Pivot With Purpose S2

Pivot with Purpose with Meghan Houle Season 2 Ep 10

Lynn Power has spent much of her 30 year career running and transforming agency brands. She has expertise in transforming organizations from top to bottom, including capabilities, organizational structure, talent and culture.

She recently left the big agency world to create Masami, a premium, clean haircare brand, which launched in February 2020. Prior to her entrepreneurial move, Lynn was the CEO of J Walter Thompson, New York. Responsible for the  flagship office of WPP’s $1.5 billion iconic agency, the oldest advertising agency in the world. Throughout her career, Lynn has had great fortune of working with some of the world’s most well-known brands, including Listerine, American Express, Clinique, Hershey’s, Pizza Hut, and Wild Turkey.

Lynn believes that business success relies on building a team that respects and nurtures ideas, as well as the people who create them. She believes in moving at the speed of culture, eliminating barriers and helping women find their voices

Connect with her on LinkedIn:

Find out more about Masami Haircare:

Follow on social media (Instagram): @lovemasamihair and @lynnpowered

Click Here to Read Transcript

FC Podcasts: [00:00:00] Pivot with Purpose, a podcast that highlights the unique stories of professionals that pivoted their careers to align with their work lives and personal lives more purposefully and with more joy.

Pivot with Purpose is hosted by Meghan Houle, a globally accredited career and business coach and creator of the Meghan Houle method. 

Meghan Houle: [00:00:33] Welcome back to the Pivot with Purpose podcast. I’m your host, Meghan Houle and in this episode, we talk to Lynn Power, CEO and co-founder of the direct-to-consumer clean beauty premium hair care brand, Masami.

FC Podcasts: [00:00:47] Thank you for listening to Pivot with Purpose with host Meghan Houle. You can find out more information about each guests, including full transcripts at And if you’d like to share your own Pivot with Purpose, click on the share button and add your story to the conversation.

 Finally, be sure to subscribe and share your comments wherever you listen to  your favorite podcast, your support amplifies our voice. And now this week’s episode, 

Meghan Houle: [00:01:21] Lynn has spent much of her 30 year career running and transforming agency brands. She has expertise in transforming organizations from top to bottom, including capabilities, organizational structure, talent and culture.

She recently left the big agency world to create Masami, a premium, clean haircare brand, which launched in February 2020. Prior to her entrepreneurial move, Lynn was the CEO of J Walter Thompson, New York. Responsible for the  flagship office of WPP’s $1.5 billion iconic agency, the oldest advertising agency in the world. Throughout her career, Lynn has had great fortune of working with some of the world’s most well-known brands, including Listerine, American Express, Clinique, Hershey’s, Pizza Hut, and Wild Turkey.

Lynn believes that business success relies on building a team that respects and nurtures ideas, as well as the people who create them. She believes in moving at the speed of culture, eliminating barriers and helping women find their voices. Lynn Power! Welcome to the Pivot with Purpose podcast. Thanks for joining us today.

Lynn Power: [00:02:31] Thank you, Meghan. It’s really great to be here! 

Meghan Houle: [00:02:34] Yay! Well, I’m so excited to dive into our conversation. As I know for you, coming from a long standing career as an advertising executive to your entrepreneurial pivot, where now leading some D to C brands, we’re excited to share what those successful pivots have looked like for you and your story with our listeners.

But always before we get started, I’d love to ease into our conversation and share little inside, look into our guests, maybe what you love? Some of their other passions beyond work to get us started. So tell us, Lynn, what are you enjoying doing this summer? I hope you can make sure to take time for breaks. 

You better be taking breaks! 

Lynn Power: [00:03:14] Oh, I know. Breaks are so important. I agree with you because otherwise you get burned out and that’s no fun, but I’m actually really enjoying my entrepreneurial life. I know it sounds sort of lame to say, I like to work when you work with people that you love and people you trust, it makes it fun.

 I’ve been really enjoying it, but I will give you a real answer. I’ve been trying to be healthier, right? I’m 54. I started this career pivot later in life, stuff starts to get creaky! And you just got to stay on top of it. So I’ve been doing yoga and I’ve been swimming and that’s been really quite helpful, I will say, although I’m sore all the time. 

Meghan Houle: [00:03:58] Well swimming is hard. Swimming that’s a good workout, but that’s definitely tough. And what a great time, do you have a pool or a lake or the beach? Like where’s your swim?  

Lynn Power: [00:04:09] When I’m not on the East Coast, I’m on the West Coast and I’m in Palm Springs where we have a pool and that makes it just super easy.

Now, of course, it’s been 117 degrees there, but the pool is nice. That’s been a nice routine and then I don’t feel so guilty about a glass of wine later. It all kind of balances out. And I feel like, to your point earlier, self care to kind of do things to sort of recharge and reset yourself. And that’s so important for anyone.

Meghan Houle: [00:04:43] Well, thank you for that. And I think at any age we creak, Lynn, so I’m right there with you, 

Lynn Power: [00:04:51] Well, it does get worse as you get a little older just saying, 

Meghan Houle: [00:04:54] But staying active, it really helps. That’s awesome. Well good for you and love that you’re in Palm Springs.

We’ll have to come out there and visit. I will definitely enjoy some wine with you. On that we could talk about wine for like hours here, but this is a pivot podcast. Onto your pivot story where  so many career professionals are truly, always looking for that potential next pivot growing their careers.

I mean, it’s the heart and soul of what we talk about here on the podcast. You’ve had a quite impressive career journey. Talk to us a little bit about where you started off in your career in advertising and how do you feel like your experience with that led to the successful pivot into entrepreneurialship?

Lynn Power: [00:05:32] Yeah, I think in my case, Feels in hindsight, at least like a somewhat natural evolution.  I started in advertising back in the late  eighties, God, I’m older than I realized. And I started as a receptionist at an ad agency and really loved the culture and loved this idea that you could use creativity as a business tool.

And I also love the diversity of working on lots of different businesses when you work in advertising, because you just never get bored. I mean, I started and I worked on Pizza Hut and then I went and worked on American Express. Right, right, 

Meghan Houle: [00:06:10] Remember how good Pizza Hut used to be? Pizza Hut’s probably still good. But remember like the breadsticks, like, the Friday nights, it’s like, that’s what you look forward to. 

Lynn Power: [00:06:18] Well, it’s funny because back then when I worked on it, they were sort of going through a crisis of trying to figure out how to reinvent themselves, which they’ve been on for 30 years. They still haven’t quite figured it out, but nonetheless.

 Pizza Hut, and then I got to work on American Express and Illinois Tourism. And then I worked on P&G and L’Oreal and Gillette, and just interesting brands. I got to launch a lot of brands. I got to meet a lot of celebrities. Like you just do interesting things in advertising. And I liked the pace.

It’s fast. You work hard, but you get stuff done. And you learn a lot because if you really act like a sponge, you can absorb a lot about your client’s business. Which, obviously is helping me now immensely because you really pick up a lot of go to market strategy. A good client will share a lot with the agency.

You really do get a peek under the hood of what’s going on in the business. And I am a sponge. I love that. And I’ve always sort of liked digging in and after many years in advertising, I’ve worked my way up to be running agencies. I ran an agency, Arnold, in New York and it was a smaller creative agency and it was great.

I really loved it until they brought a new CEO in and that wasn’t fun because he was not great. But then I went and I was the CEO of J Walter Thompson, New York. J Walter Thompson, if anyone’s watched Mad Men you’ll have heard of J Walter Thompson. It was, I was going to say it is, but it’s no longer around because it merged with another brand.

It was the oldest ad agency in the world, over 150 years old  one of the largest.  I kind of worked my way up to this position and then I realized, I did it for four years, I really wasn’t enjoying it. Because all the stuff that I talked about that I loved about the business, I wasn’t doing. I was basically an administrator,  dealing with HR issues.

We had a big public lawsuit, I was dealing with the legal team quite regularly. I was just dealing with a lot of, not so fun things, at least for me. Finance meetings constantly. From there it just felt like why am I doing this for other people and not enjoying it?

I can take all this experience and do something that will build my own brand which is easier said than done. But nonetheless, that is the journey that I set  off on. 

Meghan Houle: [00:08:43] There you are now.  Thank you for sharing all of that and you’re right. Being a sponge, absorbing things seeing the opportunities and then saying like, I’m going to do this on my own.

 Where did the beauty side of the business come into your pivot? I understand it’s such a coveted industry. Why beauty and is that moment when you knew it was time to leave the agency world that really kind of having that urge to jump off and do something on your own? 

Lynn Power: [00:09:07] Well, it was a little bit more of the universe intervening, because I had already made the decision to leave. And I actually had started doing some consulting with startups when I left, like, right like the week I left it just happened that I met a company that was like, we want to hire you. And I was like, all right, I just left, it’s great.

It’s great. I started doing work with startups to really get back to my roots of helping businesses really make an impact. Right? And seeing the impact as opposed to working with some of these large companies where they’re very bureaucratic.  You make suggestions, recommendations,

you don’t see them for years. And by the time they do them, they’re out of date, but I had worked on beauty, a bunch throughout my career. It’s like, I kept going back to it. I’d done L’Oreal I’d worked on Clinique. I’d work on Vichy, La Roche-Posay, Nexus, Noxema, some really iconic beauty brands, but of course now with my clean beauty hat, many of those actually had bad stuff in them.

Now look at those brands and I’m like, oh, they’re just toxic. But I loved the beauty industry because it’s this interesting blend of rational and emotional there’s the rational cell, which is the proof, the efficacy, the ingredient, the science, whatever you want to call it.

And then there’s the emotional side, which is very much like the hope in a bottle, right? This idea of transforming yourself or just bringing out your inner beauty. And I really liked that sort of duality. And I’m a beauty junkie too. It doesn’t look like it now, but I am, I used a lot products that my cabinet is overflowing with stuff.

 I’ve always gravitated to the industry. I’ve worked on a lot of haircare also. And then it just happened that my husband was working with my co-founder.  And I hadn’t met James before, but James had basically pulled my husband aside and said, Hey, I’ve been working on these haircare formulations for 10 years.

And I think I have them ready to go to market, but I don’t know what to do. And Bill was like, well, I don’t know anything about beauty, but my wife does. He connected us. I was very cynical about it because a lot of the people Bill has introduced me to in the past have not worked out so well. I was sorta like, fine.

I’ll meet with them. I just figured  it’s just a waste of a couple hours, but whatever. He came over to my apartment for dinner with his husband, Masa. Masa is our muse, and so hence our name Masami. And they love my dogs, which was always a good sign cause I’m a dog person for sure. And if anyone loves dogs I’m like, okay, they’re good in my book. And actually- 

Meghan Houle: [00:11:55] Yes, animal lovers. Yes. We love all animal lovers. Absolutely. 

Lynn Power: [00:11:59] Love animal lovers, but it’s actually more important that my dogs like them. Right?

Because my dogs, they are good at sensing like the good ones and the bad. Yeah. They know. Yeah. Anyways, my dogs liked them and I was like, that’s good. And then they told me the story of basically how they’ve been working on these formulations, really James, over a decade. He found this ingredient in Masa’s hometown in Japan in not sushi, which is this Japanese ocean botanical.

It’s a seaweed that’s super nutritious and they eat it, but they use it in their skincare and haircare, they grind it up and it acts like a sponge to bring hydration. And hydration is just one of the most essential needs for your body, for your skin, for your hair. And so James started playing around with this ingredient and he found a chemist in Chicago who happens to be just absolutely amazing.

 And he had kind of figured out how to create these clean formulas without the sulfates, without the parabens, without the phthalates, but adding in good ingredients and still being really high performing and I was kind of blown away. Cause that’s really hard to do. Like I’ve worked with large companies, corporations that couldn’t figure it out.

  I was the benefit of his 10 years of work because when we met, we’re very complimentary. I mean, I don’t know how to make haircare formulations and he doesn’t know how to do the stuff I do. The branding, the go-to-market strategy, the digital all the marketing distribution, et cetera. It’s actually been a fantastic partnership.

 He gave me products to try. I love them. We decided to go into business together. And from there we’ve been off and running. 

Meghan Houle: [00:13:38] Oh, I love that story. Masami, I mean, that is where you’re at now,  and we’re going to dive into that pivot because I want to  ask you a little bit more about the brand and all that you’re running, but in the spirit of the podcast, I like to leave a little teaser and then we go to a quick break.

 I’m going to ask you yes or no question  and we’ll go from there. Are ready? Okay, so yes or no: thinking  and knowing you have so much passion now for where you are and throughout your career. Do you think it’s important for someone looking to career pivot to love or have passion for a brand or a product they’re aligning with?

Lynn Power: [00:14:12] Yes, absolutely. 

Meghan Houle: [00:14:13] Perfect. Well, thank you for that. And we’ll be going to a quick break and we will pick this up when we get back.

 Lynn, before the break, you said yes. Why do you think it’s important for someone to have love or passion for product or brand they’re joining really beyond checking the boxes from a business or skill set point of view, which I know is also important?

Lynn Power: [00:14:47] Yeah. I mean, I think it’s absolutely critical because first of all, you’re invested, right?

Like, if you’re joining an entrepreneurial team or frankly any business it’s a huge part of your life. I wish it was eight hours a day, but most of the time it’s like 12 hours a day. And why would you want to do that for a brand that you didn’t love or believe in?

 I just feel like the idea of aligning your passion with your work is it just makes it easier. It makes life easier. It just makes it more fun. Like I said, it doesn’t feel as much like work if you’re diving into the category and the competitors and just trying to understand the business, if it’s already a business that you’re interested in, you know?

Meghan Houle: [00:15:31] I’ve been having this debate this week, as you know, working also as a full-time recruiter and doing some coaching with careers and professionals, if you can’t articulate your why, if you can’t get beyond a brand, sure you can check the boxes.

But I think at the end of the day, that’s really what seals the deal of getting hired aligning yourself with product or a mission that you really appreciate and we all work so hard. Right? You want to work for something that you really enjoy.  Would you hire someone who you feel like could make your brand a bunch of money, but they couldn’t articulate why they wanted to work for you? 

Lynn Power: [00:16:05] That would be hard because I mean, they’ve got to have a reason cause the other side of it is like, if somebody’s coming to work on my team, it’s got to be a mutually beneficial relationship.

Right? I want certain things out of them, but then I also want to understand what they need, because if they’re only gonna come in and do the job for three months and then leave, well that’s not good. It’s almost worse because then I’m starting over. So I always feel like somebody’s gotta be able to articulate why they want to be there, what they want to get out of it, what they aspire to do, because then if I’m like, wow, that’s really aligned with what I’m doing.

And now that I know that your desire is to get into whatever content strategy or digital acquisition, I can start to push work towards you that meets those goals. But if I don’t know because the person can’t articulate, like why they’re even there, then it’s like then it’s hard because then you don’t know if you’re actually creating something where they’re going to be satisfied in their learning and their growing.

 I’d much rather have those conversations upfront before you get like in it, and then you realize, oh, maybe it’s not the best fit, you know? 

Meghan Houle: [00:17:17] Right. Yeah. You’re checking the boxes, but everything has to align. So tell us more about where you’re at, your current business as clean beauty, direct to consumer haircare offering.

 I know you talked a little bit about how you got involved, but tell us more about the brand story and what you guys are up to. 

Lynn Power: [00:17:32] As you said, clean hair care. We have this Japanese ocean botanical called Mekabu. The cool thing about is it gives you a weightless hydration, it doesn’t weigh your hair down, but it solves your biggest hair issue, which is hydration. So, we launched at New York Fashion Week in February of 2020. And it was interesting. And this is another thing about career pivot is that working in a corporate environment, it’s pretty predictable. I mean, yes, there are client fires and there are always things that happen,

but your job in general is pretty predictable. Working in an entrepreneurial environment is not because who would have seen obviously what happened with COVID and a big part of our business plan revolved around salons, which were closed. So for someone like me, who’s pretty type A control, I had to really learn to let go and to try to just control the things I could, which was a very small amount of things. I can control my content. I control my customer experience. I can control our messaging, but I can’t make salons open up, you know what I mean?

So, having to take a step back and kind of have empathy for what everyone else is going through. As much as I’m trying to grow my business, other people are just trying to stay in business. Right? That’s part of it too. I definitely think like you just have to sort of let go a bit and just be open to, we’re talking about career pivot, but business pivot too. Like basically whatever comes your way, you got to be flexible and be able to kind of deal with it and then move on. Because we had also, we had things happen that I would have never predicted, like not good things either. Like we had packaging that was delayed by months

stuck on a boat because of COVID, couldn’t get into the US like there were just lots of those kinds of issues where you just literally go, oh my God, no, not another thing like that. And like I said, there’s really nothing you can do about it. You just have to kind of like, this is where the yoga and the swimming really helps, 

Meghan Houle: [00:19:45] Right. Take deep breaths and then focus on what you can control. Absolutely. Do some self-care. What else do you love most about being an entrepreneur? 

Lynn Power: [00:19:55] Well I love the flexibility of not having to go into an office and working the hours I want to work. And if I want to take a hike in the middle of the day, I can go take a hike and just being able to just do stuff.

And I have now come to the conclusion in my old age that blending my work and my personal life works for me in a much better way than compartmentalizing or even balancing. People talk about that, which I find is a very elusive term. But when I say blending, I mean, like, I work with my friends.

I drag my kids into my business. My daughter helps me actually. I have another business, which is a luxury bee powered home fragrance company. My daughter’s helping me with that. It’s been nice to have that kind of blending because it makes both sides easier. If that makes sense. 

Meghan Houle: [00:20:52] And becomes a family affair. We had another entrepreneurial spirit like you on the podcast this season who has kind of pulled her kids into a business and you get them like working and appreciating work at a young age.

I think it’s important. When they see their parents really committing and loving what they do. It sets some good foundations in them as well and yes, we love the flexibility.  Not everybody has that, but I think a little bit last year,  some of us working from home were like, oh, we can take a break during the day or get outside and walk and its important.

 As we said in the beginning, take those breaks. But what other brands are you working with? I know you just mentioned  the bee powered candle, which I love, and I feel like you’ve got a cult following there too. But any other brands you’re working with that you’re really excited about?

 Tell us about some of your other ventures? 

Lynn Power: [00:21:38] Well one of the cool things that we’ve done over the last year is we’ve partnered with other like-minded brands.  I guess you could say it’s a pragmatic marketing tactic, but at the same time, it’s a strategic one because is a lot of us, small business owners, female founders, India brands, we’re all in the same boat. There’s a bunch of brands now that I know that have launched right around the time we did. And we’re all kind of dealing with the same stuff. Why not try to help each other? The cool thing is like I found a bunch of brands that have led to more brands that have led to more partnerships and not all of them have been awesome, but  90% have been absolutely great. 

 And we found brands that share our values. Brands that embrace diversity inclusivity, like we’re gender neutral, which to me is like just a more modern way to market your brand. We’re very much about ocean and sustainability.  There’s a brand right now that we’re partnering with called Acess79.

They’re awesome. They’re a fine jewelry brand that’s sustainable.  They work with a lot of female designers. Their materials are all ethically sourced and it’s very much sort of a customized experience. And it’s all about kind of like, don’t wait for somebody to buy you a bracelet or whatever you want, just do it, get it for yourself.

 I just really like that. We’ve been working with them and, when I say working with them, like, we’ll do a giveaway. We’ll do interviews like live streaming blog posts share each other’s discount codes.

 It is nice. It’s all stuff that like, it doesn’t cost anything. And I just think there’s this, I know it’s going to sound a little cheesy, but, but karmic generosity, where if you just sort of have the spirit of going into it, not thinking of what you’re going to get out of it, but thinking of how you can help the other brand.

It’ll come back and you’re going to end up feeling really good about that partnership. We’ve got a bunch and we work with Romer skincare a lot. They are another gender neutral, simple, clean skincare brand that now I have my kids using it’s great. And there’s another one called The Sexiest Beauty.

Oh my God.

Meghan Houle: [00:24:01] I can’t wait to look up all these, we’ll have to link them as well. Yeah. 

Lynn Power: [00:24:05] Yeah. But they make the craziest best lip mask, like ever, ever. I’m looking them up after this. Oh my God. I love this product. And I’ve said to the founder, like, I’m going to have to just buy like a case of it because. If you ever changed the formula or, 

Meghan Houle: [00:24:25] Yeah, you’re like, its not going to be the same!

Lynn Power: [00:24:27] Yeah, it’s really, really good. I love that product. Then I’ve got this other brand that we’ve been working with called impact naturals, which is a CBD supplement brand. Yeah. Cool. Oh my God. Cause I have trouble sleeping now. Yup. Me too. And this is the, I’ve tried a lot of different sleep tricks.

And a lot of different supplements and products like gummies and the THC stuff and whatever, but the, these impact naturals sleep, their CBD. They actually work really well and I don’t have any weird, like with a lot of the other products, I wake up with like a dry mouth or I’d wake up like four hours later.

This product is like, it just feels clean. Like you just don’t even feel it. It just works.  I’ve been now I’m giving it to everyone I know. Cause everyone I know has trouble sleeping these days I feel like.

Meghan Houle: [00:25:22] It’s hard to shut down our brains, especially owning businesses and working  I feel like we’re connected more than ever.

 It’s tough to shut down if you don’t have a good nighttime routine, usually I don’t. And then you lay awake and those are the best times where ideas come to my mind. I’m like, geez, no, just let me sleep. Oh, I can’t wait to check that out. 

Lynn Power: [00:25:41] But you’re right, it’s like, you want to shut down, but then to your point, your brain is still going, I think sleep is so important that like I’ve tried to just really prioritize getting a good night’s sleep. And this has worked for me. 

 Meghan Houle: [00:25:53] It’s so beautiful. I mean, those partnerships, the synergy, like you said, good karma, not seeing people as competition,  really lifting each other up and supporting each other in this space and especially beauty, fashion, jewelry, all intertwined, we can all work harmoniously together. 

 Well, thank you for sharing all that again. I know we’ve talked about pivoting at any age  you certainly have had some really impressive pivots.

Do you think that at any point at any time, like there’s not a timeline, not an age, where someone can start to change careers or become an entrepreneurial spirit to get a new business idea off the ground. Do you think someone can truly pivot at any age? 

Lynn Power: [00:26:30] I do. Absolutely. I think there are plenty of examples of teenagers, 20 year olds, 30 year olds  starting businesses.

So there’s that, but a lot of the brands that I just mentioned, they’re older founders like me. Oh. And there’s another one that I have to make. Elaine Wellness, which is a collagen brand she’s,  also in her fifties and she started this brand and the thing I love about these brands is like she put a lot of work into the quality of the products to really make sure that she’s getting the best collagen and the best efficacy and she had her own health issues and it really worked for her.

 There’s something about being an older founder where you’re bringing more of your personal story into it. And a lot of times these businesses come from a founder’s own frustration or their own issues that they’ve had and also, like I said, it took us 10 years to make our formulas.

 I guess theoretically you could start when you’re 16 and then launch the business when you’re 26. But I do think  being an older founder in a lot of ways, actually has helped because I just think we’re resilient. We have experience, we can make decisions really fast.

We don’t sweat all the management stuff. Like a lot of the younger founders that I work with, or I know just through beta works and through other places, they’re worried about building a team, giving feedback, finding a partner,  things that are more, like I’ve done it a gazillion times.

 So I just think it’s like different in terms of the skill sets. But I think older founders actually, there’s a lot of studies now that have come out, there’s a Wharton study, older founders are more successful. I think they said the average age of success is 45.

When I hear of somebody thinking about pivoting and they’re in their forties or fifties or sixties. I mean, I work with an e-commerce platform. The woman that started it is in her sixties. I just say go for it because look, you’re not getting any younger, you’ve got all this experience.

 It’s like, you really shouldn’t feel like you’re being held back. I mean, there is ageism, but you just kind of have to ignore that and just prove everyone wrong, I suppose. 

Meghan Houle: [00:28:43] I think that anytime anyone’s sharing a personal vulnerability of like, this is why I brought this brand to life and it works, you’re not manufacturing something,  you’re actually bringing a part of you to life to share a product that’s been super helpful. 

And I think people really connect with stories as well. Stories come with time and age, and I agree with you. Thank you for sharing that as well as I know a lot of our listeners, career-wise, some are more in that back half of the career  and you can start at any age you can redo at any age.

 Kind of have to start and trust yourself and keep moving forward. Is there anything you learned at a young age that’s really stuck with you throughout your career? 

Lynn Power: [00:29:22] Boy. I would say one of the hardest things for me to learn, it’s still hard, but I’ve gotten better at it is that I’m a natural introvert and working in the advertising industry, you can’t really be an introvert.

At least not as like an account person, which is what I was. I was lucky that I had a boss very early in my career that basically would constantly push me out there and would make me present  and even if I was, I was horrible, like really bad at it. And it didn’t phase him.

He was like, oh, you’ll be better next time. And I would be like, what? There’s a next time? Oh my God. But learning that skill of like what I call myself as a learned extrovert. It’s almost like you’re pretending to be extroverted and then you are extroverted. That has served me well, because honestly, like I said, it’s, hard to be successful in business if you can’t put yourself out there.

 I know that a lot of other introverts struggle with that too, but you just have to get yourself to a position where you just do it and you’re not always comfortable, but you get okay with being uncomfortable. And I’m trying to now kind of teach my daughter some of that same stuff.

Cause she’s incredibly introverted also, but it’s hard it’s like I’ve learned and I had somebody kind of pull me through and she’s now sort of in that like deer in the headlights terrified stage of oh, my God, I can’t possibly get a job where I have to interact with people.

Meghan Houle: [00:30:54] Yes, that’s the world we live in. Well, she’s got a good mentor in you, she’s very lucky. Tell us a little bit more about how our listeners can find you, your products engage with brands.  I want to link all the amazing things that you talked about, but how can we connect with you and learn more about your products, your partnerships, where’s the best way to find you.

Lynn Power: [00:31:13] Our website is, L O V E M A S A M But you can also follow us on all our social channels, which we’re on everything at lovemasamihair, everywhere. And a lot of times we’ll post a lot about our partners on all those. You’ll see us post giveaways or a blog post, or we might do an Instagram live with one of our other brand founders or do an interview, that kind of thing.

 Yeah, it’s pretty easy to kind of follow along  and see what’s going on. 

Meghan Houle: [00:31:48] And then product, especially haircare so important. The beauty uptick of 2020, it’s real. These beauty brands are taking off,  the haircare space, especially between hair color and home hair care.

Having products that really are effective and work, especially in the Northeast where it gets so dry. I mean, I’m a blonde as you know, so with our hair you definitely have to take special care.  It seems like you have some really amazing products and we can’t wait to continue to keep our eye on you and all that you’re doing.

 Thank you, Lynn, so much for all your insight into my hot topics and discussion around your pivots and working with passion and how you can pivot at any stage in life. I’m sure our listeners will be looking to connect with you and maybe join some of your IG lives and all the brands that you support. So I truly wish you continued success and we look forward to keeping our eye on you as well, and maybe for future partnerships. So thanks for being with us. 

Lynn Power: [00:32:41] Thank you so much. And I would love to actually interview you too. We’ll have to think  about that! 

Meghan Houle: [00:32:45] Okay. Well, yes. From one person who loves to talk to another. Absolutely! Well, thank you, Lynn. Enjoy Palm Springs and swimming. 

Lynn Power: [00:32:53] Thank you! 

Meghan Houle: [00:32:54] Okay. Lynn Power: [00:32:55] Bye!

