From my comeback story, I learned that no person is an island. Every single one of us needs our village. 


In my mind, I had lost mine. I can’t remember ever feeling so lost or so defeated. 


But I hadn’t lost mine. They were always there. I just allowed the other voices in my head, the ones telling me nothing would ever get better and that I should just give up, to overpower me. 


Ultimately, this comeback story is about gratitude, humility, and redemption. But it took a while to get there and there were many tears and sleepless nights in between. 


Covid upended the whole world. Every person and every industry has been affected. Perhaps none so dramatically as the hospitality industry. 


The team at JZ Vacation Rentals had been busy building our brand and our reputation for the last 4 years. We enjoyed a measure of success. We were looking forward to the future and and excited to see what and where it would bring us. 


And then Covid hit and the bottom fell out. 


Within days, cancellations were pouring in. Then our partners couldn’t pay us. Our well dried up faster than we could have ever imagined. 


I was forced to borrow money from friends and family, just to keep the business afloat and pay my employees. 


I felt like the little boy with his finger in the dike. Except there was no help in sight. 


Over the course of the next 3 months, the circumstances just kept spiraling further and further out of control. 


I tried every avenue I could think of to raise capital. Every idea. Maxed out every credit card. Applied for 20+ refinance loans in an effort to cash out my equity, just so I could keep paying my employees. But I got nowhere.


My “dark night of the soul” was the night I realized that the only logical move I had left was to file bankruptcy. But I couldn’t make myself do it. I owed my friends and family. I had an obligation to my owners, my investors, and the other people who counted on me to just figure it out. 


Even so, I could no longer afford to keep my employees. 


One of the hardest conversations I’ve ever had to have in my life was when I told them I couldn’t afford to keep them on any longer. 


What happened next was my miracle. When my comeback story began. The thing that made me understand the phrase that, even as a Christian and a child of God, never really made sense to me. 


“Let go and let God.”


They refused to leave me. My entire team (who has been with me since day 1) unanimously volunteered, without a moments’ hesitation, to work for free. 


They told me they would not quit, nor would they allow me to. In that moment, they provided me with the inspiration I needed to get back to work, rebound, and make our comeback. 


The range of emotions I felt listening to that message, was all over the map. Elated. Confused. Grateful. Humbled. Determined. 


That VERY SAME DAY, I was approved for a PPP loan, shortly after an SBA loan, and then a forbearance on my personal mortgage when I was literally days away from losing my home.


Let go and let God. 


It has not been easy these last months. We buckled down. Worked our tails off. Did more with less. We outsourced. We updated our software and cut our expenses. We’re still not where we were before the pandemic…yet. 


But we’re well on our way. And we’re going to get there because we never lost sight of what was important to us. 


We are our own village. And we can and will do great things…together. 


My ONLY goal for sharing this long and vulnerable story is to hopefully inspire at least ONE entrepreneur, small business owner, OR future entrepreneur to not give up even when you don’t see any other way out. 


Learn to silence the negative dialogue and don’t listen to the haters that try to bring you down. Seek out those good people who will encourage you, continue to thank the friends and family that lift you up, and remember there’s always something to be grateful for. Put your situation back where it belongs (in God’s hands) and you WILL succeed. 


When THAT day comes (whatever that means to you), reach back and lift someone else up. My mission has and will forever be from this day forward to do just that.

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Alex Zemianek