Podcast: Social Causes Can Make Strong Businesses as well as Effect Change, Interview with Erin Weed
A strong and cash-positive business is possible in any industry, even charitable ones. Learn how Erin Weed started and ran Girls Fight Back and how she created a profitable business while helping others.
About the Host
Ryan is an entrepreneur, podcast host of the show Life After Business and the co-owner of Solidity Financial. Having personally experienced the hazards of selling a business, he joined up with his friend Brandon Wood to educate others on the process. Through their business (Solidity Financial), they provide a platform for entrepreneurs called Growth and Exit Planning that helps in exit planning, value building and financial management.
About the Guest
Erin Weed is a firm believer in authenticity. For 12 years she ran the company, Girls Fight Back. She is now the founder of Evoso, a company devoted to helping other businesses get clarity on their purpose. Erin is also a speaking coach for TEDx presenters. She has developed a process called “The Dig” which helps people find their personal purpose and 'truth' to make the most they can from their business and life.
If you listen, you will learn:
- Why Erin founded Girls Fight Back.
- How partnerships with martial art and self-defense programs helped get Erin her audience.
- The personal effect her friend's death had on Erin.
- How Girls Fight Back became international.
- How Erin structured one of her seminars and presentations.
- What exactly did Erin sell to her buyer?
- The danger of letting your business become your identity.
- The process Erin went through to sell her business.
- The personal changes she went under during this process.
- Mistakes that Erin made early on in the business.
- Erin’s new business Evoso and her DIG process.
- Erin’s advice to our listeners.
Announcer: 00:04 Welcome to Life After Business, the podcast where your host, Ryan Tansom, brings you all the information you need to exit your company and explore what life can be like on the other side.
Ryan Tansom: 00:14 Welcome back to the Life After Business podcast. This is episode 89. Do you ever wake up and feel like there's internal conflict between who you are, what your business does, what your business represents, what kind of culture you have internally and then what is it that you really want to do deep down inside? Do you think you are authentic to yourself and to others around you? Well, today we're going to be digging into what it means to be authentic to yourself, to your employees, to your company and to who you are. My guest today, her name is Erin Weed. She started a company back in her early twenties called Girls Fight Back after she found out one of her college roommates had been murdered. She created a company and a legacy in her college roommate's name, all while training over 1,000,000 women in self defense across the US. And she's on the show today to describe her experienceletting go of this company that she had built from her inside out because she determined that she had changed and in order to be authentic to her so she had to move on and create something new. She walks us through the journey on how she went about doing it, how she found the right buyer that she was able to pass on this baby of hers and his legacy to make sure that it survived while getting what she deserved. So without further ado, I hope you enjoy this interview with Erin.
Announcer: 01:26 This episode of Life After Business is brought to you by Solidity Financial's growth and exit planning. Their proven process gives you clarity on all of your exit options and how those options impact your financial success, timing and future happiness. Sell your company on your timeframe to the right buyer at the price you want.
Ryan Tansom: 01:48 Erin, how are you doing today?
Erin Weed: 01:50 I'm doing so good. Thanks so much for having me.
Ryan Tansom: 01:52 I'm looking forward to having you on the show. You have one heck of a story and a bunch of different things that have tied you to this podcast today. So the listeners that aren't familiar with your story and why you became an entrepreneur, can you go back to the day that you decided that you wanted to start a company and I know that's a very loaded question for you, but how did you decide to become an entrepreneur and maybe you want to tell the story prior to that or because I know a lot of that is intertwined.
Erin Weed: 02:22 Yeah. I don't know that I ever made a decision to be an entrepreneur. I was on a mission and so I guess I'll share with you the story of that kind of got that initiative going.
Ryan Tansom: 02:22 Great idea.
Erin Weed: 02:34 Cool. So I graduated from college in 1999 and then I moved to New York City in 2000 just to really pursue my life's dream of being a TV producer. And I wanted to produce documentaries. I've always been a storyteller and really driven by the authentic expression of who we are and what our stories are. And so I was doing that for about a year when I got the news in June 2001 that one of my best friends had been murdered while fighting off an attacker in her apartment back in Illinois. And for me it was kind of one of those moments and you know one of Matrix moments where, you know, you got the two pills. And, and I started to see that there was this perspective on the world that was dark and gritty and hard and scary when I really came from a life of privilege where I didn't fear for my life. I didn't fear for the lives of my friends. And so this kind of threw me into a whole new reality. And um, when I went home for the wake and the funeral - my friend was named Shannon Mcnamara - and uh, when I went home for Shannon's funeral, one of the things that I noticed was that all of my friends (and we were all in our very young twenties at that point; I was 22). And I noticed that her murder was forcing all of us to really rethink our safety and to rethink life decisions we were making. And I noticed that a lot of my friends started making decisions stemming from fear and uh, this wasn't okay with me.
Erin Weed: 04:10 And to give you an example, like I had a friend who was going to travel the world and she decided maybe that wasn't a safe idea to do that by herself, backpack Europe. Another friend who was going to take an internship downtown Chicago. But then she was like, you know, there's too many sketchy parking lots in a bad area of town, not safe. And I started being like, oh my gosh, like there's a bigger tragedy here then then even losing Shannon and that's, that women are not living their authentic lives because we're fundamentally afraid of being raped or killed. And so, um, that kind of started the mission and you know, I really also just wanted to, in addition to just helping women not make decisions from fear, I also just wanted to keep the legacy going for Shannon. Because her mom actually said to me at her funeral, she said, you know, there's actually something worse than losing a child.
