“It’s not what you’re doing but how you’re doing it, and the mindset you have around it, that matters most.”
Erin Blaskie started her first online business in 2004. She’s a TEDx speaker and the director of marketing at Fellow.app, a productivity tool for managers.
“You can’t just surround yourself with people who are just your hype machines.”
Erin speaks with us candidly about her entrepreneurial journey, her business drives and motivations, and how she overcame mistakes in running a business. She gives excellent advice to business starters and shares great insights on
– entrepreneurial burnout
– formalizing the process of mentorship
– finding the right team size
– surrounding yourself with honest, critical people
John: Thanks for tuning in to Local SEO Today. Don’t forget to subscribe and share this episode. My guest today is Erinn Blaskie. She started her first online business in 2004. She has spoken at Tedx and is currently the director of marketing at Fellow app, a productivity tool for managers. Thanks for joining me today, Erin.
Erin: Yeah, thanks so much for having me on. I’m excited.
John: Yeah, well share…If you don’t mind sharing with the audience members a little bit about your journey, how you got started and where you are today?
Erin: Yeah, okay so let’s go back to 1987 or 1988. I promise I won’t actually recount every year however that year is really monumental for me and my journey because when I was about six years old my dad actually gave me a commodore 64. And for those…For anyone who doesn’t know what a Commodore 64 is…I actually…It’s funny I do a lot of talks and sometimes if I’m talking to the younger generations no one knows what the Commodore 64 is however it’s a computer and my dad brought this computer home and I grew up not having a whole lot so the fact that we had this computer coming into the house was a really big deal and I remember when I received this computer my mind was just…So you know, expanded and the possibilities that I saw for the world and through tech were just so incredible. And my sister who’s younger than I am…My sister and I would often play office and I would be the CEO and she’d be my secretary and this computer just you know, again unlocked so many things and the reason that that piece is so important in my journey is that when I look back you know, on all the years that I’ve had and I will quickly summarize those years for you but when I look back on all of those years if I think about the thing that was probably the most pivotal to the journey and to getting me on the path that I ultimately walked on it really was my dad bringing that computer into the house and I was really lucky my dad loved building computers. He loved technology so we always had computers in the home. We always…We got internet right away before any of my friends had it and even when we got internet I remember having access to this thing that felt so vast and expansive and I remember getting on sites like live journal and open diary and geo cities and I was building websites and I was you know, blogging back in the day. I use air quotes on blogging because it you know, it wasn’t what it looks like today but it was just this trend that continued and so when I was about 21 I had went to school for a very short time. I went into the year, realized that I didn’t really want to spend a whole lot of time in school. I really wanted to just like hit the ground running and work and so I ended up leaving school after the first year. I went and took an accelerated program just to get a piece of paper and then I got to work so I started working in like normal companies. I say normal companies meaning the opposite of my own you know, starting my own venture and I did that for maybe about 18 months before I realized that I was really, really curious and fascinated with the idea of starting my own company so I did that in 2004. Yeah, I started one of Canada’s first virtual assistants businesses back then. Really focused on broad services but over the course of time realized that marketing was probably like the thing I was the most passionate about and the best at so I doubled down on that and then spent the next 13 years delivering marketing services before taking a full-time job again so actually went the opposite way from most people and yeah, two jobs later landed at Fellow and I’m now that …Their first head of marketing and really loving the transition so I’m leaving it as a summary, John so we can kind of go into like whatever levels of detail you’d like on any of this.
John: I’m so curious because for me it’s more about 18 months of working a real job and then what triggered you like was it because you were dictated by tasks, going to work at a strict time like what gave you the mindset of really moving ahead and trying to do your own thing?
Erin: Yeah, so I was actually always very entrepreneurial so because I had grown up like not having a lot I realized that if I wanted to have certain things in my life like you know, when I was in high school if it was like if I wanted to have things like designer clothes like when I say designer I mean like The Gap you know, compared to let’s say…Or clothes from somewhere else. I realized that I needed to work for it and my parents bless their hearts because this was one of the best things I think they’ve ever done for me. They really taught me the value of work and they taught me the value of you know, if you put the time in and you put the effort in and you really show up you’re going to get the you know, the rewards of that and so I was always really curious about making money and I was always interested in figuring out ways that I could do that so even in college as an example I had a job selling roses at a bar which doesn’t sound very you know, like an interesting job maybe however what was neat about it was I would show up to this bar and they would have two dozen roses and I would have to go on the floor and sell them and basically sell you know, usually men on buying the rose for their partner and that what it taught me though I know because it sounds like a silly example but what it taught me was that you know, I could take something that was presented in front of me like this idea of selling roses and I could turn it into a profit center quite easily if I just thought about it differently and so for me in that moment I actually realized that if I had the roses purchased for me I could then hit the floor again and resell them at the end for pure profit and so I was always thinking about things in that way and then when I got into my first job I had a female CEO and she was such an encouraging example for me of someone who had this idea and just went and did it and so because I had had all these little entrepreneurial moments and I have so many more I use the roses example but like there’s so many more because I had all these entrepreneurial moments leading up to having that female CEO. I think it was just the catalyst I needed to realize you know, I could do that too. I could start my own business and I didn’t want to have to be necessarily tied in to a specific organization and doing a very specific job. I wanted the creativity and the flexibility and the freedom you know, that I assumed came with entrepreneurship and I say assumed because yeah, it’s not always that way.
