I am not an overnight success. Actually, I’m a fairly normal person who had to stretch herself to her very limits to learn how to do extraordinary things to survive.
In my 20s, living in Los Angeles, I found the man of my dreams, who had one problem – he lied. But we got married and though the marriage was rocky, one of the great joys of my life was the birth of my daughter, Gina. When the recession hit, I was laid off, I had a six-month-old daughter and a deteriorating marriage. I had to figure out what to do next. I ran a photography production business.
But struggling to make it through another day took its toll on me. At the age of 30, I had a nervous breakdown. With no money for therapy, I found a low-cost holistic healer who lived on the other side of town. I don’t remember exactly how I got through this time, but I did. It was a fight for survival at its most basic.
Just before Christmas 2000, I fell victim to betrayal by an employee who had taken my business and set up shop for herself, and her boyfriend photographer (one of my photographers) was her first client. Not knowing any better, I sued them both. We eventually settled. In the end, paying off the debts and such, I ended up with exactly nothingin my bank account – again.
At the end of Summer 2001, my European clients had scheduled $500,000 in production volume, which would help my business survive. Then came the terrorist attacks of September 11th that tore into the nation. In addition to the scars that etched into all our hearts, I lost every single client – overnight.
What now? One sliver of my business was still going: the stock syndication segment. Somehow we had managed to secure the syndication rights to the images of a world-famous photographer. Here was opportunity: I set up a stock syndication for architecture, interior, and living-well images. I had only one, rather big problem – I had no money. I stayed afloat by saying yes to all banks’ offers. All in all, my debt was in excess of over $100,000, and I was desperately looking for more money to stay afloat.
With nothing to lose I wrote a letter to President Bush. I explained what had happened, how I had lost my production business in the aftermath of September 11th. To my surprise, I got a letter back from the White House, which got me to the SBA (Small Business Administration) to assist me, and help me find a loan. We were so close I could feel it.
At this point, I was supposed to head to Germany, for business. On every European trip, my first stop was to see my father. We’d always been close, and we spent two days together, but something was terribly off. It turns out he had pancreatic cancer that had metastasized everywhere. The cancer had spread into every organ and every part of his body.
My dad was my best friend and advisor. I lost him. On the day of the funeral, I learned I had been served a 30-day notice by my landlord to vacate the premises. All I could think was that the worst-case scenario had already happened; I had lost my father – what else could come now? I had to detach myself from the outcome. What else was there to do? Upon my return I retained a lawyer—with more money I did not have—to fight the eviction. I found a bankruptcy attorney and prepared myself to let it all go. Although I had just negotiated a huge deal with the largest image distributor in the world, Getty Images, I might not make it to see my business turn a profit.
Finally, a bank gave me the news that it would issue a loan for my business. On a dime, my life turned. Within a few weeks, my attorney negotiated an amicable split with the landlord and I separated my personal life from my business life for the first time in ten years. I moved my office into a real office building, and Gina and I moved into a small house in a great neighborhood. My life was moving forward.
December 26, 2004: I learned that my great friend and colleague photographer Fernando Bengoechea disappeared in the Asian tsunami. Fernando had wanted to spend more time with his partner, and I was going to help him do that through syndicating his photos. Another tragedy, but I was able I was able to ensure his legacy through his work.
During all of this turmoil, my business began to turn a profit. I am certain that my Dad and Fernando had a hand in it. Beate Works became a little star among syndication companies, the world’s most-recognized collection of architectural and interior images. In 2006, I sold my company to Corbis, a company privately held by Bill Gates.