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Pivot With Purpose S2

Pivot with Purpose with Meghan Houle Season 2 Ep 9

Kilee Nickels is the CEO and Founder of Nickel & Suede, an accessories brand dedicated to empowering women to be bold, brave, and step out of their comfort zone. Previously, Kilee ran One Little Momma, a style blog and community, and co-founded One Little Belt, a children’s apparel line. Under Kilee’s leadership, Nickel & Suede has grown from a small basement workshop to a national brand with three retail locations, and a design office and production facility in Kansas City. Recognized by Inc. 500 as one of the fastest growing companies two years in a row, Nickel & Suede has grown a cult following for its innovative lightweight statement earrings using premium Italian leather. Kilee’s entrepreneurial drive not only comes from her love of design, but also her passion for creating community and inspiring others to be their most authentic selves. Not one to rest on her laurels, Kilee also hosts With Kilee Nickels, a weekly podcast dedicated to inspiring women to be confident in pursuing their passions. Kilee lives in Liberty, MO and is married to her college sweetheart and business partner, Soren Nickels. She is a proud #boymom to five boys, aged 3-12, and two crazy puppies.

Shop Nickel & Suede:

Follow on Instagram: @nickelandsuede

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Pivot With Purpose S2

Pivot with Purpose with Meghan Houle Season 2 Ep 8

Marco Santini received a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistic Anthropology at Brown University, where he was intrigued by the relationship between communication, expression, and imagery. Santini worked at branding agencies in New York City before fully committing to the arts. His geometric style is expressed through spray paint, paint markers, window markers, acrylics, magazines, textiles and digital art.

Marco Santini found his life purpose in 2018 to spread love and positivity as a conscious creator. He has expressed his thoughts through arts, education and volunteering, and he speaks and paints at schools around the world, teaching students to explore their passions while turning negatives into positives. In 2019, Santini had his first solo show, entitled “Unity and Diversity” showcasing over a hundred works at 198 Allen Gallery in the lower east side of New York City.

His work has also been featured at the United Nations, Shore Club Miami, SLS, Art Basel Miami, Bloomingdales, Burning Man (2019), SXSW (2019 & 2018), Hudson Yards, Brooklyn Beer Garden, Underhill Walls, Rare Art Gallery, Flywheel Gallery, GalleryBar, Rogue Gallery, Arts United, Art House in East Hampton, Bond’s.

Tune in to hear more about how his artwork came to define a critical moment in the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement last year.

Find out more about Marco’s art and life’s work at:

Follow Marco on Instagram: @_marco_santini_

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Pivot With Purpose S2

Pivot with Purpose with Meghan Houle Season 2 Ep 7

Paula Maldonado founded dauntless in 2016 in New York City with all the factors, certified by peta, fair trade and ethically sourced materials.  She wanted to create basic elements that would become the staple garments of a consumer’s wardrobe. Behind that staple garment was a brand story that embodies determination, honesty, fair trade, transparency, love and kindness. 

Dauntless is a PETA certified vegan and sustainable ready to wear brand with a modern responsible supply chain founded in 2016. Paula prides herself as Dauntless being the pioneers of sustainable and vegan fashion with a brand mission to create basics that become the staple garments of any wardrobe and behind that staple garment is a brand story that represents determination, honesty, fair trade, transparency, love and kindness. 

Dauntless brings conscious fashion to fashion forward consumers and is looking to change the perception of sustainable fashion.  The Dauntless business model is about showcasing the importance of maintaining and supporting a responsible modern supply chain. Paula and her team strive to create high end designs with the best quality materials and the ultimate goal of making the consumer feel part of their family and brand DNA, to work together to create sustainable synergy.

The Dauntless team is made up of amazing women that want to create change who are women heads of households holding production artists positions.  Dauntless production site is located in Bogota, Colombia.

Shop Dauntless:

Follow on Instagram: @dauntless_nyc

Click Here to Read the Full Transcript

FC Podcasts: [00:00:00] Pivot with Purpose, a podcast that highlights the unique stories of
professionals that pivoted their careers to align with their work lives and personal lives,
more purposefully and with more joy.
Pivot with Purpose is hosted by Meghan Houle, a globally accredited career and business
coach and creator of the Meghan Houle method.
Meghan Houle: [00:00:33] Welcome back to the Pivot with Purpose podcast. I’m your host,
Meghan Houle, and in this episode, we talk to Paula Maldonado entrepreneur, activist,
design consultant, and CEO of the sustainable women’s immense fashion brand Dauntless
FC Podcasts: [00:00:50] Thank you for listening to Pivot with Purpose with host Meghan
Houle. You can find out more information about each guest, including full transcripts at And if you’d like to share your own Pivot with Purpose, click
on the share button and add your story to the conversation. Finally, be sure to subscribe and
share your comments wherever you see to your favorite podcast, your support amplifies our
And now this week’s episode.
Meghan Houle: [00:01:24] Dauntless is a PETA certified vegan and sustainable ready-to-
wear brand with a modern, responsible supply chain founded in 2016 and are the pioneers
of sustainable and vegan fashion. Dauntless creates basics that become the staple garments
of your wardrobe. And behind that staple garment is a brand story that represents
determination, honesty, fair trade, transparency, love, and kindness.
Paula’s mission is to bring conscious fashion to fashion forward consumers and change their
perception of sustainable fashion. Paula’s Dauntless team is made up of amazing women
that want to create change and their production artists are women heads of households
with their production site located in Bogota, Colombia.
Hi, Paula. Welcome to the Pivot with Purpose podcast. Thank you for joining today. How are
Paula Maldonado: [00:02:18] Meghan it’s so good to hear from you and I’m so excited and
thank you for having me.
Meghan Houle: [00:02:24] Yeah, well, I know we have a lot of really wonderful things to talk
about and your brand and your business and all your pivots and for all of our listeners, full-
just to let them know, you’re usually based in Miami, but very special coming to us live from
a business trip that you are recording in from Bogota, Columbia! So thanks for taking your
time to speak with us across the ocean here. Yeah, excited to sort of talk about Dauntless

and all of the things that you’re working on, but to ease into the podcast, I always love to
dive into something fun.
What fun things do you have in store for the brand this season, any teasers into some new
things that you’re working on or what you’re really excited about?
Paula Maldonado: [00:03:02] Yes, of course. And it’s an honor to tell you my story. So,
teasers! We just got a second order with Macy’s. That’s a huge growth for us to be able to
sell sustainable fashion in such a large marketplace.
We also are in conversations with another big retailer, which is intel I cannot share, but
we’ve had a huge growth thanks to change of consumer behavior which has given us that
advantage to showcase the importance of sustainable fashion and looking forward to see
what the future awaits for us.
Meghan Houle: [00:03:37] Well, I love fashion so much. I know when we first connected
definitely talking about some of the pieces I love from your collections and could talk forever
about fashion, but you have a story to tell, so we want to hear it. So let’s dive into it! As a
sustainable fashion designer, where did you get your start?
Talk to us a little bit about your journey to where you are at this point with Dauntless.
Paula Maldonado: [00:03:57] Of course. So I actually studied in Parsons programming and I
had so many friends that studied fashion and I saw their late nights, production, chaos. And
I was like, oh my God, this is not something that I would ever want to be part of.
And now five years later, I’m here talking about having founded a fashion label. So it’s a
curious change. I’ve always been curious of how people dress based on their personality, but
basically in 2015, I was creative art director at a luxury commerce where we only sold royal-
worn brands.
And in that case, through these royal-worn brands where royalty actually gave these brands
kind of like a certificate of sustainability, craftsmanship, and authenticity. Let’s look into this
fashion. Let’s see in the fashion industry, something like that.
And the only brand that I saw was actuallyStella McCartney which was vegan and she had all
the responsible, modern supply chain. And I’m like, Hmm, this is a huge opportunity,
business potential and a niche where I should start and create this brand. And I’ve always
been an entrepreneur at heart, an activist.
And why not create a company where I’m able to create a positive impact in consumerism as
well as consumers’ lifestyles.
Meghan Houle: [00:05:14] So what would you say you’re most proud of career to date, and
then we’ll dive into Dauntless a little bit further. What’s your most proudest moment?
Paula Maldonado: [00:05:22] I think this year in January we grew our team to five people.
And just in the first trimester we actually hit our goal for the revenue of the end of year. So

that was a huge kind of turning point for us and for me, myself as a founder and see that
potential that Dauntless has in the marketplace.
Meghan Houle: [00:05:45] Sustainability, I mean it’s something that everyone’s talking about
now more than ever. Absolutely. What was that driving force behind creating Dauntless? Did
you always want your own line?
Paula Maldonado: [00:05:55] Yes. So I’ve always wanted my own line. I wanted to launch
with basics. So who doesn’t own at least one leather jacket in their closet.
So why not have that staple garment of their wardrobe, be a Dauntless jacket where behind
that jacket, you have all these values of determination, sustainability, loving, kindness,
conscious fashion. So that’s one, it was what I wanted to portray in the office. Another
driving force is woman empowerment.
I feel that success is not gender related. We’re an all woman team, female founded. So it’s
definitely a driving force creating this community of self virtue and sustainability.
Meghan Houle: [00:06:36] I’m obsessed with your brand pillars all about women’s
empowerment and all that you’re doing even in Bogota, right?
Where you have a good amount of women helping you on the supply chain side, like heads
of households, right? Like really employing people there in Columbia as well.
Paula Maldonado: [00:06:50] Yeah, correct. We employ women heads of households and
it’s again, creating this community where we educate about sustainability.
And then this is kind of a spread of knowledge and care for our planet and consumerism,
where they apply this to their communities and within their households as well.
Meghan Houle: [00:07:07] Yeah, so important across the world. We all have to do our part,
right? Why is sustainability something we truly all need to care about when investing in
What are your thoughts around that?
Paula Maldonado: [00:07:18] It’s an obligation as a consumer to really look into and read
about a brand or what you’re purchasing. It can be beauty, it can be, for example, the
detergent, you really have to look into what you’re buying.
And it’s something that we need to change as consumers and apply into our day to day.
Meghan Houle: [00:07:37] And we can start small. Right? It doesn’t have to be like clean
slate. I’m doing everything all at once, but I agree investing in those things, maybe the
things that you use most often.
I think when it comes to fashion, like really investing, like you said, in a leather jacket I’m
obsessed with that vegan blue suede that is no longer available, but maybe you’ll just make
a special one for me.

Paula Maldonado: [00:07:58] We’ll make one just for you, Meghan.
Meghan Houle: [00:07:59] Oh, see everyone I’m going to hold her to it now we have it in an
audio, not in writing, an audio. But yeah, no, it’s our responsibility.
It really, really is. So I appreciate all that you’re doing. And it’s really cool coming from a very
creative and arts driven background. What do you think has been the key to your successful
pivots as so many listeners and the podcasts are really career-driven and professionals out
there. What are some of those successes that you feel like you’ve really had in pivoting
through each job?
Paula Maldonado: [00:08:27] Of course. So basically one of the main points would be
financials. I think that for any business, if you understand your financials: your assets, your
liability, your revenue, your cashflow, your churn rate. I mean, it’s these things that I think
that if you understand, it’s so much easier to have a longer life in your business to
understand. That was a huge career pivot for me to understand those financials and look for
that breakeven, look for that success. You look into breaking even when you get there,
you’re like, okay, wow, this is a real business.
And it does take time for a lot of businesses to get there so it’s normal but that’s a huge
career pivot for myself.
Meghan Houle: [00:09:14] Well, and for the team that you’ve built, which congrats, for a
growing business, five team members! That’s pretty big. You don’t know what you don’t
know. Right? So you try to surround yourself with those experts that can then kind of blend
in. So what does that team dynamic look like for you? And do you see more growth coming
in the future?
Paula Maldonado: [00:09:33] Yes. So I think that it’s an obligation as a CEO and as founders
to be okay to give someone better at something than you are give them that trust and
confide that you just hired this amazing person that will help you and help the business.
So that’s something that I think all entrepreneurs struggle, is that you want to do it all, but
the person that does it all doesn’t do anything really. So having this team of such incredible
women, this morning we had breakfast together and we’re laughing about these things
that happen, with the wifi struggling in such an important call from this like small things to
more personal things.
So having this family team is just fantastic for me. I’m very appreciative.
Meghan Houle: [00:10:17] Well, you’re certainly creating that positive culture, work culture,
culture value add, potentially, as you continue to grow your business, I think what draws a
lot of people to brands is the people that they work around and knowing that it feels good
and you’re doing good work and everyone’s working together for the greater good.
That’s what it’s all about. I’m so happy to hear all that. And I know you guys are just going to
keep crushing it out there, but before we move on to our next session, I always like to put
our guests on the spot with a yes or no question

and then we usually go to a break. So yes or no, for someone looking to launch their own
sustainable fashion brand, do you think it’s easy to get started?
Paula Maldonado: [00:10:56] No.
Meghan Houle: [00:10:58] Alright well, we’ll talk through that we will be going to a quick
break and we will pick this up when we get back.
All right, Paula. So before the break, you said no. So what would you say is the best first step
if someone wants to get their brand off the ground and what are some of those challenges
that you see in starting a sustainable brand?
Paula Maldonado: [00:11:31] Yes. So I think you have to be relevant of what you’re creating,
not go into the easy route, you can find a non-sustainable fabric, cheaper, easier then
sourcing of that sustainable fabric, that’s based on your values. So don’t go on the easy
route, you have to be relevant and you have to be credible of what you’re creating and
what you want to sell to your customers. And I think really it’s kind of like, Meghan, you
mentioned those pillars, don’t lose your north.
Don’t lose your north, keep your values and I think that just makes you relevant and honest,
and it shows when you’re creating something, it shows what is behind your brand. And I
think that’s very, very important.
Meghan Houle: [00:12:12] What other resources and, or network support would you say are
other important things to have as you get your brand started?
Paula Maldonado: [00:12:21] There’s so many opportunities, for example, Female Founder
Collective by Rebecca Minkoff which we’re part of… It’s an amazing community of women
helping out and they respond and they help you. There’s also great workshops. We just won
a contest with Wework and SoftBank of Women of Tomorrow Creating Impact.
They offer you these exclusive courses with SoftBank and Wework and to help you with
these resources being you’re just starting off. Dauntless has in been business for five years.
So look for these opportunities. There’s just so much free information and opportunity and
you just have to look for it.
Meghan Houle: [00:12:58] What’s that inspiration behind Dauntless? Love to hear your
story. What’s the name all about?
Paula Maldonado: [00:13:04] So I’ve always been called bossy.
So I’m like, okay, I think Dauntless defines exactly who I am in all its values and even just the
garments that I sell is something that I would want to wear, not looking for that, acceptance
of the fashion industry, of couture and being all crazy, just, what would I wear?
And that’s definitely an inspiration. Dauntless, is about determination fearlessness, and I
think that’s what I want the customer, that benefit of purchasing, feeling good, feeling that
you’re creating consciousness because there’s been such great reviews of our brand of, “this
is not only beautiful, but it’s sustainable” start to create a conversation either about

sustainability or sustainable fashion or even just about Dauntless. So that’s a huge deal for
Meghan Houle: [00:13:59] What do you love most about being an entrepreneur?
Paula Maldonado: [00:14:01] So everybody talks about freedom, but I mean, we work 24/7,
so I don’t know.
Meghan Houle: [00:14:06] And you’re like, it’s not really freedom… Freedom from like a
corporate umbrella.
Paula Maldonado: [00:14:11] Right, right. Yeah. Then I’m guessing you can work anywhere. I
think entrepreneurs, I think it’s just this addiction to adrenaline, right? You have these peaks
and these lows, you get this amazing peak of success and, for example, signing Macy’s or
winning, Wework with SoftBank and then it’s like, oh my God, I have to go into my cashflow,
make that happen for the production of Macy’s, but then you send the delivery and the
whole order
and you’re just like ecstatic again. So I think it’s that addiction of the adrenaline rush of
Meghan Houle: [00:14:44] Much like what I do here on my coaching side and with recruiting
when you are running your own business, it’s the high highs and the low lows.
Sometimes call it the Corona coaster or at least last year. My husband’s like, oh, what
happened today? And then the next day, you’re like, winning the lottery, or feeling like it. So,
yeah, it’s just about balancing it. Take the good with the bad, things will work out some
things don’t and you just have to just have to roll with it.
But what is something you struggle with? And how would you overcome self doubt? What is
something you’re challenged with and how do you overcome those days where you’re not
feeling a hundred percent or second guessing things?
Paula Maldonado: [00:15:18] Yeah, it’s tough. I think overcoming self-doubt is quite difficult.
The other day I was talking with my boyfriend and his brother and I’m like, if Dauntless just
doesn’t get where I want it to be in December I’m just going to close and they’re like can I
buy your business?
Like, what are you thinking? And it’s this moments of self-doubt then a day later you’re like
of course not, it’s not easy. And I think if you build a community, even my own family of
employees, they’re like, we can do this.
Nothing comes easy. No one said it was going to be easy either, even though it’s super cliche
to say that, but it’s true. When you become an entrepreneur, you have that kind of secret
goal that you don’t tell anyone about.
And you just want to get there, but you don’t really share it. So that’s kind of like, swimming
against the current. You want to get there, but it’s tough. And I think if you surround
yourself again with the support system, I think that’s a huge deal.

Meghan Houle: [00:16:14] It’s true. The network, the support, it’s everything. And you said,
so Dauntless’s about five years in, right? Is there anything you would tell your former self
five years ago as you started this journey? Anything you would tell yourself or have done
differently up to this point?
Paula Maldonado: [00:16:28] I think I would have gotten a full master in accounting.
I think that I wouldn’t have so many gray hairs,
It’s tough, but I think I would say what were you thinking, but then look at yourself now. I’m
grateful of all my hard work. And I think that also an entrepreneur, you have to kind of have
that self value. And just saying like, look, it’s been five years.
I mean, you got into Macy’s five years later, you’ve gotten all these contests and grants and
opportunities five years later. It’s not something the day after. So I think that’s good, and
resilience. I think that’s something that is great for entrepreneurs.
And also what I love to share is, I want to share my knowledge. I want to be the support
system of other entrepreneurs, even if it’s not someone that I know, but they’re willing to
reach out. And I think through LinkedIn and your podcast is having this knowledge spread
out and support, which is great.
Meghan Houle: [00:17:31] Yeah, well, I’m sure you’ll have a lot of people hopefully looking
to connect with you with so many ideas. A lot of like resources that people can tap into, free
things. Please, I urge anyone to contact Paula, maybe kindly pick her brain as I know you
don’t want this influx, but I appreciate you sharing that generous offering and you probably
do mentor and could be an incredible mentor. What can we expect to see from Dauntless,
anything else as you sort of near the end of this year, the new collections of the basics
coming out, what are you excited about collection-wise?
Paula Maldonado: [00:18:04] We are creating this new kind of facelift of Dauntless, which
we’ll be launching in 2022, early 2022.
And this is something we’ve been working on this full year and launching an amazing
collection, all linen, all sustainable linen in May. And it’s the first time we do something like
that. But we will continue doing our MVPs and hopefully as well as, raising our first seed.
It’s been scary. It’s tough. It’s not easier either, also as a female founder. But I think we’ll get
there. And again, as I mentioned before, I don’t think success is true directly to any gender. I
want to break those barriers.
Meghan Houle: [00:18:44] Well you are, and you have such a great mission, brand pillars, all
of the wonderful things you’re doing. As you continue to grow and expand, would you be
looking to hire an expand in your team in the coming years? So I can stay in touch with you
on that as it certainly seems like a very cool group to work with, but any plans to keep
building your team as you can as well?
Paula Maldonado: [00:19:04] Yes. I think this semester we’ll be hiring two people, hopefully
three and we’re open to anything. Sometimes I see that resume and I’m like, no, no, I just

want to meet the person. I think, I didn’t have the best grades and I’m an entrepreneur, and
I think I have plenty of knowledge and I’m not saying I’m the smartest person in the world,
but I think that it’s those things that makes you great.
Meghan Houle: [00:19:29] Well thank you for saying that as I know many of our listeners
you have your resume out there and it’s a competitive space in our industry and fashion.
And so many people are just judged by their resume, it’s a piece of paper! Like get on a
phone with someone talk to someone, the magic is in you. Your story is what it is on paper,
but you telling it, I think is really what brings you to life, thank you for that point.
So for our listeners, what do you feel like is one piece of sustainable clothing that somebody
should invest in? What does everybody need in their closet right now and why?
Paula Maldonado: [00:20:05] Okay. So I think a full leather jacket by Dauntless.
I think it’s the staple garment of any customers, you know for a fashion forward wardrobe, I
think a full leather jacket doesn’t especially target a style or race or culture. Absolutely
anything. I think anyone owns at least one jacket in their wardrobe.
Like I mentioned previously, so let’s buy sustainably, I think a full leather jacket that’s non
seasonable. That’s storable and has a long life. I think it’s something you should invest in and
invest in the brand as well. And I think you potentially share the same values as the brand
you’re buying in. So I think that’s great.
Meghan Houle: [00:20:52] And I feel like you also have some really cool sneakers. Cause I
feel like streetwear sneakers, I mean always have been hot, but that’s kind of the go-to shoe
as not many people are wearing heels, you know walking around. So tell us a little bit more
about those sneakers.
Cause I know they’re like a hundred percent sustainable, obviously recycle. Like they’re
pretty special. I love them.
Paula Maldonado: [00:21:11] Thank you, no, they’re all certified sustainable recycled
materials or eco standard certified. And it’s actually a collaboration with a Swedish brand.
They’re made in Portugal.
But what’s great is the tag that we put on is everything that the shoe represents and it’s
what it’s made of. So being again, fully this transparent and honest company of what you’re
selling to that consumer and those benefits of what they’re investing in.
And you can find those online as well. And they’re unisex, which we wanted to create. Again,
not targeting a gender.
Meghan Houle: [00:21:45] Question for you, and then we can talk about listeners being able
to find you, but for someone who is cleaning out their closet or say some of the sustainable
fashions, you’ve given it a lot of love, it’s worn out.

I mean, I try to donate so many clothes that I can, and it’s really like edited down my closet.
So I don’t have so much like, oh my gosh, the days of fast fashion. It frightens me and to
think about where that is. Like, I know a lot of it went to a good home and donated. I’m
thinking with your product and I’m sure it’s very long lasting, but if something got really
loved, how do people recycle clothing what are some of best practices if people are sitting
on a bunch of things, wanting to donate, can’t consign. How do we get more responsible
with not having so many sustainable things right now? And then I was thinking for you, if
something winds up getting really worn out, can you recycle it?
What are some best practices?
Paula Maldonado: [00:22:35] Yeah. So in our jackets the care tag actually says, if you don’t
want it donate upcycle. You can do so much with a piece of clothing. You can add like
stitching, patches, make exchange with a friend.
So there’s so many opportunities to be sustainable as a consumer. But again, if you want
something and it’s for you and it’s totally fine, you know? No one’s judging you. But buy
conscious fashion, buy sustainable fashion. Look into, who’s making your clothes, where are
they sourcing their materials?
Is it a huge corporate company or is it a small business? Where this brand wants to create
change? I think it’s huge as well. When you’re go into a brand look into their about, do they
share their team members? Do they show all these pillars and values? And I think that’s
being a sustainable consumer.
Meghan Houle: [00:23:27] Well, like you said, try to up sell, try to recycle, try to share, be
more conscious everyone. So let’s take our step if there’s something you’re gonna invest in,
in the next couple of weeks and fashion or summer take Paula’s advice, do your research,
buy that one piece or that vegan leather jacket from her brand and know that it makes a
huge difference.
Where can our listeners find you and shop your collection? And are you on any other
platforms and I’m so excited about Macy’s! Where else can we find you and shop?
Paula Maldonado: [00:23:54] Directly through our website at At
Macy’s, we’ve also have a huge market in the UK. You can buy Immaculate Vegan, NEM,
Treen, there’s so many.
If you buy directly through our website, it’s a two to three-day delivery with all sustainable
packaging as well. So you can find us there. You need any help you can just contact us
Meghan Houle: [00:24:19] Perfect. We’ll do all the nice links in your bio through the web.
And of course in the show notes and the podcast.
Paula, thank you for coming on the podcast, you are incredibly talented and I’m obsessed
with your brand and your vision, your story, your body suits, the vegan jackets, all the things.

What you’re doing for the future of fashion is truly amazing, and I look forward to keeping
my eye on you as you continue to grow your business.
Everyone connect with Paula. Check out Dauntless and good luck with all you have going on.
Paula Maldonado: [00:24:48] It’s been a real pleasure, Meghan. Thank you so much for this
space to talk further about sustainable fashion and you just have to send me your address
to send you that light blue jacket.
Meghan Houle: [00:24:58] And then, we’ll post it and make everyone jealous! Thank you.
You’re very kind and stay tuned, everyone for more Pivot with Purpose stories to come! Be
sure to share this podcast, and especially this episode with your network.

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Pivot With Purpose S2

Pivot with Purpose with Meghan Houle Season 2 Ep 6

Graham has appraised and authenticated over $200 million worth of luxury goods. His authentication expertise grew from his education in fashion design and art history. Graham has pioneered in the online retail landscape, helping to grow The RealReal into a billion-dollar business. His thirst for knowledge has taken him around the world, studying at some of the best institutions, including GIA, Christie’s, Fordham Law School, London College of Fashion, NYU and FIT. 

One of the world’s leading experts in the booming authenticated resale sector, Wetzbarger’s passion for luxury lead him on a career path never forged before. His unique experiences and insight keep his consultancy firm, Luxury Appraisals & Authentication, in high demand from analysts, resale platforms, and the media. Grateful for his success, Graham donates much of his time to The Costume Society of America, Marque Mentor, and the Pratt Institute Alumni Association helping to shape the next generation of experts, scholars, and creatives.

Find and connect with Graham’s agency:

Luxury Appraisals & Authentication

Website | LinkedIn

Click Here to Read the Full Transcript

FC Podcasts: [00:00:00] Pivot with Purpose, a podcast that highlights the unique stories of
professionals that pivoted their careers to align with their work lives and personal lives more
purposefully, and with more joy.
Pivot with Purpose is hosted by Meghan Houle, a globally accredited career and business
coach and creator of the Meghan Houle method.
Meghan Houle: [00:00:33] Welcome back to the Pivot with Purpose podcast. I’m your host,
Meghan Houle and in this episode, we talk to Graham Wetzbarger, founder and CEO of
Luxury Appraisals & Authentication.
FC Podcasts: [00:00:45] Thank you for listening to Pivot with Purpose with host, Meghan
Houle. You can find out more information about each guest, including full transcripts at And if you’d like to share your own pivot with purpose, click
on the share button and add your story to the conversation.
Finally, be sure to subscribe and share your comments wherever you listen to your favorite
podcasts. Your support amplifies our voice. And now this week’s episode.
Meghan Houle: [00:01:19] Graham has appraised and authenticated over $200 million
worth of luxury goods. His authentication expertise grew from his education in fashion
design and art history. Graham has pioneered in the online retail landscape, helping to grow
The RealReal into a billion dollar business. His thirst for knowledge has taken him around the
world, studying at some of the best institutions, including GIA, Christie’s, Fordham Law
School, London College of Fashion, NYU and FIT. Graham Wetzbarger, welcome to the Pivot
with Purpose podcast. Thank you so much for joining us today!
Graham Wetzbarger: [00:01:58] It’s my pleasure. Thanks so much for having me.
Meghan Houle: [00:02:00] I cannot wait to dive into our conversation, and as I introduce you
into the podcast, first and foremost, you have such an incredible background in history, in
the luxury authentication world, and I have to say this and it’s a bit tongue in cheek, but I
feel like a hundred percent true. I bet you can totally spot a fake from a mile away. Right?
That’s your super power. Isn’t it? I know.
Graham Wetzbarger: [00:02:20] I mean a mile would definitely be a super power, but from
across the street or across the terminal at the airport, for sure.
Meghan Houle: [00:02:31] Well to get started, too, I’d love to ease into the conversation and
talk about some fun facts in regards to our guests. So what’s another fun fact about
Graham? You can share with our listeners about yourself before we dive into career pivots.
Any other hidden talents?
Graham Wetzbarger: [00:02:45] Is shopping a talent?
Meghan Houle: [00:02:48] Haha! Shopping is a talent!

