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TFD co-founders Chelsea and Lauren reflect on 8 years of running a business, and what they've learned along the way. Click here to get $7 off your tickets to The Entrepreneur Bootcamp with the code 'YOUTUBEVIP':

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Hey, guys.

I'm Chelsea. And I'm Lauren.

And we are The Financial Diet. Now listen, some of you guys who are listening to this or watching this who did not watch the channel like six years ago are going to be like, what the hell was that? Well, the true historians amongst you will know that I used to co-host the TFD YouTube channel with the person sitting here in the studio to my right, Lauren Ver Hage, my co-founder and business partner.

Who are you, Lauren, for those who don't know? I'm Lauren. So yeah, just a little bit about me.

We co-founded the business together way back in 2015, 2015. At the time, I was working at an ad agency. So yeah, I've been here since the beginning.

I feel like, when people come up to me at events and they know who I am, it feels crazy because I forget that I was, at one point, on the channel very regularly. Because it's been a minute, I had to bust out the lipstick, fluff my hair, get back into the vibe of being on camera. It's a little intimidating.

But a long time has passed, so I'm here again. And I'm the chief design officer, which is really exciting. It's a big responsibility to make sure that TFD is always looking fresh and cool and popping in the design space.

I love doing it. I'm a huge design nerd, and it's just super fun to have seen the company grow over so many years. My heart.

Yeah. So for people who watch the channel, back in the day, you've been, to their eyes, gone for quite some time. But a fun fact, she's been here the whole time.

She's never stopped working here. It's just she doesn't do on camera anymore. Other things have happened in your life.

Tell us a little bit. Catch us up. Yeah, so since I've left the YouTube channel visually as a co-host, I have been just behind the scenes doing a lot of design work, working on pitches and branding, and everything that you guys see, the podcast branding, the stuff on the website.

On a personal note-- I was going to say, I could be wrong here, but didn't you also give birth to a human being? Yes, on a personal note, I was going to say, moving beyond work stuff, I had a baby. We have a six-month-old daughter, Lily, who is just my absolute obsession.

I could just cry talking about her. I look at photos of her every night before I go to sleep. I typify that mom meme, where it's like, you spend all day trying to get a five-minute break from your child only to spend an hour on your phone scrolling about of photos of them before you go to sleep at night, which is totally me.

But she's so wonderful, and my husband and I bought a house, which is really exciting. Yeah, I lived in Ireland for a year. A lot's been happening.

It's been-- the pandemic, everything's been-- it's just been a rough, in some ways, rough. You got a dog. I got a dog.

Yeah, no, the pandemic, that chapter of the last couple of years was rough. But everything else, I have to say, has been really wonderful. And yeah, everything from the dog to the baby to the house, it's like, I really do feel like-- yeah, I feel like, in some ways, the same person but a totally different person.

That's so funny. From when we started. It's so funny because anyone who knows Lauren, all the people on the team and anyone that we know in common, you're just such a nice, positive, sunny person.

And it's so funny how, it's a great thing. You deserve it, but it's so funny how it's like that LEGO song of like, (SINGING) everything is awesome. You had a great pregnancy.

You bought the house of your dreams. You married the man that you like. Everything is just great for Lauren.

It's great. That's so funny, but I also feel like, I do get that, maybe from an outsider's perspective, that could be the vibe that they're picking up on. But I do think, in some ways, it's a concerted effort to always find the silver lining and to be positive by choice.

And we've talked a lot about this, and you're someone who I think exemplifies that in their own life about choosing joy, which I think is an important mindset to have. At the end of the day, I do feel like I try to always have a positive attitude because it helps a lot. It really does.

I also feel like, for me at least-- I don't know how you feel. But the job that we have is such a huge part of my happiness. I really do feel-- especially now, we have the four-day work week.

Oh, my gosh, yeah. We work with all women. We have a flexible schedule.

