I’m kickstarting your addiction to me with an interview I did on Nikki Groom’s Movement Maker’s Podcast.
It was a superb experience – Nikki is a master interviewer – but what’s most interesting is that 5 years ago, Nikki was my client and was terrified to talk on the phone, let alone interview people.
But I whipped up her confidence, and as you can see, Nikki’s career took off there.
Transcript, edited for reading:
Nikki: Welcome to Movement Makers, the podcast for business leaders and entrepreneurs like you, who aren’t interested in doing business as usual, but who want to have an impact on the lives of those around you. You want your life to matter. You want your work to matter. You want your words to leave an indelible impression on those who hear them. You’re ready to show up, to speak up and to do whatever it takes to change the status quo.
My guest this week is Erika Lyremark. Having conquered the multi-million dollar mark, Erika turned her ambitions to helping other lady bosses succeed in a big way. Using the business lessons learned from her stripper days, and her work in the notoriously cutthroat commercial real estate world, Erika created The Daily Whip: a motivational, aspirational program designed to aid super smart women in thinking big, taking action, and gracefully raking in piles of money while running businesses they love.
Erika documented her experiences in her wildly successful book “Think Like A Stripper,” lauded by Dan Pink as, “A smart and provocative read.” Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran says, “Erika will not only whip you into shape with her wit, humor, and no-nonsense advice, but show you how to bounce back from failure and become the confident sales superstar you were always meant to be.”
Hi Erika, where are you calling in from today?
Erika: I am calling in from my new home in Seattle.
Nikki: You just moved there earlier this year, right? What prompted that move?
Erika: We’ve been here for 3 months. My husband and I, Chad, have been wanting to move for many, many years. We were thinking about Los Angeles but just something about Los Angeles seemed too crazy, too chaotic, too much like I would … I just felt like I would get too caught up in things.
It’s very important for me to stay centered and grounded and rooted, and focused on my work. Not get caught up in glitz and glamour because, while I enjoy those things, those are not the things that truly bring me joy and happiness.
I lived in Seattle in the 1990s. This is where I stripped for 9 years and hadn’t lived here in 15 years, and so I brought it up to [Chad] last fall because we were really getting ready to go. Like, “Okay, it’s time to make a decision, where are we moving?” I said, “What do you thing about living in Seattle?” He said, “Okay.” I was actually shocked because I didn’t think that he would go for it but he said, “Okay.” Long story short, we got an unsolicited offer on our house. It wasn’t on the market. It wasn’t ready to be on the market.
We got an unsolicited offer in November of last year, sold it in February of 2016, lived there for a few more months temporarily, and then moved in with my dad and my stepmom for about 6 weeks, and then we moved here. I’ve been through a lot of physical changes in the last year, lots of clearing clutter. Lots of obviously moving, lots of reorganizing, lots of redefining who I am, who we are as a couple, what we’re about, what we are intending for our lives. It’s very exciting. I’m so happy to be here. I haven’t been homesick once. I miss my family terribly but I truly have not been homesick, not one single day.
Nikki: I have not been to Seattle. That’s definitely a place in the world that I need to visit at some point. Definitely now that I know that you’re there, I’m going to have to pay you a visit.
Erika: Even though I lived in Minneapolis for 15 years, I actually have more close friends here than I did there. I’m very close with my family but it’s so great just to be around my girlfriends. It’s insane how many friends I have here.
Nikki: That’s awesome. There’s a couple of things that you said that I really want to dig into a little bit more. First of all, you talked about how important it is to really feel centered and grounded and rooted, in order to do your best work. I wondered if you could talk a little bit more about that, and other certain things that you have to do every day. How do you really ensure that you stay in that headspace?
Erika: There’s many parts to my personality. There’s many flavors of Erika depending on the day. The two that disagree the most are the first one is very soul-centered, very full of what’s the right thing to do? How can I be of service to the most to people? How can people deeply transform with my talent for coaching and asking provocative questions? Taking people to places where they don’t normally go, because it’s simply not asked of them. I have a client who says to me that I am her pattern interrupter. That’s what I love to do. I love to pull people out of their comfort zone. It makes me really happy to do that.
That is what I believe is my true work on the planet: to get people to think about things and in a different way, to get people to do things their own way. To discover what their own way is. I’m not a fan of fluff. I’m not a fan of surface conversations. I’m not a fan of transactional business. It’s probably because I worked in a strip club for 9 years, where it’s all transactional. I didn’t care about my customers. Yes, there was a few people that I actually cared for but out of the whatever … hundreds of thousands of people that I had conversations with, I can think of about five customers that I actually cared about. Now that I’m in my 40s, and I was in my 20s and early 30s when I was stripping, I have an opportunity now to see and experience what it’s like to be connected. I didn’t know that I was disconnected.
