My Best Friend

I met my Best Friend at Brite Voice Systems in 1995.  I started working there October 31, 1994 as a Customer Service Representative.  It was my first “office job” and I loved it.  It was the first time I worked on a computer and I had my very own little cubicle.  I contacted customers that purchased Audio Advertising thru their Yellow Pages and offered them monthly updates.  I quickly advanced to a Manager and was managing 30 people.  Another manager called me in to sit on a interview one afternoon.  We were interviewing for new positions  and the applicant was Lisa Smith.  I remember staring at her during the interview because she captivated me when she spoke.  I found myself immediately being drawn to her.  I also remember thinking, “Why does she have all these silver rings on her fingers and thumb?’  They hired her the next week and I was excited to get to know her.  I was a little bummed out that she was not on my “team”.  I was not her direct Supervisor, but we were still able to talk on our breaks.  Our breaks were at 10:00 am and 2:00 pm and they were always taken outside, smoking by the back door.  There was a bunch of smokers there, and our 15 minute breaks were always 2 cigs and conversation.  It’s on that little area that developed a friendship with Lisa.  I always wanted to be by Lisa.  I loved hearing her stories and what was happening in her life.  I admired her for being such a strong, independent, single mother.   After a couple months, we went to our first lunch together.  It was a group of us going to Jimmy’s Diner on North Rock Road for lunch.  I heard Lisa was going, so I made sure I was going to.  I also made sure to sit in the booth next to her.

Smokers Oasis | The Geno Project
Smokers Oasis at Brite Voice Systems 

After a few months of being friends, I decided I wanted more of a relationship with Lisa.  I was way too shy to ask her out, so I had an Asian friend that worked with us, Perkin Lee, help me out.  He said something to Lisa like “Hey…you should have Sean and I over for dinner one night.”  She said OK and we selected the next Friday night.  Perkin and I got to her house and we all ate and talked.  I remember being so nervous and sweating really bad.  It was also the first time that I had been around her girls – Alexa, Jordyn and Haley outside of seeing them at work with Lisa occasionally.  Alexa was shy and quiet.  Jordyn was loud and rambunctious.  Haley was very sweet.  After we left, Perkin told me that next time I was on my own and to just have her meet me at a bar somewhere for some drinks.  Lisa and I both enjoyed going out and dancing, so I thought I would take a chance.  I asked her to meet me at Gilbert & Mosley’s in downtown Wichita.  It was right across the street from where KFH Radio was on Douglas and Emporia.  Friday came and we talked about our “date” on our breaks that was to happen that night.  I was ending a very bad, very long, very crazy relationship at that time with Mallory.  Something happened with Mallory that night and I couldn’t meet Lisa.

She showed up, I didn’t.  I had stood her up.

I was so upset.  I didn’t want to face her Monday, because I wasn’t even able to call her to let her know I wouldn’t be coming.  I thought my chances for another date were done.  Monday arrived and she was very forgiving.  Of course she gave me a hard time for standing her up, but she understood  the craziness that was Mallory.  We planned to go out 2 weeks later on a Saturday night.  It was a fantastic first date.

Two weeks after that, things were going really well, and we felt it was time to introduce our kids to each other.  It was October 1995 and we agreed to meet on a Saturday afternoon at Copper Cue on Maple & Seneca. Copper Cue was a place that had a bunch of video games and pinball machines. We thought it would be a good place to have the kids meet.  At this point, Lisa had not met the boys yet either.  This would be the first time Lisa, Alexa, Jordyn and Haley would meet Marcus and Nicholas.  I was once again, nervous driving there and praying the kids would get along and also like Lisa.  We pulled up and I saw her car in the parking lot.  I thought….”Oh man, they are already here.”  With butterflies in my stomach, we walked in.  I saw Lisa and she was standing by some games with her friend Denise.  I thought “Ha! Lisa must be nervous too!  She did the same thing I did the first time I met her girls and brought a friend for the first meeting.”  I must say that when everyone was introduced, I had no idea I was introducing Nyk to his future Mother-In-Law.  I don’t remember Denise’s kids being there, just her.  The kids immediately took off and went to go play games.  Marcus and Alexa teamed up and Nyk and Jordyn teamed up.  It was amazing how they all immediately connected.  Haley was only a year old, so she just sat in her stroller.  Things felt really good that day.  I had always wanted a loving wife, daughters and a big family.  I had been in 2 failed relationships over the past decade and I wanted to bad to be in a healthy relationship.