Everyone is so nice and great to work with. And I really do feel like, when I look around at a lot of people in my life who have jobs where they're working crazy hours, or they have terrible bosses, or a dreadful commute every day, or all of these things. I'm just like, it is very much a privilege to have the work life that we have, even though it can be stressful at times. 100%, and I think that what I think about a lot is that I have the privilege, as do I think most of the women that we work with say this, similarly, which is like, you don't feel like after a vacation you're coming back to a job that you're slogging away at.

And it feels really sort of tedious and not fulfilling. It's a joy and a privilege to work every day at TFD. And I do feel like year after year, especially now having a baby and being a mother.

It's just an enormous-- it's the privilege of my life to work at TFD. I know that I'll never have a job that's better than this. It's true.

It's like you get to work amongst people that you actually like and enjoy spending time with. Joe jokes around with me a lot. He's like, I just forget that you are friends, genuinely friends with the people that you work with.

I'm like, yeah, it's really pretty amazing and rare to actually really enjoy the company of the people that you work with. Yeah, it's really interesting. I feel like the transition has been-- so let's just give some context, right?

So why is Lauren here, with a bold, red lip and all? Why am I here? Why are you here?

What are we doing? Well, we're talking about our really awesome workshop that we're going to be having for one evening in July, July-- Let's put up the-- Let's pull up that-- i was going to say the date, and I think it's the 28th. It is Thursday, July 21.

So you were right on the day but a week off. So it's Thursday, July 21. And you guys will be getting an exclusive discount at that link in our description and in the show notes.

So it's called The Entrepreneur Bootcamp. And basically, it is a two-hour deep dive on entrepreneurship, freelancing, building your small business, striking out on your own because, obviously, we started TFD together from literal zero. And now it's a seven-figure business.

It supports a whole staff of employees. We've got an office. We do quite a lot with it, and that journey has been-- we've had our moments.

And also it's really important to say, it's far and away not just us, right? We did have other people throughout this process. But it is something where I feel like, especially for the first year and in those first steps, there are a lot of things that I think we both would have done very differently.

And so this is really the workshop that we're doing together. It's longer than usual. We're doing two separate office hours where we each do an office hours about our own areas of expertise, her more on the branding, marketing side of your business, and me more on the more revenue, financial structure, all of that.

Because I really do feel like there are very few people, at least in my opinion, out there who are speaking in the business sphere, the entrepreneur sphere, who are also really focused on running a holistic workplace, a family-friendly workplace, one that I think really prioritizes work-life balance and being a human first and foremost. I think a lot of this is really caught up in that whole hustle culture, maximizing revenue, showing off how much money you make, all that kind of stuff. Yeah, absolutely.

And I think that it's important for us, occasionally, to step back and think about, like you said, what we could have done differently and how that informs some of the changes in decisions that we make moving forward. What are the things that we really believe in? What are the core morals and ethics of a workplace that we really want to see implemented because we want to be-- and especially as co-founders.

I feel like it's important for me to stand by the business that we've created with pride, and that everyone here is respectful and respected. And you have to put those into practice. And what does that actually look like?

And how can we be doing better? And how can we be evolving and making sure that we're running a sustainable, financially sound business because there's a lot of people that were responsible for at this point. And it feels like every year the stakes get a little higher, and that certainly wasn't the case when we started TFD.

It was just the two of us, and we had support systems in place, which I'm sure we'll get into. But yeah, so it's always worth having things like this. That gets in-- so we have a lot of questions from you guys that we'll get to, but that brings me to the first thing I wanted to talk about because I really-- what I'm interested in is looking at where we were at the very beginning, which is where a lot of people watching this might be with their own journey and where we are now.

And you mentioned, we are at this place now where we have all this responsibility for people. And it's funny, I said in that little promo there that we are a seven figure business, which we have been for a couple of years. And I remember-- I don't know if you remember this-- but years and years ago there were other people in our industry who would talk on their blogs about, I made seven figures this year, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

And we would be like, that is so effing crazy. Could you imagine? I couldn't even imagine what life would be like, blah, blah, blah.

