It’s A Wonderful Life In Mount Olive: How I Launched Into a Full-Time Writing Business in 2021

In 1946, Frank Capra told a story about how the life of one ordinary man in one typical small town made a difference that impacted the world. This story went on to become an icon of the holiday season and a movie many of us watch every year, but this year became the year I lived it.

For eight and a half years, I taught proudly at Wayne Community College. It was a job I had prayed for and thanked God for daily. Then Covid-19 happened, and we all shifted to working remotely. I worked primarily from home but went into my office occasionally. When I did, everything had changed. Fellowship was truncated. Everyone kept masked in their separate offices and rarely socialized anymore. Covid-19 stole the heart of our connection to each other. That impacted me more than I realized.

I thought the grass was greener in other departments, but I had no opportunity to move there. Then I thought the grass was greener outside the pasture, and I left Wayne Community College.

It was a golden opportunity that promised to pay me double what I made teaching and let me stay home all day building curriculum. Within three months, I was putting down money on land and finally building my house. Before the land was fully in my name and the contractor was hired, I was fired.

Closed Doors = Opportunities

I didn’t see it coming, and I was in shock. Then I got angry. God and I had a few choice words as I walked my property and realized I couldn’t move forward with the dream and everything I had longed for was on hold once more.

I felt so foolish. If I had known it would end like this, I would have never left Wayne Community College. Sitting in a field full of weeds looking like I’d lost my mind, I cried out to God for answers.

God didn’t answer me in that moment or even the next ten, but He did answer. First of all, He showed me that the cost of building during Covid was so high that I would have been upended if I started the house build when I wanted to. It was better to let the ground rest for now.

Secondly, He showed me that He had to let me go through all that to pull me out of my comfort zone and into my calling as a writer. As a teacher, I didn’t make time for writing. I thought I would just wait till I retired. God said, “nope, I need you now.”

The Difference One Life Can Make

What proceeded to happen was a series of open doors that only could have happened by God’s hand. I walked into small businesses, corporate offices, and local government and found favor to tell stories about all sorts of people and places. The blog grew to an international readership in over 30 countries with over 10,000 views. That gave me a platform to talk about social issues and advocate for change on a national and global level. All of a sudden, this little ordinary girl in a little ordinary town was making a big world difference.

Doing the right thing doesn’t always pay you back monetarily. In fact, this year closes out on the lowest bottom-line in my bank. But what God and I have built together this year on faith is something I couldn’t have imagined with thousands of dollars and plenty of job security.

What God Saw That I Couldn’t

In the Fall, parents across the country were enraged with Covid-19 restrictions hurting learning for their kids, LGBTQ agendas forced into education, and Critical Race Theory being taught in school. Even at the college level now, curricula are being rewritten to divide people over issues of race and sexuality. As I watched the news unfold, God spoke to me:

If you had stayed in that curriculum creation job, you would have been forced to write something you didn’t agree with. I took you out before that could happen.

God

I was contacted by a K-12 school in Minnesota. The administrator and I had met in a small group online, and she had been reading my work at The Bohemian Princess Journal. She called and asked me to write her school’s entire curriculum.

With 75 committed families on the line, it just got serious. God started putting people in my path to partner with me in the vision. All of a sudden, I knew what to do and who to pull in to help make the best curricula possible for them. The biggest project of 2022 will be creating this curriculum.

Simultaneously over the summer and fall, I was busy networking with small businesses, local government, and non-profit organizations. God opened doors for me to walk into places I never thought I would go, and He gave me favor with important people when I went there. Out of those meetings came paying writing gigs and networking connections that would build into 2022 and beyond. From those opportunities came bigger opportunities to help my town and community in tangible ways including partnerships with Wayne Community College to bring classes into the community. That’s when God revealed another truth.

Your time at Wayne Community College in the specific department you were in was strategic. I needed you to have those relationships to form the alliances we need now in ministry to the community. Your faithfulness there created a bridge here now that will help people in crisis as well as your friends back at the college, and that couldn’t have happened without removing you from your comfort zone and putting you in this place of complete dependency on me.

God

What’s Next…

This year didn’t start out to be anything I thought it would be and, like George Bailey, I had some dark moments where I didn’t want to be part of it anymore. But God saw me and all the talents I was hiding and called me out of hiding forevermore. Rebecca J. Whitman Writing Services and The Bohemian Princess Journal are here to stay. I can truly say, now, that it is a wonderful life in Mount Olive.