Back in the 1990s, people were not having these conversations. The internet barely existed. We just weren’t having the conversations that people are having now, and they weren’t on my radar. When I was stripping, I never read one single sales book about anything. I never educated myself on how I could do better at my work. It wasn’t even on my radar. Nobody was having those conversations. [It was a] very, very different time. Now that I know what it’s like to be so deeply connected, and to allow myself to be fully self-expressed in my business, it feels amazing. It feels wonderful. I feel so fulfilled and so satisfied every single day in my business.
And I never experienced that when I was stripping. Yes, I loved it when I made a lot of money, but that’s always a temporary high. When I worked in commercial real estate, I did that for 10 years, co-created a successful commercial real estate investment company with my father. It’s still around. We still own it. My sister is the managing partner now. It was definitely challenging. I learned a ton about business but I never felt like I was expressing who I am in that business. Not the full expression of myself. Now, in the last 10 years, I’ve been cultivating my own business full-time for 5 years now.
I had an opportunity to explore myself and to explore my artistry, and to allow what wants to come out. Rather than trying to fabricate things or rather than trying to make things happen, I’m more in the space of what wants to come through me? How can I serve the planet? How can I with my unique gifts and talents serve the planet? There’s that side of Erika and that’s the side of Erika that I’m committed to cultivating more and more and more. The other side of Erika that’s been with me for longer, ever since I was a little girl, is the one who loves to be in charge. I’m obviously super bossy and I’m very proud of that fact.
Growing up, I didn’t know what I wanted to do exactly. I knew that I wanted lots of glamour in my life. One of my first dreams was to be a fashion designer. I also wanted to be a race car driver, which is hilarious because even though I love cars, I love exotic cars, I’m actually not a fast driver. I’m actually very cautious. My husband calls me, “The safety monitor.” I just knew that I had this capability of being a visionary, and being in charge of something really big. I have this capacity to handle a lot of things, and to hold a lot of space for a lot of different things going on. There is like a need for power. This power-hungry (I name a lot of parts of my personalities) …
I call this part of my personality, “Cornelia Conquistador.” She wants to dominate. She wants to be in charge. She wants to be in control. She wants people to know who she is. Whenever I step into that world, over the last 10 years, I’ve had I would say maybe 5 or 6 people contact me about hosting a reality TV show. I’ve done nothing on my own. I’ve had lots of conversations over the years about different opportunities for my business, but they’ve never … I’ve explored some of them. They’ve never felt like that’s me or that’s what I’m supposed to be doing. Even though it definitely feeds my ego, that’s never felt like that is the space that I’m supposed to be in.
Nikki: Do you feel like TV shows want to put you in a box, and make you into a stereotype or a caricature almost?
Erika: Yes. Any time I have that experience that people want to project on me. One of the reasons I said yes to doing an interview with you is obviously I’ve known you for years now and we have a deeper connection. I rarely say yes to interviews because usually when people approach me it’s, “Oh, you’d be a great fit for our telesummit.” Or, “I think our audience would like you.” They have no idea who I am. They’re just like, “Oh ex-stripper, wrote a book, Think Like A Stripper, The Daily Whip blah, blah, blah.” It’s edgy. It does get PR. People do pay attention but it doesn’t fit for me, because that’s not how I want to spend my time.
I don’t want to be someone else’s show-monkey. I already did that when I was stripping. I already performed for 9 years of my life. I already let people project what they wanted to project onto me, in the name of money. I’m just no longer willing to do that.
Nikki: I love that you said that because I feel like I really sense that in you, and I’ve seen your different transitions, and how your brand has evolved. I definitely do want to touch on the stripping, because I feel like it was such an influence on how you show up in business now. I didn’t want to start there because I feel like there’s so much more to you than that. It’s not just like, “Oh, Erika Lyremark, the former stripper.” There’s so many layers to it. I actually feel like I’m doing this interview a little bit in reverse.
You had mentioned how I first worked with you way back in 2012, 4 years ago now, when you were offering your free whippings to people who wanted to up their business game. I went on to take your Daily Whip program and Hustle Your Business Boot Camp. You then moved away from that and rebranded as Erika Lyremark and invented some new offerings. I noticed you’ve recently gone back to offering the free whippings and you’ve gone back to a Daily Whip Twitter handle. I was wondering if you could tell me what the deal is with that and what you’ve got brewing.
I know it’s not just going to be the same thing that you were doing. I know it’s going to be Daily Whip 2.0. I was curious where you’re going with that.
Erika: In January of 2014, I felt like I had reached a breaking point with The Daily Whip. It was financially very successful but I was feeling dissatisfied with it, because I didn’t feel like I was able to showcase my business savvy and my business smarts. Even if I didn’t get paid for anything that I do, I would still be a business junky. I watch all the TV shows about business. I read about business. I have conversations about business. It’s truly one of my favorite things to talk about. I didn’t feel like I was able to showcase that part of me. I needed to take a break because I felt like my persona was crushing in on me.