Graham Wetzbarger: [00:02:51] I collect a lot of stuff, I’m sitting in my office, which also
doubles as my shoe closet, and I think there’s like 65 pairs of designer shoes in here. I also
collect coffee table books mainly on fashion. I think I have over 150 in my study. And then I
collected Fornasetti and Georg Jensen.
So it makes my house look nice. Yeah, as soon as I discover something, I just kind of like latch
onto it and then dive, dig into it. And then like six months later onto something else. So I
have a lot of collections.
Meghan Houle: [00:03:20] I love it! Well that’s so awesome, I love coffee table books. I
definitely own a few. I don’t have a big space, so I get yelled at when I start buying more
Graham Wetzbarger: [00:03:28] You can start making them into like end tables and things.
So just keep stacking them up and build furniture. Exactly. It’s great.
Meghan Houle: [00:03:34] Welcome to my house, sit on this chair of books, it’s luxurious
people come on. I know we don’t have all the time in the world here for the listeners, but as
someone who spent a good part of my career in luxury leather goods, while working at Louis
Vuitton, I can tell you so many stories where I had a client that brought in a bag that they
bought online.
And I had to tell them, unfortunately, it was not real. And people would literally try to fight
me. And I’m sure I’ve ruined a lot of new relationships, somehow with the boyfriends and
girlfriends coming in and having to say, I’m sorry, unfortunately this bag is not real. So we all
know there’s a certain way you can confirm for each brand, which we are locking in our
vaults, but I’m so interested to hear what truly catapulted you into the luxury authentication
Why this path, like, tell us a little bit about your story there.
Graham Wetzbarger: [00:04:24] Yep. Sure. So growing up, I always kind of shopped vintage,
shopped resale, shopped on the internet and authentication was always a mystery. Like I
would go to Vuitton and ask them. In college, I went to college in Brooklyn and spent a lot of
time on or around Canal Street.
And that is such an amazing microcosm of counterfeit culture. And friends would come into
town, it’s like, oh, I want to get a Kate Spade, knock off and watching them just like glue the
stickers to the front of the bag, you want Prada, you want Gucci, you want this? So that’s
that stuck with me.
Meghan Houle: [00:04:58] Its like drive thru McDonald’s like, what?
Graham Wetzbarger: [00:04:59] Totally. Yeah. What flavor do you want? And then I went to
school for fashion design and art history because I thought I wanted to be a fashion designer
and design like evening gowns. And there’s not a ton of that in New York, in the states in the
early to mid two thousands when Paris Hilton was the epitome of style. I know, I know. And
she’s coming back, but,

Meghan Houle: [00:05:19] And so are like Juicy tracksuits, we’re sorry,
Graham Wetzbarger: [00:05:22] I wanted ballgowns, America wanted tracksuits. What I
discovered that I loved really was like the couture techniques, the fine materials, all this
luxury aspect.
And then I never worked a day as a fashion designer in my life. And that might’ve been my
very first pivot.
Meghan Houle: [00:05:37] How did you get caught up in the authentication space? Was it
something in terms of education or certifications to sort of become this luxury goods master
authenticator? Tell us about the credentials there.
Graham Wetzbarger: [00:05:50] So that’s the crazy thing of credentialing, is that there really
isn’t. So I have trained and developed and mentored people to become expert
authenticators with a myriad of different backgrounds.
And I myself have schooled myself and taken so many courses and certifications in anything
on the peripheral of authentication, whether it be art crimes and antiquities theft, whether
it be gemological studies and learning about metal types, whether it be classes at auction
houses or anything that can get me more information about the product that I’m inspecting.
Because really you have to be an expert of that product to know whether it’s genuine or
fake. So I was in a really opportune place to you start doing this. I was working for a
company called Bag, Borrow, or Steal, which was like the precursor to Rent The Runway.
It’s a handbag rental company and they’re still around. You can go rent a Judith Leiber for an
evening out or something like that, or what have you. And so I was surrounded by a
warehouse full of gorgeous luxury, authentic goods. And when we launched the buy, sell,
trade lateral or category that’s really how we started authenticating.
We would take a piece that came in and we would go and compare it to like the 30 others
that we had. And that was the best school for authentication at the time. People don’t
always have that luxury a lot of times, especially with the pandemic we’re authenticating
remotely via images.
But resale has grown so so much since I started 13 years ago that there is so much more
information on the internet. If you can use that information wisely and not trust everything
you read it can be a wonderful resource. So that’s how I got started. I literally told my boss, I
think I know how to authenticate, and they finally gave me a chance.
Two years, maybe a year ago and half later I was the head of the Appraisals and
Authentication department. It really does take an attention to detail, a determination in
your detective work and research and a little bit of chutzpah.
Meghan Houle: [00:07:48] And here you are.
So, and I know we have so many amazing pivots to talk through, but before you started your
own business, which we’ll get into in a moment. You spend a good amount of time in the

very early stages, more so at The RealReal helping them to catapult that business into resale
So can you talk about your time at The RealReal and some exciting highlights about your
position as chief authenticator? Cause I know you were there for many years, right?
Graham Wetzbarger: [00:08:15] Yeah. So that was wild. I started in beginning of January of
2013 and I left in October of 2019. I think I was employee 50, and when I left there 2,500
employees. We had a warehouse that was an office that was probably the size of my house
now in Sausalito.
And now they have close to a million square foot of warehousing and several floors of office
buildings across the country. So it’s major. And that was pretty amazing to really go into like
a startup company mode where you’re wearing many, many hats and just running around
crazy and working insane hours.
And then watching the company kind of double every single year and get more structure, so
first you’re building that foundation and then you’re building the strats and the structure of
it. And then you’re adding in more people. And as the company grows, you get to go from a
generalist to a specialist.
So you really get to dial in on what, like your true kind of calling is. But even within that
organization, there were so many pivots. So when we launched retail, spending six weeks in
New York at a pop-up store and spending six weeks in Vegas at a pop-up store and
launching other categories like watches and jewelry, I literally educated myself through the
GIA, the Gemological Institute of America, because I needed to be able to speak the
language of the gemologists we were hiring and kind of translate that back to normal English
to work with our merchandising team.
Right, right. Yeah. DVS 2, like it’s good. That just means it’s good. It’s good. Just put it
forward. Yeah, so many idiosyncrasies there that you could spend forever on. And then
working with different departments on kind of technological innovation was really awesome
working with the university of Arizona on this endowment to build technology, to help
authenticate fine jewelry was pretty great.
And there were too many wonderful experiences to go into detail, but really some of the
most talented and most kind of amazing friendships have come out of that period.
Meghan Houle: [00:10:17] I bet. We’re going to dive into some more questions around that,
but I’m going to put you on the spot with a yes or no question, and then we take a little bit
of a quick break.
So yes or no. Pivoting topics here, do you think luxury brands can do better at training their
teams on how to spot a counterfeit and also talk about the negative sides to purchasing
counterfeit products?
Graham Wetzbarger: [00:10:38] The short one word answer is yes, with a giant asterisk, so
one word and one symbol.

Meghan Houle: [00:10:46] Yes, asterix, we will take a quick break and pick this up when we
get back.
Graham, so before the break, you said yes, with a big asterisk. So whose responsibility do
you think it is to take a better stance on counterfeit product? Why does it hurt the industry?
Is it getting better? How can we be better? Talk to us about your yes.
Graham Wetzbarger: [00:11:22] Right. So the brands are really focused on counterfeit
detection and stopping that at the manufacturing level; IP enforcement, right? Brands spend
millions of dollars in research and development designing, amazing product just to then
have it stolen by counterfeiters. So that’s really where their focus has been. And that’s been
like that since, well, I think Chanel filed one of the first IP lawsuits in the 1930s.
So brands spend millions of dollars. I think Louis Vuitton employs 17 IP lawyers working on IP
enforcement. Right? But it wasn’t until like the past five, ten years with the birth and the
growth of resale that brands now have to pivot and talk, and acknowledge the resale
And let me tell you, 13 years ago when I started, brands would not acknowledge resale. I got
letters from many companies saying only our employees know how to authenticate. But
then if you go into a retail level, they don’t know how to authenticate. That’s not their job or
their jobs as sales people and people managers and things like that.
So, there’s one thing of like providing a general service, I suppose, and assisting people in
their queries, but also, We want to sell product as well. You know, so many brands, all the
tops would say like the only way to know it’s real is to buy it from us directly. Okay, yeah, but
it means that also there’s other ways.
Right? And it certainly behooves every single brand to have equity in the secondary market.
If your bags or your jewelry is so collectible that someone can then sell it, three, four years
when it shows some wear for 80% of what they purchased it for? That’s amazing. You’re
never going to get that with a car.
Meghan Houle: [00:13:05] No, oh my God you drive a car off the lot and you’re like, bye
$10,000 see ya.
Graham Wetzbarger: [00:13:10] So fashion naturally depreciates, but the slower
depreciation that you have makes a brand more valuable. I will not buy certain brands. And I
know many, many people who will not buy certain brands because they’re just not worth
the money, and when they’re done with them, they just have to be donated.
There’s no equity left in them. So you want people to want your products at full price and
you want people to want to sell their products when they’re done with them. So that means
you have to acknowledge the resale industry and in some aspect, participate.
Meghan Houle: [00:13:42] Right. That’s such a good point. As we pivot to some of your
other career things, being so passionate about that and brands, I know you are on your own
mission to start your businesses here and launching your own luxury appraisal company. So,

did you see a need or a white space in the market to bring a different offering and level of
expertise you carry to all your different clients you’re supporting now, like talk to us a little
bit about your inspiration behind starting your own business!
Graham Wetzbarger: [00:14:08] Sure. So let’s talk about that white space first, I guess. I
became an appraiser certified and a member of the Appraisal Associations of America,
which means you have to follow all these codes of ethics, etcetera. And completed the
USPAP, which form standards and practices of appraisal.
Meghan Houle: [00:14:27] Sounds scary!
Graham Wetzbarger: [00:14:31] Let me Google what it is. USPAP because it’s okay, Uniform
Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice. And that’s put together by the Appraisal
Foundation, which is a government agency, right? When you’re doing appraisals for IRS, for
estates, for non charitable or non-cash charitable donations, the IRS and the government
really wants to know where this money.
So I did that, simply to learn the valuation process and how that could benefit our business,
The RealReal, and in my getting to know the organization, no one was doing luxury goods.
There was hundreds of thousands of people appraising jewelry and some watches, but no
one was doing clothing except for one gal out of Chicago, but she mainly does like vintage
and antique or like, colonial quilts or things like that.
There was such a need that maybe consumers didn’t realize, but to have their personal
wearables, I like to call it. Clothing, shoes, accessories, jewelry, watches, handbags etcetera
properly appraised and protected against any kind of loss. So that was the kind of white
space in the market.
I didn’t really act on that immediately, but over time and through different speaking
engagements and things like that, people started approaching me about working with them
in a consulting basis for sometimes like government seizures, other times, posthumus
estates and different collection management pieces as well with that conservation.
So appraisal authentication where you kind of goes all into that estate and collection
Meghan Houle: [00:16:08] So I’m going to bring you, what about Storage Wars? And like get
you on there. You know those, like, “Open the door”, I’ll bring in Graham with me. You never
know what you can find, but that’s so interesting. It’s so interesting!
Graham Wetzbarger: [00:16:24] Yeah, there’s always treasures out there. I was on a
Clubhouse the other day, talking with vintage collectors and sellers. And they’re saying,
Goodwill doesn’t have anything good anymore. It’s like, check out, you guys.
They’ve gotten savvy, they’re smart.
They’re selling it all at auction on their own websites instead of just giving it away. So more
and more people are onto the treasure hunt. So that does make it a little bit more difficult to
find those amazing things, but they’re still there. There’s plenty of great stuff.

Meghan Houle: [00:16:50] What are some current projects you’re working on now that you
have your clients and what are you being approached with?
Tell us a little bit about that.
Graham Wetzbarger: [00:16:57] Sure. So I kind of, I have three angles. I kind of have my
enterprise clients with sharp, like project based, these big multi-billion dollar companies who
want to invest more on authentication. So it’s all about developing the policies and
procedures and hiring for whatever their needs are.
It could be pre-sale, post-sale, it could be part of like their review process of listings or their
buying process. That’s pretty cool cause every client’s different, right? Every ask is different.
There’s my like kind of straight authentication piecemeal, which has mainly young kind of
solo ‘preneurs who are trying to start a resale business on some other platform and they
need mentorship and coaching and help in what to buy, is it real? How much should I pay for
it? How much should I sell it?
So those clients are really fun cause they’re kind of the next generation. I’m working with
this. young couple right now in Milan and they’re starting a resale business and they have
big dreams and big hopes and great energy.
So it kind of takes me back to like 2012 when I was interviewing with The RealReal and
talking about, kind of what this world might have to offer. So it’s cool to kind of be working,
on both sides at the very young startup age, and then at the very established age as well.
And then, kind of whatever comes my way working with different art advisors is really cool. I
just had a great conversation with the art storage and clothing storage business. How to
protect garments and things like that. Again, I never thought I would be where I was today,
10 years ago.
So I really don’t know where I’m going to be in 10 years. I just want to have as many
conversations with as many people and talk about what might lay ahead and again, kind of
just let life take me where it’s going to with the clients that it puts in front of me with the
different projects that we work on.
And, I have faith that the future is bright.
Meghan Houle: [00:18:46] You have such an incredible unique talent and amazing energy
and personality, and I’ve just so loved getting to know you and all the conversations we’ve
had connecting.
No doubt there’s going to be some really cool things coming in your future and at the heart
of this podcast I know a lot of our listeners are in luxury retail. A lot of people still looking to
pivot. For someone who may be in luxury or retail in general wanting to pivot into
something different, but still staying close to product and fashion…
How could someone follow your path maybe to consider becoming an authenticator and
what type of training would go into making sure someone new to the space would be
credible? Do you think it’s possible to make that pivot?

Graham Wetzbarger: [00:19:25] It’s absolutely possible. I did it, I was in retail, I sold
handbags and then I moved on to customer service or e-commerce company and moved
into merchandising.
And then that’s kind of where the ball started to really roll. But I’ve also, again, hired, trained
and mentored a lot of people not just to become authenticators, but to become merchants,
to become stylists, to become photo editors, all sorts of things whose background was in
retail. It takes someone who is passionate about products, who again, pays attention to the
details, who knows the minutia and the differences between this cashmere sweater and that
cashmere sweater or this leather bag and that leather bag and taking all that product
knowledge that when you do work retail, you’re really privy to from the brands or from the
company you’re working for.
Retaining that, but also continuing to grow and develop on your own. Looking at magazines,
looking at runway shows, looking at blogs, looking at Instagram accounts and really kind of
ingesting all of that. So then when an opportunity does come your way, you can say, hey, I
may not have this exact background, but here are the skills that I possess that fill the holes in
your ask.
There’s a lot of remote stuff right now as I’m sure, Right? So there’s that, and we’re seeing a
dissemination from the major hubs of New York, LA, San Francisco to other cities. Chicago
has a ton of great resale. We’re seeing great kind of sneakers and streetwear come out of
Detroit. Phoenix and Las Vegas are next, and Dallas, a lot of cities with emerging resale.
Meghan Houle: [00:21:01] It seems like maybe a great space for someone to consider
looking that has that passion, like you said, for luxury, for fashion, but to do something
different. How do you see the resell industry evolving in the next few years? Do you think
2020 really pushed growth forward with many people trying to consign more than ever, sell
items they’ve been hanging on to? Or do you think it’s been a steady climb? Where do you
see it evolving?
Graham Wetzbarger: [00:21:22] It has been a steady climb, it’s been a very steady climb for
the past 10 years, accelerated in the past five years. 2020 was a big catalyst that had
converted a lot of people who had never considered resale before, or at least at like the high
end, as opposed to like the thrift end. Right? Because anytime there is some economic
uncertainty, people look at their possessions and the things around them to liquidate and to
find cash on hand and equity in their products.
So If you surround yourself by beautiful things that are worth money, let’s call it what it is.
You then have that opportunity if need be to liquidate it and to get equity out of it. If you
are, surrounded by $5 furniture, there’s nothing you can sell, there’s nothing sellable there.
If your closet is all H&M and Top Shop and Zara, there’s nothing to sell there. So people dug
into their closets and their crawl spaces and their attics and found these products that they
were not using and they turned that into capital. Because again, it’s good to have cash on
hand when there’s kind of scary situations, when you don’t know if your store’s going to
have toilet paper.

Meghan Houle: [00:22:25] Right? I think so much of 2020 heightened our awareness and in
a lot of ways and maybe over-buying or shopping and then investing, like really investing in
some great bags, like you said, you can have around you that you can love and use and then
maybe turn around and someone else can love and use them in the future.
I really appreciate this industry and all you do. So tell me, what do you love most about
what you do? A couple more questions here and I’m going to let you on your way. What do
you love most about being in this space authenticating, you have such a great energy.
Graham Wetzbarger: [00:22:54] I love the products so much. I respect the product, okay?
And therefore that makes me an advocate for genuine products. It makes me really kind of
hate counterfeiting and when people violate people’s intellectual property, right? And it
could be luxury, it could be when someone steals lyrics for a song or when someone like
steals a photo shoot, like if you’re not creative enough to come up with something unique
on your own, if you have to like steal something that someone’s already done or poach it,
like that’s just, that’s so poor.
Meghan Houle: [00:23:30] Good point. Amen.
Graham Wetzbarger: [00:23:34] The whole like fake it till you make it, no, please make
something else. And then, there’s a whole lot of kind of human rights issues when it comes
to mass counterfeiting of fashion, footwear, and accessories. These are being made in
sweatshops and really terrible conditions, and they’re smuggling them into the country.
It’s the same kind of smuggling tactics that you would use for drugs, firearms, or human
trafficking. So it’s just a fake handbag, but it also has tentacles that reach into more
nefarious things. So when you have something so beautiful on one hand, and then it gets
tainted by something so ugly…
That’s why I advocate for authenticity. That’s why I advocate for resale. Because it’s a great
entry point for an aspirational shopper instead of buying that counterfeit Kate Spade on
Canal Street, why don’t you go to a vintage shop or a vintage website? And you could
probably find a Kate Spade for, I don’t know, 50, 60 bucks, which is probably twice what the
fake is, but the fake is only going to last you a month and a half.
Meghan Houle: [00:24:33] Right, and the fake’s probably flammable. So watch out! No
smoking, don’t like put too much hairspray in line of matches around that thing. It’s going to
be a bad idea. Well, it’s such a beautiful point to make.
Graham Wetzbarger: [00:24:47] This summer I was lucky enough to appraise an entire
collection of couture garments from a fashion designer and seeing these pieces with just the
most amazing beading, applique, laser cutting. Just was insane, right?
It’s touching pieces of art that you can go on and see them go down the runway.
But also, sometimes it’s more of like the stories and the situation than the piece itself. I was
at a customer’s house and we’d done her closets and then we were kind of going through
her garage.

Cause she thought she might have some things in there and she pulls down this like dusty
old Rubbermaid bin and not knowing what was inside of it. And inside are three brand new
with tags Chanel crocodile handbags that all have the price tags. That’s like $35,000 each.
And she just brought them out from the store and said, I’ll deal with them later.
Put them in a bin, put it up on a shelf in the garage and then never remembered. 10 years
ago, a $100K of Chanel bags, three bags just oh yeah, I forgot I had these. So those are like
pretty crazy things. So there’s people who forget they have, and then there’s the people who
like know exactly what they have and they’re crazy collectors.
So it’s fine to kind of talk with those folks as well. But yeah, almost like the bag you have in
front of you or the item you have in front of you is the thing you love the most because… I
dunno, it should be. You’re giving it the level of attention that it needs.
Meghan Houle: [00:26:17] Oh, I know. You take such good care of them I know. The Chanel
that I heavily saved and invested for, definitely sits in her little space in the nice bag, wrap,
and box, and out of sight from the sun, you got to take care of your things. Just like anything
in life.
Graham Wetzbarger: [00:26:31] Right, it’s like you take care of your skin, right?
You wash your face and our hair, right? But that doesn’t mean like we’re not gonna have a
cocktail or go get a suntan or put bleach in our hair, and I feel the same way about clothing.
Like you have to use it if it just sits there as a trophy, buy art then, and hang it on your wall.
You collect sneakers, but your sneakers have some scuffs on ’em. I’m like, yeah, cause I
wear ’em.
Meghan Houle: [00:26:57] You’re proud, you’re excited to get them out. You feel good you
know when you love your look putting together. Well, those are all great points to close up
here, are you currently hiring for any of your clients?
For someone interested in learning more about what you do, is there a way they can
connect with you? What’s the best way for our listeners to potentially get in touch or follow
Graham Wetzbarger: [00:27:15] Sure. You can find me at Graham Wetzbarger on
Instagram. You can find me at Graham Wetzbarger on LinkedIn I’m graham@luxury- for email.
LinkedIn is always a great place for professional networking. So I really respect that avenue.
Sometimes when people reach out to me on Instagram for professional things that kind of
gets a little bit lost with all the scrolling, I guess. So LinkedIn is a really great place because I
know exactly what that is.
Hiring, if I find the right person, I can convince someone to hire them. I am hiring for a
couple of different positions right now, but yeah some of them are geography based but
there might be a couple of remote opportunities as well, but really it’s all about people who

have passion, people who have product knowledge and people who are willing and wanting
to pivot.
Meghan Houle: [00:28:03] Well, thank you for that. As I share a lot in the tips that I do after
our podcast each week, I have the Meghan Houle Method takeaway of the week. It’s like,
reach out, be genuine, network. You are such a wonderful, kind, accessible gentlemen. So I
appreciate you sharing your information and potentially allowing people to connect with you
on LinkedIn and we’ll link all the good ways that they can stay in touch keep an eye on what
you’re doing.
Thank you so much for sharing your career pivot story and your impressive time and
experience in the luxury authentication market. What you’re doing for so many brands and
your clients, it’s truly amazing. We look forward to keeping our eye on you as you continue
to grow your business and keep supporting you.
Good luck with all you have going on.
Graham Wetzbarger: [00:28:44] Thank you, Meghan so much. It’s been such a pleasure.

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Pivot With Purpose S2

Pivot with Purpose with Meghan Houle Season 2 Ep 5

Kate Eckman earned her B.A. in communications from Penn State University, where she was an Academic All-American swimmer. She received her master’s degree in broadcast journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She graduated at the highest level from Columbia University’s executive and organizational coaching program. Kate is also a certified International Coaching Federation coach (ACC) and a licensed NBI consultant.

Kate is the author of, The Full Spirit Workout: A 10-Step System to Shed Your Self-Doubt, Strengthen Your Spiritual Core, and Create a Fun & Fulfilling Life, which helps readers excel at the game of life with research-backed strategies (New World Library, April 27th, 2021). 

Passionate about mindfulness practices for both brain and body health, Kate is a meditation teacher and course creator for Insight Timer, the world’s number-one ranked free meditation app. Visit her online at www.kate

Other ways you can connect and follow Kate!



Instagram: @kateeckman

Click Here to Read the Full Transcript

FC Podcasts: [00:00:00] Pivot with Purpose, a podcast that highlights the unique stories of
professionals that pivoted their careers to align with their work lives and personal lives,
more purposefully and with more joy.
Pivot with Purpose is hosted by Meghan Houle, a globally accredited career and business
coach and creator of the Meghan Houle method.
Meghan Houle: [00:00:33] Welcome back to the Pivot with Purpose podcast. I’m your host
Meghan Houle, and in this episode, we talked to Kate Eckman, executive leadership coach
,TV personality, and author of the full spirit workout, a 10 step system to shed your self
doubt, strengthen your spiritual core and create a fun and fulfilling life.
FC Podcasts: [00:00:54] Thank you for listening to Pivot with Purpose with host, Meghan
Houle. You can find out more information about each guest, including full transcripts at And if you’d like to share your own Pivot with Purpose, click
on the share button and add your story to the conversation.
Finally, be sure to subscribe and share your comments wherever you listen to your favorite
podcast. Your support amplifies our voice. And now this week’s episode.
Meghan Houle: [00:01:27] Kate brings her expertise in communications performance and
mindfulness through her practice as a successful coach for business leaders and professional
athletes. She earned a BA in communications from Penn State University where she was an
academic All-American swimmer and received her master’s degree in broadcast journalism
from Northwestern University, School of Journalism. She also graduated at the highest level
from Columbia University’s executive and organizational coaching program, and is a certified
ICF coach and licensed NBI consultant.
Passionate about mindfulness practices for both brain and body health, she is also a
meditation teacher and course creator for Insight Timer, the world’s first ranked free
meditation app. Kate Eckman, welcome to the Pivot with Purpose podcast! Thank you for
joining us today. How are you?
Kate Eckman: [00:02:20] I am great. Thank you so much for having me. It’s my joy and
pleasure to be here.
Meghan Houle: [00:02:25] Well, I have been looking forward to our conversation for a very
long time and learning more about all that you’re doing through your various coaching
programs and your powerful, I will say, must read book, The Full Spirit Workout, which we
will get into.
So girl, are you ready to get this party started?
Kate Eckman: [00:02:43] Girl, I am ready. I hope your listeners are ready. Phil is ready! If you
don’t know Phil, Phil is a huge part of the show behind the scenes. So welcome everybody.
I’m so excited.

Meghan Houle: [00:02:53] Yes, we are so lucky to have a great crew here. And before we get
started, I love to learn something fun and maybe open a window into a day in the life of Kate
to get a little personal to start. So tell me what is something that is a non-negotiable for you
in your morning routine, if you have one.
Kate Eckman: [00:03:09] Oh, I love this question. It is my sit and stare time, which is
minimum five minutes a day, but I usually do a minimum an hour.
I can break it up, but sometimes do it all at once. And what that is is just what it says. I sit
and I stare out the window. I stare straight ahead. I talk to myself as if I’m a small child and
check in and say, how are you doing? What’s working? If I’m feeling extra bold and
courageous, I say, great job, I’m so proud of you. But this is my time to really connect with
distraction-free turn off all the noise and really it’s my time to be even more practiced at
listening, not to my head and the ego that wants to tell us how we’re not good enough or
don’t measure up. But I’m talking about listening to that divine wisdom, our intuition,
whatever you want to call it, and really tapping into that to get the support and guidance
that helps me make better decisions and gives me that inspiration to send the email, to
reach out to the person.
Because I’ve been doing these practices for so long, now people reach out to me. So I don’t
even really have to try. I’ve become the person who attracts the opportunities and
experiences. And that’s why this is such a non-negotiable practice for me.
Meghan Houle: [00:04:21] I hear you Kate and changing my routine, used to watch the news
The Today Show, you need that silence. You need to have a moment without your phone,
without the computer to really think. And I love the ideas that come to me or the thoughts
and you set yourself in a better mindset when you give yourself a moment.
I think we all need to continue that. And I also feel like your book has been a big inspo as I
know in The Full Spirit Workout, you give us a little hallmark, a little journaling. Finding time
to do all the things that we love that can really set us up for success every day. So thank you
for sharing a little of that.
As we navigate into your career and at the heart of this podcast, talking about career
journeys and pivots, you’ve had a pretty impressive career journey in journalism, and as a on
air TV personality with QVC and HSN. So can you tell us a little bit more about some of those
highlights in your career, and then maybe about some of your current projects?
I know you have a lot of really cool things going on!
Kate Eckman: [00:05:17] Oh, thank you, feel like a cat with nine lives. And so I want to share
that with people that it really is a testament that you can change your mind. You don’t have
to do the same thing forever. You don’t have to be in the same career forever.
I think as you expand and grow, which hopefully everyone is doing, your interests will
expand and grow, and you’ll become a different person who wants different things and

wants to be fulfilled in a deeper, more meaningful way. And so giving yourself that space
and knowing that it’s okay and actually a really great thing, if you’re outgrowing something.
Now there’s people like my brother, who’s a doctor and he’ll be in the same career forever
and that’s awesome. But I think as entrepreneurs, we need to give ourselves a lot of grace
and a lot of freedom, and if something isn’t working or bringing us joy that we are able to
make the switch.
And so, yes I went to journalism school. I was covering hard news and all the death and
destruction and the local news markets. And I was in Hollywood interviewing people like
Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston, and the biggest names in Hollywood and I’ve been at
Cook County Juvenile Court as a print reporter.
So I really have run the gamut and have done the TV presenting and all of the things. And so
I did have a very forward facing career and I was on that hamster wheel and the rat race in
New York city and finding some excitement in it, but also I just felt like I had a deeper
purpose and I always felt this calling to want to help people in a profound way.
And I was a very curious person which lent itself to journalism. But I think I was just always
more curious about people and who they were underneath all of their titles and labels and
limitations, quite frankly. And I think all of us are just trying to keep it together behind the
scenes, quite frankly.
And no one’s really seeing that struggle. And I really want to blow the lid off that, that
everyone is struggling even the most material successful people. Cause I work with a lot of
them and they’re struggling underneath to find more meaning and fulfillment. So I think my
journey and I had the wake up calls of losing two loved ones to suicide and really having to
look at the way I was choosing to live my life and who was a woman who like everybody,
quite frankly, I’m calling everybody out, was choosing to put my worth outside of myself.
And when we do that, we can never have enough or be enough. And so I really had to come
up with this inner fitness program and start to really get clear on who I am and what I really
want, not what I want in terms of what society says or what our parents have done, what
our friends are doing.
But what I really, really wanted, because I find that I don’t really subscribe to a lot of societal
standards and those things don’t make me happy. So I just want this to be a message of
freedom and that you can choose again, you can change your mind and nothing is wasted. I
look at a modeling career, you say, well, how does that play into being an author or being an
executive coach for people?
And I say, well, I have a strong presence. Someone who has dealt with so much rejection. I
am someone who has had to deal with all of my insecurities that were brought up in this
career and whatever it is, but nothing is wasted. I learned modeling is a business. It’s one of
the toughest businesses that there are.
And I feel like if you can make it in that in New York City and travel the world as a model, you
can kind of do anything, in a different way. So hope that makes sense.

