The Art of the Comeback | Heidi Ganahl | TEDxMileHigh


Translator: Helena Bowen
Reviewer: Denise RQ This, my friends, is Frane Selak. Frane is a Croatian music teacher. He’s also either the unluckiest
or the luckiest man on the planet, depending on how you see things. Frane has survived a train wreck,
a plane crash, a bus crash, having his car blown up twice,
and getting hit by a city bus. (Laughter) Seriously, true story. Frane also won the Croatian lottery
of a million dollars! After all he’s been through,
he gave it all away to help other people, and he says he’s never been happier. Frane came back by giving back. This is Nicholas Buoniconti. Nicholas is the father of Marc, who is a quadriplegic after a tackle
in a college football game. In the emergency room, as Marc laid there
struggling for his life, his dad looked into his eyes
and read, “Help me Dad.” And he did. He started an amazing foundation
called the Miami Project, which is all about helping people
like Marc, thousands of them, hopefully walk again someday. To come back, Nicholas gave back. This is a friend of mine, Nicole Hockley. Her little boy, Dylan, was killed
in the Sandy Hook shootings. Nicole co-founded Sandy Hook Promise,
a foundation that is making sure the world is a safer place
for our children. Nicole came back by giving back. We all go through things in our lives that impact us, influence us,
and change us. But while we can’t control everything
that happens to us, we can control how we react to it, and that reaction is part of what I think
is the art of the comeback. Nicole, Frane, and Nicholas all reacted by channeling their pain
into making a difference, by helping others to make
their own hearts grow stronger. To come back, they gave back. Well, my comeback started
on a beautiful Colorado day in May, 1994. Early that morning,
my husband jumped out of bed, gave me a quick kiss
and a “love you babe,” and headed out the door to go meet my parents
for his 25th birthday surprise. A few weeks prior, my dad had run into an old family friend,
Cliff, from Monument, who was a United Airlines pilot
for 30 plus years. My dad came back so excited
about Cliff’s new hobby. It was doing air shows
with vintage stunt planes. We thought that would be
the perfect surprise birthday gift for my young daredevil husband. The plane did all the stunts, and Cliff radioed my folks,
who were watching, to tell him that they were going
to do a fly by over them so they could take pictures
before they landed. Instead, the plane crashed into the ground and Bion and Cliff
were both killed instantly. Obviously, I was devastated. For the next few days and weeks, I was so lost and sad
that I couldn’t get out of bed. But there were two little creatures
that helped me out: Nick and Whinny. They would nudge me with their wet nose
or give me a quick woof to remind me that life had not stopped, that we still needed
to go out and play ball. So together, we played ball. We put one foot, one paw,
in front of each other, and one minute, one hour,
one day at a time, we started to come back. That is, until I blew a million dollars. That fall after the crash, I received a settlement
from the plane’s insurance company. You’d think that would help out
a little bit, but it didn’t. In fact, the money made me feel terrible. I didn’t want money back;
I wanted Bion back. I wanted our life back. It was incredibly hard, but it did give me some space,
and some time to heal, and maybe a little too much time. Part of my healing was
a quick rebound marriage and divorce to a guy that I’d grown up with
in Monument since eighth grade. You’d think his track record of three DUIs
and a couple rehab stints would’ve stopped me
in my tracks, but it didn’t. (Laughter) Unfortunately, that quick rebound marriage cost me half a million dollars
of the settlement, and five years in court to get out of. It did, however, give me a beautiful gift
to get back into the game of life, and that is my daughter. This is Tori, when she was a little one. She brought me back to life,
and she made me smile again. She still does; she’s
sitting out there somewhere. But Tori was just part of the solution. I thought I needed to start a business
to get back into life too, so I started and quickly shut down a baby bedding catalog company
called “Nursery Works” because being pregnant and having Tori taught me so much about
what pregnant women wanted – not. (Laughter) This was the sensible business
that everyone thought that I should do not the business
that Bion and I had dreamed up. They thought doggy day care,
Camp Bow Bow, was absurd. What was absurd was that I had just blown a million dollars
in under six years. So I was a single mom,
back in pharmaceutical sales, with $83,000 left in a retirement account. My little brother Patrick
knew I was struggling, and he came to me and said,
“Why don’t we dust off the old business plan for Camp Bow Wow and see if we can’t just make it happen?” I didn’t think it was so absurd anymore
after I tried what was sensible, and had gotten absolutely
nowhere out of it. So, we did it. I wanted to get that million dollars
back too, on my own merit. But I really wanted to see our dream
of Camp Bow Wow come true. I really wanted to create
the happiest place on earth for dogs. So, we launched Camp Bow Wow
in an old BFW hall in South Broadway across from Herman’s Hideaway,
for those of you who remember. It was a messy place, but we got it cleaned up,
put a logo on the wall, and it worked out beautifully. A few months after opening Camp Bow Wow,
