Stacey Marmolejo: “Celebrate your success”

Celebrate your success. I worried that I would come across as bragging or being full of myself if I outwardly celebrated my success, so I tended to downplay my accomplishments or deflect the praise to ‘my team’ or another person. When someone else deserves the accolades, most definitely give it to them. But when you […]

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Celebrate your success. I worried that I would come across as bragging or being full of myself if I outwardly celebrated my success, so I tended to downplay my accomplishments or deflect the praise to ‘my team’ or another person. When someone else deserves the accolades, most definitely give it to them. But when you personally accomplish something, graciously accept the praise and celebrate your success. You’re going to be your hardest critic, so you should also be your greatest fan.

Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.

How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?

In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.

As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stacey Marmolejo.

Stacey Marmolejo helps vacationers uncover Florida’s relatively unknown beach towns so they can enjoy a fun, affordable and purpose-filled holiday while helping small businesses recover from lost tourism revenue due to Covid.

She is the creator of Florida Beach Break, a coalition of in-destination small businesses on Florida’s Space Coast.

After 30 years of marketing experience in Corporate America and 15 years owning her own small business, Stacey now assists locally owned in-destination businesses gain awareness among vacationers so they can effectively compete with big brands with big marketing budgets.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I come from a long line of military service. My grandfather served 30 years in the Army Air Corps. My father served 22 years in the Air Force as did my brother and his wife. One uncle served in the Green Beret, doing two tours in Viet Nam while three others were career Navy men.

I loved growing up in the military as we were one of the fortunate families who got to live in many different areas, including overseas. I lived in Morocco, Spain, and England before I was 12 years old. I spoke Spanish before I spoke English because we lived in Spain when I began to learn to talk.

My parents made travel and culture a priority and no matter where Dad was stationed, we took trips in the area. One of the benefits of military service is they get more vacation time than civilians. (Or they did at the time, anyway.) While stationed in the U.K. my dad took us on the longest trip we’d ever done. We traveled for 30 days throughout Europe, opening my brother and my eyes to history, cultural, language differences and unfamiliar cuisine. These trips taught us to seek out and appreciate that which is unknown to us; not to fear or reject it.

Unfortunately, once we were stationed State-side, we were land-locked. Dad had assignments in Ohio, North Dakota, and Kansas.

I always dreamed of one day living by the ocean.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Everything is hard before it is easy.”

I was the first person in my family not to serve in the military. This meant that I had to figure everything out for myself as related to my career. I didn’t have a career role model. I didn’t have a family member to explain things to me. The civilian world was just as unfamiliar to my family as it was to me.

That meant I had to figure things out as I moved along. Of course something is difficult if you don’t know how to do it. But once it is “easy” you know you understand it.

You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

Determination. I grew up in an era when women’s careers included being a teacher, a secretary, or a nurse. I wanted to be a journalist. I studied journalism in college and the day after I graduated, I moved to London to write a novel. Running out of money and having not even one chapter written, it was time to go get a job. I knocked on publishers’ doors and said, “I’m a brilliant young writer. You should hire me.” I eventually was offered a job at a magazine. But not as a writer. As an ad salesperson. This was very humbling for me.

Embrace opportunities. I hadn’t planned a career in sales but that was the opportunity in front of me. I chose to lean in and learn everything I could about what it takes to be a great salesperson and I practiced and practiced and practiced. When I returned to the United States, I sought a career in sales. This time I was hired by (now defunct) Eastern Airlines where I started in sales and quickly moved to Marketing; the field I spent the rest of my corporate career in.

Trusting my own instincts. At 45 years old, I saw an opportunity to start my own small company. I felt it was the right thing to do. As a single mother, though, I couldn’t quit my corporate job to pursue my own company. So, I did both. I worked at my corporate job during the day and my own company in the evenings and weekends. My son was a teenager at the time, and he was interested in the company too. He was my reason for starting the business and we spent much of our time together in the business. I’m sure we wouldn’t have spent as much time together in his teen years had I not started the company.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?

I climbed the corporate ladder for 30 years while secretly wishing to be an entrepreneur. I rose to the title of Senior Vice President. As mentioned above, when the opportunity presented itself to start my own business, I did so. Applying the same skills, I used in my Corporate job, I grew my start up to the position it is now; 1 million dollars in annual revenue.

And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?

Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?

I almost lost my dad to COVID. At one point he was so bad the doctor called me and told me to plan for his end-of-life. It was a Friday. She said they would keep him comfortable over the weekend and move him to Hospice on Monday. On the Sunday I received a call from his nurse telling me he was showing signs of improvement. He was in the hospital for 3 ½ months.

