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Losing love, finding it again, and flying around the country on a private jet

Subscribe to The Common Scents Podcast

The last decade of Erica O’Grady’s life has certainly had many ups and downs. She lost someone she loved to a heroin overdose, but then found her husband in the most unlikely of places. Most recently, they traveled the country to connect a presidential candidate with his constituents.

[00:00:16.655] – TAMAR
Hey, everybody. I am so super, super psyched, ecstatic, I don’t know what to say. Exceptionally ecstatic. And I use that word very, very purposefully here. I have my awesome friend Erica O’Grady, who I’ve known for a really long time, but not really a really long time. Oh, maybe, I don’t know, 13, 14 years. Is it more? Yeah, maybe. So whatever it is, I have her [here]. She’s here and I am so happy to have her, you, here. Thank you so much for joining. Where are you? And introduce yourself.

[00:00:50.675] – Erica O’Grady
Thanks, Tamar. I’m excited to be here. I’m actually in Fort Collins, Colorado today. I got there not too long ago and I was living in Boulder before that. So we moved to Fort Collins and I love it. Awesome.

[00:01:01.475] – TAMAR
Awesome. So you say today, do you shift gears or you just moved recently?

[00:01:06.515] – Erica O’Grady
Well, for while you’re traveling quite a bit. And so we’d wake up in a different place every day. One day I think we we woke up in Minneapolis and we had breakfast there. We stopped in Davenport, Iowa for lunch and had dinner in Cheyenne. That’s what happens when you get to have a client with a private jet.

[00:01:26.735] – TAMAR
How many of you were on your private jet?

[00:01:29.205] – Erica O’Grady
It held thirteen.

[00:01:30.215] – TAMAR
Oh, that’s fun. So that’s cool. You were very intimate.

[00:01:33.785] – Erica O’Grady
Yeah, it was. It was awesome actually.

[00:01:35.555] – TAMAR
Cool. I don’t know if you want to talk about that a little bit, but I think that’d be fun. But I guess we’ll kind of go into what you do. And if you want to kind of make a foray into your conversation about the client with private jet, by all means.

[00:01:47.015] – Erica O’Grady
Absolutely. So where should we start?

[00:01:48.785] – TAMAR
Tell me about your career story.

[00:01:52.055] – Erica O’Grady
All right. Well, let’s see. I got started in tech in 2006, and I think you and I probably met somewhere around 2007, 2008, definitely in 2008, because we did the Mashable summer tour together. We did seven cities that year and then started working in tech. I got the first congressman on Twitter. He sent the first tweet from the Oval Office. I was working in social media. I’d been a web designer and developer for years and years, my friend Matt, he started WordPress. My friend Christine had named it. So I’ve been using these tools since like before the dawn of time.

[00:02:21.395] – Erica O’Grady
And at some point, not too long after you and I actually met, I think it was in 2010, my life kind of fell apart. And it was I’ve been in a relationship for seven 1/2 years and that relationship went south in a very scary way, like, you know, “the FBI knocked at my door” kind of way. And so my entire life and everything that I knew as it was went away almost overnight, like it’s a kind of a long story and it involves like stolen money from bank accounts and all kinds of other crazy things we don’t have to get into. But I sat on my couch one day. I woke up and I really didn’t have enough money to buy dog food or toilet paper. And I was sitting on my couch crying, not sure what I was going to do after I built this company and had all these things going so well in my life.

[00:03:04.025] – Erica O’Grady
And I just decided that I was going to start living the digital nomad. So I spent two and a half years traveling around different places. I lived in Paris for a month and his little flat right near the Golden Triangle. And I one of the ways that I kind of financed my trip is I stayed at bed and breakfast and I offer them social media and web design for 30 days in exchange for staying for free. So I stayed all these cute little bed and breakfasts all over.

[00:03:29.255] – Erica O’Grady
And when that was over, I was trying to figure out what I want to do next. And I moved to Boulder and at this point I was two hundred and five pounds. I had spent most of my life working all the time, in fact, at the height of my career in the 2008, 2010 years, around there, I sleep on the couch in my office every night, like a white leather couch. And I had office in the museum district in Houston, Texas, and I would actually sleep on my couch every night since I had so much work to do and I just didn’t want that life anymore.

[00:03:59.645] – Erica O’Grady
And so I asked myself the question, if you only had a year to live, what would you do? And I said “I’d move to Boulder” – it was the first thing that came in my head since I had been to Boulder and I loved it. So I packed up everything and I got a car rental and I drove one way to Boulder with my dogs and I literally had nothing but a backpack. So I show up in Boulder with nothing but a backpack, that’s all. I kind of really had a lot of my stuff. Everything else I’d given away a couple of years previously to a family that had lost everything in a fire. So when my life fell apart, I just gave everything away.

[00:04:30.095] – Erica O’Grady
So when I got there, I just wanted things to be different. I wasn’t exactly sure even what I want to do for a living anymore, but I ended up spending the next seven, eight years in Boulder. I left tech for a while. I got my yoga teacher certification. Went from 205 pounds to 127 pounds. Found balance in my life again, and then I started stepping my toes back in the tank and realizing that I really missed it.

[00:04:59.355] – Erica O’Grady
And that’s kind of where I ended up. I kind of came full circle from being in a tech space where everything was overwhelming and I hated it, to being in a space, that was maybe too much balance and not enough money (you don’t make a lot of money as a yoga instructor) to then circling back in tech. And that’s where I am today.