And I'm really interested-- I have my own thoughts-- but I'm interested, does it feel the way that you thought it would feel to be on that side of it? In some ways it does not feel the way that I thought it might feel back then because I thought that it would feel-- these people, to me, had this aura around them like I did it myself, and I'm the one for whom riches are just falling out of the sky. I hacked my business, and I'm just rolling in money.

And it kind of felt aspirational, yes, because obviously everyone likes to earn a good amount of money. It's a tool for many important things. But at the end of the day, it's like, I don't want to stand behind something that I feel is not sustainable or scammy in any way or just sort of built on matchsticks and whatever.

I do feel like it took us a while to build up to having a seven figure business. But I do feel like, you mentioned earlier, it's not just us. We have a team of people around us.

And so I think that it's a shared experience, a shared journey, a shared undertaking. And at the end of the day, a shared joy that we've all put in the work to make something this successful. So I do feel like it's exciting and wonderful, but I'm like, of course, it is.

We work hard. We're keeping our heads down, for the most part, and really just doing things the right way. And it feels like, I don't know, in some weird, cosmic way, and we got rewarded for it.

It feels good, and I'm like, yeah, we deserve to have a seven figure business, like totally [BLEEP] yeah. So first of all, hats off to you to being like, yeah, we did it right and we deserve it because I feel like there's way too much self-deprecation from women in this space or really entrepreneurship in general. Yeah.

There's all that imposter syndrome, and I used to feel that way a little bit. But it's been years now, and I'm like, I don't have imposter syndrome. Truly, I do not anymore.

And now that we've been around the block several times, I'm like, most people are, for the most part, just like not very good at what they do in this-- you meet so many people in this industry where I'm like, yeah, this is not-- you're no longer intimidating. Now that I've gotten like a peek behind the curtain or under the hood, it's just like, we are 100% capable of doing that and probably better and faster. And we're a very nimble business, and I feel like it's no surprise to me that, when you get this many talented women in a room with a shared vision and a happy, pleasant place to work, you can do good things.

You can do awesome stuff. 100%, and we have seen behind the curtain at some big businesses. And we're talking about there's the media space. There's the financial space.

There's the influencer space. And you would, I think, I was shocked at first at how, first of all, there's a whole level of it where it's just like people are crazy unprofessional, not reliable. All of that set it aside.

There's also a whole level of you're seeing top level executives who don't even know what the meeting is about when they come into the room, and just a level of complete lack of preparedness. And then you've also seen in media and in a creative industry, I personally, part of what has always made me feel very good about where we are and, for context, Lauren and I don't earn the most in the company and almost never have. And that has always been an active choice in the sense of like, yes, it prioritizes sustainability because, at a certain level, more money is not necessarily worth a way higher level of risk and unsustainability and uncertainty, especially because, in this industry, when we started out, it was the height of the girlboss mania.

Media was flooded with money. All the social networks were blowing publications and news websites and video channels up. And over that time, I can't think of one of those big players that hasn't completely closed, gone through 15 rounds of layoffs, pivoted to video and back, hired a bunch of people to fire them.

It's such a volatile industry. It really is, and I feel like, because we never went big on the risk, we never had to-- because we've talked about this several times, like taking on investor money and what the implications of that are and the goals that you have to hit and the level of stress and pressure that that puts on you as a company. And it's just like, I don't think that we were ever really interested in just putting that burden on ourselves because it was like, at the end of the day, the risks are too high.

That would mean laying people off. That might mean not paying people what they deserve to be paid. It's like, I think that the model that we've come up with at this point is slow and steady.

And it's like, we've done things that have felt risky but not really at the end of the day, like the events. Like launching that part of the business felt incredibly risky because we had to lay out a bunch of money to hire staff. But it ended up working out, and I think that we were really just absorbing what was going on in the industry and seeing where the pressure points were and absorbing it to do it better on a smaller scale almost.

Definitely on both sides. We made changes like you lived at home longer. I kept freelancing for like the first two years and made most of my income that way.