John: So let’s talk about this entrepreneurial journey so right off the beginning back in 2004 take us through how your first couple years went.
Erin: Yeah, so in 2004 I was sitting. I remember it clearly. I was sitting in my office in this real job and I had this thought that if I…You know, I was teaching as well at the time. I was teaching a business administration program and I thought to myself you know, I wonder if anyone is providing administrative assistance services but virtually you know, leveraging the internet and so I did a quick google search. I don’t remember it was google at the time but anyway I did a quick search online to see if anyone had done online administrative assistance and that’s when I came up with or I came across a website of a person that was doing this already in the US but there wasn’t anyone really servicing the Canadian market yet so I because I had all the experience in the past building these geocities websites I said to myself, “You know what, I could build a website. I can put this business together.” I applied you know, for my business license got that…Put the website together came up with an initial set of services and then I put all of that online and then I hustled pretty hard using sites like Elance which is now Upwork and other bid…Bidding sites for jobs and I just bid on a whole bunch of projects and I got pretty lucky in the first two weeks of doing that. I ended up landing a client out of Silicon Valley who was growing a company down there very you know, he was an internet marketer which is what we called them well before digital marketing. He was an internet marketer and he was fascinating to me because he was the same age as I was and he hired me and then within a short period of time six months let’s say I had enough referrals and enough new clients to be able to match my income that I was making in my job so I quit. I quit my job, I came home and started working full-time in my company and yeah, didn’t look back after that. So the first little while was really about I think hustle and it was about you know, every day waking up and thinking to myself, “How can I get more people to know who I am?” Because if more people know who I am you know, it goes without saying that I’ll probably get more business and I just really hustled hard in those first few like six months and then the rest was just an emotional rollercoaster through servicing clients for 14 years.
John: So did you eventually scale outwards, did you hire people within, how did you grow and eventually dissolve the company?
Erin: Yeah, so I did a lot on my own for quite some time so that looked like me you know, providing services one-on-one and what ended up happening was I would get specific clients that had a lot of different needs and so oftentimes they might hire me initially for let’s say you know, a marketing project or to manage their marketing campaigns on an ongoing basis but then it would be you know, they would say, “Erin, I really want my website designed or Erin, I really would like these graphics done.” And when I started getting those requests for things that fell outside of my own skillset I started subcontracting some of that work out to other freelancers and other agencies and that allowed me to grow the team and you know, quote-unquote team. It allowed me to grow the services base without actually having to hire employees because no one person was you know, working full-time in the company they were just bringing their expertise to a project and then you know, leaving when it was done so I think at the peak I had 25 different subcontractors and freelancers and agencies and that I was working with as well as 75 active clients at a time. That was probably when I got to the you know, the place where I felt it was the most complex from a management perspective and…But…And we can talk about this …Also realized that bigger is not always better when it comes to especially when it comes to services and I after a period of burnout and depression within like very serious entrepreneur burnout and I quickly realized that the size of the company and the model and the way that I had structured it was definitely not ideal so I actually went back to having only six clients on retainer and I worked with them much more closely so yeah, sort of went from you know, solo to much broader to back to almost solo.
John: I love hearing that because that’s the true journey of an entrepreneur because everyone imagines and wants to scale, grow it from you know, five digits to six digits to recurring, to have amazing clients but then you’re gonna realize like…Are they your type of people you ultimately want to work with? Do they resonate with you? Do they have the same values and why are you doing this in the first place, right? So figuring that all has to be self-realization, right? And again I’ve only been doing, running my business for seven years as an agency but very similar. I started with hiring people on Upwork and I had the opportunity to grow, make mistakes, continue growing, make more mistakes but really implement systems and processes and figure out how to streamline things so that you can do things, so that you’re working on your business as opposed to constantly running into the business, right?
