decided to move back to San Diego as he wasn’t overly fond of Florida. We had since bought our own personal sailboat and he asked if we could take over the existing bookings. I basically said sign everything over to me…state, county and city licensing. We had our personal sailboat commercially documented by the US Coast Guard, obtained our US Coast Guard Captain’s Licenses, and the rest is history!
What is your favorite part about owning your business?
What kinds of things did you do initially to attract customers? Was there a specific thing you did that really seemed to help?
How did you get to where you are today? Walk us through the steps you took & tell us what happened.
It’s been a crazy wave of high and low tides! Where we are today is the result of a TON of literal blood, sweat, and tears. I could have never done this without my best friend and partner in life, my husband Bruce. We both had full time jobs when I took the company over and both of us were travelling a lot for work. Once the business made about 1/2 of what I was making in Corporate America, I left my job to market and build Windsong full time. So to go step-by-step over that past 15 years will take more space than I’m allotted in this blog. LOL.
How did it feel when you started getting more customers? Was there a moment when you realized you’d “made it” & that your business was working out the way you hoped it would?
Growing Pains in any company can make or break you. It’s a delicate balance of who to hire and when without sacrificing quality and ability to pay your mortgage. We hired some fantastic people who are still with Windsong today, to people that are sitting in jail today. Owning your own business is the hardest you will ever work in your life – EVER!!! As far as “Made it” – am I there yet?
What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you started?
Not to hire the people that screwed me. But hey, if I didn’t have the opportunity to learn THAT critical lesson, Windsong might be in a very different place today. Things happen for a reason. These life lessons, whether business or personal, cannot be rushed or avoided. Life lessons are exactly that – you learn the lesson and move forward being better and striving for the best. Or you wallow and never grow.
Who or what are some of your biggest influences? Tell us about some of the people, books/movies/songs, or events that have inspired you the most & why.
My mom. She’s my rock. She’s my inspiration. She’s my everything. She is truly the strongest person I know (three bouts of cancer and chemo in 15 years). She’s a fighter. She’s Polly-Anna. She’s AWESOME SAUCE!!! I didn’t spend a lot of time in Corporate America, but the few “real” jobs I had, all three of my bosses made me the person I am today. They were wonderfully fair and insightful.
What’s something interesting about boats that most people don’t know?
Boats are a total pain in the ass!
What is the best advice you have ever received?
From my Gramma: “You’ll know better when you’re 25”. At the tender age of 24 years and 364 days old, I wrote her a long letter (remember that ancient art of a piece of paper and a pen? Then you fold the papers that you’ve spent hours pouring your soul upon, stuff it in and envelope and mail it?) Anyhoo…I wrote her this long 10-page letter explaining how I know better and all the things I’ve learned.
I didn’t hear back from her for weeks and all of a sudden there is a postcard in the mail. No “Dear Wendy”, no “Love, Gram”, just the following written in RED PEN (like when I was in school!!!)…”You’ll know better when you’re 30”. OMG! I FAILED! WTH??!!!!
When I gave her eulogy I relayed this story. She wanted me to be ME first. Get my career and my life in order FIRST and NEVER make any major life decisions until you are at least 25. I relay this story to the youngsters I hire, friends’ kids, and to the youth I mentor in the community. You really WILL know better when you’re 25 and you’ll know even MORE when you’re 30. Never sacrifice YOU!
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Does any aspect of it relate to what you do now?
I wanted to be an interpreter for the UN. By the time I graduated with my first degree, I spoke five languages. The UN thing never happened because I didn’t have the courtesy to actually listen to my Gramma about the 25-year-old thing. However, Windsong hosts guests from all over the world and my language skills have definitely come in handy.
I bet you’ve got a great story about something that happened while you were chartering a boat. What’s one of your favorite stories?
You really want to hear about being on a 44′ sailboat in the BVI (British Virgin Islands) during Category I Hurricane Olga? That sucked. The worst part was not being able to drink a beer because the barometric pressure and the winds just schlurped the beer up my nose. Most annoying. In all reality, it was one of the best learning experience of my life. (Wo)Man vs Mother Nature and the delicate dance of respecting her. Every day was trying to save the vessel. If you don’t have a vessel, you don’t have a safe haven. When my guests come in from a 15-minute Florida “micro storm” and complain about the “major hurricane” they experienced…I feel bad laughing at them, but they really have no clue.
Is there a previous job or business you’ve had that prepared you or inspired you to be where you are today?