After a month of officially “dating”, I was starting to think about moving in with her.  I was living at my Mom and Dad’s house at the time and while appreciated the free living arrangements, I was wanting to have my own space.  I was 27 years old, and I had been living there for only about 2 weeks.  I used to lay in bed in the attic and talk to Lisa on the phone late at night for hours.  One time until 4 in the morning.  We would lose track of time while we were talking.  One of us would realize what time it was and say “Oh Crap….it’s 3 AM!  See you in a few hours at work!”  I told my Mom about my plan to move in with Lisa.  I think she thought I was crazy.  One night Chuck and Connie were over and I remember everyone saying…”Please….Please……get a place of your own.  Live by yourself for awhile, don’t rush into another relationship.”  Up to that point, I had lived with my parents, lived with Jennifer in my parents house, lived with Jennifer, lived with Mallory, and lived with my parents again.  I have never in my life lived by myself.  My Mom must have also told Kevin about my plan too.  He came over one night and took me to Wendy’s to eat.  We then went back to my parents house and sat on the front porch steps and talked.  I understood what everyone was saying, but my heart was telling me something else.  The other issue that living together would create is a problem at work.  I was a Manager and Lisa was a Customer Service Representative.  We did not feel it would go over very well at Brite Voice if we lived together.  We took a drive at lunch one day to discuss what to do.  We drive to a dirt road off Greenwich Road, just north of 43rd.  We decided that Lisa would leave her job at Brite Voice and go get a job selling Long Distance at MCI.  She left Brite Voice 2 weeks later, started her job at MCI and we moved in together.  Lisa lived in a 2 bedroom townhome by Harry & Webb road.  The townhome had a basement too, so the boys stayed in the basement when they came over on weekends.

After a few months at MCI, Lisa was let go.  MCI had a strict policy of attendance and 3 strikes you are out rule.  It was hard to adhere to that policy with 3 girls.  Brite Voice was adding a new Yellow Page Customer at that time, US West.  They heard that Lisa wasn’t at MCI anymore and hired her back to work at Brite.  They said as long as I was not her direct Supervisor, being in a relationship together was not an issue.  We worked together at Brite Voice until 1997 when it was sold to a new company.  Our last day at was October 31, 1997.  Exactly 3 years to the date of my first day there.  We had no idea what to do next.  We had just purchased our first home together at 245 S. Holyoke.  We were now both unemployed with 5 kids.  2 weeks later, we were contacted by Mike Shell, a former Brite Voice Executive.  He was starting a new company, doing the same thing we did at Brite Voice, and wanted Lisa and I to be involved with the start up and launch.  We were employees number 4 and 5 of Interactive Media Services.

On December 4, 1998 I married my best friend.

 

We had purchased another home at 351 S. Clifton.  Jennifer had moved to Holland, so both boys were living with us during the school year.  We also had our first child together in July of that year, Hayden. Things were perfect in our lives.  Great jobs, great house in a great neighborhood.  May 4, 1999 everything changed.  On that date I left for San Francisco to go to a Real Networks Conference.  At that Conference, I saw the potential for audio and video on the Internet.  I talked to Lisa about it and we felt we could start a business around audio and video on the Internet.  We both quit our jobs and started a new business, Streaming Voices.com.  We started with absolutely nothing.  We were being sued by our former boss, Mike Shell over Non-Compete Contracts Lisa and I had signed.  We overcame all the obstacles, formed a new company, met a Brokerage firm and rented an office in Old Town.  The office was at 800 E. 1st on the first floor in Old Town Center.  The Brokerage firm assisted us in raising $1,750,000.  We hired 9 employees and began to sell audio and video to customers across the United States.  We were also accountable to 25 investors now who wanted to see a high return on their investment.  The Internet was booming at that time it was a new age Gold Rush.  In April 2000, the dot com Internet bubble finally burst.  Internet companies had burned thru all of their cash and new investment money for dot com’s had dried up.  It was the most stressful and difficult times in our marriage.  We began to lose everything we had.  All the employees were let go.  We moved out of the office and back into our home.  I knew it was over when the Sheriff showed up at our house with the President of our Bank to repossess all of our equipment.  I had started a new job at The WB TV Station about 2 weeks before the Bank showed up at our house.  We added another daughter Hannah to the clan, but we lost our home, vehicle and filed Bankruptcy. We moved to a small home at Central and Bluff.  Lisa started Home Day Care and I began to do well at The WB.