Meghan Houle: [00:08:44] I know you talked so beautifully about your why, and really
establishing, what you want to do and what really lights your soul on fire to keep you
moving forward.
And I love that you just said you can kind of do it at any point in your life. There’s not a
timeline there’s not an age requirement. I think a lot of people can think like, oh, I’m too old
for that. Or I can’t do that. You can pivot at any point again, the heart of this podcast, but
what do you think has been the key to your successful career pivots?
Kate Eckman: [00:09:11] I think I’ve been willing to fail and willing to not be great at
something at first, but doing the research and putting in the work that a lot of people don’t
want to do to get really good at that thing. And to study the greats and to show up
consistently. And that’s so much of it a lot of people are saying, well, I’m not reaching my
goals, or it must be nice that you’ve done this or that
or a lot of people see the end result. They see you as a model in the magazine or making a
large sum of money to be in a national commercial or whatever it is. They see you with your
published book. And everyone wants that. Everyone’s like I want to be a model. I want to be
a TV host. I want to be an author.
And all I can think is no you don’t, you cannot deal with rejection at all, or you don’t want to
give up months and months of your life without making money to give to this project. All of
the things, so I think it’s important to stay in our own lane. Be Seabiscuit, as I say, the
champion race horse who has got his blinders on who’s running his own race.
That’s what I loved about swimming. You’re in your own lane, you’re swimming your own
race. Yeah. And so really stop with all the comparison. And when you do feel the need to do
that, switch it into collaboration or to community, reach out to that person and ask how you
can help with them or ask to pick their brain and focus on what you can give rather than
what you can get.
But I think when we are, even a confidence builder that I’ve learned from all my research is
the willingness to show up and not be great yet or ever. That’s me in dance class, never
going to be great and being okay with that and not judging yourself.
Meghan Houle: [00:10:50] Yeah, but you show up, right? We’re all great at something.
But we can’t be great at everything. Right? So like you said, find your lane, run your own
race. I love that. And pivoting into another big part about what you’re doing is this amazing
coaching offering that you have in your courses. Can you talk a little bit about what inspired
you to pivot into coaching, about your programs and what someone can expect working
with you?
Kate Eckman: [00:11:17] Sure. I think it was just a natural progression with all of the deep
inner work that I was doing and all of the studying. And I decided to go back to school
because it was just like writing this book, it was a life assignment. I heard the calling and I
answered it even when it was inconvenient and challenging and expensive

switching gears again, but I really just answered the call. I think all of us are called it’s just
that not everybody is answering or they’re scared. And so what I’m finding is though, is that
when you do answer the divine life assignment, the universe steps in to really assist you and
co-create with you.
So I highly recommend stepping out and stretching your comfort zone in that way, and
knowing that you will be guided and supported, but I think I just really have this desire to
deeply connect with my people… “With my people” with people, I feel like it, hah with my
people. My people is all people, my people, but connect with people.
And that feels to me like my purpose and to have the deep conversations that lead to self
discovery and self growth and helping to really impact and energize and uplift the world.
And so I, as a journalist, was always asking questions have been just curious since birth. And
I think with coaching, you’re getting in there as a super curious person with no agenda, no
judgment asking the really difficult questions that people have never been asked before.
And it lights me up to see people grow and to transform and to actualize their full potential
and to create businesses that help the world and to have better relationships with
themselves and their families. And I think that’s why we’re here. So for me to be a conduit of
love and joy and self-expression and acceptance,
there’s no greater purpose for me. And I’m so passionate about it. And I decided to go back
to school and get a million certifications because I really want it to be the most effective and
I really wanted to take this seriously because you’re holding someone’s wellbeing in your
arms, so to speak, while you’re coaching someone.
And I think it’s important to have those credentials and to take the career very seriously in a
world where I feel now everyone and their mother was calling themselves a coach. It
concerns me.
Meghan Houle: [00:13:41] It does, well I agree with you and I did the same thing. We’re kind
of in the same ACC level, going through ICF, which is the international standard for coaching.
These are serious programs people. Well, you can attest that you have to do all the
recordings and tests. Like it’s not just like a cute little program and you get like big plaque at
the end of it, you have to do the work too. It’s a lot of learnings and you’re right
we have these wonderful people in our hands that we are really changing their lives, but to
have somebody behind that, that is truly certified and knows what they’re doing is
important because yes, there’s definitely been an uptick of coaches around all the different
things, fitness, nutrition, life, you name it.
So I appreciate your certifications I can imagine, you’re incredible to work with as I’m
working through this amazing book that I would love to pivot and dive into talking more
about The Full Spirit Workout. So can you talk a little bit about the inspiration behind this
book, putting into the universe?

I appreciate how raw and honest and vulnerable you are. It just spoke to me in so many
levels I’m like, yes, yes. You know, the same about being not enough and pleasing people
and all the things. So what was that inspiration for you to get this out there?
Kate Eckman: [00:14:55] Sure. So The Full Spirit Workout is a play on the full body workout
that we often hear advertised at the gym, but your full spirit is about your authentic truth
and power. It’s your passion and your purpose, your presence. It’s showing up like you mean
it. Like you’ve got something to say and bringing that full spirit energy to everything you do,
and to everyone you meet.
And I have a 17 year competitive swimming background and knew how hard I had to train
my physical muscles to compete at a high level. And as I went about my life and was
struggling, like some things I’ve already mentioned with self-worth and confidence and grief
and losing the two loved ones to suicide and really being scared in some ways I was going to
end up like them who, were either scared to live their truth for whatever reason. Were
putting all of their worth in the externals, and I really needed to answer these massive wake-
up calls and come up with this inner fitness program to build that unshakable, unbreakable
full embodied confidence that can only come from within.
I’m not talking about the performance confidence that I had in Spades as an on-camera
personality, where you can show up and knock it out of the park but you’re still feeling all
the insecurities and self-doubt and anxiety from within. And so I studied and studied and
studied and really just put it all into practice because I just knew there had to be a better
way of living and a better way of life, not just for myself, but for everybody.
Because when you do look around, you see how much people are struggling, now more than
ever. Actually, I think we have reached a crisis level in this country and the suicide rates are
off the chart worldwide and it saddens me deeply and I never want anyone to not feel seen
or heard or acknowledged in my presence.
And I think that’s an epidemic that we are so distracted. We’re so bombarded with negative
messaging and we don’t even take the time to see or hear or understand ourselves or accept
ourselves or acknowledge ourselves, let alone others. And that’s why this work is so
important to me. I know it’s so counterintuitive to a lot of people who are plugged into a
really toxic culture, but I think the more that we can have these conversations, the more
people are willing to expand their minds and expand their hearts and move this information,
move this knowledge from the head down into the heart.
That’s where it becomes wisdom when it lives in the body, when it lives in the bones and
then taking that action and implementation through your hands as I say, and putting this to
practice, I think there’s this notion that well, I’m already kind of successful. I’m already
pretty confident. And I think of Tom Brady, who is my age, we were both big 10 athletes at
the same time. And he is so winning super bowls. My knees hurt when I go to Pilates and
that’s me,
Meghan Houle: [00:17:36] I can barely get off the floor.

Kate Eckman: [00:17:38] Right? But Tom Brady he trains harder than anybody. Not because
he’s the worst, but because he’s the best. So I just invite you to think of who do you want to
be? And what kind of life do you want to have? Because whether you choose to believe it or
not, it really is only going to work if you choose to believe it, but you are so powerful and
you can do whatever you decide is important enough.
You’ve just forgotten somewhere along the way, but this is your gentle reminder, and you
can come back home to the truth and make that truth, your core belief, and live from that
Meghan Houle: [00:18:10] Well, I’m going to put you on the spot with a yes or no question,
and then we’re going to go to a quick break. So yes or no, do you remember the exact
moment you decided to write The Full Spirit Workout?
Kate Eckman: [00:18:21] Yes. And yes, I have two yeses to that question.
Meghan Houle: [00:18:24] Hi everybody, well, we are going to go to a quick break and we
will pick this up when we get back.
All right Kate, before the break, you said yes and yes. So tell us about those yeses.
Kate Eckman: [00:18:51] Well, as I was writing the book, and I’ll get to the second yes but
the first yes when I was writing and I was really doing some deep dives into myself, into my
spirit a story of when I was four years old at the swim club came to me and that’s where I
think The Full Spirit Workout journey really began.
And my mom had signed me up for swim lessons and I didn’t really like it. And I didn’t care
much for my instructor Mark either. And after lessons one day I overheard him talking to my
mom and from what my little four year old self could gather, Mark didn’t think I was a very
good swimmer. And it’s heartbreaking as an adult to think that I let some dude at a swim
club, give me some belief that said,
Wow. I have to really perform at a high level to be safe in the world and to be loved not only
by my parents who I want them to be proud of me, but so strangers approve of me and I can
feel valuable and worthy and loved and how I set myself up for the rest of my life, with that
mentality and made that my core belief.
And while I achieved a lot on the outside, my obsession with performance left me with this
pain of anxiety. And so I think a lot of times we do things and while we may experience some
success… At what cost? And we have to ask ourselves, at what cost? So I think of that little
four year old, and I just want to give her a hug and remind people too.
You can delete those criticisms or those beliefs and then co-create a new core belief system
and collect evidence for that. Why you are worthy, why you are good enough, which you are
just because, and make compliments, a bedrock of your confidence instead. And then
moving forward, it was several years ago, it was a year after I lost Sam to suicide and I was at

speaking retreat and putting together a speech on suicide prevention and I think even
someone said you got to write a book or it just kind of came to me. I think it was a natural
next step after writing so many different articles for different publications and really putting
myself and my story out there and sharing a lot of my vulnerabilities and getting feedback
from people who
said because of your article, I was able to get off anti-depressants or because of your article,
I was able to leave the toxic relationship or start my own business. And so I just saw that my
writing was just so much bigger than me. And even when it was hard or too much work or
didn’t have time, it was my act of service.
It was my way of connecting with people, which again is my greatest value, that deep
connection. So, yeah. The book got put in my heart by Sam and Raf, it was a promise that I
made to them to keep their memory alive and to offer that hope and celebration to
everyone who struggles with mental health.
Which turns out is everyone, really? Because none of us are I’m immune to it. It is part of the
human experience and I think just helping to erase the stigma and normalizing what it is to
have a bad day in that all of us have bad moments in dark moments and to talk about them
and to work through them, knowing that they will pass and that you do have support and
resources available to you.
Meghan Houle: [00:22:04] Without giving too much away, can you walk through the plan
and what someone will walk away with after finishing this amazing spiritual workout that
I’ve definitely started? I’m not done yet, but it’s been a really great experience for me. So
walk us through a little bit, as you can.
Kate Eckman: [00:22:19] Sure! Well thank you for reading and it is a 10 step system to shed
your self doubt, strengthen your spiritual core and create a fun and fulfilling life.
And so of course I have fun and fulfilling in the subtitle. We are having fun! I had a woman
write to me last night and said, I haven’t read a full book and years I’m always so distracted,
this and that. And she said, I read your book cover to cover in two days. I’ve never done that
in my life.
And it is a fun, easy read because I wanted to make it that way because I want people to
actually read it and actually do the exercises and actually have fun with it because just like
physical exercise, if you hate it and it sucks and it isn’t fun, you’re not going to show up and
do it. I’m a broadcast journalist, I love to talk, and so I did make it very conversational and
really people are also saying, I feel like you’re talking directly to me and I’m like, great!
That’s how I want you to feel. I want you to feel held and supported and loved and seen. It’s
so important to me to have people feel seen. So, yeah, you do go through the different steps
and there’s the stories. There’s the research. There’s the fun journaling exercises that are
heartfelt, but gritty. There’s meditations that will take you deeper into yourself for self-
reflection for relaxation and soothing.

And all of those meditations are for free. The recordings on my website at So
please take advantage of those. They’re amazing. And we have the Coach Kate check-ins
where again, you’re getting the whole person coaching techniques that I’ve learned at
Columbia and really getting you more deeply connected to yourself and ending with the
So it really is a journey. It really is an experience. What did this man say to me yesterday that
said… I’m going to steal from you. He said, this is a life resource book that you can turn to
again and again. And I agree with that because. I am the author and I turn to this book again
and again, and I think that’s part of it.
There’s no like, oh, I wrote this book. I’m so enlightened. I don’t have to work at anything
anymore. And again, it’s like Tom Brady. It’s like the person with the six pack abs you have to
keep working at it. And I do. And if I have a down moment, I sit down and read an exercise
or go through a meditation and it really does bring you back to center and powers you and
nurtures you.
So I could go on and on, but I think the main takeaway is just you will feel that inner
strengthening, you will see and feel and experience your relationships improving. You will
become the person who naturally attracts the things that you deserve and desire this whole
notion of striving and forcing and controlling and making things happen.
We’re done with that. We’re releasing that we are now calmly becoming the person who can
have what we actually want, because we’ve become the person who can have that. Does
that make sense?
Meghan Houle: [00:25:06] Yeah. No, absolutely. And I’d love the meditations. I mean, I’ll tell
you relaxation I used to think was like a candy bar at CVS, I’m like, that’s cute along with
I’m like, oh, is that another candy bar? Yeah, meditation is not for everybody. But I think this
book is so helpful because it really gives you those moments to say, okay, stop break. Think
about these things and you put yourself in like a, just a really great head space and it takes
time and practice.
It’s not comfortable for everybody, but I really think that in some form, as we talked about in
the intro, just giving yourself a quiet moment, really getting clear on your thoughts. It’s so
important. And maybe you can give us some other tips on some days, as you’re a guided
meditator and is certainly somebody who have those days where you’re feeling really
anxious or kind of down and out, what are some tips the listeners can take to put
themselves in a better space. If they’re feeling really anxious?
Kate Eckman: [00:25:58] Sure. I think one is a powerful tool known as reframing, which I
think people are familiar with. And I’ve had a massive reframe around my perfectionism,
which had this negative connotation and my friend Natasha helped me reframe that.
She said, you consider yourself a perfectionist because you care, you have a great respect
for mastery. And so when she said those words, I thought respect for mastery that has such

a positive connotation. Like I do care. I do want to put in the work because I care about the
results and impacting people in a powerful way.
So a way to get to that reframe: so let’s say you’re like, oh my gosh, I’m so anxious. There’s
two powerful words that can, as I say, help you boost your mental metabolism and convert
positive thought patterns into positive energy rather than negative thought patterns, which
drain our energy and suck the life out of us.
So I think if you can say. What if I wasn’t anxious? What if this was just a way to show me
that I need to leave this job? What if my anxiety was protecting me? What if I actually can
lean into trust and know that I have everything it takes to move into a different space? What
if I could take a 20 minute break and lie down and take a nap?
What if I asked someone else to pick the kids up at school so that I can take a half-hour
break? What if, what if, what if, and even as I say that these possibilities, you move into a
different place that just feels so much better and you’re like, oh, I could do this. Even a
reframe at dance class, when the instructor said to me, Let’s start with failure and I’m like,
oh that I can do no problem.
Great. I’ve got that under control. So yeah, having fun with that. And I think too, we focus so
much on what we don’t have and where we’re lacking. And I did a lot of research around
what brings us joy and so making the joy list, it’s different from the gratitude list, even and
when I asked over a hundred people, not one person brought up their shiny objects.
It was things like my morning coffee with my husband and the dog, or one woman I’ll never
forget, she said, watching my two year old watching the bees do their job and seeing the
awe and wonder and his eyes. So these simple pleasures, and I take myself to places I’ve
been on vacation and put myself in that mentality or animals certainly boost our endorphins.
So I think if we could just spend time doing those things and it sounds so simple because it
is, but it isn’t easy because our culture says, no you need more, better, different, you need
more money, better looks. You need to have more likes and followers on Instagram. In fact,
why don’t you log into Instagram and compare yourself to everyone and feel really crappy
and then buy a bunch of stuff you don’t need.
Meghan Houle: [00:28:41] You’re not married yet, you don’t have kids. You have no job.
Yeah turn Instagram off everyone. Just silence that little app. Yeah, I agree with you. Well,
for any listeners looking to career pivot, we have a lot of people that tune in, and first of all, I
feel like we’re going to be listening to this podcast and over, over just like your book.
Cause those are some great tips on ways to get out of feeling anxious, but maybe for
somebody starting an interview process do you think this book would be helpful for them to
read and why?
Kate Eckman: [00:29:10] Absolutely because we’re really addressing less tangible roadblocks
that are getting in our way, whether we realize it or not. Half the time, we don’t even realize
the overwhelming anxiety and stress, the exhaustion, the feelings of self doubt, the fear, all
of those things that block us and they block our blessings.

People’s jealousy, judgment, comparison, resentment, anger. These things are blocking your
blessings, but you think it’s because you haven’t been to Harvard or have 80 years of
experience in this career path. So I think when you can move through these less tangible
roadblocks, get to the core of who you are, develop that self-worth and confidence from
within focus on what you can give rather than what you can get.
You show up in a room and we know this at this point, or I think of athletics when I got to
Penn State, everyone was a high school state champion. Everyone had Olympic trial cuts. So
it’s like, okay, what’s going to differentiate you and bring you success. Well, it was how hard
you worked and are you having fun?
So I hear some people talk about that they’re not fulfilling their, their goals and achieving
what they’d like to achieve. They show up with no energy, no enthusiasm. I’m like, I feel like
you say you want this thing. You sound an act as though you don’t even care. So I think really
being honest with yourself about what kind of energy and enthusiasm you’re bringing to the
table and think about it.
If you’re hiring someone, Meghan, today, and we all have the exact same credentials, who
are you going to hire? You’re going to hire the person who showed up with some energy,
someone you’re like, wow. I’d like to work with Kate every day. She’s fun, she has great
energy. I feel like she listens. She respects me.
I think sometimes we’re just working so hard to prove ourselves that we’re not even
listening to the person who’s interviewing us. And that can be a huge turnoff.
Meghan Houle: [00:30:55] I mean, you have to put yourself in a good mindset too, to get
through the interview process and you can’t go in with that negative energy, right? I feel like
that is so felt on the other side as well. It’s just so important to do that deep work in
yourself. ,Show up, enthusiastically, just make sure you’re in a good place.
Kate Eckman: [00:31:12] Yeah, and I think really hone your trust muscle and trust that
rejection is steering you to an opportunity that’s better for you like a roadblock, that’s
something else. And I think the more that you can lean into trust and surrender, and as I like
to say, being okay if it happens and okay if it doesn’t is a very powerful place to be, and not
just understanding that intellectually, but understanding it and your body and truly believing
that if this isn’t happening for me, then something else will and trusting in the divine timing.
I think of things I didn’t get what I wanted and maybe never got them or got them at a later
time. I think, thank God, because I needed that life experience. I needed those credentials. I
needed all of the things that I gained and gathered in that year delay.
So to speak that made my project even better that made this book even better. So just think
about when you do feel that you’re in that pause or you’re in that no space that if you allow
it, you are developing the skill set that will make you the right person for an even better
opportunity or relationship, but you have to trust and believe that, not just be like, yeah,
that’s cute thing to post on Instagram.

Meghan Houle: [00:32:21] Right, move on, right. Wow what a powerful way to end. And I
do love that statement being okay if it doesn’t work out and being okay if it does, or it
doesn’t. I love that. I saw that in the book actually yesterday as I was reading through. So I’m
thank you for bringing that to light and to our listeners.
Definitely a must read if you’re really looking to do some deep inner work and, in closing
Kate, what’s next for you? How can someone find you connect with you, learn more about
coaching? Tell us a little bit more about how the listeners can engage with you and where
we can find you.
Kate Eckman: [00:32:54] Sure. So what’s next for me is to continue to try to get this book in
front of as many people as possible. I believe in the message so much. I see how its really
positively affecting people and transforming lives and relationships. So I’m just thrilled. If,
and when you love it, please share it with a friend or family member or your organization.
And I’m starting to work with younger kids because I think we need to learn these tools and
skills at a younger age. I see young people filled with anxiety and insecurity and we’ve got to
really come up with a better way of living here, which I’ve outlined in the book. So doing that
and I love my coaching clients and I just love connecting with people like you and your
listeners, and really giving everyone a big energetic hug and that reminder of how powerful
you are, and let’s have fun with life.
And let’s make a difference in our life, in the world around us and know that we can do that.
You have everything you need right now and, let’s get to work and really support one
another. You can find me at everywhere on the web, under Kate Ekman on
social. And if you want more information about the book, it’s, and I
would love to connect with you online!
Meghan Houle: [00:34:04] Well, thank you so much, Kate, for all of that and for sharing your
amazing career pivot stories and all that you’re putting out in the universe with your
incredible talents and voice and coaching offerings. I highly recommend everyone checking
out Kate’s book, The Full Spirit Workout, especially if you’re looking for a system to
absolutely shed that self-doubt strengthen your spiritual core because Kate, we all deserve
to live a fun and fulfilling life.
Amen. So thank you for being with us today!
Kate Eckman: [00:34:31] Amen sister! Thank you so much for having me, you’re amazing.
Thank you for being such a joy in the world, Meghan.
Meghan Houle: [00:34:36] Awe, it’s my pleasure. Thank you right back.

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Pivot With Purpose S2

Pivot with Purpose with Meghan Houle Season 2 Ep 4

April Sabral is a retail expert, coach and entrepreneur with nearly three decades of excellence in global retail leadership brands among such a Starbucks, Apple, GAP, Banana Republic and David’s Tea and is the founder of retailu, which provides an affordable retail focused competency development for district and store management. In 2020, April published her first book called The Positive Effect. In this book, she shares lessons learned and her three-step leadership model that builds awareness in leaders and how creating positive working environments is the way to retain and attract top talent.

Listen into our conversation to learn more about not just April’s impressive career journey and all she is creating through her training platform, retailu, but why leading with The Positive Effect is so important for the building blocks to developing successful retail teams (or any industry).

Connect with the retailu platform:

Buy April’s Book- The Positive Effect:

Click Here to Read Full Transcript

FC Podcasts: [00:00:00] Pivot with Purpose, a podcast that highlights the unique stories of
professionals that pivoted their careers to align with their work lives and personal lives.
More purposefully and with more joy.
Pivot with Purpose is hosted by Meghan Houle, a globally accredited career and business
coach and creator of the Meghan Houle method.
Meghan Houle: [00:00:34] Welcome back to the Pivot with Purpose podcast. In this
episode, we talked to April Sabral, retail operations and leadership expert, CEO of the
training platform, retailu, and author of The Positive Effect, a retail leader’s guide to
changing the world.
FC Podcasts: [00:00:51] Thank you for listening to Pivot with Purpose with host, Meghan
Houle. You can find out more information about each guest, including full transcripts at And if you’d like to share your own Pivot with Purpose, click
on the share button and add your story to the conversation.
Finally, be sure to subscribe and share your comments wherever you listen to your favorite
podcast, your support and our voice. And now this week’s episode…
Meghan Houle: [00:01:25] April Sabral is a retail expert, coach and entrepreneur with nearly
three decades of excellence in global retail leadership brands among such a Starbucks,
Apple, GAP, Banana Republic and David’s Tea and is the founder of retailu, which provides
an affordable retail focused competency development for district and store management. In
2020, April published her first book called The Positive Effect. In this book, she shares lessons
learned and her three-step leadership model that builds awareness in leaders and how
creating positive working environments is the way to retain and attract top talent. April
Sabral, retail powerhouse! Welcome to the Pivot with Purpose podcast, thank you for
joining us today.
April Sabral: [00:02:16] Oh, thank you. I’m so excited to be here, Meghan.
Meghan Houle: [00:02:19] Well, I know we have so much to cover and I am very much
looking forward to diving into all the things: leadership, retailu, your book, The Positive
But before we get started, I always love to ease in the conversation of learning something
fun about you. So tell us what is something you look forward to doing every day besides
work? What are you into?
April Sabral: [00:02:41] Oh my God. I go to the gym every single day. So I’m so happy to be
in California now and not Toronto where the gyms are open because that’s kind of my vice.
Meghan Houle: [00:02:51] Yeah. What’s your workout of choice? What do you love to do?
April Sabral: [00:02:54] Boot camp. Yeah, bootcamp and weights.

Meghan Houle: [00:02:58] Yeah, I’m sure we could have a full conversation about fitness,
but we won’t. So in talking about your background and the heart of this podcast, I know you
have incredible career highlights and stories, and really have led some amazing businesses
working for also some really well known companies in the industry.
Tell us what made you fall in love with retail? I would love to hear your story about this and
how you got your foot in the door and we can kind of dive into your pivots from there.
April Sabral: [00:03:25] Yeah. I love retail because you can make an impact and you see the
results of your impact immediately. And I think that’s unique compared to any other
And what I mean by that is like, if you hire somebody and you attract top talent and you can
build a team, you can see the results of that team. You can also succession plan people and
promote them and see them move on to other roles. I’ve met my best friends in real life, like
along the way, right?
So it’s such a “people” business. I fell in love with all the people that I’ve ever worked with,
but really, it comes down to, I’m a results driven leader and I’ve worked for huge
organizations like corporate organizations, but I have that entrepreneurial spirit and always
have. And so I think just the fact that I can make an impact and see that impact of my results
immediately transfer into what is going on around me is what made me fall in love with
Meghan Houle: [00:04:20] Can you tell us about some of your most memorable career
highlights, as you were mentioning in the intro, I mean working for GAP and Apple and
holding a recruiting job at one point, too. So that is so interesting. I feel like you recruited,
what was the number like 10,000 or talked to like 10,000 people.
Tell us about some of those memorable highlights for you.
April Sabral: [00:04:43] I’ve done quite a few different jobs all the way from store manager
to operations leader to merchandising manager to a recruiter, like you said, I did a short
stint for about a year with Apple as a recruiter in Toronto, which was awesome.
All the way up to a vice-president of David’s Tea over my 29 years of career. But you don’t
like saying that now because it makes me sound kind of old, but I’m not, I’m young in spirit!
Meghan Houle: [00:05:05] No, you’re not old, no!
April Sabral: [00:05:07] I think when I think about pivotal moments the, again, moments in
my career where I’ve been able to make that impact and see it immediately.
And one that really comes to mind that I share about in the book is when we added the
name to the Starbucks cup, when I was a store manager in Florida in that district. And you
know, when I moved to Canada seven years later and they asked me for my name on the
cup. I was like, oh, I didn’t realize it went everywhere.