[00:05:19.305] – TAMAR
Sweet, yeah, you have a lot of parallels. You know, I actually had a relationship where it ended, no FBI, but the police kind of came and there was that. And that was my, you know, my adversity story really ties into that kind of situation. But, it’s like I’m tech to perfume, but I’m still sort of doing tech. I’m launching a perfume brand, and I’m in the middle of that. And Erica can see the mess behind me, a lot of my boxes. But like, it’s very slow because—and Erica and I had a meeting two weeks ago where I’m like thinking of repositioning the brand because perfume is just perfume. But perfume, when you’re thinking about a disruptive mindset of perfume, you need to communicate that. And I didn’t have that communication. So it’s very slow because right now I don’t think the communication is there. And so I have a lot of boxes and I need to start kind of thinking about the fulfillment so I can never think of a 3PL right now, I am my own third party logistics provider and I will do fulfillment. But yeah, I mean, that’s the nature of the beast.

[00:06:21.565] – TAMAR
So of course. And then maybe it’s the difficulty of being tech and being all in like I’m not all in on this, but should I be? I don’t know. It’s like if I started a perfume company, it’s like I think about, there’s not a lot of money in yoga, is there are a lot of money in perfume?

[00:06:39.665] – TAMAR
I don’t know, especially because it’s so competitive. But this is different and this is going to be a longer haul. And I get that. And I had a friend who started a magnetic-like baby onesie type product [company], baby jumpers, and she said it took years for her to start seeing traction. So I have the same expectations.

[00:06:57.795] – Erica O’Grady
Absolutely. I think the average business is three to six years before you’re going to see any real, like forward progress or forward motion. You just have to be willing to kind of either be determined enough to work through it and get to the other side or say, this is not what I’m cut out to do. Right? But when it comes to TAMAR, I think what’s interesting, I think about this a lot when it comes to what you’re doing, it’s not just and it’s not even really a perfume at all, right? It’s about this kind of idea of hacking our mental health or mental wellness. Right. You’re actually trying to find a way to utilize one of the five senses.

[00:07:34.915] – TAMAR
Right.

[00:07:35.665] – Erica O’Grady
To impact how people’s mood changes. And so when you when you transitioned from tech into that, it doesn’t seem that far off to me because it feels like you’re going after ideally the Lifehacker crowd. Like, that’s what I would say.

[00:07:48.845] – Erica O’Grady
We did like a little session today, as if you’re our client and what it would look like if we looked at your website, looked at your messaging and told you what what you should say or do. And it’s fascinating. But I think that that’s a whole new world that’s going to open up. And it may just be that right now it feels like you’re ahead of your time.

[00:08:05.875] – TAMAR
That’s the thing!

[00:08:05.875] – Erica O’Grady
That could actually be a good thing.

[00:08:07.825] – TAMAR
Yeah, yeah, exactly. This is a conversation that I’ve had many times. I was an early adopter and I saw the potential for, like, you know, Facebook and all these platforms well before their time. And if I knew better, I would have offered him 15 thou- like Mark Zuckerberg. Fifteen thousand dollars instead of Eduardo Saverin, who’s like [valued at], that’s like billions of dollars of money right now. You know, like I saw the potential.

[00:08:28.285] – TAMAR
And I even reached out to a VC company back in the day. And I said, how can I potentially be one of those people who are like an EIR, an entrepreneur in residence who vets these prospective companies? Because I see potential early and I’ve been an early adopter. I saw social media marketing as a prospect before social media marketing was a thing. I wrote the first book pretty much in 2008. It was published in 2009, and people didn’t see these things as being big. So, yeah.

[00:08:54.705] – Erica O’Grady
Or relevant. I can look back that time [when] I had Verizon, I had Verizon, this is the 2008 to 2009 era. I had Verizon as a wireless provider and they wouldn’t allow me to use the 40404 shortcode for Twitter. And I got so mad I switched providers because I couldn’t use Twitter. And I remember them being like, what’s Twitter? They didn’t care or it wasn’t a thing. And I remember standing there and I was standing in line at a movie theater and we were looking up at the news station or something. You’re like standing in line. There’s like a TV up above where they sell all the concessions. And I said, someday the newscasters are going to be sitting there and there’s going to be a Twitter stream running below them as they talk. And the people around me like, I don’t know what you’re talking about, that’s never going to happen. And sure enough, not even like a year, a year and a half later, that’s exactly what was happening all over the world.

[00:09:42.595] – Erica O’Grady
And so it was a thing of like sometimes being ahead of your time is very frustrating, right. Because you’re stuck in this holding pattern where, you know, the rest of the world’s about to see that they’re about to come to this. But you can’t do anything to accelerate their adoption of something that, you know is about to be mainstream and you’re so excited and so into it. And by the time they do adopt it, you’re kind of like, eh. You know? [laughs]

[00:10:05.395] – TAMAR
Yeah.

[00:10:05.955] – Erica O’Grady
Yeah. I’ve been doing that a while. I’m gone to the next big thing. So there is something about chasing, in a way, what we do for a living, the space we work in. We’re always chasing after that next on a goal at the end of a rainbow. And I think a lot of people in investment, like you’re talking about wanting to have that company, they call those the unicorns. And we’re seeing right now an increase actually in financing of unicorns, but not financing of startups in general, which leaves you at a disadvantage because people aren’t really financing new new ideas, but they are financing and getting more money to people who are already considered those unicorns, those startups that are going to be one in a billion and, you know, make it to an IPO.

[00:10:49.345] – TAMAR
Right. But I think there’s also the challenge that startups seek specific types of individuals. And I’m not necessarily [saying us]; you and I are the average—we’re the early adopters, but we’re not the people that they’re going to come to. Angels. I took a class, of course, online, a free venture class a few months ago. I could send you the link to that. But what’s really interesting is that it makes it look like they’re [crushing] the angel. Anyone who invests early gets squeezed out like it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be beneficial to to either be an angel, it doesn’t sound beneficial to be a founder. Maybe it’s good to be a VC, so that’s why I say to be an EIR, [that it] might be good because, yeah, angels get squeezed out. And especially when you when you raise additional series, you could potentially lose that investment that you put in the beginning. I think that’s not necessarily when you’re on a good trajectory, but when you’re on a bad trajectory, it’s like that’s it. And if there ends up being a sale at a lower valuation, those people are out. I mean, it’s really sounds bad. So it’s really kind of disenchanted me about the entire process is all.