I wanted to take a break and I thought it was going to be forever. I rebranded just using my name, Erika Lyremark. My main offering that I was doing is Lyremark Business Design, otherwise known as LBD. It’s a business design course. It’s about, how do you design a profitable business that feels like a true expression of who you are? Those are my favorite kinds of businesses to work with, whether someone sells cupcakes or perfume or herbal remedies or they’re an author or they’re a yoga teacher or a Reiki master, or even a school teacher. It’s really important to me that people fully express themselves in their businesses.
That’s the path that I wanted to go down and that’s the path that I wanted to explore. I did that program 2 years back to back, and it allowed me to really showcase my love of business, really showcase my love of creativity, and to explore how other people are doing things differently. How they’re creating markets where there wasn’t a market before. That was really important for me to explore that, but I felt like it was time for me to come back to being sassy pants. How do I incorporate Erika Lyremark and sassy pants, The Daily Whip? I’m still in conversation with myself about that. I think it’s an ongoing conversation that I’m going to continue to have.
Ever since I made my website erikalyremark.com instead of thedailywhip.com, I missed The Daily Whip. I missed it. It felt like a part of me was missing. Now, I’m able to bring all of me into my business, and I’m still exploring what that looks like to me. How do I explore my voice? How do I explore my creativity in business? What are the things that I write about? How do I talk about conversations that I want to have? Now, I am seeing myself as Erika Lyremark/The Daily Whip. That we are the same, we are both. There’s still some essential trainings that I taught in The Daily Whip that I would like to bring to the public.
I’m not sure how I’m going to do that yet. If anybody has any suggestions, please tell me because I don’t want to have a big Facebook group. I don’t want it to be all this hype around it. Do you know what I’m saying? I don’t want it to be like, “Oh, this is the next thing. Blah, blah, blah.” I’ve already discovered that’s my thing and that’s a program that I have called Mark’d Mastery. It’s for 100 women where we are diving in together, and holding them accountable to achieving their highest potential in business. That doesn’t just mean in [terms of] profitability but fully expressing themselves in their business.
What’s the difference that they want to make in the world? What’s sacred to them that’s not being showcased in the world? Where is the gap that they want to fill in the marketplace? Really exploring creativity and business, and bringing all of our soul into business in a way that’s not just like, “Oh, I’m here to serve you.” It’s a way of when you know you just know. It’s not about, you don’t need a 5-year plan. You don’t need your next 6 steps. When you just have a knowing about yourself, it’s like you can stand in the street. You can stand on the edge of the cliff and you can just … It feels like, “Bring it on. I’m ready for whatever.”
It’s so rare in my life that I’ve actually met people like that. That is what I want to help women cultivate, and that doesn’t happen on a 4-week course. That takes a long time to cultivate. That is part of the life journey and that’s what I’m up to in Mark’d Mastery. Yes it’s about business, but at the deeper core, it’s about creating this incredible artistic transformation within the women who join. Someone that I greatly admire is Chelsea Handler. Have you seen her new show on Netflix?
Nikki: Yes, I saw that.
Erika: Oh my god. I am addicted to it because when I first encountered Chelsea many years ago, I didn’t like her. Then over the years, she started to grow on me. Then with this show, I just thought, “Oh, the assumption that I’m making is that E! News were projecting onto her who they wanted her to be.” She had to be their show-monkey and you do this and then you do this, and you do this, and you do the things that you talk about. With Netflix, she has created an opportunity for herself to show all of her. I’m into politics. I’m into grammar. Now I want to talk about sex in space. Let’s have a cooking episode.
Let’s put my house on Airbnb just to see what happens. That is the creativity and expression and profitability, that I’m helping the women in Mark’d Mastery cultivate. It’s something very different than I’ve ever done before. To join, you have to have a conversation with me. You have to fill out a form. I don’t accept everybody who fills out the form. You have to be at a certain place, not in your business. I don’t care where you are in your business. There’s a lot of women who are in Mark’d Mastery who have full-time jobs. There’s a lot of women who are brand new in their business. To me, it’s not about that.
It’s about where are you in your soul? What is your commitment to elevating the planet with your personal expression, just to see what happens, just to see what wants to come through you?
Nikki: I like how you talk about really committing, because I feel like it’s a really fun thing that you’re doing, talking about actually marrying or entering into this marriage almost with your program participants. I love that because 1) It’s really fun and 2) it also speaks to the commitment that it involves. Is that what you were thinking with that? You sent me a really cryptic message that said, “Do you want to get married?” I was like, “Huh?”
