Amy Holden - Adventure Capital

by The Bloom Report | 12 Jul 2023

Industry Commentary, Op-Ed


As toy sector people, many of us travel (a lot) and I’m sure we’ve all had the same pains; delayed flights, late samples, issues at the hotel, and so on. On my last trip to the US, I had a succession of incidents beyond all previous mishaps combined, which I can only describe as “Insane planetary alignment”. I survived and am here to tell you the tale if you’d like to read on.


First stop was Boca Raton to pitch two of our new, and secret at the time, launches. Then on to Sarasota to visit a friend who is a VC investor to discuss financing, and then lastly onwards to LA, for some product development meetings and more pitches at the LA Previews.


As it was April and I had almost spent my whole years travel budget already, I booked to fly in economy and stay at a regular hotel, upon our MD’s suggestion. I chose a hotel by the beach, so at least I could go jogging in the morning and enjoy a little tourism after meetings. My handmade samples had been sent directly there one week in advance lest they not arrive to me from China to take them personally. Upon arrival at Boca Raton, I noted the hotel was actually a motel, you know the two story, built in the 70’s ones where the windows overlook a central pool? Yes, the ones from the movies where everyone ends up shot.



At this interesting residence, reception was only open from 11am until 5pm. So, as I arrived in the evening, I found a key was taped to the door with my name on it. I proceeded to drag my bags upstairs and enter a room that looked disappointingly nothing like the sunny, clean and modern room in I’m no snob so went about opening the window and unpacking. My greatest concern was that reception did not open until after my very important meeting the next morning and I was not going to be able to get those samples. Alas, that was the least of my problems as I would soon find out. The room had no bottle of water, or soap even, let alone shampoo, so I headed to the local 7-Eleven with my cell phone to grab supplies. Upon my return, the key completely jammed in the rusty lock and no matter how I jiggled, plied or even prayed, it would simply not open. The emergency number for after-hours reception did not answer their whatsapp and unfortunately my mobile data roaming plan, which I had changed during covid, was not currently configured to be able to make calls in the US.  As the sun set, I realised I was either sleeping on a deck-chair by the pool with no warm clothes (all locked inside) or I was going to have to break in to my room. No small feat in Florida where many people have guns and the ‘stand your ground’ law exists. Even the police might shoot me if got caught.


I tried to push the front windows up and aside over the latch, but could not. I tried to remove the slats from the old school style 70’s windows below, but the guides were rusted and painted in. I started to panic, and realized even my valium (used to manage jetlag or high stress situations like this) was also on the other side of that door as was my ID if I’d have wanted to go to another hotel!


Then I remembered that I had opened the back window. I walked around the back and saw, there was just a fly-screen between me and my room.


That and a whole floor… So, I went to look for a ladder and found a maintenance room with some large tubs of chlorine and then a wheelie bin in the parking. I had a sudden rush of superhero-esque confidence. I dragged the wheelie bin to below the window, set the tubs of chlorine, one as a step and the other on top and was able to reach the outside part of the AC unit below my window. I climbed onto that, and whilst it sagged and made scary metal-about-to-snap groaning noises, it was made in the 70’s for sure and was good for the job. Next, I just had to get the screen off. It was fixed from the inside, so no way. I gave a few pushes to no avail and then I punched with all my might and it suddenly popped, toppling me through the window into my room albeit with a few knocks and bangs to the hips and legs on the way in. I made it! My heart was racing. After a moment of elation where my 1970’s nightmare hotel room suddenly seemed like paradise, I discreetly arranged the screen to be about in the right place and closed the window to hold it there.



That night I was nervous and hungry as I didn’t want to leave the room again at night time. I could get the door open from the inside and leave a bit of rolled up card in the latch hole to ensure I could get back in, but then my belongings would not be secure. The excitement, the jetlag and the worry about not being able to get my samples impeded rest, and I slept only about 3 hours until another idea occurred to me at about 5am, that now would be a good time to go jogging as surely the sun was about to come up and it would be a good idea to burn off the stress energy and go calmly to my meeting. I set-up my door for re-entry, popped in my earbuds and went out jogging in the pitch black, not realizing that the Boca latitude is not like that of the UK or Spain and sunrise is much much later. Since my mobile data was not working, I had no idea how to orientate and just headed along the coast road in order to not get lost. Sometime into powerwalking with Beyonce, a man came running towards me very fast, but the slowed down, and as he got closer took his ear buds out. And I thought uh-oh the sun is not coming up, it’s pitch black, I’m hangry and this dude wants to talk to me. I was already on guard. As it turns out he was just a good samaritan, as he told me “Lady, don’t go jogging that way, there’s a coyote chasing a guy on a bike”. And for some unknown reason, I thought that seeing a coyote would be a great idea. I shouted back as I kept jogging “Don’t worry, I’m Australian, we got dingoes!” and kept on. He might have shouted back something about rabies as he headed in the opposite direction but I didn’t hear it as I had already put my ear buds back in.