I thought it was just something we were doing because we wanted to have our customers
get the right cup. I managed a store on South Beach, and it’s all tourists having a great time
and ordering, frappuccinos and didn’t know what they’d ordered. And so we just wanted
them to get the right cup. And so it was a very,
Meghan Houle: [00:05:43] Everyone’s fighting for their drink, fist fights!
April Sabral: [00:05:46] So it was a really simple idea. It didn’t cost the company anything,
but it made a huge impact. It made sure our customers got the right drink and then, what
happened next? So that’s a really pivotal moment. I think about also when I was at Banana
Republic and I moved from Miami to Toronto with Banana Republic, I was part of a modern
store group of leaders. And what we were doing at that time was reshaping how the stores
were structured in terms of management. And so I was on this very small pilot team. I got to
go to San Francisco. I got to spend time with the VPs, and that was a pivotal moment
because it sparked that desire to create more and make an impact, again.
And then when I went to Toronto, I was able to kind of help them roll it out up there. I’ve
got two more really good ones. And when I was at Apple, I got put in a recruitment role,
which I know that you do. And I’ve never been a recruiter before.
I mean, I’ve been a recruiter in my roles and hiring talent onto my team, but not at that
scale. Working at Apple, like everybody wants to work at Apple. So there was such an
amazing pool of candidates. And so one of the things that I wanted to be able to do was
make sure that those candidates got a really good experience.
And so we did market hiring seminars and at the end of the seminar, we sent out surveys
kind of like net promoter score surveys for candidates to see how the experience went. So it
kind of put the emphasis on all of us that were holding the seminars to create a really good
And so that was really pivotal for me because I learned recruitment skills. I learned what it
means to give the candidate a really great experience and also, how to show up in interviews
and kind of get prepared for that candidate experience, which I really hadn’t thought about
So that really changed the way that I recruited and interviewed going forward. When I went
into stores all across Canada, people were just so excited that they had gotten the job. When
you give somebody their dream job, it’s kind of exciting. Right?
Meghan Houle: [00:07:43] That’s awesome. Yeah.
April Sabral: [00:07:44] That was really cool. And then the last one really, I think was when I
was at David’s Tea. It was so memorable for me because it was my one role where I had led
250 stores.
We won awards for customer service. We had amazing fans. We had Facebook groups of
like, I think they’re still there 10,000, 12,000 fans on Facebook. But the one thing I loved
about that, but really I learned a lot and it was pivotal for me was the whole not hiring to a

profile per say, because in fashion, along the way you’re always trying to reflect the brand
somewhat. And I think Apple taught me that Apple doesn’t have a fit. It has people that have
learning agility. And so when I took that to David’s Tea, it was all about creating diversity and
embracing all different types of people and creating that inclusive environment and really
that’s what created that special culture that we had.
And it was all around people and just their love for tea and product knowledge. And so I just
think about those moments and there’s so many things we did within David’s Tea when I
was there. But those are ones that stand out for me.
Meghan Houle: [00:08:55] It’s something about like food and beverage that really truly
brings us together in a much different way. Right? It’s almost like a cult following, like sure,
fashion’s cool. But you ever talked to somebody about what you love to eat or a special
drink. You’re like, oh my God, I love that and this is what I get. That’s amazing that you’ve
had such a wonderful career and so many interesting pivots and maybe putting you on the
spot here, is there any role that was your favorite for you and maybe why that you’ve held.
Any sort of special role that you’ve really loved?
April Sabral: [00:09:25] There’s been so many great roles. That’s such a hard question to
answer. I think that for me, when I look at my career, it’s about enjoying the journey and
getting to where I was.
And so every role I held, I loved. Every role I held, I enjoyed because I don’t think about my
title and the company. I think about the leader I want to be for the people that I’m working
with. And so I could say, I have a bias towards food and beverage. I think when I worked at
Starbucks, it was such an amazing job because you have your local community.
I’ve transferred from London, the UK, when they were opening there, to Miami and just
being part of a new community and being that person that somebody came to get their
coffee at 10 o’clock every day. And getting that smile, it was more of a service industry. Yes.
We had to make sales and yes, we had to add on.
But very different experience. When I came full circle and ended my, traditional retail career
at David’s Tea, I was back in that kind of service environment and connection with
customers on a product that they loved. If I was going to do something again, it would
definitely be within
I think food and beverage. Cause I just loved that experience with the customers. You just
know them more intimately fashion’s a bit different, right. Fashion is you’re helping people
feel beautiful and body shape and confidence and all of that stuff. But yeah, that’s
something that, like you said, we connect over a cup of tea or a cup of coffee, right?
Meghan Houle: [00:10:49] And it’s something that’s so routine in our lives and honestly it
can affect the mood of the day. Anyone that knows me well, including family, they know
they can’t talk to me between the hours of seven and nine until I have a cup of coffee!
They’re like do not approach Meghan, but it’s something you look forward to, right, every
day you might not walk in Banana and buy a shirt, but every day, you’re going down to
Starbucks, ordering your favorite drink, like it makes you feel good. Brings back memories

brings people together. So I agree with you. That’s pretty awesome. Yeah. So where did this
idea for retailu come up?
I would love to hear a little bit more about the platform, what you’re offering. Tell us a little
bit more about your incredible training and development platform, retailu.
April Sabral: [00:11:31] Yeah, it came about really because about five years ago I had leaders
that worked with me, previous life in different companies.
And because I was always known for creating really great leadership development programs
and really good IDPs for people, I’ve had people that have called me over the years and I’ve
mentored them on that. And so they would call me and they’d say, Hey April, you know that
form that you had, the IDP form or that
problem solving or whatever it was to do with leadership development that I’d done with
them in the past. Cause I created a ton of tools along my way. They would just ask me for it. I
was like, instead of people just calling me and me sending out emails all the time with tools
and resources, I should just create a blog and put some downloads on it and just be like,
here’s the link.
Here’s a download and just go and download it. So it really started off from people asking
me for tools and resources. I’d worked with them in the past. It just kind of evolved from
there. When I became a John C. Maxwell Coach, I was teaching his masterminds and, one
person along the way just said to me that, what if you created your own content and I was
like, well, I haven’t thought about that cause I was just thinking about using his tools and
resources to do training. So, yeah, so it just evolved over time and it became a platform full
of everything that I’ve taught leaders over the years, leadership competencies, in bite-size,
on-demand video format with worksheets and downloadable tools and things like that.
And we launched it in August, 2019 officially, but I’ve kind of been working on it in the
background for the previous year and a half. And now it’s a platform where a career driven
manager that wants to develop their own skills maybe they’re not getting the support that
they need can go on and develop their skills.
Kind of like a LinkedIn learning or companies can buy it for their teams as well. And right
now I think it’s a good time because teams are mean and lean right now. Right? Like learning
and development is because of what everybody has gone through in the last year. So they
can get in contact or go on and buy a membership and get access to all the courses.
Yeah and start developing their leadership skills and the clients that we have, it’s creating
this consistency of leadership language. It’s not things you don’t know, you know how to
build a team, you kind of read books about it, but what this will do is give you practical
And when I was at David’s Tea, one of the things I did as the VP, even when I was talking to
my directors, we would pick a competency every week and we would talk about it on our
conference call for about 10 minutes on our sales conference call. And then that would
trickle down to the DMs and then to the store managers.

And so that’s another reason why I wanted to create retailu because I realized that they
didn’t have the content to have those conversations. It was being driven primarily through
me, or they were spending a lot of time, district managers, looking for Ted Talks, looking for
YouTube looking for all these different things.
And I was like, man, if we could just create this amazing resource, they could just coach their
teams and use the resources instead of having to go and make their own. Then that’s saving
them time and putting them where they need to be. So we’re just really operationalizing
leadership development.
Meghan Houle: [00:14:31] And I know you and I have talked about this connecting before, I
think it’s also great for someone looking to advance their career and pick up new skills and
learnings to have on their resume. Do you agree that it’s something that could be really
useful for someone looking to advance and who should sign up for retailu beyond who you
talked about already. What are your thoughts around that?
April Sabral: [00:14:52] Yeah, I do, because I do think that when I started taking certification
programs seven to eight years ago, so eight years ago, nine years ago now. Well, actually, if I
think about it I took a situational leadership one about 15 years ago, it’s really what helped
me grow in my career. I would say yes, I had great opportunities, had great teams, worked
for great companies, but a lot of my leadership development personally was self-driven.
So I think anybody can sign up for it if you are a career-driven leader and you want to get
promoted. It’s not just for store managers. I think if you’re a key holder, you’re an assistant
manager and you’re looking for that leadership development and it’s affordable, right,
because the price point is super affordable and we’ve made it that way intentionally because
we know retail managers don’t get paid a ton of money, so we’ve made it accessible. And
also we just launched the retailu coaching certification. And it’s a 14 week cohort program
and that’s for people that really want to elevate the leadership skills, their coaching skills
and we’re teaching presentation, facilitation skills.
Because one thing that I think everybody needs is public speaking, how to hold an offsite,
how to hold a meeting with your team and how to create those presentations. So that’s
going on right now and we launched it with 10 leaders and it’s a mixture actually from store
managers all the way up to director level, but the learnings and what they’re getting out of
this right now is phenomenal.
And I just can’t wait to launch it again, live so that more people can sign up. But I would say
anybody that’s really driven to learn, I’m a learner first, and I think leaders need to be
Meghan Houle: [00:16:26] Yeah. I agree. And on the topic of leadership and say thank you so
much for going into that and we will link all the amazing information about retailu, and how
people can sign up for the platforms and the program. I always love to pivot to a topic
before we go to a quick break, I’ll leave you with a yes or no question, but a topic that you
and I are very passionate about, which is leadership as you’ve been talking about.

But before we go into a break, yes or no. Thinking about the teams and what everyone went
through in 2020, are you seeing a shift in leaders in how they operate through the mindset
of having the best interest of their teams in the forefront of their decisions?
April Sabral: [00:17:06] Absolutely. Yes.
Meghan Houle: [00:17:07] And with that, we will be going to a quick break and we will pick
this up after we get back.
Okay April, before the break, you said yes. So talk to us about some of those examples of an
effective leader that you are seeing thriving right now through all that we’ve been through,
getting excited for 2021 and seeing this wonderful momentum shift in the business, it’s
getting busy out there. Right? So what are some examples and how does a leader know if
they’re doing it right?
April Sabral: [00:17:46] Yeah, I think right now because of what’s happened there’s a lot of
leaders that are stepping up, investing in themselves and realizing what they need to learn
and change to actually be a better leader for the next 10 years of retail and particularly
about creating inclusive environments, showing more empathy focused on people first.
So I do think it’s about the intention around that, is shifted. It’s definitely people are aware
of it and leaders that I speak to particularly, want to incorporate programs that can kind of
be rolled out and like train their leaders to be able to do this. But the one thing I would say is
it’s good to have intention and be aware of this, but it’s another thing to take action and
actually change it.
So what, I would say around that is that one of the biggest leadership skills I think that
people need to focus on is leading with awareness, which is what I talk about in the book,
right? I know we’re going to get into that in a bit, but like, it really is about the act model.
And it’s funny because when it came out last year, I just wrote how I led for the last 25
But it’s even more relevant today. And what I’m finding is through the coaching program
that I’m leading right now, the leaders are really diving into the accept piece of the model
and that’s because it’s all around helping people feel supported. And so that’s always been
important. Right? But even more so now, there’s a higher accountability for not to just think
it’s important, to do something about it.
So I think we’re going to see more of that. More empathy, more understanding more
bringing your whole self to work. And that’s why last year we rolled out that wellness course
how to meditate, right? Self-care. You gotta have a self-care program. If you don’t have a
self care program, you’re not really a great leader
and I think that is really important for people to consider today as part of a leadership skill
or a leadership competency.

Meghan Houle: [00:19:41] And I think it’s another way to bring teams together. So you’re
talking about self care and really promoting that at the workplace. Right? Like having some
Yeah, it’s so special. For all that we’ve been through and God bless the retail teams going
through 2020 and getting back into stores, it’s a lot and it’s still a highly emotional
environment and really being sensitive to needs and flexibilities still right now, any other
qualities that you truly feel, make up a great leader and why is it so important to have these
What are your thoughts around that?
April Sabral: [00:20:13] Yeah, I think listening to learn makes up a good leader. And what I
mean by that is when you’re going into conversations and you’re participating with people
on your team, whether it would be cross-functional, whether it be people that report in to
you just having this ear to listen, to learn. Active listening was trained for many, many years,
like years ago, I was trained on active listening, but listening to learn takes it to a different
level because listening to learn means you’re really seeking understanding.
And you’re really trying to understand that person’s perspective and point of view. And so if
you go into situations and conversations, thinking that you’re going to listen to learn. You
won’t already have in your mindset, what you want the outcome to be. Because I think a lot
of us as leaders, right, we have this goal or trajectory or strategy that we want to roll out.
And we go into conversations trying to influence everybody, really to get where we’re going.
And that is a part of great leadership because we need to drive results and we need to get
our team to deliver results because without results, we wouldn’t have a business and we
wouldn’t be able to hire people.
Right. Let’s be real. But I do think that if you don’t have this perspective of listening to learn
and having an open mind when you’re going into conversations, you’re going to miss a lot. I
can’t tell you, Meghan, how many conversations I’ve been in where I’ve been with a leader
with somebody in that direct report team
and that leader walks away from the conversation, thinking that they had a really great
conversation and I’m like, oh, that went really well. And I’m looking at the body language on
the other person. And I’m like that didn’t go as well as what you think it did. How come you
don’t see that? And so I think that today more than ever, because that brings up the whole
empathy philosophy
that’s been talked about a lot, but I really think listening to learn. You’re going to miss a lot if
you don’t go into conversations with that mindset. Yeah.
Meghan Houle: [00:21:59] And like you said already, knowing what you think the outcome
is. I mean, yes, we have to get the buy-in, but you can’t change a frequency in a person that

That’s a really powerful statement and great advice. And, I would love to talk more about
Positive Effects, this incredible book that you have and that you put out last year. So who
did you write this book for? And talk a little bit about the inspiration behind it.
April Sabral: [00:22:24] Yeah, it was inspired because I kept getting asked actually at retailu,
what’s your leadership philosophy?
What’s your structure? What’s your model? Situational leadership has a model and 4D, how
NASA built teams has a model. And like at retailu we had a whole different load of
competency courses, but it wasn’t really umbrella’ed under like, a style or a methodology.
And so I really contemplated that
cause people kept asking me when we were talking about retailu and I thought, you know
what? I just want to put down how I lead and then share that with others, because
obviously I did something right. I got to where I was and I had people follow me around. For
many years from different companies.
And so I wanted to inspire a kind of that leadership and teach it out. So I emailed a ton of
people that worked for me in the past and I asked them, if you had to put my leadership
style down into three words, what would it be? And we got about 50 emails back. It was
really funny actually kind of going through it.
I was quite surprised with how many people responded, but they did. And then we got these
three main themes that came out of how they felt when they worked for me. Number one
was, they always felt supported. Now, people can say that whenever you talk to any leader
and really enjoying their job, or net promoter scores are high for the engagement in the
company, it’s because they feel supported, but really what does support mean?
Cause every time I went to stores and they said that to me, oh yeah. I feel supported by my
leader. I’d unpack that. I’d be like, okay, talk to me about what that means. I think that. I’m a
very supportive leader. And so when I unpacked how I supported my teams, it was really
helping them feel accepted for who they were because I don’t judge them.
I didn’t have any biases. I could stay in a place of neutrality all the time and not bring the
past into the future, which always made them be in the present moment. And again, I was
always listening to learn and not judging them. And so that “accept” pillar really breaks
down how to do that as a leader, how to really help people feel supported and be accepted
for who they are, because none of us want to show up in a job and have to be somebody
Right? We’ve all had those experiences and it just, it doesn’t feel good. And I think those
times of leading and showing up for somebody else has got to change. So that’s the first, and
then the second pillar is create, which is, I always really believe in energy and the law of
cause and effect. Having an American hippie mother that used to send me all of this Hay
House stuff early in my twenties,
I really learned it and studied it and realized that thinking time and what you think about
comes about is really important. We do this a lot in our personal lives. We read meditation,

we read self-help books, but like, do we really practice this in the business world? Not so
much because we’re always in action and we’re always doing, especially when you’re leading
and you’ve got responsibilities.
So I really break down how I created these experiences and how I did that by using thinking
time, meditation, mindfulness and like putting thinking time in my calendar and then how I
create and envision experiences for people. And then the last pillar is teach. And I think
every leader needs to see themselves as a teacher.
If you are a teacher and a coach and mentor, then you won’t get frustrated with people. And
I don’t get frustrated with people because I would always see an opportunity to teach
somebody something versus like, why don’t they know this? I told them 10 times already,
because I hear so many leaders say that and that’s not taking a coach approach.
So I really wanted to put how I led into a book to inspire others to lead the same way,
because it’s the philosophy that worked for me.
Meghan Houle: [00:25:56] Well, and I know for the Positive Effect, you really talk about
bringing that energy into stores and teams, environments, and really bringing up the space
and I feel like it’s so important for the success of the business that leaders do bring that
positive energy in the stores and environments and for the days that we may have leaders
that are not feeling so great or down and out any of your motivating tips you can give us to
stay motivated out there and keep the teams motivated through tough times, which surely
we experienced in 2020?
I’m sure we will get through some tough times again. So what are some of your tips or
advice to bring positive energy into the stores?
April Sabral: [00:26:35] Yeah, I think you have to, first of all, realize that you’re human,
right? But you are human and you can have a bad day. However, when you’re a leader, you
have a responsibility to bring everybody up all the time.
I think first of all, you got to have that mindset where you have a responsibility, but if you
are having a bad day, you’ve got to figure out what those mechanisms are or triggers that
can help you get out of the funk. Right? And so I think they’re different for everybody. I think
if you’re a visual learner, watching a video might be something that you could do like a Ted
Talk or something like that.
If you’re an audible learner, then, listen to some podcasts, some meditation, if you’re
somebody that likes to write things down, write down some affirmations. Like I am a really
positive person, I have to say, I’m naturally like this all the time because I’m optimistic.
Right? I’m like rosy colored glasses.
Everything’s fine! But I do have days where I’m not feeling as confident or I’m feeling a little
bit insecure with myself and so that I am human, but for me, what I tend to do is I write
affirmations in a notepad. So I’ll always have a notepad wherever I am. Right. And I just start
writing because the act of writing a positive affirmation that works for me, it just changes
my mindset and gets me into that kind of creative energy space.

Because I think when you’re in a creative space, which is the front part of your brain, right?
It’s been proven that you’re more positive, you’re more optimistic. So I think you have to be
able to shift that. And there’s a really great book actually called Change Your Questions,
Change Your Life. And that book by Marilee Adams is all about that. When you get to this
place of being in a bad state or a negative state, how do you then make the choice to shift
out of it? And I don’t think it’s easy for everybody. I’m not discounting that there’s a myriad
of different personalities and different experiences we’ve all gone through. But if you’re
going to take on a leadership role then you kind of need to know that you’re going to have
to find those mechanisms to kind of switch gears really, really fast. So there’s so many
different things, but meditation for me is huge. And because it gets me present and stopped
me worrying, you know, us women, we worry a lot.
We got like twenty things going on all the time. And so that’s why we launched the
meditation course with Sarah last year on the retailu platform. And we did meditation
challenges through the big COVID crisis because we wanted to teach leaders how to stop
worrying and get back to that place of neutral.
And actually it was really, really good.
Meghan Houle: [00:28:54] Oh, I bet that was so helpful. I know we talk about it a lot. Like
sitting still with this anxiety, lot of PTSD out there, there’s just a lot of emotions and you got
to feel the feels, but like you said, as leader sometimes got to keep pushing through and do
the things, or maybe create a ritual on the days you’re not feeling so great.
I love writing affirmations too. I have all post-its around me, as you can’t see April, but what
is my post-it next to me say? Everything is always working out for me. I think you have the
days where everything goes wrong. Right? Tech with podcasts, like things happen and you
just are like, why is this happening to me?
Or you don’t get the job and you have to turn it around.
April Sabral: [00:29:33] Yeah. And it goes back to like create in the act, leading with
awareness pillar, is all about this. What you think about, and it gives you like these ideas of
how to change your mindset because what you create is reality, right?
So we’ve all gotta be really responsible for that. You go to the gym, you’ll get results. You got
to focus on your mind. If you don’t, you won’t get results. Its what it is.
Meghan Houle: [00:29:55] Such a powerful statement. Well, you are just a wealth of tools
and knowledge between retailu and this book, sold!
For any leaders listening that do not have both of these things highly recommend. It seems
like you’ll be able to really put yourself on a great track and April is so fantastically positive.
So we love you for that and to keep on your positivity and excitement, what is exciting you
most about the future of retail? What are you seeing out there? As I know you’re still so
connected to the business.

April Sabral: [00:30:22] Yeah. Yeah. I’m so excited about retail, because I think that for as
much as it’s been doom and gloom in the last year, there’s been some things that have really
accelerated change, right?
Like the whole online shopping of like virtually shopping with your sales person in a store
and all the skills that everybody in the stores are going to learn with that that’s super
exciting. I just think about new brands popping up. There’s always going to be a brand that
kind of disappears, but there’s always going to be a new brand that pops up, so I’m really
excited about that.
In the last year, I’ve connected with more retail leaders in roles in different brands than I
ever have before. And so I think that that collaboration versus, beat your competitor kind of
mentality is kind of coming into our industry more.
And I’m really excited about that because we can all win, there’s room for everybody. Right?
So I’m excited about that. I think the technology on the front end has really made such a
difference and there’s been so many things that have helped the employee experience.
What I’d love to see is more on the back end of the buying side and supply chain technology
really innovating because there’s legacy, software needs some change. So that would be
exciting. Somebody who could solve one of those issues. I know,
Meghan Houle: [00:31:34] Putting it out there!
April Sabral: [00:31:34] But yeah, it’s exciting.
Meghan Houle: [00:31:36] It is and to put you in the hot seat and then we’ll wrap this up.
Love this question as true blue retailers, I know between you and me, Ron Thurston, like all
our friends out there, what do you say to someone that says brick and mortar retail is dead
April Sabral: [00:31:51] I’m like stop it, stop saying that! No, it’s not dead, it’s not, it’s just
evolving and it’s evolved as long as I’ve been on the planet and I’ve been in retail for nearly
30 years now, it’s always evolved, right? Like there’s always going to be parts that disappear.
And you, run to innovate and come up and it’s evolving.
But I do think that shopping is just people love shopping. Yeah. We’ve all been like separated
for a year. Like people now where I am in California now people are enjoying going out and
having that human experience again. So I think that high touch is coming back. So yeah, stop
saying its dead, its not dead.
Meghan Houle: [00:32:31] It’s so cool to see other areas of the business, like store design
and architect, like really creating these like new store concepts to keep everybody feeling
great and comfortable and technology, obviously will only continue to advance. So thank
you for addressing that with me.
So how can our listeners find you and engage with you? Join retailu, tell us how we can
reach out and stay in touch.

April Sabral: [00:32:54] Yeah. So I love it when people connect with me on LinkedIn, because
I’ve got huge network there, and I love to help people connect with other people, especially
if they’re looking for jobs and things like that. Cause I know that you do recruitment,
Meghan and I have a massive network on my LinkedIn now.
So there, and then just go on People would, it’s dot ca and it’s like U for
university and you can sign up and there’s free downloads. So you can become a free
member using the free downloads tools, there’s a ton of tools on there, or sign up for a
membership and just get in touch with us through there.
And if you’re listening to this and you have a team of people you can just shoot us an email
through the site, really. That’s the best way to get in touch with us
Meghan Houle: [00:33:30] And your book, The Positive Effect. I know you’re on Amazon and
you can purchase that pretty much through the Google machine, right?
April Sabral: [00:33:37] Yeah. We self self-publish. So we’re on Amazon and if you want to
grab a ton for your team, cause I know some people now are starting to approach us like,
can we get some for our team? You can just email us through the site. We’ll get you a book
discount. yeah.
Meghan Houle: [00:33:50] That’s so wonderful. You have these awesome LinkedIn chats
that you’re doing with leaders across all different industries that I know you have on
Wednesdays at 12, right? And then they’re saved and they can find them also on your
April Sabral: [00:34:02] Yeah. Yeah. Don’t know how that happened, it’s amazing! It’s just
awesome, but yeah, it’s actually on Spotify now it’s called “The Positive Effect, April Sabral”.
So you can listen to them on there, but if you want to watch them they usually post it on the
retailu page on LinkedIn and that’s 12:00 PM Eastern standard time. And we have people
joining from all over the place and we just have conversations about retail careers really.
Meghan Houle: [00:34:22] And everyone’s so engaging and asking questions. So it’s a pretty
active platform everyone check it out. Well April, thank you so much for sharing your career
pivot stories and all of your expert insight into what makes a great leader and how we can
truly better spread the positive effects everywhere we go. So I hope our listeners will take
full advantage of signing up for retailu and for those looking for continuing education or to
build on their new skills, that truly will help land a dream job, or just become a stronger
leader for the future of this business.
And do not forget to check out April’s book, The Positive Effect, and we look forward to
keeping our eye on you and all that you’re doing. And thank you for all that you do for this
industry. We really appreciate you here at, Pivot with Purpose as well. So thanks for your
time April!
April Sabral: [00:35:05] Oh, thanks Megan, thank you so much.

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Pivot With Purpose S2

Pivot with Purpose with Meghan Houle Season 2 Ep 3

Gourmet junk food expert and Food Network’s Chopped Gold Medal Games Champion Chef Sarah Wade is serving warm and fuzzies at her restaurant, Stillwater, – tucked into Downtown Boston, it’s a lively space with fancified classics and fresh cocktails.

Since moving to Boston to be Executive Chef at Lulu’s Allston, since 2019 Chef Sarah is at the helm of her own kitchen- and she’s bringing elements from her hometown of Stillwater, Oklahoma with her.

Guests can bite into house smoked pork mac and cheese, handmade cheese-its, chicken fried rib eye, or peanut butter and jelly Crème brûlée while they sip on any one of Stillwater’s 12 rotating craft beer lines, 12 wines by the glass or any of Chef Sarah’s creative cocktails. 

Listen in as Sarah talks about her Pivot with Purpose story to taking a random phone call that led her to building her own restaurant and how she is helping other women own businesses through the platform- Let’s Talk Womxn- recover from the COVID-19 pandemic which so heavily affected the service industry.

Check out Boston Based Stillwater!

