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Stop Helping People.

I had one of my more unpleasant online experiences this weekend. It was so unpleasant that it kept me up all night. Literally. I tried closing my eyes so many times to get some sleep. The last time I looked at the clock it was 4:30am and I was still upset. I like to think I’m strong and have thick skin – and for the most part I do; but there are some things that get to me so deeply that I can’t shake them. Here’s what happened:

I WAS in a group on Facebook called “Nashville Girls Group.” It’s a group of almost 15,000 females in the Nashville/Middle Tennessee area. I’ve been part of it for almost two years and with all groups, there is an ok amount of really useful information in there and a huge amount of bad behavior. I’ve stayed for the good parts and ignored the other ish.

Rewind a second – in case you didn’t know, I launched a second business this summer called Adventure Alchemy. I plan Mystery Trips and other curated travel for clients who want a unique experience or to experience places they might not otherwise consider. It’s a super perfect pairing of my love for and experience in travel, and years of travel and events planning experience in multiple professional endeavors and my commitment to helping people live a fuller, more joyful life. I’ve been so excited about it and the overwhelmingly positive response!

Back on track. This weekend I saw another post in the group that goes something like this, “I’m having a hard time meeting other girls and making friends but really want some girls to hang out with. Who wants to hang out?” Every time I see one of these posts, my heart hurts a little. Most of the posts are from 20-somethings and I remember being in the stage of life. On my REAL own for the first time, learning who I am, not having a built in social group via school, and just in general really struggling. I wouldn’t go back to my 20s for anything. Like, there are scores of "how to" articles on the interwebs on making friends in your twenties. It's a real, challenging issue.

I always resist the desire to say “I’ll hang out with you” because I know it’s not feasible in my current stage of life with my family and professional commitments and I am really grateful to have an solid friend group finally in life. I am connected and supported. I’d be saying “yes” because I want to let them know they aren’t alone; but, let’s be honest, I’d be a pretty terrible friend to a single, 20-something girl. So, I see these posts and wonder if any of the girls ever follow through on the hanging out and wonder if they actually make friends, or if this cry for connection sort of “fails” and they decide to give up because the girls that said “yes” didn’t come thru or whatever.

In true KB style, an idea hit me like a bolt of lightning – What if I could facilitate the process of meeting and connecting by putting together a girls’ trip? It would be a great chance for a small group of women to spend a weekend forming relationships without the distraction of everyday life, and it would also be a great way to promote my business in a way that does good in the world. As an entrepreneur I take NO shame in promoting my business in honest and ethical ways.

I posted the idea and it got an overwhelmingly positive response. I made it really clear that this was being done as a business filling a need that I saw. There was no smoke and mirrors. So, I started a small group for those interested in the trip and started asking questions about where they’d like to go (beach, mountains, etc), how they’d like to get there (fly or drive), and when they would want to go. The early responders and most engaged participants said MOUNTAINS in October. We even got the exact dates selected.

I initially thought I would just plan it but then I thought- I want this to be great and I think there is benefit in having a facilitator there since none of these girls would know each other. I want them to love the experience and having someone keep it positive and set the tone, would benefit this experience tremendously. I’ve planned and hosted women’s retreats as part of FXP Fitness and know how special these weekends can be when done well.

I checked my calendar and I was available. I would go and then I could make sure all of their needs are taken care of. They can sip wine in the house and I can drive them (sober) to dinner if they want to go out. I can make delicious breakfast for them, individual “menus” even – not just bagels and cereal.

So, I went to work on it. I ruled out Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge because I figured many of them may have already been there; but, also the goal was to spend time together, not browsing taffy shops and shopping for a new air brush shirt. I wanted Asheville, NC, which is gorgeous. It was coming together beautifully. I selected a house a little Northwest of Spartanburg, SC (Columbia, NC to be exact), put all the costs together (lodging, renting a HUGE van, gas for the vehicle, food for the drive and snacks for the weekend), including an honestly modest fee for my time in planning, organizing, taking on the financial risk, and being at their service for the weekend ($150/person was the fee, by the way).

To keep it intimate, I limited the number to 8 people; but from having planned these kinds of events in the past, I priced if for 6 attendees. People are always enthusiastically “in” until it is time to pay. I have been left financially in the red from pricing things for the max number before. I’m not new at this. It only works it if works for EVERYONE. I planned for this. The total came out to $500 per person, which I completely stand by and is very fair.

Remember, a huge part of the value is facilitating these ladies meeting other women that they don’t know with the goal of forming friendships that continue when they get home. This isn’t a pre-existing group of friends going on a weekend trip, willing to double up and share a bed to save on the expense (which is also a totally wonderful way to do a girls trip). It can be really intimidating to put yourself out there, meet people, try to find your tribe. This trip would be a conduit for a thing that can be so scary and, you know what? The accommodations were gorgeous, like, magazine level stunning, with everyone having their own bed – and I’m not talking about a house full of bunk beds either (cuz I see plenty of that).

So, I created an event within the small planning group. Included the location as Columbia, NC in the location field that is available; but used Spartanburg/Greensboro in the Event Header since it’s the closest “major city.” Columbia is close enough to Spartanburg that it’s like telling people you’re from Chicago when you’re really from a suburb that’s an hour away. Or saying you’re from Nashville when you actually live in Bellevue.