One song later, I realized there were no more street lights, no buildings on the side of the road and I was jogging through a sort of jungle….and there was no guy on a bike, nobody at all but a coyote nearby. Dang don’t you hate it when they’re right? I should have listened to the jogger. I turned back for a sprint, with the idea of heading to 7-eleven (the only place I knew in Boca) to get something for breakfast. As I arrived, I sat momentarily on a bench out the front to catch my breath. The sun was finally coming up, about 7am. A lady shared the bench and she asked me if I could give her 2 bucks for breakfast as she was having some troubles looking for a job and was short on cash. I said “Sure come on in, grab what you want and I’ll pay”. We then sat back on the bench and had breakfast together which was absolute serendipitous, as she oriented me on the city and informed me that I had jogged down to turtle beach, a reserve where they keep the lights off so the turtles can come and nest. She also gave me pointers on where to stay, eat, shop and jog. Wishing I had met her earlier, we see a guy wearing a rifle walk past and into the 7-eleven. I looked at her in panic, “Should we run?” She said, “Noooo, every now-and-then you see people in Florida with guns”. So, taking that for normal, when the guy walked back out and past us I mentioned that there was a coyote on North Ocean Boulevard. He said “And?” and I said, “Well if you’re out hunting….” to which he froze. He could tell I had a strange accent, but wasn’t sure if I was being something of a facetious democrat and poking him or absolutely serious (and neither could I). He didn’t know if I was friend or foe so I told him “I was an Australian army cadet in 94 and I could dismount that rife and put it back together in just over 60 seconds”. I think I made a friend for life, he told me all about his gun collection to which I had nothing to say as my shooting a rifle as a cadet was pretty much the sum of it. He then asked if I wanted to go for a ride in his truck to find the coyote. I looked at my breakfast partner as in “Shall we go?” and she gave me a total “No way, are you crazy?!” look and without further hesitation; I knew it would be a bad idea to jump into a strangers truck, lest I end up looking down the barrel of the rifle. So I said “I have to go and prepare for an important meeting now” and he saluted me and said “Ok Cadet!” and jumped up into his very high suspension vehicle and exited the scene.



At this point, things were starting to feel a bit surreal, like I was in a movie. I went back to my room and got ready for my meeting. Headed in, without the samples but I did see a very green and impressive iguana on the way and proceeded to do my pitch which turned into a full product development meeting. At which point I decided not to stay-on in Boca for the second meeting since the first was a resound success and I was convinced I had the right partners for the brand. (Yaay!) and… I’d lost confidence in the hotel of course. Apparently, the best way to get to Sarasota, is to hire a car and drive over. Now, my husband had been very clear. Before I left he said “Whatever you do, don’t hire a car and try to drive around Florida”. And my reaction to that was that he would never have said such a thing to a male driver so it was sexist! Dear husband claimed that it was for me to be stress free and be taken around like a princess, but since he was not there, I thought “Yeah! Why not hire a car and drive across the Everglades, it’ll be like Thelma and Louise but without Thelma and no driving off a cliff”. I headed to Avis and precautionarily asked for a brand new high spec car with sat-nav and was given a new automatic Jeep Cherokee. I ramped up the volume and headed to Saratosa, singing away.



Things were on the way up. I finally had my samples and had a great partner for the US for one our new launches. Everything was just fab until I had to slow down for some roadworks and then the car geared down and would not gear up again. I tried flooring it but only hit 35miles an hour while the engine sounded like a jumbo jet about to take off. I frantically looked to see if I had put it into some kind of manual or sports mode, but there were no gears except R, P, D and N and the sports mode button was not lit.  I slowed and accelerated, I tried going into neutral and back, flooring it again but ended up pulling off the highway. The car was broken and the clutch was smoking. Mobile data not configured still! I got out, sitting on the side barrier, hyperventilating fresh air and reflecting on all my recent choices, I suddenly noticed there was an alligator within sight!! This never happened to Thelma and Louise! With no way to call for help, I had to drive the car in first gear and for short spells and stop to let it’s smoking clutch cool repeatedly, until I got to Sarasota. At which point I returned it and Avis told me, I must have nudged it into first. Incredible! I said, there is literally no 1st gear, furthermore there is no gear shift, there was just a knob and sports mode was not on! If you give that car to another patron and they have an accident, it’s on your back. “Ok, we’ll take a look” they said.