Erika: Yes, and I’m still hoping you’ll say yes.
Nikki: [Laughs] Then you sent me that recording. Actually I wanted to refer back to it prior to speaking to you today, but I think the link expired. Some of what you were talking about in there was … it really got you emotional, in terms of where you’re going with this and what prompted it. You talked about how you’ve really been redefining who you are, and you talked a lot about feeling fully expressed in your business. It feels like you’re on this journey. You’re inviting these other people to join you on the journey, as they figure out what they’re here for, and how they really want to elevate their brand.
Erika: Yes, that is exactly it. Yes, I did send you a cryptic message that said, “Do you want to get married?” It’s interesting. Like I said, I’ve never worked with people in this capacity and it really has always been my dream. I know over the years how much coaching has transformed my life and it’s a long haul. It takes a long time to change. Not because change is difficult but because we are difficult. We’re stubborn, we’re resistant, we’re crabby, we’re little cry-babies, and it’s scary. It’s inconvenient. I know the power of what happens when you make a rock solid commitment to saying, “This is the transformation that I’m committing to. Come low or high water, bring it on, I’m ready, let’s do it.”
I’ve been through several transformations like that in my own life, and there is nothing blissful about them. It just feels like life is coming at you from all angles, and you feel raw and vulnerable and scared. I know what it’s like to come out on the other side of that. Mark’d Mastery started in May, and what I discovered was that some of the members … and it was totally okay. It was totally a part of the terms of service, was that you could come and go anytime you wanted. That was happening like, “Oh I’m doing this XYZ or this thing happened, I want to take a few months off and I want to come back.”
There was only one person that had left the group because she didn’t feel like it was for her. It was interesting because I noticed myself feeling bad about it. Wow, I was so let down. My party balloon was deflated. I commit so much to people and I’ve tried to change this about myself. I’ve tried not to care as much because it’s a lot of work to care about people, and I don’t have it in me. Again, I think it’s because of my experiences before of like people are really important to me. Then when they enter my circle, to me, that is sacred. I noticed that I was feeling bad and normally I’m such a, “Tough it up Lyremark, this is business, move on.”
I was feeling bad when people would leave. Then I noticed that allowing people to leave and come back went against one of my core beliefs about transformation. That is you don’t give up, you don’t quit. By allowing these women, giving them permission to leave and then come back, I was giving them permission to do that. I wanted to be an example of tenacity and grit and hustle, and that you don’t give up just because it’s difficult. All of a sudden, I had this idea of, “If you want to quit that’s fine. I release you with love and blessings but you’re not coming back.” I realized that I was treating my business more as like this luxury spa and less like a school.
I thought, “No. I’m going to treat it like a school because I know the power of accountability. I know the power of discipline.” The women that are in Mark’d Mastery, they’re not lazy. The women in Mark’d Mastery are unbelievable go-getters and high achievers, and hugely ambitious. Everybody’s got something in their life that they’re trying to run away from, or something that feels really difficult that you don’t want to move through. Or it’s, “Wow, something’s missing. I don’t know what it is, so I’m going to distract myself with 10 other things, because I can’t figure out what this is.”
Rather than sitting with the discomfort and exploring that, they go sign up for 10 more courses on something or they go read 20 books. Or whatever it is, rather than getting silent and still, and exploring what is it that wants to come through me. That was something that I’ve never done before, and it feels so good to me to be able to deepen my energetic commitment with the women in Mark’d Mastery. Every woman that’s in there, I have a personal relationship with. Some are new, some I know better than others, some I’m still cultivating that.
We really are turning into a community of sister-wives and of course we laugh about that. When somebody joins and we’re like, “We have a new wife. She’s here! She’s here! Can we get the flowers?”
Nikki: That did make me think of that, actually.
Erika: It’s really fun in that capacity and even since I have made that new agreement, I had someone leave last week and it still hurts. I was like, “Oh this sucks because she can never come back now. I have to stick with my word. This sucks.” I have to release her and I have to trust that she’s going to get what she needs, to be the person that she came here to be.
Nikki: I love that. I really love that. It’s almost like, it was a divorce.
Nikki: You trust that she will find the right person for her.
I do want to talk about your story, because I feel like there are going to be some people that listen to this that maybe haven’t read your book, or haven’t been following you. They’re probably like, “Wait a minute. Why did she strip? What’s the deal with that?” I think what I want to start with is the fact that the first thing that attracted me to you is not necessarily that you used to be a stripper, although I thought it was cool how you had zero problem with owning that. In fact, you had initially built your entire business around the story of your past.
I wanted to ask you about that, because I think it would have been the easiest thing in the world for you to gloss over that particular part of your story, but you didn’t. You took full ownership of it and you even went on to write a book about your experiences. Talk to me about your motivation behind that. Why was it so important for you to let people know about your past, to come clean about it? Talk to me some more about why you decided to do that in the beginning.