[00:11:53.455] – Erica O’Grady
Well, and it is bad unless you’re one of the cool kids on the inside. Right. Those are the guys. It’s kind of like if you look at what’s going on in the news right now, if you look at Robin Hood in the GameStop and all that stuff that’s going on here, we have Robin Hood, whose whole platform was designed to like be for the little guy. And what are they doing? They’re backing Wall Street and the corporations and basically try and do like, you know, screw the little guy.

[00:12:15.955] – Erica O’Grady
And I that’s that’s a place that’s like a, I mean, A) it’s difficult for their brand, and B) it speaks a lot to to what the truth is, the truth is that there is a little bit of a club and that club kind of protects itself. And I think one of the things I’ve seen and maybe you’ve experienced it, too, is very often I would have people from everyone from what used to be DFJ Mercury and now Mercury Fund to whomever like different VC companies and people that are running VC companies come to me and want me to like, look at deals.

[00:12:48.825] – Erica O’Grady
And I would look at the deal and I give them feedback and they would trust my my opinion. They would absolutely trust me because I’ve I’ve seen a lot of deals and I’ve been right a lot of times. And yet even though they would trust me with that, I don’t really benefit in any real way by doing that. I’m not being paid for my knowledge. I’m not being they wouldn’t invest in anything I had brought to them. That was not going to happen because I’m not a 28 year old male with the right pedigree.

[00:13:14.205] – Erica O’Grady
And so there is kind of a disadvantage where that is changing. There are people like Sue Bronner, who is the CEO of a company called Merge Lane, they’re like TechStars for women for women-owned ventures. In fact, you might want to talk to her. They have a cohort every, it’s twice a year, I think now. So they bring in different companies to their accelerator program. It’s amazing. But every single company is funded by a women. And so that’s one place to look.

[00:13:44.685] – Erica O’Grady
And so there are those types of opportunities arising in the last five, six years, more, more, more opportunities like that. But for the most part, what we’re seeing is the same old, same old even in and this is fascinating to me. So I spent some time in the tech space. So cannabis technologies, so everything around, not actual cannabis itself. So not the growing up or the smoking or anything that but the the the stuff around, it’s like the paraphernalia, so one of the companies I was on the advisory board for is called Stash Box and they basically gave you like a monthly box full of little things you could use for, you know, whether it was a little bit like pipes for smoking or candles that smell like him or whatever it is, like little things like that. And even in that space, which you have to understand, cannabis, predominantly, the people who ended up going to jail for cannabis are African-American.

[00:14:35.985] – Erica O’Grady
Those are the people who use the product as well. Well, but who gets funded in the cannabis-tech space? White twenty-eight year old men with a similar pedigree. Right?

[00:14:48.753] – TAMAR
It’s crazy.

[00:14:48.555] – Erica O’Grady
That if you look at who’s getting the funding across the board, that’s what you’re seeing. And then as a result, you’re seeing states having to enact laws that a certain amount of funding has to go to minority owned cannabis, you know, innovations or solutions or technologies or whatever.

[00:15:06.855] – Erica O’Grady
And so no matter what space you’re in, it seems like it’s always the same old, same old. And it’s very hard to break through that kind of mold. I’d like to see that change more. And I I don’t know the exact right way to do that, but I do think it’s possible. Right.

[00:15:23.235] – TAMAR
Yeah, it’s interesting. There’s a guy who’s on a group that I’m in and he’s obviously a white male. I don’t know how old he is, probably in his 30s, but he said he’s going to change his identity and work completely from a blank slate, from a blank bank account with the objective that he could make a million dollars a year based on his “hustle.” But, you know, I didn’t think about it. And then all of a sudden I shared this with a friend of mine who was about to do the same thing. He moved cross-country and he wanted to start a new thing. And he’s like, yeah, well, this guy is a white, heterosexual male. That’s all he needs once you really have it, because he’s already had it in his his life. And he’s not going to leverage his connections, but he’s going to show that he can do it. I think he’s not anywhere near where he needs to be. But the point is that it becomes a lot easier because of that pedigree, 100 percent that pedigree.

[00:16:19.905] – TAMAR
So, yeah, anyway, first of all, I don’t know if you want to, you did talk about a couple of things you did in tech. I don’t know, again, if you’re going to talk about your special client, but I thought that was really cool. But and I know you’ve kind of touched upon it, but I don’t know if it’s the same thing, you know, like your story that ultimately comes to adversity that you face.

[00:16:39.135] – TAMAR
So I know that I’m throwing a lot at you all at the same time. I’m sure you’ll weave it together. It’s been a fun conversation so far and we’re I’m enjoying it. But yeah, I love to love to hear a little more about these little stories, little nuggets of Erica.

[00:16:55.245] – Erica O’Grady
Well, it’s funny. So I’m living in Boulder. It’s just like I’d been there probably five and a half, six years at that point. And I have what I would call I think you talked to this earlier. The thing about life is and I think as Van Wilder that said that you can’t take life too seriously or you’ll never get out alive. And I think that we have to reinvent ourselves multiple times. I don’t think it’s a one time thing.

[00:17:21.885] – Erica O’Grady
I think it’s a multiple time thing. So one of the things that I kind of discovered at being in Boulder was that we’re going to have these traumatic experiences over and over again. Once you get through the first one, there’s often going to be another one right behind it and sometimes it’s harder, sometimes it’s easier.