Erin: Yeah, a 100 percent and you asked the question about…And I forgot to answer it you asked the question as well about how I dissolved the company. I think this…that’s an important thing to talk on to this piece of the conversation because I think a lot of people when they start a business and they’re inside of a business and they do that for a really long time oftentimes we often wrap our identity so closely around this idea of being an entrepreneur and that you know, we can’t possibly like ever think about doing anything else because, “Oh, my gosh that’s going to look like I was you know, that I’m not as entrepreneurial as I thought.” But what I realized in going from owning a business to back into the working world is that entrepreneurship and entrepreneur like being entrepreneurial is not what you’re doing it’s really your mindset and for me you know what where I got to with the business you know, in the end when I restructured the whole business and I was working with fewer clients and you know, I was doing things on a retainer model and it was much…It was much smoother, it was easy however I was still doing it all alone in many ways and you know, I was owning 100 percent of the risk. I was owning a hundred percent of the client satisfaction and you know, I was often feeling like I just really wanted that team around me that you know, the in-person experience of going to an office like I hadn’t had that since I was 21 and you know, I really just wanted to share in that so for me you know, the decision to get out of my agency was actually really easy because I was still working with one subcontractor whom was a woman that I’d known for for years since I was 16 years old and I essentially just said to her you have the relationships now with all of my clients do you want to just continue working with these people like I don’t want anything from it. The business served me well while I had it you know, I just want the people that are in the company to be taken care of so if you can just like carry the torch and keep going. Amazing, you know…And it because for me it was just time to like go do something different go deeper in one thing versus being spread across so many different companies and clients and yeah, I think it’s just important to to recognize sometimes that you know, it’s not necessarily always what you’re doing but how you’re doing it and the mindset you have around it that matters the most.
John: That’s amazing, man. I love hearing that whole story because end of the day everyone who’s starting a business as an entrepreneur they have this nugget, they have this dream of like eventually growing it to 100 employees, x amount of millions you know, eventually selling it and then living on an island with a yacht like these are all the things like the Amazons and Jeff Bezos you know, Elon Musk whatever. Everyone has that dream that visualization but then reality hits you gotta still live, right? You still need to take care of if you have family, if you have obligations like home, food, shelter, your parents, friends that you want to stay in close contact with like things that are really important, right? Then it’s lifestyle choices, right? Like entrepreneurship is not for everyone. It’s a very lonely journey and that’s why I love podcasting. I get to meet other entrepreneurs that have gone through different paths and then either gone back to the corporate world or they enjoy it. They’re taking on other challenges, right? But it’s finding what’s right for you ultimately because everyone has their own story, journey, life, right? And you have to figure that out yourself and that’s self-realization, right? And understanding where…What is your happy place.
Erin: Yeah, 100 percent.
John: And if you don’t find it like go out and figure out what that is. It could be just working at a company and you love the social environment, the tasks and just and that’s fine that’s your happy place. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone, right?
Erin: Yeah…yeah and I think…It’s I think it’s really important as well just to stress that like you know, to what I was saying earlier that entrepreneurship also has many forms too, right? Like I think oftentimes we think that entrepreneurs are the you know, the of course there’s a definition of entrepreneurs you know, like yes there’s a…When you look it up in the dictionary there is a definition of an entrepreneur but I also do think that there are so many people who are working inside of companies that still have that you know, insane entrepreneur mindset that requires you know, you to or it pushes you to do certain things in a different way or think about things differently and I think those people inside of companies are so powerful as well so I think the world needs both, right? You need the entrepreneurs that are out there building the thing and growing it and…Or the ones that are you know, they have the thing and they’re it’s a lifestyle business but it’s still great and it’s serving them and then you have the people like me who go back into the work world but I don’t treat my job like a you know a nine to five JOB. Like I am in there. I feel like I own and embody Fellow as though it were my own and you know, like and I think the world takes all kinds and so I think it’s…Yeah, I think it’s just…It’s really neat and journeys are definitely not linear.
John: Oh, man that’s awesome so during this path from you know, doing your business for 14 years did you have like mentors or coaches or people that you looked up to along the way or was it kind of a soulpreneur on your end?
Erin: Yeah, definitely…I definitely had mentors you know, through people like my clients oftentimes I was working with people who were much like further ahead than I was in terms of their own entrepreneurial journey you know, that founder that I was telling you about my first my first client he ended up creating a business and I worked with him through the whole time. He created a company that ended up being a quite a successful company in the valley and ended up getting acquired by ancestry.com. It was a huge acquisition such an incredible experience to be a part of just in terms of going through that whole journey with him but you know, someone like him is a perfect mentor when I think back on everything he taught me about internet marketing and then online marketing and then digital marketing which is honestly all the same just the tools change but you know, someone like him was…It was an incredible mentor the CEO that I worked for. The female CEO prior to starting my company, an incredible mentor for me so I think I’ve always had them around you know, circling around what I think I didn’t do well enough and this would be something I would tell anyone who is maybe just starting on their journey or who’s in their journey and maybe not leveraging this enough. I didn’t formalize the process enough and what I mean by that is yes, I had all these people around me and I was you know, looking at them and learning and observing yes, I was reading books and I…And yes I even had a podcast way back when podcasts weren’t even cool you know, I was doing all these things so I was inundated with information and experience and everything else but I didn’t formalize it with anyone and so I think where I missed out on that was I didn’t have that one person or maybe a few people who were championing me you know, week to week holding me up on the really tough you know, in the tough moments and making sure that I was circumventing maybe some of the errors that I you know, they themselves have made and I think I missed out on that piece of it in terms of just formalizing the process.