We were rebuilding our lives with Mike Shell called us again.  He said he had started another company again and wanted Lisa and I to work for him again, doing what we had always done with him.   He said the reason he sued us over the Non-Competes was because he really had wanted us to keep working for him.  We had made good money with Mike previously, so we agreed.  I quit my job at The WB, Lisa stopped doing Home Day Care and we went to work at G2 Interactive with Mike Shell again.  Over the course of a year, we were able to move to a larger rental home at 351 S. Clifton, just one block from the home we used to live at.  After a year working there, it began to feel very similar to how Streaming voices.com felt at the end.  I saw the same signs of money problems and thought I need to find another job now before this place goes under.  I contacted my former Boss at The WB and he hired me back in a better position, managing more people.  I was making enough money for Lisa to not have to work and we were able to purchase our 3rd home at 5516 Polo.  It was March 2005.  Life was great.  We had rebuilt our lives, purchased vehicles, purchased a home again and things were going good at The WB.  April 2005 Lisa said 5 words that would once again, change everything – “Let’s start a Company again.”    I could not believe my ears.  Start a Company again?  WTH?  After everything we had been thru, starting a Company was the last thing on my mind.  She was serious though.  She told me she was going to try and set some appointments and just see what happens.  This time we agreed to take a different approach.  We would include building websites to our products, I would keep my job, we would not get anyone else involved, we would not raise capital.  All we wanted was to be able to have Lisa earn some extra money.  The Lord had other plans though.  When The WB found out Lisa was selling websites to customers they were upset.  The told me it was a conflict of interest and gave me an ultimatum.  If Lisa did not stop selling customers websites, I would lose my job.  I was stunned.  I couldn’t figure out why Lisa selling customer websites had anything to do with them selling television advertising to customers.  They told me that right before lunch.  I told them I would let them know after lunch.  Lisa had scheduled a meeting that day over my lunch hour, so after they told me that, I had to leave to go meet Lisa for our first potential customer, The Spiritual Life Center.  The meeting went great and they selected us to build their website.  We had our first customer…if we wanted them.  We left the meeting and sat in the parking lot.  I told Lisa what had happened to me at work that day and if we took this customer, I would lose my job.  We sat there and said a prayer asking God to guide us in our decision making.  When we were done, Lisa said “Let’s Do It.”  She said “You are going to go back there, quit that job and we are going to make this business work.”  That’s exactly what I did.  I went back and told them it shouldn’t matter what my wife does for a living.  I was fired the next day after lunch.  The date, May 3, 2005.

The date was May 4, 2005, The Multimedia Room was born.  Exactly 6 years to the date of having the idea to start our first company we were starting another company.  We had once again, just bought a house, wife was pregnant, no jobs, but this time there are 7 kids involved.   Mary-Grace was born in August of that year and it was a roller coaster couple years.  We lost our home and vehicles again.  We moved to another rental home and continued trying to make our company successful.  We added another little girl to the family in September 2009, Emma-Sophia.

In July 2010, we decided to take a family vacation to Minneapolis with my Mom and Dad.  It was a vacation that would turn our lives upside down over the next year.  It was Lisa’s first trip to Minnesota and she fell in love with it.  We were sitting by Harriett Lake and she said “I think I could live here.”  I told her “If I was to move anywhere…it would be here.”  It was then we made the decision to move to the Twin Cities.  We spent the next 10 months making plans, visiting in the Winter and preparing to move.  We also launched a Sister Company, Queen Bee Media, a Social Media Company.

May 4, 2011 we left for Minneapolis to find a home.  We were scheduled to move the first of June, less than 30 days.  May 4th, once again, plays a significant date in starting a new chapter in our lives.  We found a home in Woodbury and moved our family.  We are now in our 7th year of business and absolutely loving the Twin Cities.  I love my life, I love my family, I love my job, I love my city, I love my home and I love my wife.  Lisa and I have not only lived together but worked together for most of our relationship.

Lisa’s my partner and best friend.  I look forward to growing old together and all the adventures we still have to experience together.