[00:17:38.355] – Erica O’Grady
So while I was in Boulder, I actually went through kind of a what I would what I would call a period of grief, deep, deep grief. I lost somebody I loved very much to a heroin overdose. Hey, this is life, right? That’s real life. So I’m living in Boulder. I’ve been there, you know, six and a half years. And I realize that you’re going to have to suffer these tragedies over and over again in life.

[00:18:02.655] – Erica O’Grady
And and that’s just the nature of what life is. And so I had met someone and I really loved him very much. And he ends up killing himself and a heroin overdose. And I feel like it’s my fault because I had kicked him out and like I feel like I just I took on a lot of, like, blame and guilt. And I was like, I should have saved him. Not understanding that it is never possible to save another person, especially from themselves.

[00:18:27.405] – Erica O’Grady
And so I go through this deep grief and I again, go to this point where for almost a year I walk around. In like a zombie world, like the world isn’t even there, I can barely take care of myself, like I am completely lost. I am I am not even like I’m not even really trying to go through the motions. I feel empty and like nothing matters there’s ever going to matter again. And I can’t get better.

[00:18:52.915] – Erica O’Grady
Like, I am going through this grief and actually starts before he dies. It starts before he dies. It starts when I kick him out because I know when I kick him out, these probably end up dead. So of course, I’ve already bearing the guilt of this. And so I’m walking through this this world and I don’t even see the world around me. I’m constantly I don’t care about anything. I’m just like I have no emotions. I’m motionless, I’m empty. I’m lost

[00:19:17.095] – Erica O’Grady
And it’s not getting better. It’s getting worse every day. I feel worse and not better. I’m like, how is it possible? I thought I thought I would get better. I thought with time I’m going to get better. And I didn’t. And so one night I went to the thing and they said this word I’d never heard before. Complicated grief, complicated grief is a form of grief where every with every passing day, instead of getting better, you actually feel worse.

[00:19:36.205] – Erica O’Grady
This is a real thing. You don’t go to those normal five stages of grief that we see. You never really come to acceptance because you can never properly grieve. And there’s components of. Complicated grief. One of them is called ambiguous grief, and because grief is basically the idea that you’re kind of grieving something that hasn’t happened yet, anticipatory grief and ambiguous. So anticipatory grief is like grieving, something that, you know, you think might happen but hasn’t happened yet.

[00:20:02.825] – Erica O’Grady
So I’m grieving his death and he’s not dead yet. And then he dies and then I have to still grieve. So it isn’t until he dies, I start actually going through a normal cycle of grief where I start to feel like I can see again or I can breathe again. And when I started to breathe again. My life’s a disaster because I hadn’t done anything to focus on my life for so long that every piece of my life, every area of my life is an absolute and complete disaster.

[00:20:32.175] – Erica O’Grady
So once again, I feel like I’m in the space where I’m picking myself up and having to figure out what’s next. And in the midst of that space, I somehow do this thing that I never thought was possible, and that’s that I fell in love and I was so resistant to love because I was scared to ever love again, because I thought. For all I knew about love was you lose something that you’re going to get hurt later, but I fell in love and through the process of falling in love, I realized that grief is not something that you move on from and someone said it so well in a TED talk once she said it’s something you move forward with, that the grief comes with you. And so rather than denying that I was sad and miss this person who who died, I took that into my next relationship as a part of who I was. And accepted that it was a part of who I was and I was really lucky because the man I ended up marrying had a very similar kind of deep heartache and hurt and grief.

[00:21:36.285] – Erica O’Grady
And so together we were able to heal one another. And then ultimately now we have a wonderful marriage, but we also run a business together. And so I never expected this to to be the reality that I walked into. And it’s awesome. And I’m lucky because I do have a very amazing partner on every level. I can’t even tell you, like, I definitely married up. So he looks like Brad Pitt. He’s got the heart of, like, you know, billy Graham, he’s kind and everyone loves him and he’s just a wonderful human. And so we started a business and originally, we were kind of he was very much against ever working with a spouse again because he’d had that in a previous marriage and it really hurt their relationship. And and I was on the side of the fence where for me it would be because my work is so important to me. The work I do in the world means everything to me.

[00:22:35.035] – Erica O’Grady
It would be nice to work with my partner because then at least we’d see each other and I think you can relate to that because maybe you’re a workaholic.

[00:22:41.555] – TAMAR
Yes. Understatement of the year. It’s funny because, so Erica and I were talking last night and I was looking at, I’m sitting here at my desk and I look at my watch and I’ve done three hundred and forty six steps, seven o’clock at night, three hundred and forty six steps. So what I do, I have I have a goal. I always have to hit my step goal. My step goal is 6500. Why is it 6500? Because on a Garmin watch, 6500 steps is the equivalent of ten thousand steps on a Fitbit.

[00:23:08.575] – TAMAR
Yes I used to own both. I get my 10000 steps (I’m using quotes here) in. Last night at eleven o’clock at night I went on the treadmill and I did my whatever I did, whatever I needed to do. So that is that’s that’s what, that’s what happens.

[00:23:26.665] – TAMAR
But yeah, you know, and it’s amazing. I’ve seen Erica, like I’ve known Erica for a very long time to see her relationship with her husband. I mean, I’m so happy for you. You definitely. I would say you’ve married up because, I don’t know Dakota as much as I know you, but I just see you’re glowing in a way that I like I haven’t seen. You have a spark in yourself that I’ve never seen. I haven’t seen before.

[00:23:49.915] – Erica O’Grady
So that’s it. That’s like it makes me feel like this is life is a journey and a road. Right. We never know we’re to end up. So I get married and we start a business together.