John: Yeah, I think the accountability partner and even if there’s someone on your team let it be you know, colleague or your staff or someone that you look up to a friend maybe right just hold you accountable throughout the entire process would have helped and I feel a lot of business owners feel they can do everything themselves.
John: I’m the same way. I feel like I…You know a lot of people whoever says stuff, “I’m like great you know, it’s my opinion. I could do it my way.” Right? However you just have to take a step back and really listen and want to open up about the challenges because a lot of people you’re probably putting up a front a lot of business owners they’re stress, they’re probably not financially sound it looks a lot bigger and successful than it really is but no one knows their story, no one knows what’s going on behind the scenes are they having you know, family problems or different stresses like no one really knows, right? So yeah having someone to really just lay a strong foundation and really just help you guide you throughout that whole process definitely would be impactful.
Erin: Yeah, it’s exhausting being an entrepreneur sometimes, right? Having to put that whole facade on all the time is exhausting and I wrote actually…I wrote an article on medium about this shortly after my own experience with entrepreneurial burnout and I wrote how you know, we look at entrepreneurs as though they are the heroes of our stories like they are the heroes in the business world. They are the ones that are putting the cape on and they have to be confident and strong and wise and all of these things but at the end of the day they’re people…Like they are actual human beings and you know, they’re making just as many mistakes. They’re waking up just as many days having no idea what to do you know, however when they’re especially…When they’re servicing customers or clients they have to look like they know what they’re doing because otherwise it’s…It makes it harder at least in the way that we’ve been taught. It makes it harder for people to trust you enough to you know, pay you if they don’t think you’re confident or if they don’t think you can do the job or if they don’t think you know, blah blah blah and that is such a messed up place that we’ve got ourselves in because it then eliminates the ability for us to have these conversations that are so much more real like I tried to do it all just like you described when I had my business and that led me to getting a 45,000 dollar tax bill that I was not expecting and you know, quickly realized like, “Wow, I need an accountant.” You know, like these things happen yet we pretend like we pretend like they don’t and we pretend like or we think that if I was to be honest about that that it makes me look you know, naive, makes me look maybe a little stupid. It makes me look unprepared or disorganized. That’s not true. It’s just like part of it. It’s all part of it and I think like the more we can shed away some of those you know, things that we carry in these like facades like I think the world would be such a better place for it so.
John: I totally agree and I love that you bring it up because a lot of people are hiding behind the screen, right? And if you look at instagram or social media everyone’s chasing likes, followers, comments, shares. Everyone wants to like whoever it is Beyonce or some you know, celebrity, right? They have millions of followers. Great! Good for them, right? But in order for…Like everyone wants to look up to them but they don’t really know what’s going on in their lives. They could be depressed, they could be…Yeah, they could be successful. What does success really mean ultimately? You have to define it for your own purpose as well as like other people and they have success you know, it’s different for everyone and so like being grounded, being authentic, being raw, being just true to yourself like I was very fortunate to continue doing what I love doing but have people that actually are so honest with me because they’re telling me the truth. They’re telling me how it is and I love that feedback. I love the honesty because at least I know when I’m pushing them too hard, when I’m going too hard in terms of like just sales or you know, deliverables or whatever but then it comes makes me realize how grateful I am to have people that are honest, that are genuine, that stick with me even though…Because they know me now, how they…How I react or how I don’t react and it’s more about like just surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals that you really trust and they trust your judgment and without that you won’t have a really good sustainable business, right?
Erin: No and I think it’s worth saying as well that you can’t also surround yourself with people who are just your hype machines you know, it’s important…It’s really important to have the people who will celebrate your accomplishments tell you how amazing you are you know, like really fill up your sales like you want that like a 100 percent you want that however you also need to have a few people that you deeply trust who will also call you on the things that like you’re not aware of, right? You want them to be able to expose some of your blind spots like the things that you’re not even maybe paying attention to and you know, I see this all the time you know, recently there was an experience. I won’t go into you know, great detail because there’s no point but there is value in the story so you know, there was an entrepreneur recently that I had seen out in the wild and I realized that the majority of the focus of his efforts whether it was like you know, anything media that he was doing or you know, things he was sharing on social or whatever the case might be was all people that looked just like him and you know, looked like him talked like him, acted like him. All the things. And I realized in that moment that like maybe he had a blind spot like maybe he didn’t actually realize that you know, how homogeneous his entire thing was and so you know, I sent out a note over and I was like, “Hey, you know, maybe you might want to consider having some people on who look a little different and you know, can bring a different experience to the table.” And you know…And thankfully he was very receptive to it and very open to it because sometimes we may not even realize that these things are happening you know? Other times I’m sure they are done somewhat intentionally but I do think having people who are willing to call you on your you know, your BS and who are willing to show you. Your blind spots in particular is so valuable…So valuable.