Erika: I quit stripping in 2001 so it’s been 15 years, although it seriously feels like yesterday.
Nikki: Does it?
Erika: Yeah, it really does especially when I told my mom we were moving back to Seattle. She goes, “You’re not going back to stripping, are you?” Chad goes, “You caught us. You’re on to us. I’m going to help her with her stripping career.” I was like, “I really appreciate the compliments mom, but I don’t think they want grandma pants over here going, “My knees hurt. These heels are too high.” When I quit stripping in 2001, there’s a couple of people who knew but I didn’t talk about it. It was really not a part of my life. I was just working into commercial real estate doing my thing.
When I started to get serious about having my own coaching and consulting business, there’s a couple of things that happened. The first is that I met this amazing man. His name is Dann Ilicic from WOW Branding up in Vancouver. Long story short, but he was my branding mentor. This is 2008. I had known him for several months and I hadn’t told him about my stripping. I finally got up the nerve to tell him and he’s like, “Oh my god. I can’t believe you haven’t told me this. This is branding gold. This is going to be so easy for you to get PR.” I was already developing my business as The Daily Whip. Between the whip and the strip, it was PR magic.
Daily Whip wasn’t just like, “Oh this thing that I want to do.” It’s like that really is my personality. That’s also part of the reason why it came back as The Daily Whip, because I am bossy and I do whip and I do provoke people. I texted one of my clients just last week and I’m like, “I’m really sorry. I know I’m riding your jock here but you’ve got to answer this for me.” That’s what I do. That’s the relationship that I have with people. I realized that he was absolutely right and I knew what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go, at least at that time. That time, I definitely wanted to do reality TV. I wanted the whole world to know who Erika Lyremark is.
I saw myself as a Millionaire Matchmaker type of TV show. This was back when reality TV was really hot and fresh. There is that. The other piece of it was that with the way of social media and the internet, I was scared that if I didn’t tell my story that someone else would. I didn’t want this PR scandal. Again, this was before everybody had a sex tape. I was like, “Oh, I should have made a sex tape in the 1990s. What was I thinking?” I know I did one nude photography session, but I don’t remember who the photographer was anymore. That was my scandal or whatever, and so again this was before everybody had a sex tape and it made you even more famous.
I realized that I needed to come out about it and it was really scary for me. I remember the first time that I was public about it, I was speaking in an event of a group of young professionals. There was maybe like I don’t know, 30 people in the room, [it was a] very small event. I was speaking about being your own brand and it just came out. I spilled the beans and I didn’t know how people were going to react. One thing I know for sure is I definitely got their attention. It came out from there. Even back when I was stripping, I wanted to make some documentary about the stripping world.
Back in the 1990s, I don’t know if you remember this, but when I first started stripping, it was very underground. Then movies like Striptease and Showgirls, and there was another one that came out, that really glamorized the industry. Even in the course of my 9-year stripping career, I noticed a real change in the industry. It went from being very underground to being much more glitzy and much more glamorous. It was like, going to strip club was a cool thing. Men and women did. I was determined to let people know it’s not as glamorous as it looks. It’s more like working in a prison, wearing a bikini, and it can be really fucking shitty.
Nikki: Really, was that your experience of it? Were there moments when you enjoyed it? Or was it pretty shitty most of the time?
Erika: No. It was love-hate constantly. Yes, love-hate.
Nikki: Of course it inspired the book, “Think Like A Stripper: Business Lessons to Up Your Confidence, Attract More Clients and Rule Your Market.” I have to say that a lot of business books, I’ll get quarter of the way through and be like, “Okay, I’ve got the gist now.” Put it to one side. Yours is one of the few where I just literally read from cover to cover, because it’s such a fun approach as such. People might be thinking like, “How does stripping relate to running a business?”
I didn’t know if you could just share a few of your favorite lessons from the book, to give people an idea of how that whole experience really paved the way for you, to be a success as an entrepreneur with your own thing going on.
Erika: One of the things when I quit stripping, I ended up moving back to Minneapolis and co-creating this commercial real estate company with my dad. When I say together, it was more, he provided the initial funding so to speak and then I did the work. I really was in the field, in the trenches every single day because he had another company at the time. Yes, he was definitely my business mentor. It wasn’t just like, “Oh Erika, here’s a million dollars. Do whatever you want with it.” That would have made a great reality TV show, better than anything else in my life. Some of the things that I encountered were just totally insane.