I am not sure about God’s timing, but this year has taught me to discern God’s voice and follow it no matter what it tells me to do because there is always a reason for it. God has sent me on some crazy adventures this year and shown His hand in more ways than I can count. Here are some of the adventures slated for 2022:

  • Build a non-denominational Christian curricula for K-12 instruction that is also applicable to Adult Education
  • Launch The Bohemian Princess Journal into weekly podcasts on Mondays.
  • Streamline the content and change the look of the website; make blog posts follow a theme and post once a week on Fridays.
  • Work with non-profits, churches, and small businesses to write promotional materials and branch into social media marketing.

Please pray for the success of these adventures and consider donating to keep the work going.

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May you be blessed and may God shake your own foundations and send you on new adventures in 2022.


For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed…

It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:6-18, NIV

Two Are Better Than One: How Partnerships Make The Dream Work

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

As a small business, I hear a lot about partnerships between organizations. This business partners with that one to facilitate this service and now both entites had a point of impact in the community. In fact, greater impact is accomplished because of their partnership than could have been even imagined if they stuck to doing it all alone.

The principles of partnership are as ancient as the Garden of Eden. When God created Adam and looked down on him, he didn’t say, “good job, son, you are killin’ it on your own!” No, on the contrary, he said it is not good for man to be alone, let me make him a helper. Why? Because God designed us to live and work as teams–not individuals.

Business

If you look at the needs of your organization–your specific business plan–you should see a target demographic that you want to reach. To truly accomplish that goal, you can’t do it by yourself, you need to bring in other people who can agree with your vision and have the passion for it that you do.

No organization grows from idea to thriving business with just one person. If you want to be successful, you have to have vision for the future and a plan to mentor others into your seat on the company because eventually you will retire or pass away and you don’t want to build something that just ceases to exist in 10-20 years.

Entrepreneur

It might sound silly to list this separate than business, but the truth is that they are not the same. Though every small business needs to have vision and growth, many are franchisees of bigger businesses. An entrepreneur is someone who is a one-off business: they came up with an idea and pursued it based on their own creativity, vision, and willpower.

Entrepreneurs are the invisible demographic in a community. They are the people like Amy Brogden who look at a town, see a vacancy, and believe they can do something to meet that need. God bless them! We need more people like that everywhere. Small towns are dying without them.

Entrepreneurs work hard to make their vision prosper. They live with the daily reality that the economy can change in a minute and they can be out of a job, so they are always on pivot to stay relevant. The bigger they grow, the more people they carry under them, and the more burden they feel to be successful; no one wants to work as hard as we do to build a business that dies in a couple years.

Relationships

Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord.

Proverbs 18:22 KJV

From the beginning, God set us up to work together in partnership. He took a rib out of Adam to make Eve because he wanted her to be something standing beside him and working with him not ruling over him or trampled by him.

Women of God, you have such an amazing Creator! He saw your worth and recognized you long before Susan B. Anthony or any of those other folks even existed. Get to know Him and praise Him because our Lord Jesus really is a good God to serve.

–Rebecca J. Whitman

It is tempting to live life single–especially if you have faced any heartache in relationships–but I really don’t think that was God’s design for the majority of us. There are far more verses in the Bible about love and marriage and filling the Earth with children than there are about the blessings of singleness. We all must be single for a season, but we are also responsible for being able to see when that season has ended.

Mixing Love and Business

If you are an entrepreneur, it can be really hard to be in a relationship. Sometimes the demands of work make it hard to have room to share your life with anyone else. It is easier to say a relationship will hinder your productivity than it is to say it will help it.

Still, I have seen too many married couples thriving in business to say that single mindedness is really the truth we should hold to—and I am not the only one. According to this article from Entrepreneur.com, research shows that growth in business is tied to a strong and thriving marriage.

Truth Hits Home

When my maternal grandparents came home from their honeymoon, they came home to a box full of baby chicks, and my grandma cried. We were never told why she cried, but I have always believed it was because she knew how much work was ahead of them and the weight of it was frightening. Entrepreneurship is an often scary adventure.

From then on, the adventure was non-stop for them. From chicken farming to dairy farming to firewood to restaurants and everything in between, my grandparents were successful entrepreneurs in Colorado. They were married over 50 years and now rest buried together.

I never saw that entrepreneural life buy them a fancy house or lots of things, but we lacked for nothing at grandma’s house. Their faith and love poured into everyone they knew: friends, family, and strangers. It was a level of kindness and generosity so great, in fact, that it took multiple funerals to celebrate them when they died—and we still talk about them years later today. That kind of legacy doesn’t happen when you live life alone.