John: As a business owner you think you got everything under control or you think you know everything and that’s definitely not the case. I realize my strengths, my weaknesses and I let others take care of that. Delegate accordingly, let them own it, let them make mistakes. Hopefully they don’t make as many.
Erin: Yeah…yeah or at least not very tragic ones.
John: Yeah, but that’s how they evolve. That’s how they get better, that’s also how they learn, right? It’s like myself. I make mistakes daily too. It’s okay.
Erin: Everybody does, everyone does. I think the sooner we can all realize that we’re all human, the better…The better we all are. Yeah.
John: Exactly so a couple questions I want to ask you. Challenges or mistakes over the last couple years running your business…Can you think of some major ones?
Erin: Yeah, I can think of a lot. A lot, a lot. So I think…Gosh, where do I want to start so I think the first thing that I did that I would definitely not necessarily recommend is really not thinking through the business model and in really thinking about how to structure the company in a way that service, not just the clients needs but actually my own as well and I know that sounds really silly, right? Like it sounds like…Well, of course like why wouldn’t you think about yourself but when you’re starting a business and you’re trying to get you know, those early clients oftentimes you’re willing to do just about anything to you know, to get the client and what I realized over the course of time was that I had set up the business in such a way that was not sustainable for me energy wise and mental you know, mentally and things like that but also in a way that was actually undervaluing the like…the value of the service I brought to the table and so I think like the biggest mistake I made was just like really undervaluing myself, undervaluing the service not thinking through the business model and I learned that lesson pretty hard in terms of you know, I got to a certain point where I looked back and I realized I could have been charging a whole lot more for the same things that I was doing and really the client was getting the best deal here and I wasn’t so there was a couple mistakes I think are on the business model that I wouldn’t repeat. I think also growing the team with just freelancers and subcontractors is tricky because I did have a moment you know, while I was in the midst of going through a personal divorce and also you know, a lot of stress inside of the business dealing with this business model that was like kind of broken. I had one of my subcontractors leave. Literally, no notice, one day just up and disappeared and he was struggling with his own things as well so you know, I couldn’t fault him for it obviously but it left me in a bit of a situation while I was already juggling all these balls so I think the lesson I learned there is that sometimes even though a quick fix may be to just like subcontract something out or freelance you know, get a freelancer or hire an agency or get someone on Upwork or whatever the case might be that there is still value in having some people who come in house where they’re a bit more dedicated, they’re a bit more you know, there for you and the company and the purpose and things like that so that and then just the self-care piece you know, obviously getting to that point of burnout where I was literally at a crossroads of do I stay on planet earth or not is not a great place to be in and I think when I look back I can see all of the decisions that I had made that led me there and really I didn’t have to get to that point you know, like when I think back I realized that had I talked to someone earlier, had I opened up, had I made different decisions, had I had a mentor to kind of guide me through you know, maybe I wouldn’t have ended up where I got to and maybe the severity wouldn’t have been as bad you know? I don’t know obviously. I can only think back and sort of hypothesize but…Yeah, I think those and not hiring an accountant sooner that one…That one was a very tough you know, lesson to learn so that would have been a big one.
John: Those are all really good, normal mistakes an entrepreneur goes through, right? Not pricing, understanding your value, understanding why you’re running a business, right? Like it should serve your lifestyle not to please someone else, right? And then I found like owning your staff which is full-time employees is the number one goal because of loyalty, dedication you know their output, you know what is expected and their time as well as their performance, right? And then you actually want them to get better, right? As a subcontractor it’s like you’re doing it, piece work, right? You’re just doing the job but as an employee they’re dedicated so you are forced to want to help them get better as humans not just as an employee, right? Like where do they want to go in terms of their goals and vision, right? So I’ve gone through all that and I pivoted away from subcontracts to full-time. I know lifestyle is key like all these things you just have to come to a realization, right? So all these mistakes are normal I feel for business owners. In terms of the advices, I know some of them were some of the biggest challenges and mistakes you made. What piece of advice would you give some you know, someone starting or someone’s been in business for a couple years from what you’ve learned over the last couple years?