[00:24:00.415] – TAMAR
Yeah, I thought that was I think it’s amazing. I mean, I would love to know how you met him and your background on that, because I think that’s cool.

[00:24:08.965] – Erica O’Grady
It’s actually kind of a fascinating story. It’s probably not where you’re going to imagine.

[00:24:13.585] – TAMAR
I like these stories that I can’t imagine.

[00:24:14.995] – Erica O’Grady
So remember when I was feeling very empty and like nothing mattered or would ever matter again? I also I kept trying to date because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. The person who died out in like January. And by August, I realized that I should probably start dating. And so I’d been on, I guess it’s like maybe right before. So July, August, I started going on dates on Tinder and I didn’t, I couldn’t feel anymore. I was I was very much still in love with this other person. And I was also in this weird kind of grief that I didn’t understand or nothing in the world felt like it mattered. I had no emotions, I couldn’t bond or attach to people. And so I went on to this, you know, went out trying to date. And in the process of this this dating space that I was in, I matched with this guy on Tinder.

[00:25:07.165] – Erica O’Grady
But lo and behold, I didn’t know that the person that picked me out on Tinder was actually like his soon-to-be ex wife.

[00:25:12.995] – TAMAR
Oh, wow.

[00:25:13.645] – Erica O’Grady
So he picked me out on Tinder. I wasn’t really his type at all. And so he picked me out and we went on a date. It was really nice. We dated kind of casually for like three months, nothing really serious at all. And then he kind of disappeared from my life.

[00:25:29.215] – Erica O’Grady
And at this point I started dating like crazy, like everybody. I’m like dating crazy crazy all the time. I’m dating one of the co-founders of PayPal. I dated everybody, right? So I’m just dating a storm. Right?

[00:25:41.695] – Erica O’Grady
And so through December I’m dating. January I’m dating. February I’m dating. March, April. In March, this person I love so much kills himself, on March 7th. And it destroys me and at the same time is it is really hard to explain, but it becomes the space where I called it “the space of Mercy” because his death freed me from having to worry about him dying. Because now the worst that could happen had happened, so now I was able to start to grieve.

[00:26:20.825] – Erica O’Grady
So I start to properly grieve and go through the cycles of that, even though I’ve really been grieving for like a year prior to his death, now I’m actually grieving. I grieve the most of April and I’m starting to actually feel better by the end of April. Not better. Better like not 100 percent. It’s going to take another year for that. But but better enough that I can I can feel again and I can feel. Not just my emotions, but like little things, like I’m happy that the sun is shining and I’m happy that, you know, I can see people I love to be around and see my friends and things like that.

[00:26:54.825] – Erica O’Grady
And in May, I reconnect with Dakota. And by this point, his divorce has been finalized. And he and I start to date and we date for like a year after, which we end up getting married. And so that was kind of how I met him. It’s this really good story that, like, he didn’t even pick me out on Tinder.

[00:27:14.165] – TAMAR
It’s really [good], yeah.

[00:27:15.105] – Erica O’Grady
Because his ex wife picked me out and it turns out like it was a good choice.

[00:27:19.455] – TAMAR
It’s so nice that his ex wife did that for you. I mean, really, that’s beautiful. Yeah, that itself is very beautiful.

[00:27:24.925] – Erica O’Grady
It was really nice.

[00:27:26.445] – TAMAR
I mean, that also speaks to his personality, like that speaks to the kind of person he is. I know him as little as I know him. But like that speaks of the fact that she still was looking out for his future. That’s beautiful.

[00:27:35.475] – Erica O’Grady
Oh, yeah. They they love each other. It just didn’t work. It wasn’t the right relationship. Right? There’s a lot of, like, caring out there. So going going forward from there. I really wanted to build something with someone. He was very resistant to that because of past experiences and how that did not work out well. And in the midst of me trying to convince him we should build something and I’ve been working on this company called Exceptional since April, the following year, the previous year, sorry, I get a phone call from one of our friends Oz Sultan. And Oz said, hey, do you know anybody that would come hop in and run social for this presidential campaign? And I’m like, I’ll do it. And he said, Wait, you’re available? And I was like “am I available? Yeah, I’m available!” And he goes, Well, if I’d known that, I would ask you to begin with. So basically, I’m being called in the third of many people to replace someone who isn’t working out of the eleventh hour of this presidential campaign.

[00:28:32.055] – Erica O’Grady
So we go in on this. I have no idea who this guy is. I’ve never heard of him. Don’t know the first thing about him. I kind of Google him and I’m like, still not going to sure I should get on the plane, but I get on the plane. I show up in Salt Lake City and I start running social media for Brock Pierce and his campaign. And we are about: the first day we’re in Salt Lake City, the next morning, we go to Boise, Idaho, on the campaign bus and we get there and we’re there for a couple of days and I’m just going to get my feet under me. And at first I’m clashing quite a bit with Brock because I’m very set in that I don’t think he should touch algorithms. I think you should run a strategy. And I think strategy is more important than algorithms because algorithms change. And and I’ve got all these ideas about how it should be.

[00:29:13.595] – Erica O’Grady
And we’re kind of butting heads that at some point we have this cathartic moment and it happens in a room full of legislators, these legislators in Idaho, they’re state senators and people like that that are in this room. And we start to talk and I watch something in front of the legislators that I’d never heard a politician say before. And I realize that I’m exactly where God wanted me to be, which is this weird thing to say, but that’s what it was.

[00:29:40.325] – Erica O’Grady
And so at some point, we’re all going around the room talking about why we do the things we do, the work we do in the world. And it comes to me. And I burst out into tears and Brock sitting at one end of the table and I say I when I first came here, I almost left the day after I got here because I didn’t think this is where I was supposed to be. I didn’t know if I was in alignment with the calling that was meant for my life.

