My guest today is Erin Weed. After a tragic death of a friend, Erin founded Girls Fight Back! A women’s self-defense and personal safety organization. Erin traveled the U.S. speaking on college campuses and keeping the memory of her murdered friend alive through awareness. Erin wouldn’t consider herself an entrepreneur, but an activist that built a business out of her passion project.
During today’s episode, Erin tells me about the growth of Girls Fight Back and how she was able to take the business internationally. She also shares why she made the decision to sell the company and move on to the next stage of her life. Businesses can easily become the cornerstone of someone’s identity or purpose. Erin’s story is a great example of out-growing a business and knowing when to let it go.
What you will learn about:
- Why Erin founded Girls Fight Back.
- How partnerships with martial art and self-defense programs helped get Erin her audience.
- The personal effect her friend’s death had on Erin.
- How Girls Fight Back became international.
- How Erin structured one of her seminars and presentations.
- What exactly did Erin sell to her buyer?
- The danger of letting your business become your identity.
- The process Erin went through to sell her business.
- The personal changes she went under during this process.
- Mistakes that Erin made early on in the business.
- Erin’s new business Evoso and her DIG process.
- Erin’s advice to our listeners.
What are you passionate about in your life? What social issues ring near and dear to your heart? What if a past tragedy is the exact impetus you need to get your enterprise up and running? Today’s guest shows us exactly how you can be both a social justice warrior and still run a cash-positive business. Erin Weed talks about making a legacy out of her friend’s tragic murder by building a business devoted to helping women live a life without fear where they can defend themselves if necessary and have the tools they need to succeed.
What has your business done for others today?
Enterprise by Surprise
So many entrepreneurs don’t choose this path. Most fall into entrepreneurship by accident. If there’s an exposed market niche or an under-serviced segment, you can bet an entrepreneur will find a way to fulfill that need. One trend we don’t see enough of is businesses that are created to help a social issue or injustice get resolved. Today’s guest did exactly that: created a business to resolve a social injustice (women who live life in fear that they will be attacked and therefore pass on major life opportunities that their male peers do not have to due to considerations of personal safety).
In Erin’s own words, “Girls Fight Back gives women’s safety and self defense seminars at high schools and colleges across the world. We also have a product line that all supports that messaging.” So not only did she establish a business that would help thousands of women across the globe, but she also managed to make it a profitable business that could be sold to another like-minded ‘activist entrepreneur’.
The lesson here is that you never know who has been affected by a tragedy like yours and who could benefit from your healing process. While Erin has extrapolated this experience and grew beyond her initial need to be an activist entrepreneur, she knows who she is and what she needs to be happy and her most authentic self. After some self-improvement and selling Girls Fight Back, she has moved onto other projects which also help women—this time predominantly in business—and people at large by teaching them to live their most authentic life.
Living an Authentic Life as an Entrepreneur
Her first business matched her needs, personality and addressed a huge issue in society. This fulfilled her for quite some time, but when she had her first child, she noticed that her business no longer was who she was; it wasn’t helping her live her most authentic life. This incentivized her exit from the company, despite how well it was doing.
When she sold, she was able to re-focus on what currently made her happy. As she says, we need to at least let ourselves evolve. This means that, as we go through life and gain new experiences, we need to acknowledge how we change over time. Your needs at twenty rarely match your needs at forty.
So when Erin’s life circumstances changed and she needed to exit her company, she spent a lot of time sorting out what it would take to make the company valuable to someone else. Thankfully, she had pretty steady revenue and understood that the right person would be interested in the business’ mission, and not just potential for parts or resale. When she sold to one of the woman who owned her speaker’s bureau, she knew that was the right choice because it was a good fit for her mission (they both believed in the business’ mandates and lived its culture) and because it was going to get her the financial payout she was looking for to move onto her next endeavour. Thankfully her principles persevered in spite of some of the obstacles thrown into her path at time of sale (disorganized documents, cold feet on the part of Gina’s lawyers and accountants, etc.) because she has had no regrets hand-selecting her successor—Gina has stayed true to Erin’s vision and continues to operate the business in a way that makes Erin happy and proud.
When you evaluate your business and yourself, do you still think you’re living your most authentic self? Are your needs being fulfilled? If they’re not, can you do a realignment and make it work, or is it time to exit your business to find something else to be invested in?
What do you want your legacy to be as an entrepreneur?
Whether we’re passing our business onto our children or we’re selling it so we can move onto the next phase of our lives, we all have thought about the legacy of our business at one point or another. How much value are you placing on your business’ reputation? Oftentimes it’s things like loyalty and word-of-mouth that really get a business going. So what is being said about your company?
Erin’s legacy is of female-empowerment. When you hear Girls Fight Back, you immediately get the concept of the company and many of us are already fairly familiar with her business—even if we haven’t used their services! While this is a next-level almost-philanthropic business, all businesses could do better at their social or community legacy.
If your business isn’t as social-forward as it could be, think about the steps you can take to change it today.
I only had one takeaway from today’s episode. Erin built a business out of something very personal. It represented a part of her life that she has long since evolved pasted. She was brave enough to realize she had changed and was in a new place in her life. Most entrepreneurs are afraid to take a look at themselves and make the decision to walk away from that business. DON’T be afraid. Don’t be afraid to let go and move on to the next stage of your life.
Links and Resources
Erin Weed is a firm believer in authenticity. For 12 years she ran the company, Girls Fight Back. She is now the founder of Evoso, a company devoted to helping other businesses get clarity on their purpose. Erin is also a speaking coach for TEDx presenters. She has developed a process called “The Dig” which helps people find their personal purpose and “truth” to make the most they can from their business and life.