Erin Weed: 05:00 And I was like, what could that even be, you know? And she said, she said, I'm afraid that after all this is over, that the world's going to forget her name. And I was like, well, that's not gonna happen, you know, like... [Ryan interjects: challenge accepted]. Totally! Like, I don't know anything. I have no credentials, but I know I have a big mouth and I know how to get people to listen to things. And I was a sorority president - Shannon and I were sorority sisters. So one thing I knew how to get sorority women to do stuff. And I also knew that sorority women were basically forced to go to see speakers in college and I knew that these speakers were paid. And so this was kind of the entrepreneurial piece of it. Um, after getting trained in self defense and personal safety, a ton of different programs I took and got certified in. I put together this seminar, and basically started speaking at colleges with the main reason being I just wanted to educate women so that something that happened to Shannon might be preventable for someone else.
Erin Weed: 06:07 And um, and then before you know it, people started paying me and then I was like, oh my gosh, there's like this, there's a whole business behind it. And then I got to an agent who was booking me at colleges all across the country and then I was like, oh my gosh, there's 5,000 colleges and universities in the United States of America and if I could be getting paid to do this then I could be killing so many birds with one stone, you know, I could be funding my life and also teaching women to become their own best protectors and not make decisions stemming from fear and keep the legacy of Shannon McNamara alive. And so that's kind of how I became an entrepreneur. But I never sat down and was like, I'll start a business.
Ryan Tansom: 06:47 I mean it's created from just major passion and personal experience, which is, you know, it, it, it makes it that much easier to wake up and pursue the mission. You know, as you're going through this, you know, for the seminars maybe just... I mean, I'm totally curious. So what was it, was it actual self defense classes or like what was the actual guts of the presentations that you were giving?
Erin Weed: 07:09 Yeah, that was something I had to figure out pretty early on because taking a topic like self-defense and teaching it to the masses can be challenging because usually these are taught in small classes, controlled settings and I knew that that wasn't very scalable. So I figured out a way to really position us in the market as not being a self-defense class, but really a seminar that bridges people to a full contact class. So we've formed partnerships with martial arts studios and self defense programs all over the world. And our goal was just to be the program that could shift the way young woman thought about personal safety and self defense and then connect them to those people to learn more. So our approach was, it was all taught by young, cute, 20-something young women. Um, started off just being me, but then I, I trained other, other women as well as we grew. And we kind of liked to do a blend of ass kicking and stand up comedy to like make them laugh if you wanted to make them listen. Because you've got to understand what a lot of women get in regards to safety education is like, you know, the chubby campus cop pulling up his pants like, "You ladies need to stop dressing like you want to be raped." You know, and it's like come on, man.
Ryan Tansom: 07:09 Class dismissed.
Erin Weed: 08:30 That's what we were accustomed to. So I was like, all right, if we can do like a cool version of like telling women to be safe and not tell them like we, we didn't believe in telling people not to do things. Like I never said don't hook up with a guy or don't drink. No, I think that's every woman's choice how she wants to conduct to personal life. But what we would do is give them tools for how to be as safe as possible in those situations.
Ryan Tansom: 08:53 So at what point when you said you hired the agent and you started to go to I mean I don't know how many of the 5,000 schools you hit up, but you know, Erin, at what point did you go OK, instead of a personal mission and you're funding your life, you, you mentioned scale already and at what point were you like, "Hey, this is a business!" And then how did you shift it from the personal mission which you probably still had in your business, but it shifted into the entrepreneurial mindset and wanting to create a scalable, scalable business?
Erin Weed: 09:24 I think that only happened in maybe the final year and I ran it for 12 years. I had, I really ran that company like an activist and like I was on a personal mission and for me that that was an asset. It also, it also though it took a toll on my personal well-being though. I mean, you can only operate at that level of intensity for so long. Like right now I'm watching all these kids in Parkland, Florida who are rising up after this recent mass shooting at their school and like I feel so proud of them because they're doing stuff that adults have not been able to get done. And at the same time I feel deeply concerned about their emotional well-being, because I haven't been in their situation at all, but I've been in something kind of similar playing in this realm and it's uh, it's easy to get so caught up in the movement that you forget you have to take care of yourself.
Ryan Tansom: 10:20 What were some of the things that you were... that were suffering because of it?
Erin Weed: 10:25 I would say mental health, in general. I developed a pretty significant anxiety disorder and it wasn't... My life though was crazy. I mean, I was living on the road. I was on airplanes over 200 days a year. Every night I'm like speaking to a packed auditorium of young women then I'm driving alone to my Hampton Inn, somewhere in the middle of nowhere because all college towns are in the middle of nowhere and uh, and then, you know, getting up the next morning, do a media interview in that town at like five in the morning and then getting on a plane by seven to go to the next city. It's not, it's not particularly a healthy lifestyle I would say, but for a long time it was sustainable because of the passion and the drive. And for me, I think the shift was when I started to have children and all of a sudden there were different priorities.