[00:29:59.975] – Erica O’Grady
And I’m sitting in this room today and I can’t believe what I’ve just heard and and kind of jokingly says, you didn’t realize that this was a divine calling. And I was like, I didn’t. But I do now. Right. And that was kind of the start of me understanding A) who he was as a person as why he was running and all these things and and the kind of man he was and B) why I was there to begin with.

[00:30:21.215] – Erica O’Grady
After that for some reason, the work that I’m doing is getting actual results so that the work I’m doing on the campaign, they’re seeing an uptick. Things are happening. And like we’re finally getting social right. And we are sitting in the campaign bus and one of the guys says, oh, we’re going to hop on the private jet tomorrow. We’re going to fly to Alaska. And I think they’re hazing me. I’m like, of course they’re hazing me.

[00:30:41.555] – Erica O’Grady
No, there’s no way in the world that we’re going to drop jump on a private jet and fly to Alaska. Why in the world do you fly to Alaska? That’s crazy, right? And sure enough, the next morning we jump on a private jet, we fly to Alaska. And at this point, Dakota is like, he didn’t realize I was going to be going to Alaska. That wasn’t in our itinerary.

[00:31:00.155] – Erica O’Grady
Anyway, so I get to Alaska and I had signed on originally for twelve days on the campaign to be with them in person. In the last ten days I’ll be doing remote or was at 13. You don’t know what it was. And so we get there and and one of the guys on the campaign comes to me and he says what would it take to get you to stay on the campaign with us the whole time? Well, I have to bring my husband here, because A) it was way too much work and I couldn’t do it all by myself. I was basically doing the job of five people. I was getting almost no sleep to try to keep up with all the social. You got to bring my husband here, you know, because, you know, we were just well, that was not the plan. I had made a deal with my husband that I’d be back in 12 days. And so, lo and behold, the next morning they fly my husband to Anchorage and he joins us on the campaign.

[00:31:41.805] – Erica O’Grady
And the next thing you know, we are this kind of like power couple and it goes from us having almost no authority in the kind of team to having everybody coming toward us and asking us and running ideas by us. And we we bond with them. They become like family, like true family. But I think we prove it’s a point that we’re actually competent. We can actually do the job we’ve been hired to do. And they’re seeing that they’re getting results and they’re basically getting Dakota for free at this point, right?

[00:32:05.835] – Erica O’Grady
Not anymore, because they still pay us a lot of money. But, you know, it’s not free anymore to have Dakota on board. But at that point, I was just like just bring my husband and pay for all of our stuff. I mean, so, you know, we go on this trip and we’re flying all these places and doing all these things. And you have to understand, Dakota hates flying. He’s like got severe, you know, anxiety. And it’s very difficult, even a private jet to fly with him. So that was actually in our marriage, our first time flying anywhere together. And so here we are flying from like Anchorage to Fairbanks and Fairbanks to Minneapolis in Minneapolis. I mean, it’s crazy. And for us, because we hadn’t had a chance—we’d started when we got engaged, we’d started planning this Viking wedding and we didn’t get to have I have like twelve bridesmaids because covid had hit.

[00:32:51.635] – TAMAR
Yeah.

[00:32:51.995] – Erica O’Grady
—and so we had postponed it until all my bridesmaids would agree to come, which some of them haven’t left their house honestly since like March or April. So these are people that aren’t aren’t really traveling and doing things until, until I told my bridesmaids will be there, I’d kind of said I’m not going to have my wedding. So we hadn’t had a wedding or honeymoon. And for me, this kind of felt, even though we were working super hard, long hours, sometimes twenty hours a day, it felt like a honeymoon.

[00:33:14.345] – Erica O’Grady
It was a bonding experience I never expected.

[00:33:18.215] – TAMAR
You’re doing what you love, which is the best part we love.

[00:33:21.005] – Erica O’Grady
It was so much fun. And we got we had great results. We actually grew the social by 372% in the short time we were there compared to where everybody else had put it. We got them real results. So we did a lot of really innovative, cool things that the people hadn’t done before. And then when it came down to it, they kind of asked us if we would be interested in sticking around if he decided he was going to run in 2024, which we think he might be running for president in 2024.

[00:33:47.345] – Erica O’Grady
And we said we’d love that. And in the meantime, we’ve been doing a lot of work for various companies of his and growing our agency honestly, and we recently launched a new website and not even 24 hours after I put it up without a single word of promotion, I had even posted it anywhere, we got a new client. We were like, this is great. This is actually converting. And so we we found that one of our specialties is looking at people’s websites, their messaging and showing them small changes they can make to get higher conversions, to get people to actually do whatever they want them to do. You sign up for a mailing list, buy a product, sign up for a group or course, we can do that and we know how to do it. A lot of it comes down to something called CRO, which is conversion rate optimization. So that’s one of our specialties.

[00:34:33.815] – TAMAR
Cool, cool, That’s really awesome. By the way, you’re totally kicking ass. I really like I mean, I can see. And so, again, it’s like.

[00:34:45.625] – Erica O’Grady
Yeah, there’s a there’s a guy in New York, Frank can’t remember his last name right now, he’s written some books, but he’s the head of the Independence Party in New York City or I guess, the state of New York, and he comes in one day and he was sworn into office in New York and he walks by Ed Koch.

[00:35:03.195] – Erica O’Grady
And he was like, oh, are you Dakota and Erica? And we’re like, he’s like, I’ve heard about you. You guys are the power couple. And we the first time we’d ever heard anyone refer to us as—Frank McCabe is his name—anyone refer to us as a power couple, we’re like, whoa, we’re a power couple.

