How a Massive Security Breach Actually Saved My Business

valeriedenisephotos-5Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.  Ya, ok… Frankly, I’d rather have the broken bones.

When life throws you lemons, make lemonade.  What if I don’t like lemonade? And who the heck would throw a lemon anyway?

Who is telling us these things? Ladies, if I told you there was a club, that instead of feeding each other inaccurate motivational tidbits, we actually spoke truth and shared tools that pertained to REAL LIFE, would you join?

Welcome to the club.

This club is quite dynamic – we’ve got some lifers, who have had almost every experience in business imaginable; we’ve got some newbies, with brand spankin’ new ideas yet to turn into a profit; we’ve got some hobbyists, some career jumpers, some serial entrepreneurs and some idea developers. We, my friends, are this club.

We all have two things in common: we all have a past we can learn from, and we are tired of hearing about how we need to make lemonade.

Many say that who you are is strongly representative of the things that have happened to you. That your past shapes who you are, and you are as you are because of your past. I prefer to think differently. Lou Holtz says it best:

“10% of life is the things that happen to you, and 90% is how we respond to those things.”

I like this nugget of goodness. A lot.

The things that have happened in my life, yes, have shaped me. But not the instances themselves. It is how I chose to respond to them. This, my friends, is how we are going to learn from each other.valeriedenisephotos-10We need to share our truthful experiences. Real life struggles and how we came back from them. In the process, we should also come up with some new “go to” quotes that actually pertain to our lives. This year, more than any other time in my life, I have been leaning on others for help (Ah-hem, why this hypothetical club is actually something that is very real in my mind). This was an adjustment for me, as I am normally the independent, Type A, planner and over achiever that finds satisfaction in figuring things out by myself. But, God had other plans as he threw some curveballs at me that I just could not dodge.

For example, earlier this year we had a massive security breach on our server. It. Was. Awful. Seriously you guys. I have never cried over work so much in my life, and even though I have a lot of life yet to live, I doubt I will ever hold this much angst about a work tragedy. And that’s what it was, a tragedy.

After the hardest 6 weeks of work my team and I have EVER had, we fixed it. Really fixed it. And I will be eternally grateful to my team and their loyalty and love.valeriedenisephotos-4The changes I made following the breach, however, are the moments that really have shaped my business, and life, moving forward, and as a reaction has formed some pretty cool mantras I think we can all use:


First, I put my pride aside and asked for some favors. I HATE asking for favors – they make me feel less independent. But I did, and it paid off. Lesson #1 – don’t be afraid to ask for help.

When I say help, I don’t mean advice. I literally mean HELP. Like, true to the core, I’ll give you passwords to everything, kind of help.


Second, I armed myself against another breach. This is a fun story:

This favor I asked for turned into a phone call with a security firm. I took the call in a café with my mom while we were shopping for baby stuff, since I was at this point, about 20 weeks along with #babyandreini (not helping with the crying all the time situation). After cordial greetings, the representative I was speaking to said, “Wow, your kindness is contagious.” It took me so much by surprise, that he thought I sounded kind in this situation, that I was literally speechless. I thanked him, and that conversation turned into a life saving relationship with a company that I will use forever. And simply because I was kind on the phone, and he recognized and told me so. Kindness always wins, ya’ll.


Third, I told my team (and my husband and my parents), over and over and over and over again, how much I appreciated them. I firmly believe that because I made it so obvious how integral they are to Studio 22’s success, and that I could not do this without them, we are now such a cohesive and seamless team.


Finally, I was transparent with my clients. And when I say transparent, I mean really transparent. They probably got really tired of my project manager’s emails to them, full of technical terms they didn’t understand and the logistics of what was and had happened, that many probably didn’t even read them. But, I was honest. And real…“This was happening and I am sorry. So sorry. And I will fix it. But it won’t be tonight.”valeriedenisephotos-3 After this experience, I rose above and came out with my clients still loving me (thank goodness – their grace means so much to me), my team stronger than it’s ever been and a bulletproof plan for the future. All because of how I responded to a terrible incident.

Now, I feel as if this is one small experience in my life in a sea of moments that have truly had an impact on how I live. But it’s one that is easily broken down into an action and a reaction, with the reaction being so much more meaningful than the action itself.

What if we lived through all of our moments that way? Knowing, while they are happening, that this is the stone, but it’s the ripples that matter.

I know some friends in business that have had experiences like mine and sadly, their businesses suffered, and some of those businesses did not survive it. And I’m not ashamed to say that I have a case of survivor’s guilt. If someone had shared with me that these kinds of things happen to creative business owners, maybe I would have been better prepared (honestly, probably not), or I would have at least found comfort in the fact that someone else has done this – these things happen and it’s hard, really, really hard – but it is fixable as long as you don’t try to make lemonade out of a server hack.

Sometimes being an entrepreneur and small business owner merits stones thrown at you, and sometimes they hit you hard, and other times you dodge them. But instead of reverting to the “When life throws you lemons” analogy (let’s be honest, that doesn’t really help anybody), we can skip the lemonade making part and throw those suckers back with better aim.

So, my friends, welcome to the club. Where we aren’t interested in sticks and stones, and we don’t have time to make lemonade because we are too busy being awesome.

Photos by Valerie Denise


Yellow Co.

Your friendly Yellow Co. team behind this community of women creating meaningful work.