Ryan Tansom: 11:17 So you know, when you were traveling all around like that. And in just to kind of give the listeners a little bit of, um, idea of the, the breadth of the organization you had. I mean, you, you taught how many people? I think it was over a million. And how- did you have other people that were underneath you? What was kind of those... The, the structure of the organization?
Erin Weed: 11:36 Yeah. We taught over a million women in less than a decade and live events. So this was really kind of before the whole online era, so we, I mean, there wasn't Facebook when I started this, there wasn't even really websites or email marketing, so which makes me feel like a dinosaur, but it was only 2001-2002 [Ryan interjects: It wasn't that long ago!]. But um, which I'm actually grateful for, you know. To be able to start a business without all those tools I think is a really great asset.
Ryan Tansom: 12:03 Yeah. So you had to over a million people that you had taught. Was, was, did you have a bunch of people underneath you or how was it just you or what was the kind of the structure of the company?
Erin Weed: 12:13 Yeah, for seven years it was just me and that was not sustainable and he was very productive, but it was not sustainable. And it was really being pregnant with my first child that changed everything, because it wasn't even like, "oh, all of a sudden I'm having babies and I don't want to be doing that anymore." It was more like, when you speak to teen and college girls for living and you stand up on stage for 90 minutes and you're pregnant, you are their worst nightmare staring them in the face, like you got to remove yourself for their well-being. It's too distracting. That's when I was like, all right, I got to eradicate myself. And um, which, which was a blessing, you know, and that's when I trained a team of young women in the United States. I trained six people and then I also the, the following year trained a woman in India and a woman in Pakistan. And um, that was an amazing experience as well to see how the information is scaled and delivered and it's localized. I really empowered them to make it theirs. The Pakistani version of Girls Fight Back. And uh, so that's how we reach that many people. I couldn't have done that all by myself.
Ryan Tansom: 13:30 How was it... How was that taken in those different cultures? That must have been very interesting and those women must have been crazy-brave.
Erin Weed: 13:38 These women are completely incredible. Um, Khalida Brochi is the Pakistani woman and she's, I mean she had also started this organization that was set up simply to combat honor killing in Pakistan, which if your listeners aren't aware, it's basically, you know, when like your family basically kills you for very ridiculous things. But it's your family, your tribe, and so anyway, she is the epitome of brave and so she took us to Pakistan and um, another woman named Trina took us to Mumbai and she was working with a bunch of sex trafficked women and so it was cool. I did really just kind of let them run with it. I didn't, I didn't feel it was my place as, you know, the, the American woman to be telling them how to run that over there.
Ryan Tansom: 14:28 How did the business shift, you said about a year prior to selling. How did, how did it shift into more of a, you know, an operations at that point? We were all the... were your revenues based on per seminars speeches or like how did the, the revenue generation work within the, within the company?
Erin Weed: 14:45 Yeah, we did really well. I mean we've always been a cash-positive business, very low overhead, all independent contractors for the most part and so really our revenue numbers were based off of how many seminars we would book. We also had a product line, so things like books, tee shirts, we did sponsorships. I almost kind of built the speaking tours almost like we were a band going on tour. So we would sell sponsorships to companies, companies like a Bed Head hair products, you know, or travel companies for the spring break tour. And we had quite a few different sources of income, but they were all mostly tied around the live events and the reason that I never really totally think about it as a business until like the final years because I never had any intention of selling it until that final year. And it's when we get into that mindset that we have to start thinking about, OK, well why would someone else want to run with this and how can I make it make sense for them?
Ryan Tansom: 15:45 Well, and it's interesting. I'm curious on the tie because the, the product lines, the sponsorships and all those different other income streams. Did you know what made you think of that? Because I think there's a lot of the reason behind the, the context behind the question, Erin, is that a lot of speakers are, a lot of professional services don't do that and all of a sudden they get to that point where you have that question and they're like, oh crap, I have nothing to sell. So where was the, uh, the ideas behind those different income streams?
Erin Weed: 16:14 Yeah. You know, for me, what I ended up doing actually is I didn't sell the company structure. What I sold was the intellectual property that basically was the whole company. And that, I think, is important to mention for entrepreneurs because sometimes you don't have to sell all the bones and everything. You just kind of sell the idea, the trademark. I mean, in this actual sale, I sold the content of the seminar, I sold the training program to train the speakers. I sold a book I wrote about girls fight back. I wrote, um, uh, just like everything, our training manuals our images our website, everything. And then ultimately when it came time to sell that person was super stoked about it because I basically had a turnkey business that I was ready to give her.
Ryan Tansom: 17:04 So that... and that's a lot of stuff. So was, was all that, all those different things needed? You brought up the band. And was that kind of the model you, was there a band that you'd thought of and like, Hey, I just want to, I, I know I want to make money off all these things and this is just a, you know, all these different channels to spread the word or did they kinda... I'm just curious on how like, how you ended up having all these different tentacles.
Erin Weed: 17:24 Yeah, well I mean I just kind of looked at it from a marketing perspective of would you rather just go see your favorite band just randomly at some random venue or do you want to go be part of the XYZ tour and like go to the Minnesota stop on the XYZ tour? You know, like.. it's like people want to be a part of something and that's how we were able to sell the sponsorships, too, because they wanted to be a part of something. It also was good for the company because of it kind of gave a definitive beginning and ending to something. You know, if you were to sell sponsorships and you don't have like an end of a tour, then OK, when does that thing end? You know, when you just decide it to? There's like a feeling of completion in that. So I really love creating programs where it's, I mean I almost look at it like an ecosystem, you've got the main thing in the center and like all these little bubbles that, um, that kind of feed each other. They're all interdependent. The book is talking about the seminars. The seminars is pointing people to the three free resources on the website, the on the website, you can book a program, you know, it's just, that's how it should be.