But for the first-- and I have the numbers and we'll go over them in our class just to break it down year by year. But for like the first two years, we were really not taking home basically anything. Yeah.

And it's been several years now that we've been just payroll employees that I don't even really think about it anymore. I'm sure, like you, and we have our 401(k). We have our benefits.

It's just second nature the way it is for a lot of salaried employees. But I'm interested to hear what you think about going through that journey, what you think about looking back at the beginning of it when it was so touch and go, and how we knew when to stay motivated, when to push through because, looking back, there were many times that we objectively could have quit. Yeah, there's so many layers to that question.

There are so many different ways I can answer that. So it's just like thinking about where to start. But overall, I do think that I probably could have worked longer while doing TFD in the very beginning.

I think that, if I could go back in time, I would probably not have quit my full time job as early as I did. I think I probably could have worked full time and done TFD more or less full time as well with the amount of responsibility that I had back then. I think I was like 24, 25.

And I meet people now, like we just had breakfast with people this morning who they're doing their full time job and their full time side gig with a four-year-old. And I'm just like, amazing. Good for you.

But that's probably one of the biggest things I'd do just to take the stress off of those initial days just in terms of financial preparedness. I was basically just crushing, like eating through my entire savings during those first six months to year and a half, I would say. And that was a decision that I had the privilege of making because I lived at home with my parents, because I didn't have a child, because I had no other-- I had enough money to pay for things like my student loan and my car bill and stuff like that.

So that wasn't a huge concern. So that's one change I would make, and I would also have made a change of keeping myself more responsible in the sense of keeping a focus on the big picture. That's something that you and I have talked a lot about is that, when you're running a small business, from the position that I was in, I was very reactive.

Things would come in and I would have to pivot and pivot and pivot. And I think that I could have done a better job at just narrowing down what I knew that I was good at, what I could offer to the business, and being very clear with myself, and more importantly, you about, OK, this is where my skill set stops. We need help.

And if we can't get paid help, how do we find a way to get this done for very little cost? There are creative ways around these things. But I think I was just trying to do everything really well and not giving myself any sort of grace for not knowing how to do things.

I was really, really hard on myself, lots of unnecessary stress. There were many nights where I didn't sleep. I had several panic attacks.

And that's just the way it is. When you're running a business-- That breaks my heart. I'm sorry.

But it's true. Those early days are tough for any business getting launched and off the ground. And that was with absolutely no other responsibility than myself.

Now, as a mom, owning a home, having a husband, having a dog, having a baby, all these different things, I give people so much more credit for doing these things later on in life because at the time these felt like unsurmountable stressors. But now, looking back on it, I'm like, I should have given myself a break. I shouldn't have been so hard and stressed out about those things that ended up not being that big of a deal.

But yeah, you asked another question about the issue of making money too. And when we finally got to a place where we were taking home a more regular salary, I felt like I won the lottery. I was like, wow, seeing that monthly money hit my bank account was amazing.

And I just loved that I got to budget again. When you're on more of a freelance salary, it can be difficult to budget. You don't know what you're going to earn each month and how to prioritize things as well as you can when I think you have a more regular income coming in.

So that's been something I've really enjoyed now that the business is more sustainable and predictable and lucrative. Yeah, totally. It's interesting, obviously, it makes me sad to think of you being so stressed out.

And of course, I was too, but-- You were right there with me. And things, like now, they just feel so attain-- they just feel like problems that were easier to solve. But at the time, when you have a lot going on and your to-do list is like 50 items long, the smallest thing can really feel very crippling.

Totally, and we had some early failures. For me, I think the issue is more, I definitely-- I have personally just a lot of regrets from that early time in the sense of how I handled things, how I handled stress. I probably should have been in therapy for the first two years, honestly.

Same. I wish I had honestly-- and I honestly think-- and we'll talk about it in the workshop-- but looking back, I would have budgeted for at least some counseling because I was so stressed all the time, more from a perspective-- and this is something that I still kind of struggle with a lot. But I feel such an outsized sense of responsibility for everyone else.