That could have easily been me. This was my wake-up call. Following my life-long dream to live near the ocean I took an exploratory trip to Florida. I fell in love with a quaint little town called Indialantic-by-the-Sea. The initial plan was to snowbird between Minnesota and Florida. I wasn’t thinking of working or starting another business.

What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?

80% of travelers say what they remember most about their vacation are their in-destination experiences. These are the things they take pictures of and post to their social media. The American vacationer participates in an average of six experiences while they’re on vacation.

The problem is that the in-destination sector of the travel industry is very fragmented, and the individual businesses can’t compete with big company marketing budgets.

I felt a “calling” to find a way to help vacationers find these in-destination experiences. Not just find them but have some level of confidence that what they see online is a true representation of the current state of the company.

I decided that I would visit each in-destination experience, video them, write about them and verify them. It’s a win for both the vacationer and the in-destination provider.

But I had no experience at media relations or being the “face” of something. I’ve always been the behind-the-scenes person that makes things happen.

I was on Facebook one day and saw an ad for a program called “Be on TV Bootcamp” with Jen Gottlieb and Chris Winfield. I wasn’t familiar with the pair, but their ad message resonated with me. After all, if I need to get comfortable being the face of a brand, I should be able to be on TV, right? I signed up for the bootcamp and through the exercises in the bootcamp I discovered this new skillset. It’s ironic that you ask the question about “manifesting those powers” because that is exactly the phrase Jen and Chris use in their coaching.

How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.

There are now 250 in-destination members representing restaurants, hotels/motels/bed-and-breakfasts, activities such as kayaking and golfing, wildlife/nature preserves and detailed information on the 15 named beaches and what they are known for (e.g., shore fishing, surfing, nude area, etc.)

We are seeing consistent web traffic growth. We launched the site in December 2020. January visitors doubled over December and February visitors doubled over January.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are four people that I am particularly grateful for.

  • The first is my son. He lives on the Space Coast fulltime and is a freelance journalist, photographer, and videographer. He is the one who is participating in the experiences and writing about them on Florida Beach Break, in addition to his already full plate. He is the one taking photographs for social media and the website. And he is the videographer and editor for the Florida Beach Break videos on the site and on YouTube. He is helping me fulfill my dream.
  • The second person is Ren Rose. Ren is the founder of Brand Perfect Digital, a Los Angeles-based digital agency that managed hundreds of thousands of dollars in monthly digital ad spend for multi-national clients. He and I worked together in Corporate America. Though his agency doesn’t work with clients of my size, he has donated his personal time and expertise to help me get started.
  • The third and fourth people are the team of Chris Winfield and Jen Gottlieb. They are uplifting, confidence-builders with proven business tactics that lend credibility to their guidance. They have created a network of high-energy, supportive people who I will be friends or business colleagues with for the rest of my life. They have something incredibly special. I cannot recommend them highly enough.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

It’s not as much a story as it is a feeling. I haven’t felt this internal driving excitement since I started my company 15 years ago. I can so clearly see how Florida Beach Break benefits two constituents:

The first is the vacationer:

We have all been cooped up for a year. Now Americans are starting to plan for a vacation in 2021 and the #1 destination they plan to go to is a beach. Most people think of purpose-filled travel as going to a third world county to feed the poor or rebuilding a place that has been devastated by a storm. Reality is that you don’t have to be uncomfortable to practice purpose-filled travel. Vacation on the Space Coast of Florida. Stay in a locally owned Bed and Breakfast or a cottage right on the beach for less than the average chain hotel in Orlando or Miami. Eat amazing food cooked by local chefs in their own restaurant and learn to surf, kayak through the mangroves, take a boat tour to see the dolphins and manatee or hire a fishing guide; all of which are small businesses that you’ll be helping with your vacation dollars.

The second is the small businesses who serve the vacationers.

100,000 small businesses in America closed their doors in the first two months of the pandemic. They continue to shutter at a rate of 800 business per day. In Florida alone, 99.8% of all businesses are small businesses and it will take more than 5 years for them to recover.

And for me to be the one who makes vacationers aware of this under-represented destination and to be the one to help small family owned-businesses recover is incredibly rewarding.

Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?

I still have moments of self-doubt!

The travel industry is a 790 billion dollars industry. It’s intimidating to think about competing in that space. But that’s also what presents the opportunity.

I read my mission statement out loud at the beginning of each day. “I help vacationers discover Florida’s locally owned in-destination businesses in relatively unknown beach towns so they can enjoy a fun, affordable and purpose-filled holiday while helping small businesses recover.”

And I remind myself that I’m sharing a little slice of paradise with people who need a vacation, with people who want a beach to relax on, with people who haven’t traveled in over a year.

In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?