the Rocky Mountain News called, some of you may remember that too, and they wanted to do an article on us. So I show up to the building,
I walk into Camp, and I’m going to meet the reporter, and I hear my brother yelling at the dogs
in the background, in the play yards, “Hey, no humping!” (Laughter) And I stopped, I cringed, and I look over
and the reporter smiles at me, and he titles the first article ever,
“No Humping Allowed at Camp Bow Wow.” (Laughter) It was lovely. It worked well; we made t-shirts. (Laughter) Soon after, we opened our second camp. Things really started cooking. We were getting calls from all over
the United States, from people saying, “I want to open my own dog camp, too!” Well, that’s a really good idea, so I’m going to max out
every credit card I have, file the registration fees and voila,
we were franchising Camp Bow Wow. About a year and a half later,
we had a magical thing happen. We were featured on the cover
of America Online on the homepage, as the next great franchise, and for those of you that remember,
everybody was on AOL back then. You know, “You’ve got mail!” (Laughter) We got over 1,000 franchise sales leads
from that one day. It was crazy. Over the next couple of years,
we sold over 100 franchises. I hired my family,
my friends, my neighbor, the guy driving down the street. It was crazy, we opened camps
all over North America. The fur was flying. Thank goodness I followed my passion
and not what was practical. By doing what I loved,
it helped me come back. Dogs were my passion, and franchising was how I helped
other people follow their passion. I was also able to start
the Bow Wow Buddies Foundation, which is all about
helping dogs find a home, and taking care of dogs
when they need it, which made the comeback even greater. It was so fun, life was fun again. But then the market crashed in 2008 and all heck had broken loose. But we dug in and fought back. Camp Bow Wow was almost destroyed
by the recession, by the downturn, and so was franchising in general
when financing dried up. I had to lay off a lot of people,
including some close family and friends, because about half of my team
were close family and friends. That’s a whole another talk. But we made it through the recession
and survived as it dragged on. Meanwhile, the heartbreak
of losing Bion and losing love was a much tougher comeback. I seriously did not think I was going to
find anyone like him again. But my close friend Becca
did something magical. She introduced me
to this cute new neighbor of hers, Jason. Jason and I hit it off. We met at Centro in Boulder;
she set us up on a blind date. We hit it off, and 13 years after
the plane crash, I found love again. We got married in a Vegas drive-through,
with 12-year-old Tori in tow (Laughter) and we started working
on growing our family. Well, that didn’t come easy either. Nothing in my life
at that point seemed to, and I had several miscarriages,
I went through in-vitro treatment. But when we did have
the comeback finally, it was a big one. We have Holly, who’s five, and twins,
Jack and Jenna, who are three, who are now part of the pack. And yes, our house is absolute chaos,
our life is crazy, but it’s tons of fun, and our life is filled with a lot of love, and tantrums, and Cheerios
embedded in the carpet. (Laughter) On the business front,
it’s been a wonderful ride. We made it through the market crash and ended up on the Inc. 5000
Fastest Growing Private Companies list five years running. We managed to grow
into 85 million dollars in system sales. Yes, that’s a lot of doggies,
a lot of fur, and were able to sell to VCA, the largest Veterinary chain last year,
for some dog kibble. Kidding. (Laughter) So, I lost my husband,
I lost a million dollars, I almost lost Camp Bow Wow in 2008,
I dealt with infertility, I dealt with a business that failed
before the one that worked, and then a tough divorce
and custody battle. At least once a week, somebody says to me either a) that my life is
like a made-for-TV movie, or b) how did you come back
from all of that? How did you come back
and end up so happy? Well, honestly, I didn’t know
the answer to that question. I really didn’t, until the art
of the comeback kind of came to me in an unlikely place,
my pediatrician’s office. I sat and talked to Dr. Bucknam about Tori’s high school friends
and how lost and sad they were. He told me that in all of his years
as a doctor, his piece of advice for parents that have kids
that are lost or acting out was simply to turn them outward,
to focus them on the idea that they were part of something
much bigger than themselves. He’d go, “We wanted them to give back,
to come back they should give back.” Well, I thought about, and I thought, jeez, that’s exactly
what I’ve done my whole life. That’s the theme in my life story. Every time I had adversity, I would turn around and focus
on something else or someone else. So, at the end of the day,
when the plane crash happened, I had cared for my dogs first,
and that got me out of bed everyday. Then I cared for Tori, which got me back into life
and really engaged. Then I started helping my franchisees open their businesses
and follow their dreams, and finally, I was able to help
all those dogs with the foundation. So, Frane, Nicholas, Nicole, and I,
we all looked outside. We turned outward, we helped others, but in the end,
it helped us heal ourselves. That’s what we did:
to come back we gave back. That is the art of the comeback. (Applause)

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