Learn more about and donate to Let’s Talk Womxn:

Follow Stillwater on social media: @stillwaterboston

Click Here to Read the Full Transcript

FC Podcasts: [00:00:00] Pivot with Purpose, a podcast that highlights the unique stories of
professionals that pivoted their careers to align with their work lives and personal lives,
more purposefully, and with more joy.
Pivot with Purpose is hosted by Meghan Houle, a globally accredited career and business
coach and creator of the Meghan Houle method.
Meghan Houle: [00:00:33] Welcome back to the Pivot with Purpose podcast. In this
episode, we talk to Chef Sarah Wade. 2018 food network, Gold Metal Games, Chopped
winner, and the owner of the Boston, Massachusetts based comfort food restaurant,
FC Podcasts: [00:00:49] Thank you for listening to Pivot with Purpose with host Meghan
Houle. You can find out more information about each guest, including full transcripts at And if you’d like to share your own Pivot with Purpose, click
on the share button and add your story to the conversation.
Finally be sure to subscribe and share your comments wherever you listen to your favorite
podcast, your support amplifies our voice. And now, this week’s episode.
Meghan Houle: [00:01:22] Chef Sarah Wade made the declaration that after winning the
Chopped Gold Medal Games, beating out 16 opponents in a winner take all competition that
she’d use her victory money to open her own restaurant.
True to her word, the Oklahoma native opened Stillwater, bringing Midwestern comfort
food to Boston. Her food has received many accolades, including winning Boston’s Best
Brunch Battle, Best Brunches in Boston, 25 Best Restaurants in Boston from Dream Vacation
magazine and has been featured on Buzzfeed.
Sarah is also part of a collaboration of women restaurateurs called Let’s Talk Womxn that
came together to counter the pandemic and built an action led movement by women
business owners to learn from and support each other through the COVID crisis. Chef Sarah
Wade, welcome to the Pivot with Purpose podcast!
Thanks for joining us today.
Chef Sarah Wade: [00:02:18] Thanks for having me. I’m so good.
Meghan Houle: [00:02:22] Well, first I wish we were in person, so I could be enjoying your
cooking, but next time I’ll just come and visit you at the restaurants. I am so honored to have
you a part of this podcast and to share your journey to not only becoming an award winning
chef but really along with how you’re supporting women-owned restaurants through Let’s
Talk and we will get through all the things.
But before we get started, I always love to ease into it, the conversation to learn a little bit
something fun about you. So what are some things you’re enjoying beyond cooking up

amazing dishes these days? Where can we find you when you’re not in the restaurant? And
we won’t stalk you, I promise.
Chef Sarah Wade: [00:02:55] Oh man, what do I do when I’m not in the restaurant? I have a
boat, so I sit on the boat a lot on the Charles River. I don’t drive it, that is not my role. It is to
sit there and drink cocktails and watch the waves float by. So I go out there and read, which
is really nice and quiet and peaceful.
Meghan Houle: [00:03:10] Yeah.
Chef Sarah Wade: [00:03:11] And then if I’m not doing that, I take my boyfriend’s daughter
rides, horses, which I used to do when I was kid.
So I take her to the barn once a week and we go play with the horses and, they have all kinds
of other animals out there so that’s like my break from the city and from the world to go.
Meghan Houle: [00:03:27] Nature, fresh air, oh I love horses too. Yeah, that’s awesome.
Well, I’ll have to go onto the dock by the Charles and wave to you. Leave me alone I’m
Thank you so much for sharing all of that. As we dive into the heart of this podcast where
we really highlight career pivots that lead to creating or aligning to ultimate passion, where
did your love for cooking come from? Let’s start there.
Chef Sarah Wade: [00:03:53] When I was a kid I loved to cook and I had kids cookbooks and I
would make dinner and my mom was like, “you’re going to be a chef someday”.
Yeah. And I’m like, “no, I don’t want to be a chef”. I was a little hippie that wanted to own a
coffee shop. So that was like my ultimate goal in life. The passion, I think it came from my
mom and cooking with her and I now really enjoy it and I really came upon it, very like
I didn’t really realize I wanted to be a chef until college cause my little hippie coffee shop
dream took me to a restaurant hospitality school at Oklahoma State, go Pokes! And yeah, I
learned that I loved cooking there and pivoted from coffee shop to chef.
Meghan Houle: [00:04:33] I’d love to share a little bit more about that journey to becoming
a chef, and now restaurant owner. So where did you start off stepping into the business?
Talk to us a little bit about that.
Chef Sarah Wade: [00:04:42] I started in the business as a hotel banquet chef in hotels.
There are lots of different roles in the chef world, but banquet chef was a good one to enter
into. So I went from a banquet chef in Houston, Texas to a sous chef in North Carolina to an
executive chef in Houston.
I did a couple hotels in Houston and then my last stop in the hotel world was in Greenwich,
Connecticut. I was the chef there at a Hyatt and kind of had decided that it was time to be,
you know, Chef Sarah Wade and do my own menus and not follow the corporate menus
which you do in hotels. And it was time to do my own thing.

And I found like the world’s most amazing opportunity on Craigslist. So note: don’t ever
doubt Craigslist for jobs, yeah.
Meghan Houle: [00:05:27] Red Sox tickets, jobs, whatever.
Chef Sarah Wade: [00:05:29] Seriously, dude. Yeah, foot massages, whatever.
Meghan Houle: [00:05:33] Careful with those!
Chef Sarah Wade: [00:05:35] Yeah. So I found a really great job. I got to open a restaurant
called Lulu’s in Allston, which is a neighborhood of Boston and the only parameters from the
guys that own the place was we don’t ever want to have to go into the kitchen.
I was like, cool. I’m in. And so that was kind of what took me into private restaurants and
learning that part of the world and really being able to write my own menus and show off
who I am.
Meghan Houle: [00:05:59] Yeah. I love that. I know there’s some stories and we’ll dig into
that, but talk a little bit about that specific career pivot that led to you opening Stillwater,
which is your own restaurant.
Chef Sarah Wade: [00:06:12] Stillwater, my baby. I was working at Lulu’s and then I picked
up the phone as the cranky chef who shouldn’t have to be picking up the phone, but no one
was picking up the phone. And I say, you know, “Lulu’s, this is Sarah, how can I help you?”
And they say ” Is this Sarah Wade?”, and I said, well, yeah? I’m like, oh dear. Now they want
to sell me something.
Meghan Houle: [00:06:28] Haha! You’re like “No…”.
Chef Sarah Wade: [00:06:30] Oh. They found me. And they say, “this is blah, blah, blah from
The Food Network. How are you?” I’m fantastic. How are you? And the woman called to see
if had any interest in competing on Food Network’s “Chopped” And so I was like, ah, yeah, of
course never really thought about it, but you guys called, so the answer is always, yes.
How can I do this? And so I went and competed in a tournament. And I beat out 16 chefs in a
tournament style game and won Chopped and made a little money and took that money and
turned it into my own restaurant.
Meghan Houle: [00:07:03] We’ll dig into that a little bit deeper, but what season? Talk to us
like how can we find your season?
Chef Sarah Wade: [00:07:07] It’s easier to look up by the name of the tournament it was
called Gold Metal Games came out around the Olympics couple of years ago now. Yeah, so
Gold Medal Games, I believe it’s season 39, but it does pop up pretty easily if you Google it.
Meghan Houle: [00:07:20] The Google machine, we love it. What was something you
learned about yourself after entering into this competitive platform?

Chef Sarah Wade: [00:07:26] I think I learned that I’m more competitive than I thought I
was. Or maybe I just realized I was competitive. And that I really do have to need to be the
best and be number one.
I went in just saying my whole goal here is to not be out in the first round. That was my only
thing. I was like, other than that we’ll see what happens. And then you get it into it and
you’re like, no, I think I’m better than these guys. The first round was all boys.
I was like, I can do this and now I need to beat all these boys.
Meghan Houle: [00:07:54] Was it all male? Were you the only female?
Chef Sarah Wade: [00:07:56] I was the only female in the first like heat of the tournament.
Yeah. And then the second heat, it was myself another woman and then two other men. And
then it came down to myself and the other lady.
So yeah, girl power.
Meghan Houle: [00:08:07] Yeah. Amen. Did you have any memorable moments from the
Chef Sarah Wade: [00:08:12] Oh boy,
Meghan Houle: [00:08:13] I know you always like what’s behind the scenes. Like what really
happens? You don’t want me on shows like that, trust me, I’d blow things up, light fires, the
blender wouldn’t work I’d be done.
Chef Sarah Wade: [00:08:27] I mean, the whole thing was, it was such a blur because we
were just like, oh my gosh, there’s so much going on.
I think one of the most memorable things is Chef Geoffrey Zakarian, who is an awesome chef
in his own right. The first comment that he said, I thought he was going to be like you’re
terrible. Get out of here. And he goes, you’re a really confident chef. And I was like, oh, I
didn’t know that!
Thanks. I was like, that’s so cool.
Meghan Houle: [00:08:50] I love this confidence that you have around cooking and knowing
what you’re good at, so many people live in imposter syndrome and can I do this? Am I good
enough? And I think it’s just kind of like owning who you are, knowing at a young age, what
you love to do, where do you feel like that confidence comes from?
And from meeting you in person a few times you are so lovely, so I don’t think it comes off
as cocky or arrogant, but it’s good to know what you’re good at and follow your passions and
doing all the things that you love. So, where do you feel like that confidence really comes for
Chef Sarah Wade: [00:09:19] I think I’m one of the lucky ones that knew at a really young
age subconsciously knew that this was, this is the path that my life was going to take.

And then, when I got into the industry, I definitely struggled really hard. I was ill-equipped to
be a banquet chef, even though I tell you that that’s what I started as. I did, but I was not
prepared to do it and so I fought really hard. I read a lot of books and I worked really hard to
get where I’m at and now I guess I’m confident because I own it.
And I know that I’m here and I feel really proud of the fact that I drug myself kicking and
screaming here, because this was what I wanted to do. There was just no other path for me.
So yeah, I own it, baby. I worked hard for it.
Meghan Houle: [00:10:01] Yes, own it! Is Lulu’s what brought you to Boston from
Connecticut kind of dragging you to the East Coast here, was that your sort of big entry into
Have you always loved the city? Like, what’s your connection here?
Chef Sarah Wade: [00:10:13] I came up to Boston with a friend for the 4th of July for a very
quick weekend. And I literally fell in love with the city. I love New York city, but I’ve never
fallen so hard, so fast for a city.
And I came up here and I was like, wow, this is beautiful. It has all of the attributes of a big
city, but yet it’s so small. And so when I decided that I was ready to move on from the
position I was at in Connecticut, I started looking at Craigslist all over kind of the Eastern
seaboard. I looked at jobs in New York,
I looked at jobs in Boston. I was like, it’s time to go from Connecticut. And that magical
opportunity came up in Boston. And I was like, yeah, this is it. This is where I’m supposed to
go. It’s like that Augustana song, I think. They’re like, I think I’ll go to Boston.
Meghan Houle: [00:10:55] I’m not going to sing because we actually want people to listen to
this episode. So you’re welcome for not singing everybody, but yes I love that song! Yeah.
We appreciate you in the city and yes, it’s a very, very, very good city. I’ve been here 15
I walked to your restaurant it’s just so easy and we have such a great community in Boston
and we really lift each other up from hospitality to sports or service, you name it. So with
this show I always love to tease a little yes or no question, Sarah, and then we’ll go to a quick
So, bringing you to Boston… Yes or no? Do you remember the moment that kind of led you
to create the idea of Stillwater and wanting to open specifically in the city?

Chef Sarah Wade: [00:11:38] No I don’t.
Meghan Houle: [00:11:40] And with that, we’ll be going to a quick break and we’ll pick this
up when we get back.

So Sarah, before the break, you said no. Why Boston? And what was your inspiration behind
Chef Sarah Wade: [00:12:07] So Boston, besides the fact that I fell in love with it
immediately, I lived all over the country in my twenties. I had been in like four or five
different states, you know, and I’d lived there for a year and they were great states and
great places. And I met a lot of people, but they never really felt like home. And I got to
Boston and I just fell in love with the restaurant community. And I made so many friends and
it just felt very like right and comfortable. And so when I won Chopped, I was like, I’m not
going anywhere else.
This is where I’m going to settle myself which is a really great and scary feeling. And so I just
knew the next step was to find a place and put down my restaurant roots here in Boston.
Meghan Houle: [00:12:46] So, Stillwater, where does the inspiration behind the name come
from? Is there any like story behind that?
Chef Sarah Wade: [00:12:53] Stillwater is a town in Oklahoma that is close to my heart. It is
the town that my Alma mater Oklahoma State is in. I grew up in Edmond. That’s a pretty
crappy name for a restaurant, but Stillwater is cool and it means something to me, but it also
independently is a neat word. If you come into the restaurant, it’s not like it’s just not a
supporters bar.
We don’t have Pistol Petes and cheerleader stuff all over the place. We do have some really
subtle little throwbacks to the state. So it means a lot to me. It is like me bringing my home
to Boston. But it’s also just, it’s a great restaurant.
Meghan Houle: [00:13:27] Yeah, it is.
And now it kinda makes sense. So having your Southern roots. Stillwater, knowing the menu,
and we’ll obviously link everything in the show notes, so people can check it out and salivate
for those that are not in the Boston market and when you come here and visit in the
summer, everybody go to Stillwater, but it’s around comfort food, right?
And it’s right in the heart of Boston, right on the outskirts of Chinatown and the downtown
hustle and bustle. Talk to us about what we can expect from the food and like where the
inspiration came for you there.
Chef Sarah Wade: [00:14:00] Yes. At the heart of the menu, it is comfort food. It is
Oklahoma comfort food. And a lot of it are things that just give me the warm and fuzzies,
which is my tagline.
I like to obviously share those things with my customers. So I do a chicken fried ribeye.
Chicken fried steak is a really popular thing in Oklahoma, but they take a really unclassy cut
of beef and then you pound the hell out of it and you batter it and fry it. And that’s a chicken
fried steak.
Meghan Houle: [00:14:22] And it tastes good, right.

Chef Sarah Wade: [00:14:23] And it’s delicious, yes. But of course, in true Sarah fashion, you
have to do some sort of riff on it. So we take a really nice ribeye, actual ribeye, 10 ounces,
marinate it and cook it to order. And then we batter it and do a quick fry on it. So you have
this lovely piece of steak.
That’s still medium rare in the middle, if you want it. And then you cut into it, you know, and
it’s got this great crust on the outside, but then we still do the classic cream gravy, the
pepper cream gravy, which is so good. And a couple of grade beans, and then we do this
really fun cherry pepper relish which kind of cuts through all of that delicious, fat cream and
to me it tastes exactly like home. But it’s kind of a up-scale way to do it, which is really nice.
Meghan Houle: [00:15:03] My husband ate a chicken sandwich that like changed his life.
Chef Sarah Wade: [00:15:05] Ah, the Pollo Loco!
Meghan Houle: [00:15:06] And now everyone’s starving. So whatever time, time for lunch,
everyone, no matter what time you’re listening to this. I always love how chefs describe
Right. I think that’s how we get sucked down the Food Network. I don’t know, binge
watching you’re like, oh my God, like Diners Drive in and Dives. I’m like, okay Guy Fieri, stop
putting all this stuff in your mouth. Like I’m so hungry after this! I love it. You did a beautiful
job describing it. So for someone listening who may be wanting to pivot into the restaurant
business, or maybe become a chef, what advice would you give somebody for how to start,
how to jump in? Where did you get your foot in the door that is a good spot for someone to
start as well?
Chef Sarah Wade: [00:15:51] I would say if you really want to be in this business and you
want to be successful at it you have to put in the time. I started as a dishwasher at a
restaurant and when the dishwashers weren’t washing dishes, they were able to prep.
And so it was nothing fancy, but it was cutting onions and cutting lettuce. And it was like
being in the kitchen. You had a knife and cutting boards, so you were kind of there. So I
would say start at the bottom, if you can, even if you only do it for a couple of weeks,
because you have to genuinely appreciate every role in this business, because they’re all
very important and they’re all very difficult and they’re all very different.
Be the dishwasher, work on the line. Know what a busy Friday night on the line feels like
when the chef is asking you why we’re still 25 minutes into a check and you haven’t given
them the plate of pasta yet, but it’s not as nice as I just said it.
Meghan Houle: [00:16:39] The edited version.
Chef Sarah Wade: [00:16:41] Yes, yeah and then see the dishwasher that walks in and the
dish pit is absolutely full of dishes and he or she knows they have to get that done before
dinner service starts, before they start just keeping up with the plates. But then also, one
thing I was lucky enough to do at Lulu’s was to step into the general manager role and be the
chef and general manager at the same time.

And so that allowed me to learn the front of the house, which, serving is tough as hell. How
do you have all these tables that want all these things? And they’re picky.
Meghan Houle: [00:17:12] And you remember everything I’m like, oh, I was, yeah, I tried
Chef Sarah Wade: [00:17:16] It’s tough. So you have to have an appreciation for that. One of
the classic issues in a restaurant is front of the house and back of the house never get along
because no one understands the other one. The front, the servers don’t understand why
their food is taking so long. And then on the flip side, cooks get so angry when a server, says
I need something on the fly, which means I made a mistake.
And they need it as fast as possible. And we’re like, well, after these 50 tickets in front of it, I
will make it as fast as I can. Understanding both sides of that coin and have been the person
on both sides that coin, where I’ve walked up to the window and said to the guys I am so, so
sorry, but I just screwed up,
and then on the flip side, then the cook going, all right. Well, we have to feed the customers
because customers have to come first, not our egos. That’s what I would say put in the time,
understand all the rules, get your hands dirty. You cannot run a restaurant from the 10,000
foot level.
You have to be able to clear plates and jump in the dish pit and sweep the floor. And if you
actually own a restaurant, then you also do stuff like change the light bulbs and unclog
toilets and plant plants out front and sweep the patio and deal with the HVAC guy and the
And all of a sudden you have all these trays that you have to deal with on top of which,
because restaurants are never fully running, something always breaks, yeah. So that would
be my advice.
Meghan Houle: [00:18:29] That’s such beautiful advice. And it’s so relatable, in any industry.
A lot of people in my community come from the retail side, I’m sure we all love to go out to
eat everyone, but I think really understanding the nuts and bolts of any business is, like you
just said, get your foot in the door drop the ego, know what, it looks like 360.
And I think it adds a really tremendous level of credibility when they see someone that’s
been back of house and then front of house and now running the whole thing, I’m sure that
because you have such an incredible team that’s inspired by you because you are so hands-
on and you get it.
And that’s really awesome. So thank you for sharing that. That was a beautiful answer. And I
want to dig into Let’s Talk Womxn, because I know that that was such a really incredible
platform and community that you built with some other women restaurateurs, and I’m not
even going to go down the rabbit hole of how 2020 ravaged the service industry, but I know
you did a lot to bring women led business owners together through Let’s Talk Womxn. Can
you tell us a little bit more about that platform and who you’re supporting, how listeners can
potentially join or support you as well?

Chef Sarah Wade: [00:19:33] Sure. I think Let’s Talk has been the coolest tribe as we call
ourselves that I’ve joined in the last, however many months it’s been, and we literally had a
“Welcome, this is Let’s Talk Boston” and then three days later it’s like, Hey, let’s do an
international women’s day grab bag for 400, 500 people. I was like, oh, this is awesome.
Yeah. it’s become this community, which is really neat because while I see emails fly all the
time through it, it’s just so interesting to see that I have the same challenges that other
people have like, what are you paying for wages? Does anyone have a good plumber? Has
everyone applied for the restaurant revitalization act? Here’s some interesting information
that you need to be looking at as far as your books, here’s something you should look at how
the credit card companies are screwing restaurants over.
It’s been so fun, understanding all of the issues that I have that everyone else does. And so
the other thing that I love about it is that it’s a for-profit which a lot of times restaurants are
the first ones to step up and do “let’s do dinner to support X, Y, and Z”.
And we love to do events like that. And we’re the first ones to donate our time and our
goods. But I love that this one is working hard to support other women. And we’re also being
able to support our restaurants at the same time. And it’s just been a really neat tribe to be
in. .
Meghan Houle: [00:20:53] Is there any way outside people can come and support you or
donations ? Do you have any other events coming up that you’re advertising or how can
anybody else get involved?
Chef Sarah Wade: [00:21:03] Yep. You can follow us at @letstalkwomxn on Instagram and
there’s also a website. If you Google Let’s Talk Womxn. I believe that we’re working on a
picnic basket for Women’s Suffrage Day, which is coming up very close to 4th of July, right in
that area. And so then the intention will be that you get a picnic basket and you can go and
enjoy some great food made by women chefs here in Boston, in the beautiful spaces of the
city! Take it to the beach, take it to The Common, you know.
Meghan Houle: [00:21:30] And it’s available all across the country, right? That’s really cool.
Well, looking forward to that, I’ll keep my eye out and we’ll link everything in the show
notes. So I have to ask you before I let you go, as we wrap up here, two hot seat questions.
So the first question is two parts alright I’m really going to put you on the spot .
So tell me, what is your favorite thing to eat and then what’s your favorite meal to cook? I’m
so curious. I can imagine that this chapter you’re like, please don’t ask me to cook until you
get home, but I don’t know. I think you probably just live it and breathe it. So what’s your
favorite thing to eat and cook?
Chef Sarah Wade: [00:22:05] My favorite thing to eat is I love Indian food. I love it so much. I
love it spicy. I love it. Yes. Oh my gosh. To go into an Indian restaurant and I feel like it’s just
one of those cuisines that transports you to another part of the world because the flavors
and the smells are so unique and oh man, it’s just, it’s warm and it’s comfortable and it’s

Oh, man, it makes me really happy. My favorite thing to cook these days, it really depends
on what kick I’m on. I know that sounds dumb, but I’ll go through a phase where I’m like, oh
man, everything, all I want to use is pork belly, what can we do with the pork belly? And so it
was just, you’ll see a string of specials from the restaurant that will have pork belly.
And I’m like sorry! Yeah! But I just go through these moods, like, for some reason, like
everybody else in the middle of the pandemic, I was making bread for the restaurant. And it
was like the most soothing thing on earth to be able to just like, instead of letting it knead in
the mixer, which is the easy way to do it is I just throw it on the wooden table and just knead
it for like five, ten minutes and I was like, this is the most wonderful therapeutic thing. And
then I get to sell it to customers and it’s fresh bread coming out of a restaurant and smells so
good. Oh man. So, yeah, like the mood changes, but yeah, bread is a high one right now on
my list. I think it’s so magical and it’s so beautiful and it’s so forgiving.
Meghan Houle: [00:23:28] Yeah, it tastes good. You put butter on it, it’s just easy. You can
do lots of things. I love that. And then my second question, so if you could cook for anyone
in the world, who would it be and why?
Chef Sarah Wade: [00:23:40] Oh, all right. Ready? I think it would be, I would like to cook for
Bill Belichick, the head coach of the Patriots, because I want to talk to him because I find, as
silly as it sounds,
I find so much inspiration from this guy who is so cagey and so smart, and he runs his team
as a business. And he’s so smart with the guys and he doesn’t put up with anybody’s crap.
And everyone has to audition for their role just because you’re a highly paid player does not
mean that you automatically get to walk on the field and be the starter.
I don’t even know if he would be very conversational at dinner, but that’s who I would want
to talk to.
Meghan Houle: [00:24:24] Yeah. I don’t know. I feel like it because you see him crack smiles
behind the scenes. You put your game face on your work in a business it’s different, but
outside we can all embrace our quirks and personality.
So I don’t know maybe we’ll try to make that happen. We’ll get you to Gillette somehow.
Anyone listening out there, any Bill Belichick connections?
Chef Sarah Wade: [00:24:43] Or the house in Nantucket, I’d be happy to travel.
Meghan Houle: [00:24:45] Oh, we’ll just go to to Nantucket, we’ll take you to the food and
wine festival. We’ll get you hooked up there, side question, are you for hire to come and
train a terrible cook like me? Or do I have a better shot joining that other show? What is
that, America’s Worst Chefs?
Chef Sarah Wade: [00:25:01] Yes, I hustle the great hustle, so yeah, I’m always around
always happy to cook for somebody. I’ve got like mitzvahs and graduations lined up already
for the Spring, so that’s good to know.
Yeah, man. Do what makes you happy, I’m just lucky that I get paid to do it.

Meghan Houle: [00:25:15] What other ways can our listeners find you and engage with you
via maybe your channels and Stillwater. What’s the best way to find you?
Chef Sarah Wade: [00:25:21] You can find me directly on Instagram @chefsarahwade and
then also, if you want to check out Stillwater, it’s @stillwaterboston.
Also on Instagram, we post specials weekly. We do a Mac Bar Monday. I have a ghost
kitchen called Mac Bar, which is a total separate restaurant of nothing but Mac and cheese.
That’s only available for takeout. So it’s perfect for those nights when you don’t want to
cook and you just need Mac and cheese in your life.
So you’ve got Mac Bar, you’ve got Stillwater with all of our lovely stuff there, and then
you’ve got me, I post really funny, random New Yorker cartoons and food pictures.
Meghan Houle: [00:25:57] Yes. I love it your Instagram, it’s great. It all blends so beautifully
and yes, checkout Stillwater, see all the beautiful food and the menu. And like I said, if
you’re not local and you’re here in Boston definitely give it a visit and we’ll link everything in
our notes and summary. So I want to thank you Sarah, for being on the podcast, from the
worst cook in America, me,
Meghan Houle, to award winning chef, Sarah Wade I appreciate you sharing your story with
us. And as I said, anyone listening in greater Boston, New England area planning a trip to
Boston this summer, you must visit Stillwater. You will leave very full and very happy. So
good luck with everything you are building Sarah and I wish you and your teams the best
summer to come and the rest of 2021 ahead.
Chef Sarah Wade: [00:26:41] Oh, thank you so much. This was so much fun. I really
appreciate it.
Meghan Houle: [00:26:44] Thank you, yay!

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Pivot With Purpose S2

Pivot with Purpose with Meghan Houle Season 2 Ep 2

David Friedrichs, co-founder and CEO of “Cerqular”, a comprehensive multi seller marketplace that connects innovative sustainable brands and passionate, sustainable shoppers on a single platform.

He is also a 4x entrepreneur of sustainable consumer brands, growth expert and storyteller.

Cerqular is the fastest growing one-stop sustainable marketplace platform to buy & sell verified products (new & used) from across all consumer categories (A-Z). Enjoy online shopping 100% guilt-free!

Based in LA, California

Connect with David and Join CERQULAR!


Instagram: @cerqular.usa


Click Here to Read the Full Transcript

FC Podcasts: [00:00:00] Pivot with Purpose a podcast that highlights the unique stories of
professionals that pivoted their careers to align with their work lives and personal lives,
more purposefully, and with more joy.
Pivot with Purpose is hosted by Meghan Houle, a globally accredited career and business
coach and creator of the Meghan Houle method.
Meghan Houle: [00:00:33] Welcome back to the Pivot with Purpose podcast. In this
episode, we talk to David Friedrichs, co-founder and CEO of “Cerqular”, a comprehensive
multi seller marketplace that connects innovative sustainable brands and passionate,
sustainable shoppers on a single platform.
FC Podcasts: [00:00:51] Thank you for listening to Pivot with Purpose with host, Meghan
Houle. You can find out more information about each guest including full transcripts at And if you’d like to share your own Pivot with Purpose, click
on the share button and add your story to the conversation. Finally be sure to subscribe and
share your comments wherever you listen to your favorite podcast, your support amplifies
our voice. And now this week’s episode.
Meghan Houle: [00:01:25] David and his current endeavor Cerqular are based in Los
Angeles, but he has also held various roles in business development and sales in China, Hong
Kong, and Australia and co-founded several brands specializing in organic coffee and natural
personal care that is sold across the world. David is now immersed in making sustainable
consumer products across all categories. Easily accessible to people everywhere and
commercializing sustainability at scale. David Friedrichs, welcome to the Pivot with Purpose
Thank you for joining us today!
David Friedrichs: [00:01:55] Thanks so much for having me, I’m super excited!
Meghan Houle: [00:01:58] Me too, I’m excited. I know we were chatting a little bit as
everyone, David’s in Australia. I’m here in Boston so we were laughing before that he is in
the future. So get ready, he’s going to tell us all about what’s going on!
But I’m really excited to dive into our conversation and some hot topics, especially all that
you’re building around and in my mind and opinion, really to rival Amazon, to become the
leading platform in the e-com space of sustainable brand, multi-category shopping. It’s
going to be so fun to learn more about all you’re building with Cerqular, but before we get
started, let’s learn something fun about you to ease into our conversation.
What are some things you’re enjoying beyond work these days? What are you up to?
David Friedrichs: [00:02:44] We haven’t lived in Australia for such a long time, so it’s only by
chance. And so we’re rediscovering the outdoors. We’re rediscovering nature. For many

years we lived in Asia, so we lived in the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong. So we’ve divided
our time between Hong Kong and the U S primarily Los Angeles and Miami.
So we haven’t lived in Australia since 2008 and we’re loving it. So we are close to family
experiencing fresh air that we haven’t experienced in such a long time. So it’s really nice.
Meghan Houle: [00:03:15] Oh, good for you. And now seasonally, where are we at in
Australia? Where are you at?
David Friedrichs: [00:03:21] It’s unfortunately it’s super cold. It’s freezing cold. It’s getting
close to winter. But thankfully it’s great outside. So.
Meghan Houle: [00:03:29] All right. Well, I’ll send you some sun and enjoy your Australian
air. Maybe we’ll make it there one day. Definitely hashtag goals. Yes. But let’s dive in, to the
heart of this podcast where we highlight career pivots that lead our guests to creating or
aligning themselves to their ultimate passions.
And I know you’ve really managed some incredible things in your career, but really just share
some highlights. What pivot highlight would you say that you’re most proud of to date,
David Friedrichs: [00:03:59] Most significant one to me was converting from doing
something simply because I love business and I love being an entrepreneur.
So this isn’t our first business venture. It’s one of our, I think it’s our third or fourth. So the
pivot that I had was one of doing something that I just love for commercial reasons to
launching Cerqular that had a very deep and very meaningful connection to our life. And it
solved a very big problem that we were encountering on a daily basis in our personal lives.
So in our previous lives, we managed and ran companies primarily, always in the natural
sector, but personal care, a beauty range, vitamin supplements. And also a coffee range that
we launched and sold across the Middle East. A lot of these businesses were based on an
interest based on just because I love doing business and commerce and connecting people.
Cerqular is very different, it’s a massive exercise.
It’s one entity that has the impact of many, and we launched it to solve an incredibly big
problem. So I’d say the biggest pivot to me has been going from just doing something to
whether it’s to earn an income, whether it’s because of just finding it enjoyable to doing
something that has almost the meaning that it has to be done,
and if no one’s going to do it, I really have to do it. And so we launched Cerqular out of
complete dedication to find a big solution to the environmental problem that we were
facing in an economic way. So it’s a business solution to the climate change problem.
Meghan Houle: [00:05:38] Yeah. I love that.
And , where did the idea come from that led to your desire to pivot and create the shopping
platform Cerqular?