I have a small network -and by “small” I mean five people- who are remarkably close friends. We support each other in all facets of life. I know I could call any one of them at 3 o’clock in the morning and they’d be there for me. They were the ones who got me through the darkest hours when I thought my Dad was going to die and the hospital wouldn’t let me go in and see him.

I’ve been friends with one of them since I was 22 years old. They’ve each played a role in my conception and launching of Florida Beach Break. They are all respective leaders of organizations; one is a President of a non-profit, another owns three franchises, a third is a divisional President of a globally known international company, a fourth has a successful coaching business and the last is a former Naval office and a nurse. They each bring a vastly different perspective to my questions, and that’s of tremendous value.

Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?

I have always been the “behind the brand” person so being the face of the business is really uncomfortable for me.

As I mentioned above, it was Jen Gottlieb and Chris Winfield who helped me get comfortable in a zone I was extremely uncomfortable in.

The course was so much more than “how to get on TV.” It was as much about the right mind-set to be comfortable in front of people, whether on TV, on a podcast or as a speaker. We practiced “going live” on Facebook within the safety of our bootcamp members. We practiced future gratitude. It was a confidence-builder that taught me if I could be the power behind a brand I could just as easily be the spokesperson for a coalition of reputable businesses.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

Know who your ideal customer is. Once you know that ideal customer, make sure everything you do is targeted toward serving that ideal customer. Your marketing, your product or service development, your messaging — everything should be focused on that ideal customer or client.

  1. Know who your ideal customer is. Once you know that ideal customer, make sure everything you do is targeted toward serving that ideal customer. Your marketing, your product or service development, your messaging — everything should be focused on that ideal customer or client.
  2. It’s OK to say “no” to a prospect or to fire a client. It’s very empowering for your employees to know if there isn’t a good synergy between your customer base and your employee base that you can amicably part ways. The best way to do this is to go to the prospect or client and say, “I don’t think we’re the best fit for you. But I want you to be happy and successful. Here’s a list of x number of companies that I recommend you check out. I think one of them will be a better fit for you.” I know it’s hard when you’re starting out and every dollar matters but in fact bad clients can end up costing you more in the long run than turning them away in the beginning.
  3. Just because you can make all the decisions, don’t. When a company is small it’s typical for the owner/entrepreneur to make all the decisions; all the way down to the paper clip purchases. What happens is as you grow, you haven’t trained your employees how to make decisions. Nor have you trained yourself on how to let others make decisions. You may end up being the bottleneck to your growth if you can’t get to all the decisions in a timely manner. If you train your employees from the beginning in decision making skills, as you grow, they’ll be able to make the more important decisions on behalf of the company.
  4. Tell your employees “thank you” every day. Every day thank your employees for the effort they’ve made on behalf of your organization. Or your freelances or independent contractors or whoever it might be. It’s amazing how far a “thank you” will go and equally amazing how rarely people say “thank you” to their employees. I think business owners figure the employees are being paid to do the job. Yes, they are, but don’t all of us like to be appreciated? Simple “thank you’s” go a long way.
  5. Celebrate your success. I worried that I would come across as bragging or being full of myself if I outwardly celebrated my success, so I tended to downplay my accomplishments or deflect the praise to ‘my team’ or another person. When someone else deserves the accolades, most definitely give it to them. But when you personally accomplish something, graciously accept the praise and celebrate your success. You’re going to be your hardest critic, so you should also be your greatest fan.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

There is so much pressure on young people today to be the best at everything; academics, arts, sports, religion, friendships, family member role; the number of social media followers they have, everything. This is perpetuated by helicopter parents, overscheduled calendars, demanding college admissions programs, the media and peer pressure.

For fear of dating myself I won’t begin with the words “back in my day.” In truth though, it seems that in the age of social media children’s days of childhood are diminished. At a young age they have lost the ability to be carefree and stress free. A child is now consumed with the pressure of being “liked” on their social profiles, growing followers, being verified and posting what makes them “interesting” to others.

Remember the days of just sitting idly watching time go by? When your first thought of preparing for college was in high school. Now parents are beginning the grooming process as early as Nursery school. This added layer of pressure is packaged by an overbooked schedule and the pursuit of the right friendships/connections for when they “grow up”.

I would love to see a movement towards a healthier approach to raising our kids with fewer demands and less stress and anxiety for both the kids and the parents.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂

Emma Watson. So I can pitch my single son to her. He’s very smart, quick-witted and, dare I say, handsome. 😊 In all seriousness, I’d love to have lunch with Rachel Pedersen. She is so knowledgeable about Social Media, an area that I understand academically but can’t wrap my head around in practice. And I just discovered she’s also from Minnesota, where I lived for 30 years!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Visit or follow us on Instagram at or connect with me personally on Linked In at (it’s an old nickname!)

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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