My entire 49 years of life from shoveling sidewalks at 8 years old for $2 to getting fired from my first “real” adult job after college has been the greatest ride of life.
What was your biggest challenge or setback, & how did you handle it? How did it help make you/your business stronger & more resilient?
The “’Great’ Recession” of 2007 – 2009 was a challenge to say the least. Groupon contacted Windsong and we opened the Tampa market for 1/2 off Kayaks rentals. That helped get Windsong a lot of exposure. Because so many people lost their boats due to repo, we were able to gain that market. The pontoon boat rental company at our marina was closing their doors and gave me their blessings to “have at it in the rental biz”. I went into my nest egg, bought four pontoon boats, and started the rental side of the business. Many people back then could not afford a $500 boat payment on top of gas and insurance, but they could get a group of friends together, split the costs, and still afford a great day on the water.
Then we had the BP oil spill of 2010. It NEVER effected Tampa, but because of the insane media, the world was told we were a total loss in Tampa. We lost a lot of business. We tightened our bootstraps and learned to operate very, very lean. No one was laid off, but a lot of sacrifices were made by all.
Why do you do what you do?
To pay the mortgage. 😉
What drives you to be successful & keeps you interested in what you do?
My staff. If they don’t have jobs, they don’t pay their rent. I feel a sense of duty and responsibility to them. It also doesn’t help I’ve been an overachiever my whole life.
What is your favorite quote & how does it relate to or inspire your approach to your business?
Never regret the things you’ve done…only the things you haven’t. I don’t want to live my life with should have’s, could have’s, and would have’s. There are a few of things we tried that failed miserably at Windsong (such as starting the Jet Ski Tours division). If we didn’t at least try – we wouldn’t have known it would be a failure and then we would have wondered and obsessed incessantly about the “What If’s”. By the way, it failed not because we suck, but because the insurance was so insanely cost prohibitive that it would have been fiscally irresponsible to move forward.
What advice would you give to someone someone who’s just getting started with their own business?
Be prepared for 80+ hour work weeks, no time off, no vacation, and no life for the first 5 years. Have a great attorney and an even better CPA. Pinot Grigio will become your best friend.
What’s next for your business? What do you hope to accomplish with it over the next few years?
The sky is the limit! Personally, I would like to take a small step back from the day-to-day operations at the marina so I can team with County and State Tourism officials to re-open scalloping in this county for sustainable recreational harvesting. This would be a significant tourism boost and create very much needed jobs in this area. I would also like to focus more on events, corporate team building, and increase our number of weddings. The past couple of years have been training really amazing Manager Trainees to help with the goals of expansion.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
When you’re in Florida, come float our boat! 😃
You can learn more about Windsong Charters at:
5015 U.S. Highway 19, New Port Richey, FL 34652
Open 9am – 5pm.
Authenticity is hard. Happiness is hard. But when you start loving yourself, that’s when these things become easier.
Happiness is hard. Authenticity is hard. I know this very, very well.
I’m not going to give you some fluffy sermon about how if you just take a bubble bath, smile three times a day at yourself in the mirror, & think happy thoughts constantly that your life will magically be better. These things might help you, but they also might not.
You’re probably reading this book because your life isn’t totally, 100% pure awesomeness. If it is, all the power to you! But it probably isn’t. You probably don’t feel like you love yourself as much as you could, or you feel depressed, or you really just feel you’re not living up to your potential. The best part is, whether you can believe this yet or not — you have all the power in the world to change & improve your life.
Hating yourself is boring. Feeling ugly & unloved is boring. Living someone else’s plans for you is boring. Being depressed & feeling hopeless about your future is boring.
Those feelings are all completely valid. They’re also sadly common. But when you really think about it, those aren’t very interesting things to feel. Break them down, & all those feelings relate to sadness. Society has romanticized the idea of sadness. It’s made personal sorrow seem alluring & mysterious & beautiful. Like that without it, you won’t be an interesting person for people to know. Like you will be shallow & one-sided if you’re always happy & you feel good about yourself. Like your art won’t be as good if you don’t have all this sadness as your muse.
Those feelings aren’t making your life any better. They’re not serving you in any way. They’re not even true.
You deserve better than that. Your body is made up of the remnants of stars that were born & died long ago. You are literally made of stardust. You can do anything you want to. Stars didn’t die so that you could loathe yourself & live an unspectacular existence. You can have better than that. You were born to live an awesome life. It’s your duty to yourself to pursue that, as vibrantly & lovingly as you can.