One of the conversations that I had with my dad was when I first started, he said, “I never worried about you in this business.” I just want to back up just a second. When I say commercial real estate, it was industrial warehouses, like rundown, scary broken windows, sketchy tenants. I know for a fact at that time many of our tenants were ex-cons, on drugs. Just like it was super sketchy-ville. Now, that is not the situation because over the years we’ve definitely up-leveled our tenants. Now our tenants are super amazing legitimate business people. Back then it was a really different story. My dad said, “I never worried about you because I knew you could take care of yourself.”
When you work in a strip club, at least the clubs in Seattle, you don’t get paid. You actually pay the club to work there. When you walk in that door, you are immediately in debt. You immediately owe the club money. You don’t even start out from 0, you start out like, “Oh, I owe the club $125.” It really lights a fire under your ass every day. Working in that environment because it is so fucked up, you have to be able to deal with so much. Many different personalities and different situations, and some customers are amazing and kind and generous, and treat you with incredible respect.
Other people, you worry that they’re going to stalk you and kill you while you’re sleeping. It was just a lot and I really learned how to strengthen my mind in that environment. It translated very well to working in commercial real estate. 99% of my interactions every day were with men. Here comes bossy boots coming around the corner in her stilettos and little fur coat, right off the stripper pole and making these demands that they pay their rent, and they do this and they do that. I always accepted that challenge. To me, it was exciting and it was invigorating. Part of that is that I’ve always had this real scrappiness about me and that was a huge part of it.
What I didn’t really understand was how much stripping had helped me develop a strong mindset. It was in January of 2009 and the great recession had just hit in 2008 of that fall – really, really hit. I was out to lunch with a colleague and we were talking about his business and he, a financial advisor, was telling me how his clients were obviously very freaked out about the marketplace, and they had lost total confidence in it. Just America was having this crisis of confidence. It occurred to me that I had been in this situation before, and that again, working in a strip club, you start out owing the club.
You just got to come in there with total enthusiasm for what you’re doing, with no attachment to making any money. If you come off as being desperate, it’s a huge turnoff to customers. I started telling him the story about one of the things that I’d learned, is one of the best money making nights that I had is that I was feeling very burned out. It was really slow in the club and I was tired of all of the effort that I was putting into being a stripper, like hair, makeup, wigs, accessories, shoes, perfume, what am I wearing? A lot of women felt like, “Oh if I just wear the right bikini then that’s going to make me money.”
I decided to do an experiment, and that I wasn’t going to care about what I looked like that night, and I was just simply there to have a good time. I wasn’t there to make money. I was just going to push the envelope and I was going to have a good time. What I discovered is that when I just went out and I had fun and I took risks, and wasn’t attached to outcomes, that that was the way to be successful. That it wasn’t about what I was wearing, and had everything to do with my attitude. That was an extremely important lesson for me, and that attitude, working in commercial real estate, I took a lot of risks.
The cold calling, the going into buildings where they don’t know who I am, and I’m just walking around. Like, “Hey, who is the owner here?” Or, “Are you renting or leasing or do you own or are you looking for a space?” I was in a lot of situations that were brand new territory for me that I was very uncomfortable with. I knew that if I could just have fun and be playful and make jokes with people, and be willing to go for it, that I would always be successful. That’s what when I told my friend the story and he got really excited about it. We were both excited about the story, and I went home and I wrote an article with 9 stripper tips in it.
Then I was out with my friend, Mark, who’s my book publisher. He said, “That’s what you should call your book. You should call it Think Like A Stripper. It should be a lesson you learned in the club and then you can follow it up with business advice.” It very much fit into how I like to write. I like to tell a lot of stories. I can make going to the drugstore an entertaining adventure, so it fit really well. That’s how the book came about.
Nikki: I do agree with that because, when we met in person for the first time at Nathalie Lussier’s Off The Charts event in New York, I just remember how hysterical you were in person and I was like, “I knew she would be hilarious.” It was like anything you said, you just made it funny. Yes, I love that about you, so yeah such a smart idea to do that.
You’re a stripper then you’re a successful real estate mogul, who has reached the multi-million dollar mark. Now, you turn your ambitions to helping other women business owners succeed in their own right.
Why did you feel compelled to make that shift into moving to doing that work?
Erika: The bottom line is I got bored working in commercial real estate, and it was never my fantasy. It was never something that I dreamed about. The only thing I’ve ever dreamed about is just being in charge. I got to be in charge, and I love that part, but it didn’t fulfill my love of creativity. There was no glitz. I didn’t feel like I was working in a luxurious environment. It was forklifts and truck drivers and it was a great career. I’m so grateful that I had that opportunity. I’m so grateful that we were able to really turn it into a family business, and it’s still going today. It has really created a legacy for my family so I’m deeply grateful for that. But 3 years in I knew, “This is not it.”
Nikki: Even now, you had talked about how the different programs that you’re offering have been changing. You talked earlier about being this incredible visionary, and having all these ideas that you start to play with. For example, I want to talk about your luxury handbag line. Are you still working on that? Can you tell us anything about that?