Ryan Tansom: 18:28 So with this ecosystem that is a direct reflection of you, your mission, your personal traumatic experience that you had. How did you, I mean, your identity must have been completely tied into all of this. How did you decide that you wanted to potentially sell it?
Erin Weed: 18:45 Yeah, my identity was completely interwoven, which I will also say is not the healthiest thing to do for any kind of entrepreneur. Even people that are like die hard into the personal branding right now and like making that the business. I do have like a slight concern about that for people because it doesn't always allow you to evolve into whatever you're supposed to evolve into. So for me, the pivotal shift was when I gave birth to my daughter who's now five, and strangely enough, she arrived - you can't plan this stuff - so she arrived on June 21st, which is also the birthday of my murdered friend, Shannon.
Ryan Tansom: 18:45 That's crazy.
Erin Weed: 19:28 It is completely crazy. And um, it was a really spiritual experience for me, the whole birth process, I doubt your listeners want to like get into all that, but all I can say is like, it felt like a new beginning, you know, and um, I started to realize as she's born on Shannon's birthday - and my daughter's Phoebe, they share a middle name though, Elizabeth - and um, I just, I just remember looking down at her and being like, you know what? It's like I've crossed the bridge from pain to peace. When Shannon was murdered, like I was just in crippling pain. And for me, the way I dealt with it was activism and making Girls Fight Back. And now we're at this point where it's humming along and I've got a team and I've got agents and I've got managers. I have, I mean, like I wanna I wanna be reborn, you know, it's time for me to leave. But it took me, I would say a good year between that realization and actually the selling of the company. And in that final year is kind of what I was referring to before, is that's when I was like, OK, so I want to leave, how do we do that? How do I make this thing not only like sellable, but I was looking at it because it's such a passion project, how can I make this like 10 times better functioning without me than it was with me.
Ryan Tansom: 20:49 So what is the first thing that you did other than heal and take care of your, of your new daughter? When you went back to the business, what was the first thing that you did to initiate that journey?
Erin Weed: 21:04 Well, something that was kind of helpful for me, which I do recommend to other entrepreneurs in this space, is I started to realize what was coming next. And for me what was coming next was helping people speak their truth. And I've really been pulled by the medium of Ted Talks and I started volunteering as a coach a Ted speaking coach for Tedx Boulder. And a few of the people that I worked with were going viral. And I started seeing OK like everything I learned on stages and training speakers with Girls Fight Back can be applied to different subject matters and you know, different kinds of leaders. And so I thought that was helpful because, you know, it's always a little easier to let go of something when you kind of know what's like waiting in the background. But so knowing that information and kind of helped me be more pragmatic about letting go of Girls Fight Back then maybe I normally would've been, but I went into detail mode.
Erin Weed: 22:01 I started making spreadsheets. I started looking at how much it costs... frankly, I wish we would have done this exercise way earlier in the, in the business because it was such an eye-opening experience. I started having all these ideas of how it could run so much better and which I was able to pass on to the buyer. So really that year was spent emotionally letting go, coming to peace with it, getting all the numbers and also just systemizing everything. I'm not, I'm much more of like a visionary personality. I'm not always good at turning it into like an operations manual. I mean, that to me just sounds so boring but I got it done and it was a great exercise because like by the time I actually sold the company, it was so solid that, I mean it was like almost handing someone a binder and being like, OK, you can run with this because it's so complete.
Ryan Tansom: 22:59 Which you just... The last couple of minutes it's so well said, Erin, because I think that you did two different parallel paths that are crazy important, which is the emotional, psychological rebirthing your new identity while you have the business, which is not always the case and a lot entrepreneurs struggle with it, but you know. Would you mind sharing some of the actual details of what you did to actually help the business go from your passion project to an actual business? Or was it certain things in the finances that you did? All these new ideas, like what are some of the actual tactical things that you did over those 12 months to make it that polished before you sold it?
Erin Weed: 23:38 Yeah. I don't know if it's as much of a tactical thing that I did was like a shift in mindset of like, like the way we treat something when it's just like this passion project that in my case I was doing to keep my friends legacy alive and teach women to live better lives. To shift it to OK, how can I make sure that this survives without me? It's just like a completely different mindset. But I mean if I'm to get specific, um, I mean definitely things like spreadsheets. I hired some coaches, consultants. I started going to therapy and processed Shannon's murder on a different level that I couldn't have done when I was 22, but as a 35 year-old, it was like a completely different tools and maturity. Ah, jeeze, what else did I do? I started pulling myself out more and more and more.
Ryan Tansom: 24:30 Was there certain things with the like the sponsorship relationships and other coaches that you were able to like delegate or like, you know, get prepped up to make it easier to hand off to someone else?