Why not give it a try? You have nothing to lose, & everything to gain.
Happiness is thrilling. Love is beautiful. Self-acceptance is rebellious. Success is triumphant. Hope is alluring. Peace of mind is interesting. Boldness is adventurous. Resilience & determination are courageous. Living a life you’ve created is compelling.
Sometimes, I ask myself why I should bother loving myself. Sometimes, the whole thing seems impossible, & even pointless. Sometimes, I don’t feel like I deserve it.
Why should you love yourself?
Because you’re vast & brilliant & awesome & kind & smart & filled with potential. Because you might as well. Because the only way you’re ever going to even KNOW what you’re capable of is if you try. Fear of missing out on what you could become should be the biggest FOMO of all.
You don’t want to be a product of a society which profits off promoting self-loathing & insecurity. You don’t just want to be another face in a crowd of mediocrity. You want more for yourself, even if you can’t admit that to yourself yet & don’t think you deserve it.
What do you have to lose in learning to love yourself? Or in trying to be happy, & starting to live a life that genuinely makes you feel good? There is nothing to lose.
Change is hard. Taking all the bullshit & the bad feelings you’ve been accumulating & shoving them out the door with their cardboard boxes of baggage isn’t easy. In fact, changing & creating the kind of life you always hoped you might be able to live & becoming the person you hoped you could become might just be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done.
There will be kicking & screaming & tears. There might even be days when you don’t even think you can get out of bed, much less move forward.
But the thing is, you will. You will get up. You will open the curtains, & the sunlight will stream in again. And you will feel better. You will make it through this.
On the other side of the dark stormy seas you’ve been sailing, there will be sunlight, & warmth, & a life better than you ever hoped you could have.
To be completely honest, I’m not there yet. But I’m on my way. I make my progress in great leaps & strides. Sometimes, I fall down. Sometimes I stumble & slide back on the hill I’m climbing. Then I get back up & brush the sand off my clothes, & I keep climbing. Someday, not long from now, I will get to where I’m heading. And then I will find somewhere else to travel to.
I am on my way.
So are you.
Change is hard. But the ability to adapt is the thing which separates the winners from the losers. You are trying to make your life better. That puts you in the category of the winners, right now. You’re strong enough, & smart enough, & determined enough to win.
Think about this. You have made it through everything that’s happened to you in your life so far. You have made it. If you can do that, you can do this. You can do anything.
You can love yourself. You can feel better. You can be happy.
You can start living any super-awesome amazing life of your choosing.
And you can start today. Right now.
The key to having all this starts when you start loving yourself. Self-love is the backbone to everything else available to you. It’s the ship that you’re sailing on, & the wind that fills your sails & your lungs. It’s the star you see up ahead in the dark of night. It’s the start of everything else. The first brick on the yellow brick road.
When you start loving yourself, everything else falls into place. You become stronger & more resilient. You start respecting yourself & knowing your worth & only accepting the things you deserve. You start realizing that you can create whatever life you want for yourself, & start empowering yourself to go out there, & go get it.
Happiness is hard. Authenticity is hard.
But when you start loving yourself, that’s when these things become easy.
I thought the answer was the fight.
pushing anyone who got in my way out of the way, kicking through doors, fighting & working & fighting as damn hard as I could to make something give
beating against the wall, fists pounding on wood, trying to find that one weak spot
“let go of it all” I told myself “become a machine. that is what they want you to be. that is how you win”
become ruthless. become inhuman. be a machine. be a machine. be invincible. coat yourself in iron armor. build a suit where nothing will ever hurt or touch or lovingly caress your skin. become unfeeling. be a machine. become what you do & not who you are. you must protect yourself. you must not let anyone get too close. you must not let anyone know the person you really are. you must protect yourself. stop feeling. fight. fight. fight. fight. fight, even if it makes you bitter, even if it makes you cynical. cut yourself off from feeling this way. cut yourself off.
yet there is a price to pay / you win the game, in some aspects, but you are left behind, the underdog, unfulfilled, unhappy, unseen, unknown, lost / lost / you will all the wars but lose all your soul / you become what they want you to be, but not what they need you to be / not what you need to be
because all along, the answer wasn’t less heart, but more / all along, the advice you needed wasn’t less soul, but more
& the fight doesn’t have to make you bitter
it doesn’t have to make you cynical
it doesn’t have to make you heartless
maybe you just need more heart, more soul / maybe you can only be strong if you know how to be vulnerable