David Friedrichs: [00:05:45] So our aha moment was we were living in Hong Kong. In
addition to having brands on the side, we also had career lives. So I was working initially in
Hong Kong in law firms. So I come from a professional background.
My wife was in a wealth management and finance. And so you can imagine when Hong
Kong, which is New York on steroids, we were working crazy hours. I was traveling over 50%
of every month across Asia and internationally. So we would see firsthand people affected
by consumerism. We would experience on a daily basis the effects of pollution, we would
often receive notifications on our mobile phones, that it wasn’t safe to go hiking or to do
outdoor activities because of pollution. And you would feel it on your skin.
Meghan Houle: [00:06:32] The air quality, right?
David Friedrichs: [00:06:33] Yeah. When you experience things firsthand, rather than just
seeing things on the news or on the television, it becomes part of something that either you
can switch off and ignore, or it becomes a factor that you just have to either escape or find a
It was one day when my wife and I, we said what can we do to incorporate sustainability in
our lives? And it wasn’t a Cerqular moment just yet, but it was let’s buy whatever we can,
whether locally, organic, sustainably, essentially everything that just has sustainable
components. So whatever we’re normally buying, what can we do to buy it in a sustainable
more conscious way?
We hit a brick wall pretty much instantly because it’s impossible. It’s impossible to buy
whatever you’re normally buying, whether it’s on Amazon, whether it’s at the local grocery
store whether it’s fashion, giftware all from one place. So because of the inaccessibility to
access sustainable products and also services, people give up. We revert to whatever’s
easiest to most convenient because we’re so time poor.
So we will always reverted back to Amazon and we love Amazon because they’ve actually
introduced something that is possible. But I think now what we’ve gained through
knowledge is that there is a better way. And the better way is to improve on what they have
done an absolutely excellent job at doing, which is utilizing the power of technology to give
us more consciously made products at our fingertips.
And that’s what Cerqular is. So we launched Cerqular to make it super easy for us, for all of
our friends and anyone who wants to do right, but not only for the environment, but it could
also be to enrich their lives with better food, whether it’s buying products that maybe, have
a conscious connection, whatever it is.
And so we launched it to make it just an accessible solution that is a no brainer.
Meghan Houle: [00:08:30] Cause it has to be easy for us. Right. God forbid a few more
seconds and you’re like, Oh, forget it. I’m just going to do it this way. And then you give up.
So, at the heart of Cerqular as you’re talking.

I mean, it really is truly supporting these amazing sustainable brands that you have on the
platform. And I know you kind of talked about this a little bit from your firsthand experience
of some environmental things that really brought this passion to life for you, but diving into
a topic around sustainability that I truly feel has come front and center even louder than
ever before this past year.
Why is sustainability, such a hot topic now, and why should people care about supporting
sustainable businesses?
David Friedrichs: [00:09:10] I think that’s the most important question. And it’s such a
subjective question that if you asked a hundred people, you may get a hundred different
answers because sustainability, it can either mean doing something for the environment.
It may mean being more sustainable within your own lives, such as becoming more spiritual
or finding a place of inner Zen. So some inner happiness, and that may incorporate different
foods or different lifestyle. And it may mean things for the animal; animal life, wildlife, but
also may mean things for people that we’ve never encountered before.
So equality, inclusivity, and so Cerqular is all about what we define as accessibility. So our
solution is accessibility. And what COVID, I think has taught us- and it’s such a sad thing that
we need to go through such a tragic episode to have an awakening. But I guess as humans,
we only learn through some type of negative environments.
And so I think that’s our feedback mechanism, but what COVID has taught us, it’s taught us
that we need to become more resilient locally. So rather than relying on whether it’s
overseas markets or overseas players, so to become more locally invested. I think it’s also
taught us that sometimes we can not rely on what we normally relied on, which is just the
nine to five jobs.
So sometimes we may need to look at other revenues, whether it’s growing our own
produce, whether it’s doing things differently. And it’s also shown us that life is just so
precious. And sometimes what we appreciated before, the rat race and doing the things that
were so important previously now have very little value.
So it’s a realignment, it’s a shift. And I think it really echoes what you were saying before. So
in addition to having a career shift, I think people can also have a personality shift
throughout their life. And I think this occurs whether it’s through maturity, through the life
episodes. And I think COVID is a universal one for many people where I think it’s just made
them realize that there is a more conscious way to living. And sustainability is just one
component of that.
Meghan Houle: [00:11:29] Right. And appreciating what we have and this beautiful Earth
that we need to take care of. Climate change, all of these things like it’s real. This is not fake
news people, so beautifully said, and as we love to leave a little teaser in this podcast, and
then we pick back up after a short break.
So a yes or no question. Do you remember the exact moment you decided you wanted to
build Cerqular?

David Friedrichs: [00:11:54] Yes.
Meghan Houle: [00:11:56] And with that, we will be going to a quick break and we will pick
this up when we get back.
Okay, David, before the break, you said yes. So describe the moment that you wanted to
really bring this idea to life. And I’d love for you to talk a little bit more too, about the heart
and soul of this e-commerce platform.
David Friedrichs: [00:12:26] Sure. The awakening moment was: I was going on a hike in
Hong Kong, I was walking to the Hong Kong peak and I thought, whatever we’ve been doing
in our past life in terms of launching consumer brands, why don’t we do something that is
possible across infinite number of brands, infinite number of consciously made products and
make them incredibly accessible to people.
And I went home, we sat down together, my wife and I, and in addition to being my life
partner, she’s also my entrepreneurial partner in everything we do. And our go to moment
was number one, let’s see if there’s enough market size in this. Is there a demand? So we did
all the background research.
We did everything, all the checks and instantly, we saw that this is a massive opportunity
and we just couldn’t believe that no one was tapping into the space of the ethical Amazon.
At least across all consumer categories with everything that we know that could be done. So
that was the moment when we decided to dive totally into Cerqular.
And we chose the name Cerqular, obviously because it’s a spin on the circular economy
because the way we see the economy transitioning over the next 10, 20 years, IS one in
which we become more resourceful in terms of upcycling, repurposing and reusing, not only
the products that we use, but also the raw materials from products
in their life cycle. Because through technology, we can actually get maximum enjoyment
with far less import. And so, you’ve got a lot of brands on Cerqular and many brands that we
still want to join the platform that have created the most incredible products by simply
incorporating technological aspects to their business, which don’t impact the environment
or people in communities as much as conventional products.
And so Cerqular is a place where essentially shoppers who want to do better, whether it’s
for themselves, for their family, for whatever reason, they can connect on a single platform
with sustainable sellers. It’s as simple as that.
Meghan Houle: [00:14:48] I love it. I know you have so many wonderful categories and
assortments, and we’ll, we’ll jump into that and, and your consumers, but how can someone
partner with you to get their business on your platform?
And what measures do you take to certify them as sustainable?
David Friedrichs: [00:15:03] I’ll address your second question first. I think that’s the question
that we get a lot.

Meghan Houle: [00:15:06] Okay.
David Friedrichs: [00:15:07] So the question is what do you need to be to join Cerqular?
Great question. So essentially we look for at least one sustainable component to your
business and product.
So as long as you have a component that is sustainable we’re definitely interested in doing
business with you. And when we first started, we wanted to go all out Cerqular, vegan, the
whole works, but we realized very early on that we were actually being an inhibitor rather
than being an amplifier.
And what Cerqular is primed and positioning itself to do is to be the amplifier of brands that
want to do better to redefine the category. And so we’re starting off by taking little steps by
helping brands that are doing at least certain things right. And grow with them over time so
that eventually we can incorporate a more structured Cerqular program where we also help
brands incorporate deeper levels of sustainability into their business.
So at least one sustainable element, and that could be anything from organic materials. It
could be a giving back program. It could be how you manufacturer, so fair trade… Where
you manufacturer as well. And just so you know, we love women- owned businesses.
We love diverse business owners because part of sustainability is also accessibility to
resources. And that involves inclusivity. And so at Cerqular we’re super proud to say that
over 80% of our sellers are 100% female owned and it’s not because we’ve gone out to
search for them.
It just so happens that they create the best brands. And so we love diversity because
diversity, initiates passion, energy change, and that’s what we need right now. So that’s
what it’s all about in terms of the other one, in terms of reaching out we make it super easy
to join up on Cerqular, but also to get in touch with us.
So, we’re on social media, hook me up on LinkedIn. I’m pretty much always available and we
do the setup for brands so it’s super easy to get set up we’re very technologically advanced,
so get in touch.
Meghan Houle: [00:17:15] Well, that’s awesome. And I really hope this podcast and our
voice and your message drives some amazing traffic as I’ve been playing around with
Cerqular since you and I connected.
And you just have such a wonderful assortment of categories that I believe are truly
beautifully curated. And I love to hear that you really do focus on diversity, inclusivity, all of
the things and the topics we really all need to be aware of, and truly care about and our
heart and soul.
I think for the customers that come to shop your platform now, who would you say are
those customers and where are the opportunities to maybe attract some new businesses
and audiences and how are you trying to reach them?

David Friedrichs: [00:17:54] Sure. So without a doubt, we’re targeting the conscious
shoppers, right?
So definitely the millennials, the gen Zs and also the people who aren’t yet fully convinced of
sustainability. So even in my family, there are a number of people who believe sustainability
isn’t a thing. Surprisingly, there are also the same people who think that COVID, isn’t a thing.
But at the same time,
Meghan Houle: [00:18:18] We all have that one family member!
David Friedrichs: [00:18:20] We will have that one person. But the thing is Cerqular is
converting people without converting people and we’re doing it by giving them brands that
they would normally want to buy from, but they just so happened to also be making things
consciously. So for example, we’re not targeting brands and not because they’re not great.
We’re targeting brands that are great because they create incredible products, whether it’s
because of innovation, style, look and feel, nutrition, whatever it is, it’s because they are
excellent product makers and marketers. So that’s what we have. And it just so happens that
it becomes a guilt-free shopping experience that at checkout you’ve not only got something
that is ethically made.
But you’ve also got something that you personally love that you would personally want to
wear or consume or give or gift. And it just so happens it’s guilt-free because it’s done
consciously and that’s the word that I like to use, because I think there’s always a better way
to doing anything, whether it’s in a personal relationship or making your product.
And so we are working with people who have actually invested time and effort to create
something that’s better. And so in terms of the audience, millennials and gen Z it’s just so
happen to be the more conscious shopper. And so we love millennials and gen Z is because
they actually care about what they’re buying, but we’re also seeing another demographic,
which is the older demographic who are joining the platform.
And it’s because they’re either buying gifts for their children or they’re buying gifts because
they’re now seeing products that they didn’t otherwise realize were sustainable. So Cerqular
is a platform for everyone but in particular the millennials and gen Z’s. We’re targeting
people initially in the US, but within five months were definitely international. We have
brands and sellers from across the globe. And we’re super happy. In fact, we just signed on a
new seller this week from Japan as well.
Meghan Houle: [00:20:21] Oh, that’s awesome. Whoa, super fun. And I have to say and
your site is like really easy to navigate.
There’s so many cool product categories. Of course, I’m always drawn to the fashions. For
people that love like vintage and kind of shopping something that’s different and nobody
wants to look like everybody anymore, we want own our own identity.
Yeah, so get on there and check it out. And for someone who may be listening, going back to
the business side: if someone has a sustainable business that they’re looking to scale or

maybe that entrepreneurial soul going on a hike, with something in the forefront of their
minds, ready to bring to life, what in your advice would be the best first step someone can
take to really help scale the business or to build on their business offering or idea
David Friedrichs: [00:21:08] it’s funny you say that, because in addition to Cerqular, I’m
actually also mentoring a few of the brands on Cerqular and not because I put myself out
there. It’s simply because I just love business so much because business is all about finding
opportunity. And what I keep reminding myself is firstly action comes in many forms, but
action is the first thing that’s required.
And so from a thought process, we need to act. And that can either mean diving into
research, diving into doing testing or diving into some type of performance. But the thing
that I would recommend as the first step is to really understand what your end goal is, and
to always imagine your business as already being super successful.
Because I think a lot of founders enter business on the notion that they could potentially fail.
And with that mindset, we are often too careful and often tread so lightly that we don’t do
the things that we would normally do. And that could mean launching a new product or
identifying a new market or doing a different marketing campaign or talking to different
So essentially we limit our opportunities by thinking that our growth is also limited. So I
always say, start from the get-go and imagine yourself as the dream business that you want
to be, and then make the decisions that you believe you need to make to achieve that
business size or that business growth.
And so that comes in many shapes and sizes, and then you start building a plan around that
growth and it all comes down to planning and execution. And busy-ness doesn’t equate to
performance, right? I mean, we are also inundated with emails and all these things today,
but ultimately it only comes down to doing a few things that actually make a significant
impact on what we do.
And that could often mean a conversation with someone that could mean running tests. And
I love this thing. I don’t know who said it, but no one knows more than anyone else,
essentially. Ray Dalio’s, if you read one of his books, Principles, it all comes down to doing
testing. Testing testing, testing, and constantly learning.
So, don’t be scared about failing because failing is the only way that you’re going to get to
the place of success. It’s impossible to reach success without failing and in some shape or
form I fail each and every day, but thankfully I have a resilient mindset and great people who
we work with, who pick you up and remind you that eventually you will become that
solution that you’re trying to solve.
Meghan Houle: [00:23:52] How important would you say it is to have a really solid network
around you, to help build and scale, and maybe for somebody looking for mentor. What can
somebody do to reach out and maybe connect with people that are like minded?

David Friedrichs: [00:24:06] I would say network collaborations and partnerships make up
almost 90% of everything that makes Cerqular. The remaining 10% is luck. So I think that the
efforts I personally make is almost minimal, negligible. So networks are the most important
thing. I don’t think anyone has made a successful business or a successful life by being a lone
ranger. And so we are super pleased and super proud to work with incredible partners, such
as Sendle, which is 100% carbon neutral shipping originally from Australia now massive in
the US, Project Verte which is an unbelievably tech driven supply chain company
and we’re doing incredible things with them as well as a number of other partnerships as
well. So these partnerships not only provide a service and a functionality, but they open up
networks to people who continuously introduce us to more magical people. Whether from
an investment perspective, from a functionality perspective and Cerqular, as well as any
business, as well as any relationship realize wholeheartedly on these, on these relationships.
And I think the key success to building a successful relationship is a win-win, just like you
having a intimate relationship. I think a business one has to be built on the same factors,
which are trust, always a win-win and a give and take and patience. And as soon as you
found those synergies, I think incredible things happen well beyond just a commercial
And that’s what we found with all of our partners. And my advice to anyone is even for
people who are introverts trust yourself, that people will see the inner beauty. As long as
you see the inner beauty in yourself. So as long as you can find a way to communicate what
is truly and deeply meaningful to you in a platform where you feel comfortable, whether it’s
on LinkedIn, podcasts, blogs, your own business products, people will find it.
Anyone who doesn’t find it, that relationship wasn’t there to begin with. So keep on going
until you find that right connection. But I think it’s 90% of the business and definitely don’t
give up.
Meghan Houle: [00:26:26] Don’t give up, share your voice share your value out there and
you will be seen, and there are some wonderful people out there that just want to help and
make other people’s lives better.
So, don’t be afraid to reach out, ask for a conversation. So serendipitous, how you and I
connected. I’m so grateful for our relationship and can’t wait to continue to support all
you’re doing! So with your expert advice, and then, we’ll talk about how listeners can find
you and engage with you.
What is one thing that we can all do today to live more sustainably in your opinion, in our
day-to-day lives?
David Friedrichs: [00:27:01] I think having an awareness of what is possible; it starts with
having an awareness and open mind that there is always an alternative to everything.
Whether it’s lifestyle, food, clothes you wear, holidays, you go on how you spend your time
and how you spend your money.

So it starts with having an awareness and from an awareness, it takes a bit of curiosity. So
with curiosity, you start to dive into a bit of research and that could be in a Google search. It
could be talking to a friend, it could be trying something new, and then it simply is giving
something a try.
So actually the doing part. Something that may be not everyone knows, but whatever you go
and do your weekly shop at the grocery store, or you go shopping to could be Zara, it could
be H&M it could be even other brands. Essentially there is an alternative to everything we’re
already buying that is made either through high quality products or through different
conscious practices that doesn’t compromise on style or nutrition or identifying with your
personal beliefs.
That just also happens to be either having minimal to no impact on the environment, but
also having a positive impact on people in communities and also animals and wildlife. So
that if you just made a simple switch to buying what you’re already buying, just a different
version of it…
Ultimately you’re not only going to get a lot more value, but you’re also going to be helping
a lot of people and other parts of the chain and clearly price is often a factor for a lot of
people. I mean, who wouldn’t buy organic produce given the price, but it comes down to if
we all actually joined together and we all tried to include just one element of sustainability
companies will reflect that change on whatever they produce.
And so the prices will go down. So our advice to shoppers out there is shop with a bit of
consciousness because whatever you spend your dollars on that will be reflected in what
companies produce and how they produce it. And thankfully, sustainability is no longer
niche anymore.
And all of our incredible brands are producing so much more at prices that are often lower
than conventional products. So, yeah. Incorporate one element of sustainability by just
making a simple switch. That’s all it takes.
Meghan Houle: [00:29:32] Right. I have to say for me it was the plastic baggies, the Ziploc
bags that we all grew up with at one point, it would just pain me to put these things in the
I’m like, I can’t do this anymore. So you’re right. It’s an investment. And there are expenses
that come with that, but you feel good washing out those reusable baggies! Might take like
an extra second, but I’d like to think of all the plastic I’m saving, I think of the turtles, we also
love to travel.
And I am an ocean girl, I grew up in the ocean, every animal to me, I just love so you gotta
connect it back to like your “why” and the things you love to do. And you’re right. If we all
come together and do our part we can truly make a difference. So thank you for sharing all
of that.

And in closing, how can our listeners find you engage with you, get on the Cerqular platform.
And of course we’ll link everything in our summary, in the show notes. So everyone can click
on and start shopping away.
David Friedrichs: [00:30:29] We want everyone to join because we want this to be the next
generation shopping platform.
So you can definitely always find me on LinkedIn. We’re on Instagram, also on the website.
So go to and we’re open to all ideas, to all collaboration ideas, because
ultimately by banding together, we’re going to make a systemic change. And Meghan, thank
you so much for also introducing your world to us as well, because you’ve given us an
opportunity to share our voice, but also at the same time, I think that you have
such an opportunity to help so many people out there who may be a little bit lost on how to
get to another step, whether it’s in a career or being an entrepreneur. And we all have
different paths in life and whether it’s starting your own business to changing a job, to
becoming a parent, whatever it is, it’s all part of a life’s journey.
So I think sustainability is also about maximizing the enjoyment of someone’s life to the
fullest extent. And I think that you’re playing a huge role in this. So thank you so much.
Meghan Houle: [00:31:35] Wow. I mean, that is just like the most kind and generous
compliment. You made my day, month, year. Thank you, David, for your unending support
and your authentic and enthusiasm
as I truly know, it comes from the heart and we truly appreciate you sharing your story. Also
in your expert insights into a topic where this conversation only needs to get louder around
sustainability and how we can better support brands through your platform and build a
cleaner future for us all, please, everyone go check out Cerqular and stay tuned for more
Pivot with Purpose stories to come and be sure to share this podcast with your network.
Thanks so much, David!
David Friedrichs: [00:32:16] Thank you so much, stay healthy everyone.

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Pivot With Purpose S2

Pivot with Purpose with Meghan Houle Season 2 Ep 1

As founder of Lunya and Lahgo, Ashley Merrill is reinventing sleepwear for modern women and men, respectively. Both brands share a simple mission: to make people feel confidently comfortable — at home and within themselves. 

Beyond her sleepwear entrepreneurship, Ashley is Chairwoman of the Board at Outdoor Voices, a direct-to-consumer recreation label. She is also CEO and cofounder of The Deep, a media platform that makes philosophy and personal exploration accessible through thought-provoking questions and content.

As principal at impact investing firm NaHCO3, where she leverages her background in venture, technology, and the arts to invest in ways that create opportunity and move humanity forward. Both personally and professionally, she is an active supporter of organizations like Girls Inc., Upstream, and United Medical Corps.

She is a Southern California native and resides there with her husband and their two young children. 

Shop Luyna:

Find out more how you can change your conversations with The Deep:

Click Here to Read Full Transcript

FC Podcasts: [00:00:00] Pivot with Purpose, a podcast that highlights the unique stories of
professionals that pivoted their careers to align with their work lives and personal lives,
more purposefully, and with more joy.
Pivot with Purpose is hosted by Meghan Houle, a globally accredited career and business
coach and creator of the Meghan Houle Method.
Meghan Houle: [00:00:33] Welcome back to the Pivot with Purpose podcast. I’m your host,
Meghan Houle and in this episode, we talked to Ashley Merrill CEO, founder of the luxury
sleep and lounge wear brands, Lunya for women and Lahgo for men and co-founder of The
FC Podcasts: [00:00:48] Thank you for listening to Pivot with Purpose with hosts, Meghan
Houle, you can find out more information about each guest, including full transcripts at and if you’d like to share your own Pivot with Purpose, click
on the share button and add your story to the conversation.
Finally be sure to subscribe and share your comments wherever you listen to your favorite
podcast, your support amplifies our voice, and now this week’s episode.
Meghan Houle: [00:01:21] As founder of Lunya and Lahgo, Ashley Merrill is reinventing
sleepwear for modern women and men respectfully. Both brands share a simple mission to
make people feel confidently comfortable inside.
Ashley is also co-founder of The Deep, a media platform that makes philosophy and personal
exploration accessible through thought provoking questions and content and the
chairwoman of outdoor voices, both personally and professionally, she is an active supporter
of organizations like Sola, Upstream and United Medical Corps.
She is a Southern California native and resides there with her husband and our two young
children. Ashley Merrill welcome to the Pivot with Purpose podcast. I am so excited to have
you on thank you so much for joining us today.
Ashley Merrill: [00:02:09] Thank you for having me.
Meghan Houle: [00:02:10] No thank you, and then also THANK YOU for bringing Lunya to
As I will have to tell you beyond all the amazing sleep where there was no way I was sleeping
, through the night, without my silk sleep wear mask.
Ashley Merrill: [00:02:25] Oh, I’m so glad!
Meghan Houle: [00:02:26] I love them all. I have four of them, everybody. I need all the
colors it’s called, like get some rest.
But whatever it takes to get us through the night, you know, it’s what it’s all about.

Ashley Merrill: [00:02:41] I feel ya. I feel ya.
Meghan Houle: [00:02:42] I can’t wait to dive into all of our exciting topics we have here,
but to start off the podcast, I’d love to ease into the conversation and learn something fun
about our guests. So tell me, what are you loving to do beyond work these days?
Ashley Merrill: [00:02:57] Oh my goodness. I mean, it’s been a weird world for the past year
so maybe some of the things that I love to do historically are a little off the table for me. I
love to work out. I’ve been doing that remote and that’s been great and I have been using
Sydney Cummings on YouTube. So it’s like free, easy to work out any time I need to so I’ve
been loving that. So I’m doing a woodworking with my dad and that’s awesome because he
is so handy and that’s the thing that I get to do with him you know, just having like a shared
memory and yeah, hopefully I’ll make some really cool things. We’ll see.
Meghan Houle: [00:03:29] All right. Well keep us posted.
We’ll be on the lookout for your Instagram for all your woodworking. That’s so amazing.
Well, leading into talking about your businesses and your passion projects, obviously at the
heart of this podcast is really talking about our pivots and careers.
Give us a few of your proudest career highlights to start off.
Ashley Merrill: [00:03:53] Sure. I have some moments that feel really positive. Like Beyonce
wore our silk set for her New Year’s Eve last year that feels really awesome cause you know,
hello is Beyonce and that was really, I think a big win and then there’s then business
moments, you know, we got profitable in 2021 the first time and I think that felt really good.
But I mean some of the really big moments are not those kind of obvious moments and that
they’re the more everyday moments where just watching the teams start to connect and
leaders start to step up and own their departments and actually watching Lunya gain
momentum outside of me has been really cool, you know, where early on a company’s very
small and everything’s very driven by maybe the founder at an early stage.
And I think that that’s been a real maturing process of watching Lunya start to have these
different leaders within it that have their own kind of vision that meets into my vision and
executing their own plans and all of that and that’s been really cool.
Meghan Houle: [00:04:57] Yeah I always say like putting your stamp on the business.
Beyond all that you’re doing.
That’s so great to hear. So tell me as we talk a little bit more about Lunya and Lahgo and kind
of jump into all of the things, where did your career start off and what led to this pivot of
becoming this female entrepreneurial powerhouse you are? You certainly are! So please
take that a hundred percent.
Ashley Merrill: [00:05:19] Well, thank you. Yeah, so I started my career actually. I mean, I
went to undergrad, I was an art history major. I thought I was going to be a lawyer. And
then I’ve started meeting with lawyers and learning what the job was and realizing, Ooh, I
don’t know that’s a perfect match for my personality.

