In 2013, I was nearly killed by an elephant and consequently spent more than 3 months in hospitals and rehab. I had to relearn to walk and write. I could barely dress myself. I had huge skin grafts to my torso and later to both of my legs, so I had to sit in a chair for months, healing at home. During this healing time, the concept of NatureCoaster.com began to percolate.
Here’s the story:
In 2003, my husband and I purchased a Travelhost® franchise. I began driving up to New Port Richey, Dade City, Zephyrhills, Brooksville, Spring Hill, New Port Richey, Weeki Wachee, Crystal River, Homosassa, Inverness, Floral City, and the other small towns and cities of Hernando, Pasco and Citrus counties. I fell in love with the area.
Through August of 2010 we published a full color, glossy, quarterly magazine about what to do, where to shop, and where to dine in Florida’s Nature Coast. It was distributed in nearly 5,000 hotel rooms throughout the area. Multiply that by the number of guests that go through a room monthly; this publication was reaching over 500,000 people annually!
I met so many awesome people – business owners, non-profit directors, event staff, residents and visitors! I enjoyed working with each of the county tourism agencies to unite the visitors to Florida’s Nature Coast with the unique and wonderful entities that comprise it. Visitors spend money and I helped local businesses connect with that revenue stream through the publication.
2008 was our best year. When the recession came full-force to our area, I lost revenue. When the BP Oil Spill happened, it was the final nail in Travelhost of the Nature Coast’s coffin. I was bankrupt and defeated. I later found out that I didn’t qualify for any of the BP funds due to closing the business.
I found a job, then another, and began healing from this devastating financial blow.
August 26, 2013, I was attacked by an elephant in Williston, Florida. I spent 3 months in Shands hospital, then rehab in Brooksville. A short stint at home and then over to Tampa General for more skin grafts. Then came the time in “the chair,” where I had to sit still and let my skin grafts heal with in-home nursing and rehab. Thousands of people from around the world prayed for me. I am a miracle of sorts.
Former colleagues from the area had contributed to a fund to help my family and visited in the hospital. I really love this area and the people that are in it.
As I recovered, I wondered what to do with myself now. I still wanted to promote Florida’s Nature Coast, but I was unable to work full-time outside the house. I was so shaky that I doubted anyone would hire me. I taught myself WordPress on the computer and began to build NatureCoaster.com.
I went to visit my pastor and after talking to him about what I should do with the rest of my life, he suggested that I might not want work for anyone else – that I was made to be self-employed. This gave me the courage to work on NatureCoaster.com with all of my energy, instead of in-between jobs. Some of my former colleagues hired me for freelance gigs – and – Pasco and Hernando tourism reached out to me, asking if I could join the June 2014 Nature Coast FAM tour, working with Robin Draper of Authentic Florida.
We touristed the three counties, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus, and made fast friends. Robin encouraged me in pursuing my passion and shared some of her success tips. I consider her my mentor and we catch up by phone, email and visits regularly. I wrote an article for Madden Media that is still on the Visit Citrus web site: http://visitcitrus.com/play-here/water-lovers-activities/meet-a-manatee/ I was contracted to create the Visit Pasco brochure and some web sites in WordPress.
Over the last two years, I have worked to develop and refine NatureCoaster.com so it is a valuable asset to our communities – and to visitors. I chose to publish electronically because that is where people go for information now… and it is a lot less expensive to publish and deliver content that way, making it affordable for local businesses to be a part of the magazine. There has been a learning curve, but we are really picking up steam!
We send a weekly email of what’s happening in Hernando, Pasco and Citrus counties with a feature article to over 600 subscribers (and growing daily), we publish information weekly about what’s happening in the area, promoting that on Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn. We have no advertising on the site to distract from the content, so we created our NatureCoaster™ directory to connect readers and visitors to area businesses.
When studying SEO and web optimization, CONTENT is KING kept coming up, so I write stories about the great places, people, history, and happenings we have in Florida’s Nature Coast. Because I find online advertising distracting and somewhat irritating, I decided that a NatureCoaster™ directory would be the best way to connect our readers with the organizations that are the backbone of the NatureCoaster™ way of life.
What is a NatureCoaster™ you may ask? A NatureCoaster™ is someone who loves this area and is proud to be a part of it. We are people who like small towns, green trees and the flats along the Gulf of Mexico. We like saltwater and freshwater. We value that pure water of Florida’s magical springs and small businesses. We believe in helping each other and look for the best in things, working together to get things done. We live in this area because we want to and are proud of what it has to offer.
And what we do is called, “NatureCoasting™,” getting outdoors to experience the flora and fauna that make this area great!
So, how do you participate?
First, sign up for the weekly newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/31VbX. Then Follow our Facebook page for daily updates here: https://www.facebook.com/NatureCoasting/. Tell your friends about NatureCoaster.com and forward them the newsletters. If you know of something we should write about, contact us at [email protected] or by posting or messaging our Facebook page.
Being a part of NatureCoaster.com is a good value for area businesses. As we grow, you will grow and we’ll never hear “there’s nothing to do around here” again. For information on partnering with NatureCoaster.com, please email [email protected].
I am often asked about what we are doing to promote Nature Coaster. Since we are very lightly staffed and in startup phase, we work with area nonprofits to trade inbound links to the site for listings on the site. It is working and helps us grow our rankings on Google. The Friends of Homosassa Springs and the Friends of the Hacienda are two of the groups who come to mind.
We are now advertising on WYKE TV in Citrus County to grow awareness and add NatureCoasters™. We are proud to be Dade City Chamber members and as we grow, we will continue to reach out and partner with local Chambers and nonprofits. We have run advertising in The Laker News and continue to get the word out with partnerships and promotions.
We sponsor local events throughout all three counties, displaying our banner to help “get the word out,” and it is working.
I hope you will be able to join us today. Sign up for the weekly newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/31VbX. You’ll like it. If you don’t, just unsubscribe after a couple of issues.
Use the NatureCoaster™ Directory to find new places to go and businesses that are proud to be here and welcome you as a valued guest. Look for the NatureCoaster™ stickers on our partners’ locations when shopping and dining. Spread the word. Be a NatureCoaster™!