Erin: Yeah, I think just finding a circle of peers that really, really understand what you’re going through and understand the business is so critical. I think you know, especially right now especially in 2020 especially in a pandemic you know, especially given the state of the world now is so important to get your tribe and really find that you know, kind of circle of people that you can deeply trust you know, we need connection more than ever and so I think if I just had like one piece of advice it would be seek out those groups early on. It could be a mentor group, it could be a peer group, it could be you know, whatever it looks like it could even be people that you’re just connecting with on twitter or linkedin like it doesn’t even need to be formal but if you can just find those people I think that you will feel so much less alone. The other thing too is that you know, we live in a time in 2004 the internet was just sort of you know, figuring itself out there wasn’t even really like online courses yet. There wasn’t…Social media wasn’t a thing when I started my company if people like that are listening to this can believe a world without social. It just wasn’t there yet and so you know, when I think back to that we didn’t have access to a lot of information and if we did we were reading like the e-myth you know, by Michael Gerber because it was like the only book that really existed on the subject. I’m exaggerating but you know, like I think we have access to so much information now that I think we also exist in a time when people can you know, you can educate yourself every single day through podcasts, videos, courses everything so I think find a mentor you know, circle of some sort and then just spend a bit of time everyday trying to just educate yourself on entrepreneurship or business or people or culture or your you know, your particular skill set like whatever it is just spend some time because that investment into yourself is so key.
John: That’s awesome to hear because words of encouragement, educate yourself, find a community that really resonates and it doesn’t even have to be an online community. It could be just your friends, peer groups, relatives, neighbors, right? People that you go to restaurants, coffee with like if you have sports activity, hobbies, church group whatever it is anything because like you mentioned this is during the pandemic people….You want real relationships. People that you can trust, that you can open up to because people are going through a lot right now and if you can open up and share what really is going on like behind the curtains, right? People are always putting up this nice facade from the neighborhood you’re living in, the car you’re driving, the clothes you’re wearing but people don’t really realize how much debt you’re in? What’s going on behind the scenes? Are you happy at work? Is your relationship with your significant other in turmoil because of what’s happening like all these things is what behind the curtain…What I’m talking about because people forget, right? It’s like why are you in this earth? Why are you living if you’re not living happy? Doing something you love doing and…
Erin: A hundred percent.
John: And creating something of value, right? For people like as an entrepreneur that’s what you want, right?
Erin: Yeah and you said something so key in there you were talking about how you know, like people will look at the other people and sort of view them as being more successful if they have the car or the house or the…Whatever…That’s I think one of the…One of the best things that came out of me having a business through my entire 20s was that…It really changed my definition of success but it also changed my relationship to things and what I mean by that is when you get into you know, the process of having your own company and you know, you’re doing this business thing. It’s really easy when you first start making some great money to be like, “Oh, I can afford all the things and you know, I’m gonna go do all of that.” But when you get into it further and you’re doing it for more time and you know, years are going on sometimes you realize like, “Wow, okay, I’m getting these things and they’re great but they’re not bringing me fulfillment or satisfaction or happiness or anything like that.” And it was one of the greatest lessons for me through the process of owning that company in my 20s was that my relationship to things and success and stuff and everything else as I moved into my 30s completely shifted and today you know, I don’t care if I drive a Ford you know, Fusion which is what I drive I…You know, I’m actually glad that I have the car I have and I’m actually super glad that I don’t have a really expensive car payment you know, and it’s and like I’m good with that and it actually makes me happy and I’m just happy if I’m financially comfortable I don’t need to be super rich to be happy because I have my family and I have close friends and I’ve got work that makes me feel fulfilled and I think for anyone listening to this that feels like they might be on the hamster wheel. A little bit of chasing the next thing all the time. Give yourself a little bit of a break you know, give yourself the like the okayness with as long as the things that you’re doing make you feel good and as long as your mental health is in check and as long as you physically and emotionally feel great the rest of it doesn’t really matter. It really doesn’t you know, nobody cares. Which I know sounds so mean but like they just don’t you know, they don’t care.
John: It’s because people put so much stress on themselves and they feel like when they look the part, people will admire them more so it’s this whole social amplification you know, this like/share mentality but I mean at least you’re true to yourself and you uncovered where…What that life purpose is, what meaning is, right? People forget like relationships, experiences are probably the most vital things in life, right? And for you to uncover it in your 20s and now 30s versus when you’re in your 50s or 60s it’s hard to get out of that gut rot, right? I was fortunate to work in corporate when I was in my 20s and I saw people in different life stages from 20s, 30s, 40, 50, 60 even. Some people were single, some that were married, some were ultra successful driving nice cars, nice homes whatever. Some that were renting and I just found it very fascinating and you know, being curious myself to uncover like why do you still love doing what you do, right? Like what drives them what really motivates them it’s not for money. It’s really for other meanings to really satisfy others, right? Like provide real true meaning or value so when you have a family that’s your number one focus, right? Take care of your significant family, your immediate family, if you’re single it’s maybe just for yourself, right? You like traveling, you like buying stuff. Sure, right? But people go through these life stages, right? And it’s just trying to figure that out and people have to realize like life is a long journey and it could be 80,100 years, right? And depending on where you’re at. You can be 20, you could be 40. It’s never too late. You gotta figure it out and it’s okay to work for someone if that’s what your calling is and you truly enjoy it, right?