This godly heritage reminds me every day that true love and business success are possible. The wedding rings that honored that marriage wait to honor my own now. I like to think my grandparents would be tickled pink to know I will wear grandma’s rings someday. I like to think they would be proud to see me in business now much like them—living day to day on my faith in Jesus.

There is nothing easy about being in business for yourself. Some days you want to curl up and cry or just go back to working for someone else so you can sleep at night.

But all those fears are just growing pains. In time, the business you are building will establish itself if you don’t give up and if you make strategic partnerships that will propel you forward.

Don’t be afraid to risk failure for love. When you find someone worth giving your heart to, be bold enough to speak your truth even if that means writing it down in a letter. Pray for them. Invest in them. Make them a priority and trust me in this: the ROI will be worth the effort.

Beautifully and Wonderfully Made: Inspirational Recording Artist, DJ Coles

Recently, I stumbled on the cool, jazzy jams of a local artist, DJ Coles. I think it is so good that I can’t keep it to myself. Watch this short music video and see if you don’t agree.

DJ Coles Music (C) 2012

Vocally, DJ Coles is clearly gifted, but what impresses me most about him as an artist is his lyrics. As you listen to more of his work, the positive message promotes a Bible-based self image–in a way, I have never heard before. The beats are catchy. The words are uplifting. It’s hard not for these songs to get stuck in your head and linger.

So why haven’t we heard anything from this artist since 2012?

All three of DJ’s albums were recorded between 2005 and 2012. They are streaming now everywhere. Prior to, during, and following that time, the artist served in ministry as a youth pastor, military chaplain, husband, and father. While he was happy to wear all these hats, he was actively looking for a way to connect them all in one area of service and have the room to invest more energy in his family. That role presented itself in 2013 with the launch of his 501 c(3) non-profit, The 4 Day Movement.

While the music production has paused on new content, we expect it hasn’t stopped all together. Expect to see something new from DJ Coles music in the near future.

See below for a direct link to play the music on Spotify.

Source: Spotify

If you would like to connect with the artist, he is available on Facebook and Instagram.

New Location Celebrates Growth and Community at Southern Ground Coffee Shop, Mount Olive, NC

When you walk into the new location of the Southern Ground Coffee Shop at 1037 N. Breazeale Avenue in Mount Olive, NC, you immediately notice it is not your normal commercial experience. Farmhouse style home decor, handmade hardwood tables, a corner booth filled with pillows, and plush, earth tone couches and chairs welcome you. Girls behind a long colonial blue beadboard counter with coffee beans epoxied into the top greet you by name and take your order. These girls are more than baristas; they are family to the owners, Amy and Robbie Brogden. The personalized care they put into their service is a trademark quality of the location. They don’t just know their regulars by name, they know what they want to drink and what temperature they want to drink it.

The Journey Here

Before we can celebrate where Southern Ground is today, we need to tell the story of where they have been. Owners Amy and Robbie Brogden did not see coffee in their future when they met and started dating 8 years ago. Amy was a successful independent woman in the securities industry in Wilmington. Robbie was a father with four teenagers and his own construction business in Mount Olive. Though they saw the potential for partnership in each other, they took their time getting to know each other before they were ready for marriage. When they did marry, Amy took a position in insurance sales in Duplin county. Amy’s manager encouraged her to increase her sales by working from a local coffee shop and letting the busyness lead conversations and potential sales to her. The problem was that there were no coffee shops in Mount Olive. That need birthed the idea for Southern Ground.

When Amy told her husband about the advice from her manager and the idea of a coffee shop, he took her driving around the town of Mount Olive. Coming from a family with deep roots in the community and over fifty years of knowledge serving it himself, Robbie knew that the right location for a business like that would be near Interstate 117 and the University of Mount Olive. With no business plan and no money in the bank to fund it, they found the perfect location, made the decision to act on it, and did every sort of odd job they could to pay for it.

Robbie and Amy Brogden, owners of Southern Ground Coffee Shop.

My husband is the kind of person that you don’t tell something to unless you really want it. He is an encourager and will move heaven and earth to make that thing come true for you even if it means he has to work hard, long hours to do it. His confidence empowers me. We are a team, and when we work together, the dream happens.

Amy Brogden

I’m not scared to take a chance. If you don’t play the game, you know you’re going to lose. I make a decision and live in the reality of it, not the fairytale.

Robbie Brogden

Faith in Business

Both Amy and Robbie Brogden were raised in Christian homes, and that faith is the root of their business. Southern Ground is not overtly religious nor does it hound guests with the Bible, but neither are they ashamed of who they are and hiding it. Most of the girls serving are Christians as well as the owners, and they are kind and respectful to everyone. They genuinely don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings; nevertheless, what you see is what you get with them. They won’t sugar-coat things or change who they are to please others. Southern Ground knows they won’t be liked by everybody, and that’s okay.

