Michelle’s travails weren’t over yet.
The main air conditioning unit of her house died, creating what she terms “my next obstacle.” For many months her daughter slept with her mom on Michelle’s king-sized bed in a room cooled by a window unit.
Then, another bombshell. She learned her ex had overextended himself. He was $1 million in debt, partly due to back taxes. It was 2010. Michelle was liable for half of her then-husband’s debt. Her ex filed for bankruptcy, leaving Michelle no option but to do the same.
Michelle was still working at Saks. “I used the position as a network for meeting people,” she says. A customer came into the store, looking for a gown. She had a tracheotomy. “The other saleswomen freaked,” she says. “I was fine with it. I just said: I love spending other peoples’ money.” The customer’s husband gave her a budget: $1,000. Michelle found his wife a gown for $500.
The customer’s husband was so impressed that he told Michelle his neighbor, a CEO with a non-profit, was looking for a salesperson. “I’ll be there in an hour,” Michelle said. She got the job for $25k a year more plus benefits.
Her luck had begun to turn.
In her second not-for-profit job, Michelle worked on a fund-raising event for a Circus Arts Conservatory organization. Through that she landed a job as development director with an additional salary hike.
In 2017, Michelle was working on a golf tournament at Laurel Oak Country Club, where Burton and I are members. Her friend Leslie Cornell, then membership director, mentioned she was leaving. The salary level was significantly higher. Leslie cautioned, “They’re looking for someone with membership experience.”
Michelle met with the general manager and 2 board members of LOCC. They all preferred someone with membership experience.
“I told them if I could learn the term streptococcus pneumonia and what anti-biotics treated it—I could learn membership.”
Long story short. Michelle was hired. Generous commission structure. Full benefits. 4-weeks paid vacation. On Dec.11, 2019, Michelle celebrated 2 years at LOCC and a record number of new members.
Flashback. On Labor Day, 2008, Michelle had learned her birth father, John Sweeney, was dying of liver cancer. His other children were unable to get to the hospital to be with him. Michelle drove to Ft. Lauderdale and sat by his bed. He was thin and jaundiced. He said, “Oh my God, Michelle, you’re the last person I thought would be here.” She said she’d come to bring love from Kathleen and Kerry, the daughters he’d raised. When a nurse came in, he said to her, “Have you ever seen a more beautiful girl?”
Michelle kissed his cheek. He died the next day.
Michelle says, “The first person he brought into this world was the last person to say goodbye.”
A counselor came into the room and asked Michelle if she was okay. “Yes,” she said. “It isn’t about me. I didn’t have a connection with him. I was just a blood relative.”
Michelle’s on her way back to financial health. “I have a great product to sell. Beautiful people are attracted to Laurel Oak. I wish I’d known about this industry 20 years ago. But you can’t live your life in shoulda, woulda, coulda.
“Through hard work I landed a good job and a high credit rating. I bought a new home and new furniture and nice cars for myself and my daughter. We even had a vacation. Last summer Bella went to London and Italy with her father’s family. I took my sons to Key West.”
2 weeks later, 4 family emergencies wiped out her savings. But so it goes. Michelle keeps moving forward.
“I always knew I’d make it. It was a matter of when, not if. And I did it myself. That’s super empowering. I hope I’ve taught my children a lesson about never, EVER giving up.”
Thanks, Michelle, for sharing your story of hard work, chutzpah and resilience. Thanks for sharing the highs and lows of your journey. As for your love life, hope #3’s the charm. He’ll be one lucky guy.