[00:35:16.715] – Erica O’Grady
We had no idea! This is so cool! So, yeah, when that happened, we realized we not only worked really well together because we had complementary skill sets, but that we present in a way that isn’t just that clients like the way we present, but we present in a way that shows that we are incredibly effective at what we do. So they actually see that we win when we talk together, when we’re next to each other and we’re giving clients advice, we play off each other really well and we give them concrete advice that’s actually effective as opposed to just kind of platitudes or as I feel a lot of people in marketing that are giving the same advice over and over again. It’s not very specific and actually isn’t going to get them any results. And so what we do is very specialized.

[00:36:05.845] – TAMAR
Awesome, awesome. Very, very cool. Yeah, yeah. So I’m definitely sending work your way when those opportunities arise because you guys have some good, yeah, good stuff going on and it’s so much fun to just talk concept with you and all these things. It’s been really fun, just chilling with you lately because we’ve been doing a lot more of that. [laugh] It’s funny because Erica and I, we know each other like, you know, on and off for like a little over a decade. But like, you know, we talk, we’ve been talking. But then all of a sudden, like, I put all these questions on these online Facebook groups and Erica is like, guess what? I could do this. And it’s like our little rekindling because I think thankfully, Facebook lets you know when your friends post in groups because that’s really where it came from. Like I started asking questions in the Elementor community. It’s a WordPress WYSIWYG plugin. And Erica comes and saves a day. So thanks.

[00:36:59.275] – Erica O’Grady
You’re welcome. Yeah, I actually I actually think WordPress has come a long ways. I see a lot of, I don’t know if you noticed, but WordPress recently launched, they’re testing out some kind of beta, their own design service. So they’re going to be charging I think it’s like forty nine hundred dollars basically for a website. If you go through them and they’re going to have their own designers, they may even partner with people.

[00:37:22.765] – Erica O’Grady
But the most interesting thing was [in] a lot of the design community, there was some push back and they were kind of yelling at Matt [Mullenweg] and saying, wow, like you’re trying to like, encroach on our business. Basically, that’s not fair. WordPress has such a bigger platform. And Matt was like, listen, it’s a single one of you ever loses a client because of us, not our design service. Come to me and tell me.

[00:37:44.575] – TAMAR
Right.

[00:37:44.935] – Erica O’Grady
Like, show me that it was because of us, you know, because I think he’s right. There’s more work out there than there are people to do it right now. There’s a lot a lot of people that need good dev, design, marketing teams, whatever it is. And there aren’t a lot of people out there that are really that great. So they’re probably filling a gap that’s necessary.

[00:38:05.395] – TAMAR
Yeah. All right. Let’s shift gears. I know. So you talk about, like, how you really have focused, like, on bettering yourself. You lost, like, you know. Eighty percent. Well, it’s not eighty percent. Eighty pounds ish. It’s.. Seventy eight. So it’s funny. Like I’ve pretty much done the same thing. MyFitnessPal I think reports now it’s like seventy two but it used to be ninety, ninety something.

[00:38:27.115] – TAMAR
But unfortunately for me I gained thirty pounds back during covid. I’ve lost fifteen since January 1st. So there’s that. Yeah it’s, it’s only a little over a month. I’m not going to say the date because this gets published a little later. I want to hear. Self-care has been a big focus for you I think. And how are you doing that? What are you doing? Are you yoga-ing or are you doing all that other stuff?

[00:38:50.045] – TAMAR
Are you focusing on fitness? What’s, what’s your regimen? It doesn’t even have to be that self-care could be like reading a book because that’s all good too.

[00:38:57.715] – Erica O’Grady
So it’s fascinating because I when I, when I did all that, I became a certified yoga instructor when I was in Boulder, when I got down to 127 pounds and then when covid hit, I know Dakota and I both gained probably about ten pounds. So we went on the campaign, we gained like another thirty. I’m not kidding. And so we’ve been taking that off again. So we built a out in our garage. We have like a little fitness area and we just hung up recently my aerial fabrics for aerial yoga. So I have been doing a lot of aerial yoga, which I like, but I was like just like to lay in and read books because it’s like the kind of like laying in like an awesome, amazing hammock, only better. And so I love that. And and I also, like we used to take a lot of hikes. We might be going on a hike this weekend, maybe with like Burris. I don’t know if you know him, but he’s really kind of the Dallas startup scene. And he recently has moved to Boulder. And so I think we’re going to connect there. And do you like a boulder hike. But we do a lot of hiking.

[00:39:56.875] – Erica O’Grady
We love to go camping. My husband runs a group called Spirit Warriors where he takes men out into the wilderness and they build Teepees and he teaches them how to start fires with feral rods and he teaches them how to balance vulnerability and masculinity. So it’s an entire program that they do.

[00:40:15.535] – Erica O’Grady
And so he and I love to go camping. So we spend a lot of time [camping]. We actually will go up like up these old logging roads about ten thousand feet up into the top of the mountain. And we’ll build our own teepees. We don’t even take like camping gear. We like to sleep on the ground like but we build a teepee and we have like tarp and we so we cut down like deadwood deadfall kind of stuff. And we put it together and we tie it at the top and we like hoist it up and we and then we put the tarps around it. And I do an amazing job at thatching. I am the best at roof thatching. When it comes to camping, you won’t even believe it.

[00:40:48.265] – Erica O’Grady
So we watch the show call Alone and there’s this woman on it. Her name is Nicole and Nicole was showing how she thatched the roof of her house, because these people live all alone, like the middle of nowhere and the person that lasts the longest all by themselves, they don’t get anything but like 10 items. So they hunt for their own food. It’s crazy.