Erin Weed: 24:40 Yeah, I mean I, I really tried to make everything as clean and clear as possible. When I did make the final decision to sell, one thing that I did do, I know a lot of entrepreneurs kind of hide it until the sale is happening, but I decided to go the other route. I started to talk pretty openly that I felt my time was coming to an end and having those conversations was, it just felt most authentic for me. There was nothing really on the line for me though. Like I know sometimes there's like you have to keep certain things secret; it's just a part of business. For me, I had the ability to just say whatever I wanted and so that was nice, but I just started having conversations. I also started calling up people and just saying, "Hey, is this, is this a business that you feel you'd want to run with?" And having those conversations very openly.
Ryan Tansom: 25:32 Which is so interesting because like you said, there's a lot of times that you can't say that, but I mean I think the nature of your business probably lent it a little bit easier for that scenario to happen to you. I think there are so many people that I talk to where, well I didn't know this was something that I could sell. Where, where did you get the advice or what were some of the things that you were like, OK, I can sell this to someone else. In your mind, did you have a couple of people that you thought would want to buy it? Or who in your mind would be someone that you would want to pass it off to?
Erin Weed: 26:07 That in itself is a powerful mindset that we can choose in this situation. I feel like a lot of entrepreneurs go at it from like who would want to buy it? But I looked at it as who will take care of this baby that I've made? You know, who do I want to buy it? And that's why I kind of went out to people. So I started going through the, the different industries where this might fit. So, you know, if we were to look at Girls Fight Back as just a business, okay Girls Fight Back gives women's safety and self defense seminars at high schools and colleges across the world. We also have a product line that all supports that messaging. OK, who would that be an asset for? Well, first of all, they probably have to have some kind of personal drive. So there's, there's some sort of emotional connection.
Erin Weed: 26:48 But I started narrowing it down to teen and young women's brands. Beauty brands, um, media brands, uh, my, my, um, a bunch of people who had trained me in self-defense and personal safety as like selling it to them as a program that they could offer in addition to other things they were doing. And uh, the one that actually turned out to end up buying it was actually my speaker's bureau. [Ryan interjects: Oh no kidding]. Yeah. And they, um, this woman, amazing woman named Gina Kirkland and she had been our agent for about a year or so leading up to that point. And I was in the midst of having some conversations and then finally I was like, wouldn't it be so easy if I just sold it to Gina because she's like already like doing it and she's already seeing, she has like the, the proof that this thing makes money already because she's selling me and selling our team. And so I called her on a Friday. I said, "Hey Gina, two questions for you. The first question I just want to let you know that I'm going to be letting go of Girls Fight Back and I'm going to sell it. And would you represent the new buyer, assuming they want to keep the seminar's going?" And she said, well, you know, cool, of course, you know, I was like, all right, question number two, "Why don't you just buy it?"
Erin Weed: 28:05 She's like, what the hell, you know, completely caught off guard. I, so I'm not the most savvy person in that department, but I am direct. So we've talked about what that could look like. And, and then she was like, let me think about it over the weekend. And then she called me back on Monday, she was like, yeah, I want to buy it.
Ryan Tansom: 28:25 How many people did you talk to prior to that?
Erin Weed: 28:27 I had talked to, um, serious talks I'd been in with two other companies.
Ryan Tansom: 28:38 So the, uh, was ishe the buyer or was the the speaker's bureau the buyer?
Erin Weed: 28:41 Well, she's the owner of the speaker's bureau.
Ryan Tansom: 28:46 When she says yes, then like what did you guys, what was the process that you guys went through? Was there like intense due diligence? Was it like, you mean, how did you land on a price? Did you guys go on like a multiple of EBITDA or did you just go straight from intellectual property and how it generated cash? How did you guys come into some of those terms?
Erin Weed: 29:03 I was like Googling that topic, like crazy and I feel really lucky to be an entrepreneur groups like YEC, where you and I met. You know, like where, you know, we have access. [Ryan interjects: EBITDA, what? Right?] Yeah, yet even though I had access to all these great people and everything, at the end of the day, the number came down to a gut number. It came down to the number of, OK, what do I want to be making from this? What feels fair, how much do I- I knew what she was going to be making. She knew what she was going to be making because we both had been making it already. Um, and then it just kind of came down to fairness and also came down to one of the other potential buyers. Definitely had more money then this speaker's bureau and they were more of like a women's media brand, yet I knew on a gut level that they were going to take this program and probably do what they were going to do with it.
Ryan Tansom: 29:57 Have it in the light that you probably want it?
Erin Weed: 30:01 I don't know what's going to happen. I just knew that they were going to take a lot of liberties with it. But with Gina, she wanted, she wanted, she loved what we already had. Ands she believed in it and she had personal investment. And so for me, one thing I've learned, because I've had a lot of clients who have sold companies and um, they didn't, they didn't feel good about it later, you know? And I just decided, you know, I just want to feel good about it. Like... and that's like every decision in my life, you know? I maybe don't always make the most lucrative decisions, but I do feel good about most decisions that I make because I do trust myself. So I just came up with a number, I throw it to her, she kind of threw me back on number and then, you know, it wasn't too hard.