Erika: Yeah. I know, right? You see why I have so many problems. I’m working on the backend, conceptualizing it, thinking about it, creating it. I’ve identified a name that I love, have the structure for the branding that I want for it. How I feel about it is that it’s not time for me to actually go into production right now. It’s also one of those things I really want to be joyful. I want it to be one of those things like, I’m willing to waste my money on this because I want to see what happens. I can’t see it, do it as a money-making adventure, not as a business. This is where I was talking about allowing my artistry to come through and to see what happens.
Now, it’s easy. It’s relatively inexpensive for me to make changes to my website and to work on my … Not that my design is cheap by any means. It’s not like $100,000 adventure to make a change in my business. When you have something like that, you have inventory, you have to buy equipment. I need a space. This isn’t something where I see myself … Maybe I will. I have a degree in apparel design so I know how to sew, and I know how to make patterns for bags and things like that. This is the thing that if I do it, it’s got to be a total labor of love, and I have to be involved in every single aspect of it.
Not saying that I want to actually craft the bags myself because I don’t have a lot of experience. Sewing with leather, I have some but not enough to where I feel I would be confident, where I could make a bag worthy of the price point that I want to charge. There’s also a lot of conversations around the production of the leather. How is it sustainably sourced? There’s a lot of toxicity that goes into making leather, and I don’t want to be a part of that especially if I’m producing it. It’s a lot of conversations that we’re having in Mark’d Mastery around toxicity and cruelty-free. I’m not a vegan and I love meat. I love wearing leather.
Fur, I can go without because fake fur is such a great alternative. There’s just some ethical questions or ethical things that I need to explore before I move forward with that. One of the things is right now, I’m not willing to just blow a bunch of money on it. First, I’m still getting settled in Seattle. I’m still developing Mark’d Mastery. I’m turning my book into a podcast. These are all things that require huge energetic commitments of me. I want to have fun with them. I don’t want to feel like it’s like, “Oh that’s my side project. If I do it, I want to do it right.
So I’m still conceptualizing and creating and developing on the backend, without actually putting anything into production.
Nikki: I feel like you do that really well. You spend a lot of time in that creative phase and you make sure it’s completely right, before you roll it out.
Erika: That’s one of the things that I love because it allows me to do this deep exploration. I get super excited about projects that I know are going to take me 2 to 3 years to develop. I just love developing. I love researching. I love experimenting. I love beta testing. It makes me really, really excited.
Nikki: Do you have anything else that you’re plotting or planning? I feel like you were doing something with Shauna Haider soon.
Erika: Yeah. There’s that too. I’m meeting with her in an hour.
Nikki: Are you?
Nikki: That’s a course for women?
Erika: Yeah. It’s called the Art Of V. Our website is houseofaov.com. We are actually still developing it. I met Shauna several years ago and she had an in-person program called Blogcademy. I was a huge fan of hers for a long time because I loved her graphics. I loved how she visually put things together. She has this incredible way of balance and symmetry. I flew out to LA to go to this workshop that she was doing. We stayed in touch and then last summer, she asked me if I wanted to do a course with her. It took us a long time to really, “What are we doing together? How do we work together? What is the brand?” We had a lot of creative conversations around things.
We just launched the website maybe 6 weeks ago, and there’s this beautiful opt-in. It’s nothing else just sign up to get the opt-in. It’s a sneak-peek. It’s like a little magazine that we put together and visually, it’s so gorgeous. We just sent out our first newsletter. It went out today. We’re developing it and cultivating it. It’s another one of those things that we’re still in the exploration phase of what’s the conversation? What do people want? What’s happening in the marketplace? Where is the gap?
We are thinking that it has to do with taking creative risks, both within your voice and within your visuals. The fact that you have a podcast is mind-blowing to me because I remember how-
Nikki: I know what you’re going to say.
Erika: Yes. Can I say it?
Nikki: Yeah, you can say it. Yeah, of course.
Erika: I couldn’t even really talk to you on the phone. You were so nervous and scared and unconfident. It’s mind-blowing that you have a podcast. I have to say I’m thoroughly enjoying my time on your podcast. I feel like you’re a real interviewer. It’s very exciting for me.
Nikki: It’s funny though because I’m at that starting phase again now. When I first started working with you, I was terrified, like you were saying, about getting on the phone with people and actually selling to them. I had no idea how to do it. I had no clue how to do it. Now, I love it. I get on the phone and I have my spiel and I’m like, “I have this approach and I do it like this, and here’s how we can work together.” I just have it down. I know if I can get on the phone with someone, I inevitably pretty much always close that.