[00:41:05.845] – Erica O’Grady
And she’s showing how to attach the roof. And so I did this thatching job and it rained the whole time we were up camping last night and not a drop of water got through my thatching job. I was so proud and I was like, my husband’s like, how do you learn to do that? From watching Nicole and Alone! He’s like, I didn’t even know you were paying attention. So I was super excited.

[00:41:23.305] – TAMAR
That’s funny. These days, if I am to watch television, I am I look at my phone and I listen and it’s so I’ll never learn how to use whatever thatching, whatever it is. I don’t even know what that is. So that’s it.

[00:41:36.715] – Erica O’Grady
It’s when you take like like dry brush brush, like, you know, stuff off the ground or leaves and stuff. And you put it at the top of the teepee to keep stuff from coming in.

[00:41:46.315] – TAMAR
Oh, that’s cool.

[00:41:46.885] – Erica O’Grady
So it takes a little bit of like you take the branches and you push them all in different angles and stuff to keep all the water out.

[00:41:54.025] – TAMAR
OK, good to know that sort of stuff that I never thought I would ever need to know. And there we go.

[00:42:01.105] – Erica O’Grady
You probably won’t need to know it at this point.

[00:42:02.815] – TAMAR
Yeah, sure. Well, it was Dakota an Eagle Scout or you just like, you know, fell into this thing?

[00:42:10.915] – Erica O’Grady
Well, I think he might have been a.. I don’t remember, but I feel like he was an Eagle Scout. But he’s always been an outdoors guy. He grew up on a farm in Kansas and started working when he was around while driving around seven years old or so and working around 12 like he was just he’s the guy that’s always had a lot of stuff to do.

[00:42:28.855] – TAMAR
That’s awesome. And so.

[00:42:30.535] – Erica O’Grady
Yeah.

[00:42:31.825] – TAMAR
Very cool. Cool, cool, awesome. This is it’s been fun. I really enjoyed this. I mean, I want to leave you with a question that you have probably not been prepared for, but at the same time, you should have an answer to my Common Scents question. And the question is, if you can give one piece of advice to an early version of Erica, what would you tell her?

[00:42:52.915] – Erica O’Grady
Oh, gosh, that’s a hard question.

[00:42:56.795] – Erica O’Grady
I think I would say. It all works out in the end, if it hasn’t worked yet, it’s not the end, because I think that that’s the truth. I think that eventually, life actually happens the way it’s supposed to happen, and if we can trust it, like they kind of say trust the soup when you’re creative to trust the soup, we can trust life and trust that all we have to do is take the next right step in any direction that that we want to go, that that’s all that we have to do, take care of today. Tomorrow takes care of itself. And it really does. Yeah, because the truth is that tragedy is going to befall you and you could lose everything overnight anyway. Trust me, I’ve been through it. It sucks. And that’s when you learn who your real friends are and all the things so there’s actually a benefit to those kinds of things. When you lose everything, it’s actually a good thing sometimes. When you look back on your life and say the worst thing that ever happened to me was was actually the best thing that ever happened to me because it taught me X, Y, Z, whatever.

[00:43:56.135] – Erica O’Grady
And so you just have to trust. It’s it’s all it’s all happening, unfolding as it’s supposed to.

[00:44:03.015] – TAMAR
Yeah, yeah, it’s funny, like it ties into what you said earlier about that whole thing with the thing with Brock like you, how you felt like, you know, God put you there, that high. And it’s like we all endure our hardships, I think, to give us the resilience and the strength to be able to conquer in the future so all of those things happen. So emotionally.

[00:44:25.755] – Erica O’Grady
We’re better for the struggle.

[00:44:28.055] – TAMAR
Yeah, 100 percent.

[00:44:28.995] – Erica O’Grady
Always better for the struggle.

[00:44:30.405] – Erica O’Grady
So when the struggle becomes I’m in the struggle phase, this is the season of the struggle. It’s OK. Like the next phase is going to be different. And it isn’t like many of these phases last forever. They’re just one part of a journey. And that journey becomes your life

[00:44:44.385] – TAMAR
And you think, the thing is that I think a lot of people feel like when that happens at the end, it’s the end. It’s like when you were like going through a zombie phase, I had the same I had a zombie phase where I did say going through the motions because I woke up and I had to get my kids to go to school. So those are motions. But I wasn’t thinking. My cognition was in the zombie phase.

[00:45:04.665] – TAMAR
Also, I get it. And you never think that it ends. And yes, just like you said you feel like time would heal. But sometimes it’s really doesn’t especially in the beginning, especially when you’re in that moment. So I totally get it. And then you think it’s never it’s never going to happen. But then it does. And then you’re like, holy crap. Like, things are so much better, like better than it was before.

[00:45:26.805] – TAMAR
So they just I guess you got to believe so I like it. Cool, what and where do people find you? Where can I tell people to find you?

[00:45:36.615] – Erica O’Grady
Sure. So our company is exceptional agency and you can find us at Exceptional DOT Agency. And I personally am at Erica O’Grady on almost every platform.

[00:45:46.905] – Erica O’Grady
So I just got a message here, I’m watching. Our friend Brian Solis is interviewing Brock Pierce right now. And what’s fascinating is that I didn’t know that they could do this, but they’re actually in a Clubhouse room in addition to being live on Facebook so I’m trying to figure out how they’re even doing that.

[00:46:05.025] – TAMAR
Probably different devices.

[00:46:05.985] – Erica O’Grady
When we got this call, I’m going to figure out how that’s happening.

[00:46:08.145] – TAMAR
That’s also awesome. OK, I’ll let you get to it. I didn’t realize that you’re interrupting your client is busy [in a meeting] there you go. That’s cool. Cool. All right. Well, thank you so much for time. I really enjoyed. It’s life.

[00:46:21.795] – Erica O’Grady
Thanks, Tamar. You have a great day.

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