And that left me coming out of college, being pretty unsure because here I’d had this plan
the whole way along of what I was going to do. And then I went to culinary school because I
thought maybe it’d be really neat to be in catering. I figured at worst it would be this really
great experience that would teach me a life skill and it was more the latter for me.
And then I went to a small venture capital company and it was a funny story. And I like to
say it sometimes because while I was in school, I applied for this role that they had, and I’m
not a perfect candidate. I wasn’t an econ major and you know, this kind of stuff taking sort
of a different path.
I worked for free for them after school for three months and said don’t worry about paying
me and this was before, so you were allowed to do that. And if at the end of three months,
I’m adding value, keep me, and if not, then don’t and that’s fine. And so that was kinda how I
got started in venture and they kept me in, I really enjoyed that.
And then I somehow felt like I was on the wrong side of the table at venture. It was really
great experience, but I kept thinking. You know, who am I to judge whether these businesses
are good or not. I don’t know anything yet, you know? And so I went and worked at an
online media company because this was around when, a lot of these websites were really
blowing up and I could bring my sort of M & A experience into this new forum.
And we were buying and selling websites and building web portals. And I got to learn a lot
at this company, I was there for maybe four and a half years. And It started in business
development and then ended up running an actual web portal called Momtastic, which I got
to create with a team and limited resources and got the opportunity to be an intrepreneur.
So we identified the problem and kind of built a plan to go after it and it was a very cool
experience. And so one of those things that I felt gave me a real chance to practice
entrepreneur, but have training wheels on while doing it. And so something I advise a lot of
people to do is one of those stretch projects, as they say, where I kind of started out being
like, well, if we can’t afford to buy something, maybe I could build something and really,
really great experience.
And then after that I wanted to be at a startup. I wanted to be somewhere I was really
passionate. So I had applied for business school and I got in and I decided to leave that
company while I was at school. Cause I figured I would probably either join somebody’s
startup at that point or start my own thing.
And I was really excited. There was a lot of engineers and folks that were at that school so I
was like, okay, cool. I can maybe partner with somebody who knows how to build things.
And I have this sort of marketing background and we can make that work. And then
somewhere in that I had had this moment in the mirror, which I kind of call it now, but
where I was looking at myself wearing my husband’s old sleepwear and was thinking, oh, I
probably should step this up a little bit, you know, just like it was it wasn’t so great.
Meghan Houle: [00:08:35] I feel you there!

Ashley Merrill: [00:08:36] You know, and I realized like this wasn’t a problem that just was
my problem with a lot of people talking to her, wearing all their old clothes around the
house, and there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with wearing old clothes. It’s just that
when you spend a lot of time there it starts to actually make you feel not good about
yourself, you know, and then it’s also not necessarily well-designed for sleeping. So it kind of
sent me on this journey of going well, could I wear something better? And I wasn’t thinking I
was going to build the company. I figured I would just buy something.
And so I went around looking and everything was very sexy lingerie or very traditional
pajama set, but wasn’t very comfortable or practical and it left me going, wow, there’s just
nobody doing this. And maybe there’s an opportunity here. And then I did what most people
do is I talk myself out of it for like a while, you know?
And I kept thinking, why would I do that? I’ve never made clothes before. What do I know
about this industry? I could find a lot of reasons why I wasn’t the right person. What I
couldn’t find though, was a reason why it was a bad idea. I mostly found reasons why I
wasn’t the right person for it.
And so what happened was I went into school, I kind of set that idea side. I started school. I
started school in September and around this time, my husband and I had decided we were
going to start our family. And I got pregnant end of September. And as soon as I got
pregnant, I realized this is a good idea, and I’m not doing it because I’m afraid.
But, it’d be way worse to tell my kids that I didn’t do something because I was afraid than it
would be to do it and fail. And so it just kind of changed the whole equation for me. And
then I decided to jump and I did it. So starting in October is when I really started working on
Meghan Houle: [00:10:16] I love it. So is that where the idea came from that led to your
desire? Was it like, okay, I need to, I need to step up my game and loungewear a brand. So
you have Lunya for women and Lahgo for men and did you see this sort of white space, like
you said, where it was just a lot more sleep sleepwear that was a little sexy and kind of like
occasion driven and to have something that is purposeful and that you can really wear out as
well. Right? Is that where the idea came from or any other thoughts or inspiration?
Ashley Merrill: [00:10:48] Yeah, I guess it felt like why would there be this distinction
between how I would show up in my, like, arguably my most important time of the day?
You know, it’s the time I spend with all the people that I love the most. Why would I have
this distinction on oh, well that’s the time to show up like I don’t care, you know? And then
when I go dress for other people, people I know less, well, then I’m going to pull it together.
You know, when you really look at it, it’s kind of funny where we place our emphasis and I
thought that’s such a reversal, a prioritization reversal.
It got me really going deep on that. Like, why am I willing to spend, you know, $250 on a
cocktail dress that I’m going to wear once or twice? And yet I won’t get myself some really
comfortable nicely made sleepwear that I can wear every single day. It’s the cost per wear
argument here.

And then also I’m going to feel like my best self. Everybody knows there’s a reason why you
wear a uniform for certain activities, it puts you in a state of mind. I think like people put on
a Jersey when they’re going to go play on a soccer team because they’re sort of setting aside
the individual and they’re buying into themselves as part of the team. The clothes you wear
can set the tone for how you show up.
And I feel like showing up with your old clothes that have like holes and hand me downs,
right. It’s just really not putting in the right headspace. And so that really got me going.
Meghan Houle: [00:12:13] Yeah, that’s exciting. Oh, I’m so guilty of having those pants with
the holes. My husband’s like, Hmm. Do you want to throw them out?
But I feel like you get so attached to these like old school, you know, Pink
from Victoria.
I like clean out my lounge for a drawer. Like throw them out. What if there’s a fire, Meghan?
Ashley Merrill: [00:12:31] It’s like the coming of age thing, getting rid of that. You’re like,
yes, I am that person. Yeah. I’m just like, I’m better than this. Oftentimes after I talk to
people about, you know, what got me started, they ended up sending me texts afterwards,
being like, I just went through my whole drawer. I think for people, they just forget about it.
I don’t think they’re consciously doing it. It’s just sort of like, who cares?
Or they’re saying, hey, I want to be comfortable. I’m like, but what if you could be
comfortable and feel like your best self and that’s really the win. And then by the way, it
started in this place and then, I proceeded to have two kids after that. And it only became
more true.
I started being on these women’s forums and realizing that, sometimes there’s such a
connection especially when people have kids too often you’re spending a lot of time at
home when you have a new child and like kind of bumming around the house, so to speak
and, it does a number on your confidence, you know, maybe your body’s not quite in the
spot that it was before and you’re not sleeping very well at all and the thing that would
make me the most crazy is when some ill-fitting pajama would wake me up because I wasn’t
getting a lot of sleep. And so then when I would wake up for a ridiculous reason, like, oh, my
spaghetti strap is falled off and I got all twisted up.
And then I was like, wow, joggers are cutting
off your ankle
in your calf. That happens. That makes it a cap problem. Crazy. So it’s like, to me, I was like,
there’s just no excuse for that. You know, I will not take that chance. So anyway, it’s kind of
started in one place and then I realized how much bigger it is.
It’s connected to sort of a lot of about how we see ourselves and how we spend our time,
that we’re not being like productive and I’m sort of air quoting right now. We working really
hard. What are we doing it for? We’re doing it for these moments.

And then we’re showing up with, the shirts with the holes in it and all this kind of stuff. So
it’s kinda like interesting when you start to really analyze that. I think you realize, wow, this
is probably of all the places that I should be really caring. This is the one.
Meghan Houle: [00:14:28] I love you have something for everybody, from the trousers to
the sets, to the jumpsuits, which I’m obsessed with. I’m totally jumpsuits set girl and I feel
like your product it’s so easy to take care of. Which is really, really nice.
Ashley Merrill: [00:14:43] It was definitely part of the philosophy and like, I’m not trying to
add it to do. Many of us can relate to the feeling of just having tons of to-dos, you know, and
I kept thinking, I love silk. It’s a thermoregulating fabric. It’s a fabulous fabric, but silk that
your dry cleaning for sleep. Not right. Yeah.
Meghan Houle: [00:15:02] You know what it reminds me of, I don’t know if you watched The
Office, but I love The Office and Michael Scott, where he would dry, clean his jeans and put
them on and he was like a new Michael Scott.
So it’s like, you got your Lunya Lahgo for men. You put on the sleepwear you feel amazing.
You can wash it. I mean, win-win.
Ashley Merrill: [00:15:19] That’s the idea and I think it’s cool you’re saying there’s something
for everyone. It took us a while. When we launched initially I had 10 pieces and then over
time, and this is the beauty of, you know, as the company matures and you get really great
feedback from customers.
We learned a lot about what people want from us and realized, oh, wow, there’s like, desire
for intimates because a lot of people want to sleep in intimates and what they want out of
their intimates for lounging and sleeping is different than what they want or their intimates
for the day.
Lot of our product offering is an evolved product offering. It’s really come from a lot of
feedback and iteration.
Meghan Houle: [00:15:54] Well in the spirit of this podcast, I love to have a little teaser and
then we go to a quick break. So I’m going to give you a yes or no question, and then we’ll
take a little break and come back.
So yes or no. Do you remember the exact moment when you decided you wanted to build
your own business?
Ashley Merrill: [00:16:09] Yes.
Meghan Houle: [00:16:10] And with that, we will be going to a break and pick us up when
we get back.
So Ashley before the break, you said, yes. What advice would you give someone who may be
looking to build their own business or bring an idea to life and not know where to start?

Ashley Merrill: [00:16:39] I would say, reach out to people, be vulnerable about your
dreams and it’s amazing how much people will kind of lean in and help.
I mean, for me, a lot of it was once I convinced myself that I had something here that I had a
good idea. It, gave me the sort of fire and motivation to share that with other people and I
would reach out to people and say, I have this vision for creating a sleepwear company that
is really making end to end the very best product for somebody in that means I want
functional fabrics. Really, really great construction, all these things that do you know,
anyone in the industry? And it was amazing how helpful people were and sometimes the
person they’d connect with, maybe wasn’t the perfect person, but often that person might
connect me from there to someone else. And so I think just vocalizing it, putting it out there
and be really a sponge.
Meghan Houle: [00:17:31] I love that. Wow. I mean, that is the heart of the podcast. We
talked so much in previous episodes really about, what is on your mind? What is in your
heart, leveraging your network, asking people, for conversations, being fearless, not being
afraid because you never know where they can lead and genuinely people want to help out
if they can.
So thank you for sharing that. And tell us a little bit more cause as another passion project
that you have, I was kind of diving into and researching before jumping on the podcast with
you, let’s talk about The Deep and your thoughts behind building this conversation
community and really how it’s changing the way people are communicating with each other.
So what is The Deep all about?
Ashley Merrill: [00:18:12] Yeah, so I think been very concerned about the direction that I’m
seeing society go. I think that we’ve become so polarized and in a bubble in so many ways
that it’s really changed the dynamics, which we converse, we unfollow people who see the
world differently than us. A lot of topics are off limits, in social circles and in a way they
didn’t use to be, we used to be okay with discussing things and just, having different points
of view and that didn’t feel like such a personal attack.
And I think that one of the things that’s concerned me in, particularly through the last couple
of elections and, and whatnot is just the vitriol that I see kind of being spilled on both sides.
To be honest, I don’t think anybody’s innocent here. And I’m going to give you an example.
And this is really one of the reasons that I started The Deep is I had a conversation with a
friend of mine, we were talking about abortion and abortion is a conversation that
everybody has an opinion on. They know where they stand on abortion. And it can be one of
those things that also really alienate people if you see it differently. And I was chatting with
him about it. I live in a pretty blue state, so I just assumed that that he was pro choice cause
I’m surrounded by a lot of people. And what he did was asked me a question. He said, well,
when does life begin?
And I thought, wow, that’s a really interesting question and it gets us away from the
abortion topic. And I thought I may not change my opinion and he may not change his
opinion, but we had a really deep, really interesting conversation about when life begins.

And I thought, how cool, I just spent 25 minutes chatting with somebody who has a different
point of view than me.
And maybe I didn’t change my opinion because maybe it can do the same conclusion, but my
outlook is different. And I don’t think he’s a jerk for seeing it differently. I understand his
point of view. And again, I can disagree with him or see it differently and then not villainize
him. And I thought, wow, this is such an unlock.
And I realized that about a lot of topics, a lot of things are more gray then you initially think,
you know, because a lot of the media they’re paid for clicks right now. So they’re building
these sensationalist headlines, which enrage people or spur, agreeing with people.
And it’s actually like stirring the pot of anger. And so I thought, we gotta teach people and I
look at my kids too, by the way and I’m like, I want my kids to be able to talk with all kinds of
people. And we talk about celebrating diversity and I’m like, diversity is about showing up
with an open mind is about not villainizing someone without like hearing them out, you
And there’s a lot of things here that I think in some ways we say the words, but are we
really practicing it? The Deep came about because I just realized the power of questions
and in sparking curiosity and building bridges. I realized that a lot of people were sort of
thirsty for this
opportunity and my co-founder is an incredible human and has done a great job, kind of
really bringing it to life. And now there’s, you know, a lot of people that are sort of involved
in it and it’s amazing to see how passionate, I think people are about it because I do feel a lot
of people feel very silenced or that they’re in a bubble and they’re looking for ways.
And so that’s really what the foundation ofThe Deep is, and it shows up on Instagram so
people can check it out if you want to see how it works. And it also is a card game, so you
can get it and do it at home with friends and family.
Meghan Houle: [00:21:41] I saw that. Yeah. We’ll definitely link it in all of our show notes so
everyone can check it out.
And it’s so true, right. With 2020, isolating us all and maybe you’ve only been staring at your
husband and kids last year and a half, where it’s so easy these days to hide behind a phone
and internet and like blast people. It just gives you this anxiety in your heart and soul and
some people just holding their voices back because they don’t want to get into it. And you’re
right like going around family members. You’re like, I can’t talk about that. We can’t talk
about that. You know, how about having a productive conversation? I love that. Well, in the
spirit of asking you questions, real questions we’re going to jump into a topic where I know
you and I, when we first connected our so excited to talk about hiring and interviewing. And
as a CEO, I can imagine you’ve hired many people in your tenured career. So for listeners
looking for career pivots, we want to hear your firsthand advice of how to handle interviews,
job transitions, all the things. So to start off, what would you tell someone they need to
prepare for, to make a lasting positive impression during the interview process?

Ashley Merrill: [00:22:46] Sure. Well, I think You know, one of the things I like to think about
is you’re actually preparing for your next job in whatever your current job is. And so what I
mean by that is from the very first job you have, you’re building a reputation in a market.
You’re building peers and potential advocates for you.
And I think ask yourself, what they would say about you because you have to assume if
you’re in a small industry, that there’s a very high probability that through a friend of a
friend, you know, or something, they might actually end up becoming the advocates for you.
And so one of the things I think about is the job you’re in today is absolutely the stepping
stone to the next one. And sometimes when we get really sick of our job or tired of our boss,
or whatever insert emotion there it’s easy to kind of start to check out and get irritated and
not be our best selves. I would remind everybody that how you show up, particularly at the
end ends up being very career defining for you. So I would say, try to show up as your best
self, be the kind of person that other people really will advocate for, and then leave
gracefully, make sure that you’ve set them up with documentation of all the things you do. I
would say wow
people with your exit. And that sounds funny, but it’s amazing how many people are
incredible, their whole tenure and then, they’re on their way out and they’re checked out
and if you’re going to have two to four weeks of exit, it’s worth it to really be incredible.
So that would be my first, my first advice is really leave on a good note. And then I would say
the next one is when you’re applying to another job, make sure you really research the
company. Some people like to spray out a thousand applications, I am not a fan of that. If
you send me an application that doesn’t have a cover letter and
beyond that it feels like a templated cover letter. I probably won’t even read your resume. If
you’re not going to take the time to really understand the company and the position then
I’m not going to take the time to read your resume. Value the time of the people that you’re
going to, and also think of it from a marketing standpoint.
This is your chance to market, to them, really understand what the position is and help
connect the dots for whoever’s going to be reading this application for why you are a good
fit for the job. Especially if you have previous experience, that’s not a perfect tee up. So
really thinking about, what is it about me or the skills in my last one that might not even be
immediately obvious that I think are gonna really make me great at this job.
So I do think there’s a lot of opportunity there and how you paint that picture. In many
cases you may even find yourself rewriting your resume to make your experience feel more
relevant. So I’d say all of those things are really helpful to getting you in the mix. And then
once you kind of get your foot in the door I think showing up
really understanding the position bringing a positive attitude. I think another thing that
matters a lot that doesn’t get talked about that much is we’re thinking a lot about team
dynamics. So are you going to be a force for good or a force for negativity on the team? You
know, and sometimes it’s hard because it’s almost like dating where you might come out of
your last relationship and you’re kind of bitter, you know what I mean?

Don’t bring that. If you can’t show up positive, don’t even, you’re not ready to interview yet.
Don’t date until you can have a good state of mind and be open and optimistic again. But
I’m always very sensitive to people that feel like they’re showing up with negativity. And
conversely people that feel like they’re bringing it and they’re going to be such a great
beacon of positivity and optimism
and those are people that I would get really excited about. So I think the attitude is really
important, especially if you’re junior actually, because in that case, you may not have all the
skillsets that you need and you’re kind of coming to learn.
And so I’m looking at you as well kind of a blank canvas am I getting, am I getting a blank
canvas of someone who’s can do and positive? Or am I getting someone who’s already a
little embittered and kind of grumpy and is going to view problems as a problem instead of
as an opportunity to improve. Those are some of the hopefully less obvious tidbits, but
those would be key ones for me.
Meghan Houle: [00:26:51] And it’s all of those workplace cultures and I say this all the time,
interviewing candidates and like getting people through offers and everything is please do
not let the sins of your past like ruin your future.
Ashley Merrill: [00:27:03] Totally. And if you’re in a leadership, totally. If you’re in a
leadership position, talk about your team. I mean, this should feel obvious to you, but if
you’re a leader and you’re coming in, you’re saying I did this, I did that. I did that. I’m going,
that’s not a leader. That’s not someone that people are going to be excited to work for.
That’s going to be someone who’s taking credit and who’s self-oriented and I think that’s
another one especially for people in leadership.
Meghan Houle: [00:27:29] All really good points and do you think it is the responsibility of
brands to sell themselves when interviewing candidates and then on the other side, how
important is it for a candidate to sell themselves? And which one do you think needs to
come first? Or do you feel like it’s a balance on both sides?
Ashley Merrill: [00:27:46] Yeah, I think it’s a balance in the end, but I would say that
theoretically, if I’m creating an aspirational enough brand in whatever my brand positioning
target is that will be attractive enough that I’m hopefully getting people that are excited and
feel the desire to sell themselves to me because they feel excited about what we’ve created.
So generally people that I find do well in interviews are people that are familiar with the
brand and they’re excited and they clearly want to be at the company. So I’d say that’s a
helpful starting place, but if they’re awesome and especially the more experienced they are,
I think the more it puts me in a role of a pitching.
As a leader, one of the things that’s tricky though, is you want to pitch and you want to sell,
but you want to be honest, you don’t want to create an overly glamorous picture because at
the end of the day, if everything was perfect, I wouldn’t be hiring this person.

I’m hiring somebody to come into it, to help me improve things. Yeah to make thngs better.
So I think it’s important to be optimistic in the sense of here’s the vision. Here’s why it’s
exciting. But then honest about like, here are the gaps we have and here’s the things I’m
really looking for from you.
And so I’ve had examples in the past where maybe people if they’re believing that it’s too
rosy, they come in and they’re like, oh, there’s all these problems to fix. Yeah. So I think early
on, I was like, yeah, don’t oversell you. I want to be honest. I want you to know what you’re
signing up for.
And I’m not saying I’m not going to give you the pitch, like for sure. I’m giving you the pitch. I
want you to believe, I want you to be excited about where we’re headed, also just eyes
wide open, you know!
Meghan Houle: [00:29:21] Well, and not to get down a rabbit hole too far, but I have to talk
about this I’m not sure if you’re experiencing it, but there’s some serious ghosting culture
going on out there. And not like from a dating point of view, because this is a career podcast
people, but in general, like let’s not ghost anybody, but really experiencing this on the hiring
side where scenario wise, you have a candidate that looks interested that you’ve been
speaking with that falls out of touch and just completely disappears from the process. And
then also on the brand side, you know, what’s happening for candidates as well, where like
the candidate interviews, some of them do presentations and then they never get any
feedback or hear of next steps. I would love to hear how you make sure your teams follow
up after an interview to give some closure.
And why do you think that ghosting culture is happening more so than ever? Are people too
busy? There are too many options, no accountability. Like what are your thoughts?
Ashley Merrill: [00:30:14] So I think it’s an interesting thing that you highlight here. I
haven’t had a ton of it on the interviewing side. I’ve had some of it but not a ton. And I think
it’s one of those things where whenever it happens, we kind of know what that is. If
someone’s not being responsive via email, we know they’re either entertaining other offers
or somehow we’re moving down the list in some way.
So if that happens, we read it instantly as something’s off here. On the company side, I will
tell you, I don’t usually follow up with people. If I just have an entry call, I don’t usually do a
follow up to let them know when the position was filled or any of that. So usually the
process for me, looks like an intro call could be like a 15 or 30 minute call.
It’s a very short, let me just see if you’re even remotely the right person for this. And then if
that goes well, there’s a follow on call which would be, maybe more rounds and you would
meet with potentially broader set of the team. And generally if someone’s been far down
the interview process, they’ve met with a lot of people.
I’ll let them know, hey, we ended up filling it with somebody else. But if I just had an intro
call with them, I don’t usually, and the reason I don’t is if I’m just like really being honest
here, I have a small company and I don’t have like a dedicated HR person we’re hiring so
much that it’s just hard to keep track of all of those things. In some cases, if they haven’t

been deep in the interview process, I generally don’t and if they are interested, oftentimes
people will follow back up and say, hey, what happened, and we’ll let them know of course,
but I would say that’s fairly normal especially at a small company.
Meghan Houle: [00:31:48] And I think going back to what you’ve talked about before of just
candidates really being able to articulate why they’re reaching out, why they want to do
this. Before you really start the interview process, make sure you’re motivated by the right
reason. I think it really helps.
There’s a lot of PTSD that comes with switching jobs right now. People are scared and
uncertain and you know, they get deep into the process and they’re like, okay, well this is
happening. And then that gets scared and back out it’s like, get really clear on why you’re
starting this. It’s a serious thing I’m sure if you get excited about hiring somebody, and then
they fall off the face of the earth, it’s a lot of time spent and wasted, so, let’s everybody, get
real clear on our why and just make sure you’re in a good spot, as you start to interview and
wrapping up here, on top of being a powerhouse, female entrepreneur, you are mom, as
you were saying, and there’s a lot of moms out there. A lot of moms out there looking for
job pivots, maybe new moms, existing moms. That are feeling Ashley that because they have
kids, maybe they are less marketable to a company.
I know there’s a big conversation out there with all the women who have left the workplace
in 2020. So what advice would you give to a mom looking to pivot and feeling like they’re not
getting noticed or there’s a stigma behind that. Coming from some expert advice, with two
young kids of your own.
Ashley Merrill: [00:33:03] Yeah, I see that, I see that challenge I’ve been watching Younger.
Have any of you watched Younger?
Meghan Houle: [00:33:08] I need to get into that, but I hear it’s really good.
Ashley Merrill: [00:33:11] It’s so good. It’s about that, right? It’s this 40 year old woman
who is getting back into the workplace after 15 years of hiatus raising children and it does
highlight that. It’s funny, we talk about gender equality and we focus so much on the
employers. You know, they should hire more women or insert anything here. But I would
say, specifically around this gender thing, I think kids are the big, they’re the big divide.
When I talked to my closest friends about it, a lot of the conversation I have is when it
comes time for them kicking around staying home and staying with kids I usually say maybe
you can consult, try to keep a foot in. And even if the money’s not great, but just so that
your resume’s warm and honestly, it’s not just about your resume, your skills. If you think
about if you got a career in marketing and then you step out for five years.
Well, you know, think of all the things Tik Tok happened and Instagram happened and the
world changes. And so I don’t have an answer here. I really just see the problem. And I
think coming out of COVID you had a lot of women that had to step out to take care of kids.
And I think this is going to be a bigger problem than ever before, but you’ve got to think
about this very early on. And I remember having these conversations with my husband.
About, I’m going to work the whole time we have kids. So that was an early on conversation.

So I need you to be an equal parent with me. Is that something you’re on board with? I
mean, I remember us having those conversations before we got married and he said, yes,
and we’ve been working that out, you know, trying to make this all work. And, I have a
nanny, there was no way when my kids were young, that I could make that work.
It makes me have an unfair advantage in that I can afford this nanny and I can make that
work. And I know not a lot of people are in that situation and I don’t have a great answer to
it. I think it’s actually one of the things, if we want to solve the equality gap, it’s not just a
pay gap.
It’s sort of really connects to this, this childbearing thing. There’s a great documentary on
Netflix about the wage gap and it really women and men will make about the same until
they have kids. And then there’s a massive change. And a lot of that is because, there’s this
whole new workload that is being absorbed by the women.
And I share the childhood duties with my husband, but the house I run the household. And
so that puts a lot of extra work on me. So I empathize with it, but I don’t have a solution for
it. But I think if a career matters to you, I highly suggest finding ways to keep a toe in the
water as best as possible.
And then, if you’re looking to pivot or to change I think you’re going to have to be really
willing to kind of start over, you know, sometimes I’ll meet people and it’s like, they’re used
to making, whatever it is, X, Y, and Z, and then they want to shift careers and they’re not
prepared for what that number looks like.
You know what I mean? And it’s different because I can’t pay you based on the skillsets that
you’ve spent your career getting, because now you’re wanting to shift and you don’t have
those skillsets. So I think it’s just tough. I don’t have an answer for that at all. I do value
older employees because they bring in parents in particular, I don’t know, there’s, there’s a
lot of similarities between managing people and managing children.
Meghan Houle: [00:36:14] You know, the CEO is at home. Like they put you in your place,
Ashley Merrill: [00:36:19] Like I find them to be a little more realistic, they’re not coming in,
like where’s my summer break? They’re mature adults emotionally too and I think they’re
good at working with other people and being clear and organized. And there’s a lot of things
that I think being a parent does help build your skill sets in, but it is just, that’s tough one. I
don’t have the answers.
Meghan Houle: [00:36:37] Well, you, definitely highlighted some key things, which is, keep
your foot in the door if you can. I think now with a lot of jobs being flexible, work from
home. I mean, that’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but I think it would give some flexibility,
trying to learn new skills, maybe bringing a passion project to life and even leveraging that
network, like keep up, the conversations and contacts with people that maybe can help you
and support you with all those things.

So really great points there. And I appreciate you sharing. In closing, any fun things in
store for you and your various projects in the future. I know Lunya Lahgo. I mean, you guys
have an amazing collection, which before we started this podcast, I was yelling at Ashley
cause my favorite thing was sold out.
I would like to talk to the manager, please.
Ashley Merrill: [00:37:21] You got to all of our capsules when they come out, we buy small
so that they sell out and they do. I always get those texts from my friend. Wait, I missed the
window. So yeah, we’ve got our linen silk resort collection will launch in the near future.
We’ve got a bunch of cool things coming out for summer. We’re going to maybe get into
some flannel which we’ve never done for holiday. Lots of really new fabric collections and
cool stuff coming in that regard.
Meghan Houle: [00:37:46] I love it.
Ashley Merrill: [00:37:47] Yeah. So definitely follow along and check it out.
Meghan Houle: [00:37:50] Yeah and with that note, how can listeners find you and engage
with you?
Ashley Merrill: [00:37:55] So I’m on Instagram at Ashley with a double underscore Merrill, M
E R R I L L. And if you want to follow on Lunya at L U N Y A on Instagram or online
Lahgo is L a H G O on Instagram and online and the is the email.
And it’s the Instagram handle. Highly recommend checking out the Instagram there and
getting in the questions. It’ll probably blow your mind. Cause we usually go into some pretty
fun rabbit holes and I’d say that’s the best way to follow along. Perfect.
And we will link everything and Ashley, you know, thank you so much for sharing your pivot
story, you know, long with some of your valuable career in business building and interview
And we really look forward to keeping an eye on all you’re doing and please everyone check
out Lunya Lahgo for the best sleepwear loungwear offering looking good feeling good from
home and as we’re getting out and living our lives again. Amen.
Meghan Houle: [00:38:56] Thanks so much for being here, stay tuned for more stories
Yes. Can’t wait to keep shopping with

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