Erin: Yeah and I just want to clarify too because I feel I don’t want this to get lost in the context. I don’t think there’s anything wrong though with like wanting things. I just want to make sure I’m really clear like if you want the BMW in the driveway like amazing that is so great. I think the only thing that I just want to get across is like if you’re doing those things not for yourself but actually for others and you’re doing those things because you think it’s going to bring you fulfillment and satisfaction. I think that’s the moment it gets a bit tricky but if like…If you’re cool and you also have a nice car and you feel really fulfilled and you’re happy and like all of those things are in check like amazing. That’s so great and I just want to make sure like everyone knows I’m not saying that wanting stuff or striving for things or going after things is the bad part it’s not the bad part, it’s just the relationship you have to it.
John: Yeah, I think growing up like when I was in my teens or finished school I always wanted an A4 Audi for some reason I thought it was classy.
Erin: I wanted the TT. I wanted the Audi TT.
John: So I always wanted an Audi. I was like I had a vision board. I was in sales. Every sale I would put some money in and I was eventually save say…Eventually I got it. I was like that’s it like you know?
Erin: Exactly. Yeah!
John: But it took me years to figure that out but it was like a sense of accomplishment so it was more fulfilling for me to actually have that vision and then it was more travel then I was like, “Look, I really want to go to Asia.” So I’m gonna save, save, save and…But that was really memorable and I still cherish those memories so now I’m like stuff versus experiences.
Erin: Experiences. Yes, same! Honestly, you and I have almost the exact same journey because mine was the TT and then the only reason I didn’t get the TT was because I went into the dealership and the person that was in the dealership refused to serve me because I was so young and he like…I remember he was just like, “No, you can’t test drive any of these cars.” Like and I was just shocked, right? So I turned around and walked out and I went down to the BMW dealership down the road and they ended up getting a BMW 128i same thing though, the only reason I did it was because I just…I set that my…You know, my vision on that and I was like, “I’m gonna go do it and I’m gonna get the car.” But it did nothing like once I had it I was like, “Oh, okay. Cool.”
John: I’m not as cool as I thought it would be…I am.
Erin: No, like it doesn’t really change who I am as a person. The only thing that was nice was like it definitely had some kick going down the highway.
John: Exactly, when you’re driving. Oh, yeah. That’s what it…But it was fun like you put together goals you have like you know, something to strive for, right? And you accomplish it and that’s what you need, right? Goals setting.
Erin: My goals today are so not sexy though. My goals today are like I just want this much money in my retirement plan you know, my retirement savings like it’s different now, it’s not sexy.
John: Especially when you’re a parent, right? So your, you know, focus is a little bit different, you have different values you know, different you know, reasons why you’re living, right? You’re supporting someone that you know, they rely on you, right? Ultimately.
Erin: Yeah, I have to pay for that college education somehow so better start saving now.
John: Exactly so a couple of couple of last questions. What drives you today? What motivates you in terms of the purpose because things have changed you’re no longer wanting to be that entrepreneur and maybe that will come back to you know, right?
Erin: Yeah, I mean it definitely might and what’s interesting is like I still find myself being entrepreneurial in other endeavors so one of the things that I’m really fascinated with right now is that we do a lot of hiking and adventure style things, climbing you know, the whole thing and so we started my family and I…We started a youtube channel and a tiktok and an instagram specifically for that so I get a lot of meaning out of…And this is not just true for the side project that I have it’s also true with my work but I get a lot of meaning out of sharing specific experiences with people or being able to influence their life in a positive way and I know that that sounds a little bit like you know, like a little loose and it’s in its definition but what I mean by that is like when I think about for example Trails Next Door which is this adventure site I get the most fulfillment when someone messages me after seeing a trail we posted about or you know, an experience we shared and they go do it and then they message me and they’re like, “I did that and it was incredible like I loved it. Thank you so much.” That literally makes my whole entire day, week et cetera and at Fellow you know, when we get an email from a customer that’s like you know, that webinar that you did, that you know, twitter chat, the podcast episode whatever it might be really helped me solve this management problem that I was dealing with or made my neck you know, my meeting better. I get so much fulfillment out of that so for me now it’s less about you know, I find it’s less about myself and more about you know, am I able to influence other people, other people’s lives or their work in a meaningful way and if I can that is where I get the mo…Like if I was to get enjoyment out of anything it’s that feeling of helping someone else out.