Now, I’m starting all over again with this podcast so you’re my third interview. I interviewed Srini Rao first, and I was so nervous. I was like, “How am I interviewing this guy when he’s done over 700 interviews? He has this bestselling book.” I think I over-thought it but I’m getting into it now. Hopefully [each episode] is going to get better and better and better.
I love that you talk about really owning your voice. It’s definitely something that I’ve had to learn. I feel like you’ve never really had a problem with that.
Erika: I have actually.
Nikki: You have?
Erika: I absolutely have. I’ve always been outspoken. I’ve always been bossy pants. What has taken me a long time is to develop confidence in my ideas. Even when I first started coaching, I remember my friend Jennifer … The first day of coaching school, I got on my phone and I called everybody I knew to see if they wanted free coaching. My friend Jennifer took me up on it. I remember our first session that we had, she goes, “Erika, it sounds like you’re reading out of a book.” I said, “I am. I have no idea what I’m doing.” I knew there was something within me that knew that this was the right path, and that it was going to happen for me.
That’s why I get so excited about people owning their voice, and not just the ability to speak. What are you presenting to the world? What’s missing from the marketplace? What new conversations are you adding? I believe art, entertainment, business, fashion – people get off on new. The universe is always providing new for us. Most of the times, people are so blocked and so closed off that those messages are not coming through, and it’s the same with visuals. Shauna and I are actually having a conversation today about our Instagram account. Shauna does all of the visuals on it, and I actually just started writing the content for that.
We just started that last week. Using the resources that we have, how are we telling our story? How are we creating visuals that people are going to be inspired with, or things that they maybe haven’t seen before? How do we do that? I don’t know yet. That’s the conversation that we’re having. We don’t grow as a society. We don’t evolve as humans unless we take creative risks. At the core, that’s what the Art Of V is about. We definitely have tricks on how to do that, and those are some of the things that we’re going to be sharing. We don’t know yet if it’s going to be a live program, if it’s going to be an in-person.
Shauna lives in Portland. We’re only 2 and a half hours away from each other. We don’t know where it’s going to be at, but we’ll see what happens with that.
Nikki: Exciting. I feel like you always have something on the back burner-
Nikki: I love that. I’m curious because I was listening to another interview with you, and you were talking about how your upbringing was pretty strict. You were taught to be a hard worker from early on. You talk a lot about elegant hustling, which I love. I guess I’m curious, do you ever slow down? Do you meditate? Do you do anything slowly? I feel like you’re always racing along at this super-fast pace.
Erika: I would say I’m methodical. I’m pretty sure the people that run the building that we live in think I’m just retired and don’t do anything. “There is Erika there at the bakery getting a cookie. Now she’s getting some tea. Now she’s at the groceries. Now she’s taking a walk.” I’m slowly busy.
Nikki: One last question for you and it’s a big one. Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
Erika: What comes to mind is just meditating on a mountain top, but I don’t think that’s going to be it. I’m a visionary but my visions come through ideas and not through actualities.
Nikki: Do you think you’ll still have your own business and you’ll still be hustling?
Erika: Yes, but I’m totally unemployable. I can never work for anybody else. I think that fantasy projects would be turning my book into a movie or turning it to a TV show. That would definitely be a fantasy project. Doing something in that medium, I think entertainment is one of the best ways to transform the world. That would be totally out of my comfort zone, but something that I would be really excited about.
I saw Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon in Nordstrom like a month ago. He was like 20 feet from me, and I’m like, “Oh my god! I think that’s Jeff Bezos. Oh my god! Oh my god! It’s a sign! It’s a sign! I don’t know what it means but it’s a sign!”
I had nothing to say to him, but I took it as a sign that maybe we will be working on Think Like A Stripper as an Amazon Prime special. I don’t know.
Nikki: I love it. Yes, that would be amazing.
Erika: I guess that would be a fantasy project. I just see myself continuing to expand. I would say that in 20 years, I would love to see myself as being more loving, and the woman that comes to mind is the woman … Is her name Amma? People stand in line for hours to get a hug from her. She’s hugged millions of people. Not that I want to be hugging people but something of that capacity. Just having let go of myself so much that I guess that would be my biggest fantasy in 20 years, just completely having let go. My ego is just totally gone.
Nikki: I love that.
Erika: I’ll be dominating with my non-ego.
Nikki: Yes, I love it. Erika, thank you so, so much. I really appreciate you giving up your time to be with us. I can’t wait to see what you roll out next.
Erika: Yes. I’m excited. This was super fun. Thank you, Nikki.
Nikki: Thank you.
Erika: You’re welcome.
Nikki: This was awesome.
That’s it from the Movement Makers podcast this week. If you enjoyed this episode then please leave a review on iTunes and subscribe so I can let you know about future episodes.
In the meantime, I want to know how you’re making a difference at work or in your business. Be sure to tweet @nikkigroom and let me know.