Erin Weed: 30:46 I will say when it got hard was when all the finance people and the lawyer, people came in. And finance and legal awesome, you need it to do any kind of business transaction. But at some point it actually kind of felt like they were [Ryan interjects: Sucking the emotion?] Well, they were kind of trying to kill the deal, it felt like. They were certainly making it unenjoyable. I remember running through an airport and like I felt like the whole thing was going to blow up and I'm just calling Gina and I'd be like, listen, do you want to do this with me? Like, do we want to do this? She's like, yeah, I want to do this. I was like, OK, well we're going to have to like commit to doing this and get our people on board to commit to doing this. Not to scrutinizing it, but to making it happen.
Erin Weed: 31:31 She was like, you're right. So it was kinda, it was weird that she and I... it was like they were almost, I think they were trying to protect their client, which was great, but she and I knew the business better than any of them. So on some level, it almost reminds me of like when you're in a relationship, you know, and like things are just like blowing up left and right around you and sometimes you just gotta look at the person and be like, OK, are we doing this or we both? Ok, wer'e in this, so we're going to deal with everything else. And until you know if there's a commitment. I feel like it's really hard to work on the everything else.
Ryan Tansom: 32:09 That's a really good point. What were some of the big snags that the legal and the finance team or just, you know, making sure that the were all kicking the can down the road. Was it something like terms, conditions? Was it, what were the things that they're really scrutinizing?
Erin Weed: 32:23 Um, I think it was mostly people on her side that just kind of thought that financially it wasn't a good deal for her and she, but she knows the numbers and here's, here's one of the big mistakes that I made, especially as being 22 year-old entrepreneur. I just had terrible records. I made so many mistakes on how I spent my money. Oh my God, that's a whole different podcast. [Ryan interjects: Give me two or three things.] Oh my gosh. Like I had some adventures in book publishing where I got sued by my book agent and like had to pay out all this money because I signed a bad deal because I didn't hire an attorney to look at a contract. I mean there's so many different layers of that. So just like there were a few, I would say I almost did it once a year.
Ryan Tansom: 33:12 Consistent add-back in the terms of a deal, right?
Erin Weed: 33:15 Some major entrepreneurial mess up. Like I was guaranteed guaranteed to do that at least once a year, but I was also my twenties. I'd never gone to business school. I never... there weren't even... the Internet wasn't there to go to, to ask for things. Business coaches weren't readily available and so I was almost learning through my mistakes and so yeah, that was glorious, but so I don't blame the finance people in some respects because some things just didn't make sense on paper, but the thing about, at least my kind of business, and I know a lot entrepreneurs feel just emotional connection and they see the potential and if you don't believe in the business, it's not going to work. And so the difference is that Gina and I, we believed in it. The finance people were just staring at spreadsheets and didn't have that belief.
Ryan Tansom: 34:05 They were more the historians looking at the back picture, not understanding what the future looked like. [Erin interjects: Exactly.] Can you imagine how it would have been different if you would've sold it to someone else that didn't believe in it and it was more of like a financial by how that could have been different?
Erin Weed: 34:18 Yeah, probably just wouldn't work. Would've blown up at some point. And I knew that I, that's probably one of the reasons that I went with her versus those other people for that very reason.
Ryan Tansom: 34:29 Cause I mean she gets it. She gets what you're doing, gets the business. How did you guys structure like the, the actual payment, was it more, was it a lump sum? Did they, was it financed? Was it kind of like an earnout tied to performance? I mean, what were some of the inner workings of that?
Erin Weed: 34:45 Um, we had just a payout schedule over about two years and it was really clean, so there was like a promissory note attached to the final sale agreement. And so I knew on which dates I'd be getting which lump payments. It was long and you know, spread out. But again, that was a choice that I made, that I was OK with because I wanted to sell to someone like her, and I understood her cashflow. So there was a lot of graciousness and that...
Ryan Tansom: 35:19 What was your role after you guys inked the deal? I mean, would, did you stick around? Did you, were you off doing your next venture already? You're like, how did you, you know, you had said that you had been shifting your mindset, your emotional identity, all that kind of stuff. How did you continue that transformation?
Erin Weed: 35:34 Yeah, the other business was kind of in motion, it's called Evoso. So that already had kind of started up and I'm, I'm, I'm still an advisor to Girls Fight Back and I mean she doesn't need me very much anymore. She's, she's really got a great handle on it and it's thriving. And some, sometimes I'll step in and train the speakers, like if they were about to go on CNN or if she hires a bunch of new speakers, then she'll bring me out to LA and I'll train them. And uh, and she comes to me with any questions, but you know, part of what Gina and her support people too that came in on the deal, they were just so engrossed in the, not only learning the business, but actually learning what we did. So we were doing self-defense training with them. Like all of my trainers, all of my gurus, were training her and her staff. And they really embraced the whole thing. So for me, I mean, I know so many people that either have regrets around selling their business or it was just really hard or a bad memory. I just had such a solid, amazing experience in that department. I'm so proud of what they're doing today.
Ryan Tansom: 36:51 How did the, that your, as your daughter was growing up, how did that affect your ability to transform and like give that up, that identity? Was there certain things that you did, or was that experience in itself enough?
Erin Weed: 37:06 You know, I just really felt complete with it. I just, you know, taking that whole year from the baby being born until the actual sale of it. And then I did a bunch of really cool, uh, therapy and like spirituality type stuff, like right after I sold it. I went to this great... actually the day I signed the deal, I basically Fedexed it and then got on an airplane and went out to San Francisco and I did this really cool thing called the Hoffman process and it's, um, it's over a week long and it's like super intensive, almost like a group therapy experience, but really teaching about like self-acceptance, self-love, moving through any kind of old stuff that might be in your space. And it was a really transformational experience. And so after that happened, I was just kind of, I felt like, OK.