My friend Boris and his wife Sai Tong, invited me to stay the weekend in Sarasota before proceeding to LA for Spring preview meetings. Boris is a VC and Angel investor having retired from Silicon Valley. I pitched him. He is looking for a unicorn. I told him unicorns don’t exist!  Boris coached me on how to pitch and negotiate the ideal angel investment. Together with Sai Tong, we enjoyed a boat ride down the inter coastal water way and had a lovely home cooked thai food beach picnic. We even spotted dozens of boats moored in a large circle and people standing out on a sand bar having an awesome party. I thought my spell of weird planetary alignment had come to an end as I planned to fly from Tampa to LA for the last leg of the trip. In preparation I washed my swimwear and some of my underwear and hung it in the suite to dry, so it’ be ready to pack first thing in the morning. My Uber came early and I rushed out at 5am. Upon arrival to LA, I received a message “Was that a gift?”. OMG I had forgotten my stuff, hung up in the guest bathroom! I laughed not to cry.  “Err, unless that changes your mind regards investing…No, that was an accident!” The closest thing that comes to mind is a Spanish saying MATAME CAMION, which equates to feeling like you want the ground top open up and swallow you.



I leave my room shaking my head, asking myself sarcastically if I need to be supervised, on my way to my first meeting only to find an ex business partner showing in the showroom right opposite my door. A partner with which we had recently had a serious legally mediated disagreement with (which resolved in our favour but still which came at a lot of upset and cost). I hadn’t seen him in person since prior to the pandemic. WOW! Of ALL the places in the world, we are now door to door! What are the chances, really? There are no coincidences, so whilst I initially walked past him, and he was about the last person in the world I wanted to see…I turned back and invited myself to sit down and have a heated discussion with him. It didn’t change anything but I was able to say my piece at least.


Still with jetlag and awake from 4am daily, I decided to run off my grump at the hotel gym. I hadn’t used a treadmill in quite a while, from way before covid even. When it came time to stop, I hit the emergency stop button instead of the stop button that slows you down, and promptly fell forwards and then rebounded back and fell off the machine, landing on my back in the middle of the room with a thud which was heard through everyone’s earbuds. I sustained a serious injury to my ego, but luckily not my body. As a married woman, it’s not my case, but for all single women out there…If you want to get the attention of every single man in the gym, just fall off a treadmill and then choose to be helped up by most handsome one when they offer you a hand to get up ; )


Now I know there’s something intense going on with my planetary alignment and whilst I’m taking the challenges coming in fast succession in high spirits, it’s starting to wear me down. So, I leaned back on my hotel wall, slid down to the ground, and prayed to the travel God to have mercy on me.



The next few days my LA meetings went much better than my travel mishaps at least. There was one last little almost incident leaving the licensing drinks at Brewers Hall Hermosa Beach. I called an Uber and had just 40 meters to walk from the Bar’s terrace to the car. Yet, as soon as I left the terrace I was instantly approached by a wide-eyed fast talking guy who was jittery and clearly on drugs. He quickly bee-lined toward me, and was cornering me. I thought “Not today buddy, I’m ready! It’s Travel God 0 v Amy 3 and I’m on the home run”. I dropped a packet of cigarettes to the left as a decoy. He went straight for the cigarettes and me, I darted straight in the opposite direction and into the back of my Uber, and safely to my hotel.


The people I met along the trip got a laugh out if the insane amount of incidents that I was accumulating and I’m glad the story was found entertaining by those who I shared it with.


Most importantly all the business meetings in LA were successful and no charges were ever pressed against me for breaking and entering my own hotel room, nor did Avis ever come back to me with an issue about that broken brand new Jeep Cherokee.


I returned home flying in economy again after playing the last-minute-upgrade chicken game one too many times. Of course there could have been no ‘lucky’ ending! Whilst good business was secured in LA, the deal with the Boca Raton partner fell through at the last minute. Maybe the universe knew more than me and was trying to send me a message, whilst I stubbornly fought against destiny!


I’m also happy to report that the DISTOY event went smoothly in every which way so my planetary alignment is currently back in order.



Do you have an unbelievable but true travel story like this? Send it to Mary at the Bloom Report, see if you can out do me!



*7-Eleven did not sponsor this story but I would happily discuss future mentions with the marketing team if this article were to catapult me to fame ; )

#AdventureCapital #LAReport #BocaRatonOnaShoestringBudget #BusinessTravelisUnderrated


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