When Rick and Tina Stanfield of Santa Rosa Beach lost everything they had, they found themselves facing the biggest challenge of their lives — being homeless and sleeping in an old car for 10 days. But during that time, God helped them find happiness, peace and a new success.
Rick’s book, “I Can and I Will,” shares their story, showing how and why they lost everything, and the new challenges they had to overcome every day.
“We counted our money on the first night we slept in the car. We had $19.70,” Rick told The Sun. “That is all of the money we had in our lives, so we knew we had to do something fast.”
Rick, a former Missouri State Trooper and police officer for 15 years, and Tina, a real estate agent for years in Missouri, opened their first convenience store in 1996. They ended up with a small chain of stores in Missouri before they sold them and relocated to Florida in 2006.
But by 2008, their lives were falling apart.
“We didn’t have money distributed correctly,” Rick said. “Although we had money, we should have had an emergency fund that we didn’t touch for any reason. Thinking back, for this to happen to us, several things had to happen at the same time, and they did. It was like a perfect storm of finances.”
Their storm included loss of income when they sold businesses, the crash of the economy in 2008, a sandwich shop franchise from Missouri that never got off the ground here, and people owing money to them didn’t pay.
“I’m actually not sure there was anything that could have been done to stop us from losing everything,” Rick said. “Most of the time, pride is an attribute we all need, but in our case, we may have been too prideful and plain ashamed of what happened to us that we would not ask anyone for help. Before we knew it, that one night turned into 10 nights before we’d get back into our home temporarily.”
The couple knew they had to do something fast, and that first night in the car they talked about different ways to make their lives turn around.
“One idea was a made-from-scratch bakery where we sold cupcakes from a cupcake truck, but first we had to figure out a way to get a roof over our heads. The cupcake truck would have to come later — much later.”
A practical idea they had to make money was cleaning houses. They began asking for jobs in offices, private homes and vacation homes. They even borrowed a lawnmower to mow a lawn, watched pets — whatever they could do, they did. And succeeded.
“We worked hard to stay well-groomed, clean, and not look indigent. That’s hard to do when your bathroom is a public shower and public restrooms. But the hardest part was not being able to care for our son like we needed to. Although we saw him every day, and provided him with as much money as we possibly could, our family was torn apart for those 10 days,” Rick said.
Day by day, little by little, step by step, the Stanfields began to rebuild their life, making it better than ever. In 2011, they started Sweet Henrietta’s Treats, named for their border collie, and fulfilling their plan from the first night they were in the car.
“Sweet Henrietta’s provided us a life that people dream of. We lived in paradise, made cakes for Emeril Lagasse, Vern Yip, Zac Brown, Mike Huckabee, and so many other celebrities,” Rick said. “We had our cakes featured in Vern Yip’s 'Design Wise' book and also featured on 'The Today Show' in 2016. Our desserts were noted in magazines like Vie Magazine, and many other local publications. Our cookbook, ‘It’s All Good,’ was an overwhelming success and sold all over the country.”
But one big lesson the Stanfields learned was to never make money your motivation to work.
“If you work to simply do good things and make the world a better place through God’s guidance, you’ll never fail. The money will come," Rick said. "If you stray from that plan, you may find all of the money and things in the world, but you’ll never be complete in the way God intended you to be. It’s not possible to do this without him.”
In January of this year the couple sold Sweet Henrietta’s. For now the couple is doing interviews, holding book signings, traveling across the country and speaking in churches, promoting the book.
“We truly feel it is our calling to simply help people by sharing our story," Rick said. "I love writing, so hopefully I can continue to do that in some fashion or be involved in ministry. Tina loves marketing so she’ll probably pursue that. If all else fails, I finished my law degree last year, so I’ll do something in the legal field.”
“I Can and I Will” is currently available at Sundog Books, The Blue Giraffe, Buddy’s Seafood, and on Amazon. It has just been approved to sell in Barnes & Noble.
“The book, even though we had to go through many difficult times, is actually an uplifting book that tells our true story of overcoming huge obstacles in life to find happiness and success that we never dreamed of having,” Rick said. “Before long, if you trust in God, work hard, do good things daily, and never, ever give up, your baby steps will turn into giant leaps.
"There’s absolutely nothing that this earth can put in front of my family and me that we can’t tackle with him by our sides,” he added.