I shared photos of the private house to get them excited and to give them a preview of the amazing quality of trip I was organizing for them. I shared the price and then went back to the main Nashville Girls Group to post an update for anyone else who might not have heard about it yet. I posted with the property photos, briefly mentioned the general area, the price, and to join the planning group if they were interested in learning more. No need to bog down the huge group for something that would be of interest to less than 1% of its members, right? And that’s when it all went to shit. Here is a paraphrase of some of the comments:

  • This doesn’t feel right. I feel bad for whoever spends that much money on this trip. I could take 12 of my girlfriends for an entire weekend for like $1,500.

  • I don’t trust this. It’s a scam.

  • There’s no way it should be this expensive. I called my aunt who’s a travel agent and she laughed the whole thing off. Please don’t spend the money- it’s fraud.

  • You’re going to pay that much money for your ‘travel agent’ to make you breakfast? No. This is overpriced and ridiculous. Don't fall for it.

Then, there was my favorite. One girl in particular wanted to prove that the trip was overpriced by posting her own rental property (which by the way was a DUMP and full of bunk beds. It reminded me of my church camp lodging as a kid, which is fine if you’re 10 years old or really trying to travel economy). I considered messaging her to see if I could work with her in the future for other clients, but then….

She put time and effort into FINDING the property I had identified, contacted the owner, warned them about me and the trip, gave them the trip dates, and the property made those dates unavailable for booking. She was very vocal in "informing" all these women that I operate an illegal business (um, what? I spent a shit ton of money to set up as an LLC!) and that the trip is a fraudulent scam. I’ve never met her, heard of her, never interacted with her. Nothing. I know nothing of this person.

She posted a screenshot of the price of the property; but didn’t go to the next step where the taxes and assorted fees were applied. She just attacked with half-assed information, making bold and utterly false allegations. I offered to share my business’ legal documents; but, shocker, I got no response to the offer.

It gets better. This girl who was so blatantly trying to tear me down then started to give her rental information out to tons of girls who wanted to book her cheap (in every sense of the word) property. The whole time I'm scratching my head – do they not see? They would give their $125/night to support a girl that lives with a severe scarcity mindset, undermining and tearing down other women? Wow. Just wow.

As if that wasn’t enough, the next comment I share is where the real damage to my heart was done (and again, I paraphrase):

  • So a person you don’t know is taking taking you and a bunch of other girls to the mountains, to a house full of beds? This is a sex trafficking scam.

Whoah. What. WHAT? For real? Can we stop with the criminal minds fantasy here? Ask questions before you make allegations of this severe and damaging nature. The fact is the girls interested in the trip WANTED to go to the mountains. WANTED to drive there. But, no. Let’s say this life and career ruining statement about a person you never knew existed prior to right now? Because, honestly, these kinds of statements cannot be thrown around lightly.

I’ve been trying all day to shake this and I just can’t. I can deal with disagreement. I cannot deal with unnecessary cruelty. If there was a way to make sense of this, I could deal with it. But, no. There is no sense here. Rather than say “There isn’t value in this for me” and move along, it became a feeding frenzy. Members of the group, with ZERO interest in going started DEMANDING that I share the entire breakdown in the larger group. I refused. I posted my phone number and invited them to call me to ask any questions they had. Guess how many calls I have gotten? ZERO. Guess how many people direct messaged me to ask questions? ZERO.

I made it very clear that I would share the breakdown of the price with everyone having genuine interest in the trip. I had a girl ready to pay and I told her "not yet" because I wanted to make sure there was enough serious interest before accepting any funds at all.

I NEVER hide the costs or my fees from my clients. I am proud of the value I offer and have nothing to hide behind. I also have no reason to disclose my fees or costs to the mob. I have no shame in earning an honest living. I reminded them that women entrepreneurs often don’t charge for the value of their time – but they SHOULD and I DO.

A good friend of mine even commented in my defense. Not identifying herself as a friend, she stood up and said (paraphrased), "Shame on you for tearing down another woman who is trying to do something good and support her business." Guess how they responded to that? They went after her too. She became the enemy in cahoots with the villain (me).

What happened next? I shut it down. All of it. I deleted all of the posts I’ve made in the Nashville Girls Group over the last two years that had any reference to my business(es)- it was only like 15 anyway. I did leave a few in there, which were sharing articles or podcasts about meditation, gratitude, and inspiring women’s stories. I blocked the people that were slanderous. I deleted the planning group.

I love what I do. I love my clients. I don’t ever need to be in an environment that responds first with indictment rather than respectful inquiry. I’m still emotional about it- I wish I wasn’t. The personal attacks were extreme and cut to my core. I’m strong; but, I’m not invincible. More practically, a person that puts the time and energy into destroying a plan that had no bearing on her, and who accuses me of fraud, is dangerous. The sooner she forgets I exist, the better I am. I don’t have the energy to defend myself against someone like that.

And, I’m sad. I’m sad that the 20-something generation is missing connection so deeply. What I really want to say in my anger, if I’m honest, is “maybe you can’t make friends because you’re being a bitch.” Language, I know. And to be fair, the ones that were interested in the trip weren’t part of the feeding frenzy. But, I’m sad. I’ve cried a lot today. I’ve talked to good friends. I’ve cried some more.

Writing this is part of the healing and clearing out for me. Telling my truth. Speaking up when “they” want me to shut up.

I’ve spent my entire career trying to build people up – especially women. I support other women entrepreneurs fiercely. I take pride in doing business in a way that isn’t always with the crowd; but, is the right thing to do even if it is the hard way. My entire goal in life is to live and work in such a way that when I die people say, “she made a difference in my life.” I won’t be perfect. I won’t always be kind. I will own my bad behavior. I will try to be better. I will try to be kinder. And I will need a whole lot of grace along the way – all of us will.


©2020 by Kristin Benton.

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