Ryan Tansom: 37:06 How'd you pick that?
Erin Weed: 37:58 I'd heard about it from a friend and he'd had just a really amazing experience there. And so he didn't tell me too much about it. I think sometimes those are the best experiences when you don't exactly know what you're walking into, but it specifically is a program that focuses on our parents and how we were raised and patterns that we picked up from our parents' stories, whether they're true or not, that we believe about them and how that affects us in our current lives and I have amazing parents. Um, so it wasn't about like killing a bad childhood, but I also had awareness that I had some patterns in my life that I was looking to heal.
Ryan Tansom: 38:37 When you walked out of there, how did your feeling and your mindset when you walked out project you into what you're doing now?
Erin Weed: 38:42 I think my mindset out of there was just like, OK, it's time to be a next-level authentic version of myself. And sometimes that means you have to burn the house down a little bit. You know, might have to make some changes in your life. I had to let go of the business that was no longer in alignment with who I am. Doesn't mean there's anything wrong with the business. It just means that it means that I evolved and that's good. And then I had to make some changes in my personal life and do some other healing around that. Um, so it was another journey within itself.
Ryan Tansom: 39:16 Can you, for our listeners that aren't necessarily aware of or exposed to it, explain your passion behind the authentic self? And the reason for the question, Erin, other than because I think what you're doing is awesome is I think that entrepreneurs grow as themselves throughout their business and again, they end up being stuck with a company that might not be themselves anymore and so I think that your topic and how you describe it is extremely applicable to the listeners who are running companies and have inner conflict because of the situation that they've found themselves in.
Erin Weed: 39:51 Yeah. It can be its own kind of prison when you almost become a victim of your own success or or even like in different kinds of businesses like family businesses where you feel like, oh, I have to carry on something because it's in the family, or it could be a million reasons why we feel stuck. Whether it's stuck from an external reasons are stuck from internal reasons, but I am so passionate about becoming more and more authentic versions of ourselves. I don't see authenticity is a light switch that you're either authentic or not authentic. I feel like it's a spectrum, and part of being a spirit and a body in this lifetime is about learning who we are and remembering the essence of ourselves and bringing that through in our personal and professional lives. And um, I'd say probably where I really discovered that though was so after I was selling Girls Fight Back and I was working with Ted speakers, helping them get their message is refined.
Erin Weed: 40:50 And I was having these moments of being like, Oh man, I'm working with says Ted Speaker who's done x, y, z amazing thing. And like this person cannot like coherently distill down into like a 10 to 18 minute talk what they actually do. And I noticed there was this perpetual confusion even in these incredibly successful people's lives. And so I started this process that I'm currently writing a book about called The Dig and what we do in the day because I asked him one basically their life story and I pull out all of the themes that have been repeating throughout your entire life. And the goal of the day is to find what your operating system is, which is usually a series of words that work together, like the, it's almost like your value system, but they're all in relationship to each other. But within that process there is one word that is like your end-all be-all.
Erin Weed: 41:40 It's like we each have one word that we're here for. And it's not about the word, it's about the word is the best tool that we have to capture the energy of it. But once you figured out that one word, then all of a sudden everything in your life, whether it's your Ted Talk or your relationships or whatever, everything starts to make sense because you're either in alignment with your word or your truth or you're out of alignment with it. And so, um, I came to the conclusion, my word through the dig, is authentic. So pretty much everything throughout my life is going to be about getting into the more authentic version of myself and others. It's kind of one of my superpowers with other people. And anytime I am not being authentic, it starts to hurt. I am out of alignment and so everybody has their own word and uh, anyway, I found that through the dig process, it helps people be their more authentic selves and I just have seen, I have worked now with hundreds of people doing that for all sorts of different reasons that outcomes. But I've seen one thing across the board is that the more consciousness we have around why we're here and that big purpose, the better decisions we can make in our life to be in alignment.
Ryan Tansom: 42:49 I think that your process for the listeners and all of the clients that I have in all these business owners, if they need something like that, because I've had, Erin, on the show, you know, people that talk about, you know, meditating and having some quiet and all this stuff I think for entrepreneurs is very, very difficult to do that, which I still think is extremely necessary. But they're, I think a lot of entrepreneurs feel themselves out of alignment because they've grown. They've, they've got this golden cage or prison. Like you said, where you're making a bunch of money. You may or may not like what you do anymore and then so this process sounds like it's something that is extremely applicable. What happens when you go through this and you realize you're out of alignment and you're sitting there probably just eyes wide open. How do you, how do you help someone deal with that situation?
Erin Weed: 43:35 Half the battle is knowing. So once we have consciousness around OK, maybe, in my case, maybe I'm not being very authentic right now and that's why this is kind of giving, giving me bad results. Then that I have a choice, OK, I know why this is happening because I'm not being authentic or as authentic as I could be. Do I want to course correct or do I want to stay on this path? It's really as simple as that were either moving towards or truth or away from it at any given moment and we can choose. There are times that I don't want to be authentic.
Ryan Tansom: 44:06 Yeah, right.