The Brogdens are also hard-workers with giver mindsets. Often working 80-100 hour weeks, they give most of what they make to the community because it is what they feel they are supposed to do. They are not perfect people. “I disappoint God everyday,” Amy says. “I am so not worthy. But He knows we are trying hard, and He is honoring that not just for us, but for the others that come in here.”

How Covid Affected Their Business

While Covid-19 caused many small businesses to close their doors, Southern Ground found its start in it. Campus closures and quarantine caused less traffic to come in from the university and businesses, but something surprising happened to fill the gap: Google. People began to intentionally Google search for them because they wanted to support a local small business. From this traffic, a loyal following developed, and many of those people still patron the business today.

Supernatural favor protected and blessed Southern Ground because God wanted them to be there. Far more than a cup of coffee, they are a place of service and ministry to the community. At Southern Ground, students congregate and study, small groups meet, and families hold celebrations. Southern Ground is a launching place for fellowship and wholesome, healing community. The impact of their business has only just begun.

Supporting Small Business

When they were just starting out, Amy had to learn everything she could about coffee. She researched the business and learned how to operate her business well. Amy and the girls on her team were mentored by other established coffee shops. They learned how to properly make and serve gourmet coffee and smoothie drinks, play with the ingredients, and make their own recipes. Those recipes are featured on their menu today, and Amy is now mentoring two women wanting to open two coffee shops in eastern North Carolina.

Southern Ground supports many small businesses and an example of this is in the fact that they source everything they can locally. “We are a small business and couldn’t make it without the small businesses supporting us,” says owner, Amy Brogden.

Southern Ground takes pride in the uncompromised quality of their products. Their coffee is exclusively sourced from a North Carolina roaster, Cactus Creek. Part of their partnership includes a proprietary blend, Southern Sunrise, that can only be purchased at Southern Ground Coffee Shop. The milk used is sourced locally from Simply Natural. Cinnamon rolls and other pastries come from local bakers, many of whom are in-home makers. Supplies used to remodel their shop came from local hardware stores including Jones True Value. Even their social media presence supports a local business, Daily Testify.

The First Location

The first location at 997-E Henderson Street, Mount Olive, was a beautiful hole in the wall that opened in 2020 and holds a lot of fond memories. Everyone at Southern Ground recalls times when the whole shop–every guest and employee–contributed to the same conversation. They loved that sense of community engagement, and they hope the new location will see more not less of it.

The first location was the place where standards of excellence in customer service and branding were established. In this place, Southern Ground Coffee Shop became known as a home away from home with Farmhouse Style similar to Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Fixer Upper and Magnolia Network. The commitment to make everything welcoming even extended to the bathrooms.

Advice for Business

Both Amy and Robbie agree that being in business for yourself is not for the faint of heart, but it’s worth it. The step of faith that started their business is still a step of faith today; all the profits from Southern Ground’s first location were put back into the business.

We knew God wanted us to open the shop because He kept putting the right people in our path to make it happen just when we needed them to be there.

When God does that, you have to go; don’t question it. It is a day-by-day step of faith and trust in Him. You figure it out along the way.

Amy Brogden

What’s New

The new location more than doubled the space for Southern Ground from 1200 sq. ft. to over 2600 sq. ft. That extra room brings some exciting new perks along with favorites from the old shop.

For example, the large round Magnolia Co. clock iconic from the first location fills part of the back wall while a new stone fireplace and magnolia log mantle fill the other.

A large black and white conference room sits tucked behind a warm rust wall to the left of the fireplace featuring the signature dry-erase board from the old location.

A new white board gives the shop the opportunity to celebrate the diversity of their patrons. Guests are welcomed to sign it and share where they are from.

A drive-thru window welcomes guests to get service on the go without leaving their vehicles.

What’s Coming Soon

  • Artists from the Art Department at the University of Mount Olive are currently working with Southern Ground to put a mural on the side of the building.
  • A copper framed hood behind the counter welcomes a stove to expand the menu. Later this fall, Southern Ground plans to add soup, sandwiches, and salads to their gourmet coffee and smoothie menu.
  • Online ordering will soon make it possible to offer quicker service.

For the latest updates on Southern Ground, check out their social media on Facebook, Instagram, and Daily Testify.

Make plans to stop by the shop on Breazeale Avenue. They are closed on Sundays but open 7am-7pm Monday thru Friday and 8am-7pm on Saturday.