This is a tale of a female entrepreneur who used to have an American Express card but lost it in the chaos of the Internet bubble bursting and a breakup with a long term boyfriend.
Dear American Express,
I would like an American Express card, please.
Why, you ask?
Because I’m a successful entrepreneur with a fast-growing company in the emerging tech space.
Because I have regular travel expenses each month that I pay off the following month.
Because I love what I see American Express doing with the Open initiative for small businesses.
Because I love what I see American Express doing with cause-related initiatives.
Because I love the perks of having an AmEx card (Do you still do that extra protection for members when they rent cars? I used to love that.)
Because I love the prestige that having an AmEx card brings. Call me superficial, but it really is a status symbol to flash your AmEx (don’t leave home without it, and all that).
I know our breakup was horrible. My bad. I really don’t want to say “I was a victim,” because I don’t believe in that stance, however, the reasons I renegged on my promise to you is because of the following:
When I started my first company, I made an error judgment and brought my boyfriend at the time on as a part-owner and CEO. He told me flat out that if I didn’t do this, he’d break up with me. I know, I know, 20/20 hindsight makes me cringe and wonder “what was I thinking??” But you know what they say about love and one’s ability to have rational insights in the throes of it.
Eventually, I left the company and started a new one moments before the Internet meltdown. I had received angel funding for this venture and my new business partner and I returned the money - all $250,000 - with $80,000 of it paid back over time. Then I left Manhattan, eventually broke up with the boyfriend and thought that was that.
Suddenly, a lien was placed against my personal bank accounts. An $80,000 lien to be exact. Why? Because my former boyfriend aka business partner was defaulting on the line of credit for the company that he took over when I left. He didn’t believe in banks so he didn’t have anything the creditors could go after. Instead, they came after me.
Turns out after my resignation, nothing was done to remove my name from corporate records. Also turns out that the many things my ex had me sign over the years included several contracts where I was apparently personally guaranteeing loans. At that time, I had no idea what that meant.
Three years after leaving the company, I went to a lawyer to see what could be done to extricate myself from the financial mess that seemed out of my control.
“Declare bankruptcy,” he said. I broke down. But there was no way around it.
The lawyer advised that in order for the bankruptcy to go through, I also had to include my credit card debt in the filing. I was allowed to keep a single card - Capital One - with a tiny limit - $600 - but for the rest I was instructed to walk away from them and furnish the credit card companies with my bankruptcy paperwork.
I can’t remember how much I owe you. $4000? $7000? Regardless, I’m sorry. I would love to make amends, but if I offer to pay you back, my lawyer advised me that all other creditors who were dismissed can come back to me for money. That would crush me financially.
Please know that I’m in good standing now. I’ve worked 8 years to get my credit rating back up. I pay off my personal credit card in full just about every month. Other than a few minor mishaps stemming from the usual ups and downs of cash flow crunches that any entrepreneur has faced, I think I’m in good shape.
I know it will take time to earn your trust, but if you are willing to let me back into your fold, I promise I won’t disappoint you.
Have you lost and regained your financial status? What happened and what did you do?