Erin Weed: 44:07 It doesn't usually have the best outcome and I like to think that as I mature, I mean I just turned 40, I like to think that when I'm 70 or 80 that like I will have, there will be nothing appetizing about being remotely inauthentic. I'm probably gonna be one of those old people that just telling everyone where to go or whatever.
Ryan Tansom: 44:24 The really entertaining people in the nursing homes, right?
Erin Weed: 44:32 I'll be super fun at parties. But for now, that's where I'm at. And so like if a person I noticed that I've worked with a few entrepreneurs in their word is freedom, but tends to be a big word that's a driver part of the operating system of an entrepreneurial mindset. So it's like, OK, if you know that that's your word, then at any given moment you're, you're building your life to be more free or to be less free. And that doesn't always mean that we have to like change some kind of external circumstance. Sometimes it's a matter of changing the internal voice of what we're telling ourselves freedom is, you know? So it's not really a cut and dry process. I mean it's completely custom. There's, I've never done a dig that's the same as someone else's and it's yours and it's yours to play with for the rest of your life.
Ryan Tansom: 45:18 I think you nailed it when he said half the battle is knowing. I mean easily, maybe even more than that. And then you at least have an idea of what the decisions you have that you have to make.
Erin Weed: 45:30 Right. And also when we complete the dig, I always help people come to a, we call it the dig question. So if you're finding yourself in a rut or if you're triggered out about something or in a repeating pattern, just having a very simple question to ask yourself to bring yourself back to the awareness around your dig word. So in my case, my question is what is the most authentic thing I can do right now? So if I'm in a crisis, if I'm bored, if I- It doesn't matter, but asking myself that question will give me one step out of the rut and into alignment.
Ryan Tansom: 46:06 That's awesome. I love it. So if, if, if you're one of our listeners and you've got a business and you know, maybe it's because we've talked about so many different things. If there's one thing that you want to highlight from your journey and or with the dig process that we've talked about, what's the one thing you want to highlight or maybe one thing you want to leave people with that we haven't talked about?
Erin Weed: 46:31 Yeah. The one thing, you know, I would just, I would just give to any listener... I can't give a person permission, but I would invite them to give themselves permission to evolve in whatever evolution looks like for you in this moment. If that means selling your business, great. If that means being in the pain of staying in the business or growing the business to the next level, great. If that means shutting down your business and the sale isn't feasible, great. You know? But permission to evolve. Can we give ourselves that?
Ryan Tansom: 47:07 Right and use a process like the dig and, you know, and not everybody can have a baby and have it be perfectly transformation like you had, but I think in it's such an amazing experience that you went through and now you're able to give that gift to other people and it takes work. I mean, it really does.
Erin Weed: 47:24 Mhm, it sure does. And by the way, I mean I fail constantly like, you know, I'm failing at my word all the time, but I'm getting better at my word all the time, too. So...
Ryan Tansom: 47:33 You can at least know whether you're in the rut or you're in alignment, doesn't mean you're always going to be in alignment, but at least you know how at least you can calibrate whether you are or you aren't.
Erin Weed: 47:41 Yeah, and you know why I feel like sometimes we stay in ruts because we don't know why we're in a rut, right? It becomes this self-perpetuating cycle of like, well, why am I feeling this way? Am I depressed? Am I this or that, and do I need to get divorced and you know, or maybe you're just out of alignment with your truth.
Ryan Tansom: 48:03 What's the, what's the best way for our listeners to get in touch with you if they want to explore the dig or if they want to explore any of the materials that you have out there?
Erin Weed: 48:10 Yeah. People could just visit my website at erinweed dot com. On there is information about the dig, uh, which is an experience you could do it in a group setting or a privately. And I also am the founder of Evoso, which is like an academy for leaders who want to speak their truth. So this is where we do training and coaching and consulting and helping people with their public speaking and they're authentic communication. So if you want to learn more about that, you can go to evoso dot com, e v o s o.
Ryan Tansom: 48:41 Perfect. Thank you so much for coming on the show, Erin. I appreciate it very much.
Erin Weed: 48:44 Oh, thank you.
Ryan Tansom: 48:49 Thanks for sticking in there until the end of the episode with Erin. I just loved her story and her passion to be able to take some tragic event like that and then make something of it, create a legacy and a business that goes on and transcends her roommate and her own entrepreneurship venture I think is amazing. My big takeaway from my interview with Erin was how she was able to really look inside and part was something that was ingrained in her and she even called herself an activist entrepreneur from the very beginning, so for her to be able to do this and part ways and look forward to something new and recreate herself is a great example of how we can all do that and it takes a little bit of work and it takes maybe a process like her Dig to dig down and understand what is it that you're all about and if you have internal conflict on who you are, what you represent and what your business represents, I think it's time to recalibrate and understand is there a way to become an absentee owner and then go on and pursue your next career while you have your company? Or is it time to look up and determine what's next on the next stage of life? So I really hope you enjoyed the interview with Erin. She's got an amazing amount of passion, wisdom. And check out her website and her tools if it's something that'll help you get started. So I'll see you next week.
Written by Ryan Tansom
Ryan runs industry-specific podcasts on his website which pertain to mergers and acquisitions, and all the life lessons he wish he had known then. He strives to bring this knowledge to his listeners in a way that is effective and engaging by providing new material each week from industry experts.