John: That’s awesome so you’re creating value, something that is making an impact and I feel like a lot of people who are business owners I get it… Whenever I get a review, a testimonial case study and it’s very positive or people recommend or refer my business. I know I’m doing something right and I feel like that is so rewarding. It’s like the purpose. Why am I doing it? It’s not only to get them good results but honestly they’re so proud and happy with the work that they’re gonna recommend, they’re gonna refer and that’s where you know, you’re in a good space. You’re doing something positive and your momentum is good, right? In the up and up. I love you sharing that because you know, everyone has side projects and it doesn’t have to be business oriented. It could be volunteer, it could be community, it could be just helping others, right?
Erin: Yeah…Yeah, exactly. Trails Next Door like not monetized, not anything although it’s funny I’m learning tiktok through it so it’s a great thing from my…From the marketing side to flex a new muscle having a lot of fun with that. Yeah.
John: Well and that’s why I started this podcast too, right? Like two years ago I just wanted to put out content. I just wanted to help other business owners and I’m finding that I’m having more fun meeting new business owners, meeting people having good conversations and relationships with them to then uncover some gaps that I have as well as share some insights that they may find valuable as well so it’s just fun, right? And it doesn’t have to be for money. Just do it because you want to and that’s okay.
Erin: And in fact some of those projects are probably the most successful projects, right? When they’re not led by the dollars but rather by the passion, the heart, the enthusiasm so I love it. I’m glad you’re doing the podcast. It’s great.
John: And then last question aside from where you work at Fellow what are some of the other major pillars that really mowed you today and have really you know, guided you throughout these many years?
Erin: That’s a good question. I think for me I’ve definitely because of the experiences that I’ve had around you know, mental health and burnout and depression like I get a lot of value out of sharing that experience and that journey with others when I was working at the Startup Accelerator just before coming to Fellow. We started this campaign and I call it a campaign but like that feels like it cheapens it so it’s not, it wasn’t a campaign on purpose. It was an initiative where we did these mental health events for founders and we called them L-SPARK Unplugged. The accelerator’s name was L-SPARK so we called them L-SPARK Unplugged and the idea was really just to get founders together to have those moments where they could talk more openly, connect as people and we did things like hiking or rock climbing or you know, things like that so I think mental health and the intersection of mental health and entrepreneurship has always been one of the pillars that I’ve been you know, drawn toward so I think that’s been really important. I think I do a lot of teaching today as well so I teach at the university here in Ottawa. I teach at the college as well from time to time. I sit on a board there as well as the chair and those things are important to me because I want to be able to share the experiences and the you know, things that I’ve learned over the course of time with the younger generations, right? The people that are just coming into their careers and so I get a lot of value out of teaching and I always have. I’ve been teaching for 20 years so I love that. Yeah, I think…So I think those two things have been really big and then I’m also a video gamer and that’s like a lesser known fact. Oh, no it’s not lesser known I’m lying, everyone knows that I like video games however I will say what’s neat about being in a space like that is A. It’s something completely different than the rest of the things that I do but it also is…It has been a fantastic community building piece for me as well. I’ve met some of my closest friends gaming and it teaches you things like problem solving and creativity and it really does, right? Like it’s actually fascinating and it’s just a great way to let off steam too so…
John: That’s awesome.
Erin: Yeah, I think those things would be parts of the pillars.
John: I used to be a poker player. I used to play online games Starcraft, Red Alert and all those. Warcraft. It’s just a part of me that a lot of people don’t see, right? Because that’s like my leisure time.
Erin: Yeah, well you should you know what though, share it. I just posted last night on twitter. I tweeted out my KDR from a call of duty match and I completely beasted.
John: Oh, Nice. That’s awesome.
Erin: So share it. You know people want to know all facets of you. Of who you are as a person.
John: Yeah. No, that’s awesome so Erin. How do some of the people listening get a hold of you, reach out to you, connect with you?
Erin: Yeah so I would definitely say you know, of course check out fellow it’s fellow.app is the website and then for me personally I’m on every social platform including tik-tok but mostly I hang out on twitter and linkedin also on instagram but the easiest way is to just google my name. If you google my name everything will pop up and I share it quite a bit on the entrepreneurial journey that I’ve had through like my blog on medium or my blog on my website so again all free all, accessible so go check it out.
John: Amazing. Well, thanks a lot for sharing this journey with me.
Erin: Yeah, it’s been great.
John: It’s been a lot of fun and again if you…If all the listeners, any of the listeners want to reach out definitely check out Erin. Reach out to her. She’s been amazing guest today. Thank you.
Erin: Oh, thank you. Thanks so much.