Pictured Above: The new CEO of National Geographic Channels Courteney Monroe, Manager Bob Aniello, and Aquascape President Colleen Heitzler.
In August of 1992 my life changed forever. The previous summer I had decided to do what I loved for my summertime gig and began a business building ponds for other people’s gardens. I had a blast and made some great money. The summer of 1992 was no different; I was building ponds, having fun and making money. But on August 2nd of 1992 my business and I were featured in a front page story in the Chicago Tribune’s Tempo section. I had installed 17 ponds to date. That one story alone generated hundreds of requests for ponds! I was overwhelmed! My Dad joined the company and I hired my first full-time employees. With that one article my summertime gig became my full-time career and the course of my life was set. It’s fair to say that one article changed my life.
Last week I was in Hollywood cruising around town with my manager and meeting public relations firms and publicists. What? Me?! Our upcoming reality series Pond Stars debuts this September on Nat Geo Wild. I’ve experienced what happened with a large local newspaper, I can only imagine what is about to occur with an international reality TV show! I’m excited while trying not to be overwhelmed. Most of all I’m preparing, which is why I was in Hollywood in the first place. Filming a reality series has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I had no idea the amount of people and work that went into creating a network worthy reality series. It’s a multi-million dollar investment and many, many thousands of man hours of work. I’ve been blown away at the process! Hollywood is also a very different business than what I’m used to. That’s a nice way of saying that I feel like a fish out of water! What’s everyday business in the entertainment world for the network, the production company, and even my manager, is a completely alien experience for me! I feel like a high schooler enrolled in a PhD program. It’s a very strange feeling for me not to be “in the know” especially when it’s my life’s work being chronicled.
Here’s what I do know: It’s like 1992 again. Everything is going to change. Aquascape’s “15 minutes of fame” is on the horizon. Once this show airs, my world won’t be the same. This show, whether it’s good or bad, will define what Aquascape is in the public eye. Most people couldn’t tell you what a water garden is today. It’s not like this show is going to change that. But millions of people who wouldn’t be able to tell you what a water garden is today will be able to after this show debuts. Millions!
This is by far and away the biggest thing that’s ever happened to my business and by default me in my twenty three years of being at the helm. That’s exciting and scary too! It’s also one of the things that is making this process so hard. With prime time exposure comes increased demand for our goods and services. But in order to deliver them, we’ve got to prepare now. We are looking at everything from our teammates to our vendors to our warehouse space and even our entire go-to-market strategy. Everything Aquascape does and how we do it needs to be vetted out in the wake of landing a reality TV series about our business. Everything! It’s a great problem to have but a problem nonetheless.
September will be here before I know it and a process that began almost three years ago will come to fruition. Not a day will go by between now and then where I won’t be preparing for it. This reality series hasn’t even hit and it’s changing how I do things today on a daily basis. Yes, I’m excited, of course I’m a little scared but most of all I’m grateful. Grateful that my life is far from boring. Grateful that for the first time and in a big way, I get to share our art with the rest of the world. And finally I’m grateful for the opportunity that this show presents to not only everyone at Aquascape but the customers we serve. Our industry is filled with cool people doing cool things. Pond Stars is about to expose them and what they do to literally the whole wide world. Everything is about to change and for that I’m extremely grateful. (And a little bit scared!)