And I cannot let this fail. And sometimes these things are totally out of your control. If we didn't get the PPP loans during COVID, we probably would have had to stop and not-- but I don't think-- sometimes I feel like looking back or in those early days, I don't know how I would have dealt with it if I did have to stop and, in my eyes, fail.

I think it was so tied up in my identity, especially because a lot of it was me public facing. I felt like it was just not an option. And that stress, for me, I think made me, in a lot of ways, a worse person.

I was more controlling and anxiety-ridden about everything, and would get manic over these really small details. Like on an Instagram post would be wrong, and I would totally spiral about it and lose my mind. But I think that, because in that beginning, you were at my kitchen table.

We didn't have any separation of personal and professional life. And that, I think, is one of the things that was most-- that was the biggest mistake, looking back, was not allowing myself or giving myself the tools and resources to fully really separate the two out. Yeah.

Whereas now, it's definitely-- we have six weeks vacation a year. We have the four-day work week. We have a physical office that we go to regularly.

So for me, I very rarely think of work outside of work, for the most part. Same. Excuse me, I remember not going anywhere without my laptop because it felt like, at any moment, something could pop up and just need fixing.

And that sustain level of that flight or fight response in your body-- Fight or flight. Yeah, when you are stressed out about something, over time, it just leads to some serious burnout. And I don't think I really grappled with that until-- I hit the brakes when I went to Ireland where I was working part time for a little while, and I got to truly step back for the first time in five years and be like, I feel so burned out.

And I remember you saying something similar to me where you're just like, I've-- and this happened recently where you're like, I've just been doing this on this hamster wheel for so long that, if I don't take a step back, I will burn out in a seriously big way that I don't know if I'll come back from. And it's scary. But I feel like hindsight's 2020, and obviously, the confidence that I have now as a 32-year-old woman, I would have told my younger self, if you need to step back, that's OK.

If you need a month break, that's OK. If you need to say I'm not up for this and I can't do this, that's OK. And I would 100% do that now.

But Lauren of 2016, 2015, I would just power through until I was just running on fumes. And I would have never given myself that out to say to you or Joe or my family or my friends who watched me do this very scary thing, that not a lot of people I know did. I wasn't giving myself that ability to just be like, this is very mentally taxing.

I need a minute. Totally. So yeah.

You mentioned that that happened to me recently. I don't think I've-- maybe I've talked about it on TFC, maybe not. But definitely the hardest time I've had at work has been this past winter.

And I almost was hesitant to talk about it because it is pretty isolated. Like I've said a lot here, like 99% of our work life is, I think, more ideal than 99% of people have. I definitely think that that is something I don't take for granted.

But there was a time last year where both of my business partners left in rapid succession. You went on maternity leave. Our other partner stepped down totally to focus on being a full time mom.

And we had a really tough winter because of Omicron coming back up and the market being so unstable and all of that. And it was like, it was the scariest time, the most stressful time financially. And it was one of those-- and this happens sometimes in business, these moments where you're just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic because there's only so much you can do.

And there's only so much you can offset the things that were happening, which is why we went more aggressive about promoting the membership program and doing things to help diversify our revenue beyond what is out of our control. But I did. I fully broke down in a meeting, sobbing, couldn't even talk because I was just like-- and interestingly, that happened once things were a lot better, once she was back, the revenue was back where it needed to be.

On paper, it should have been easier, but like you said, you don't realize the extent to which your body is accumulating elevated cortisol, and you're just constantly stressed. But now, luckily, with the hindsight that I discussed, because I feel like I know how to recognize it and deal with it, because I've been to therapy, because I have kind of changed my approach, I do think several years ago I might have just totally quit. I might have freaked out.

I might have not been the person that I wanted to be at work. But I think now, one thing that especially the volatility of the past few years has taught me when it comes to entrepreneurship is that there is going to be a lot that is out of your control, and you have to accept that, outside of what you can personally do better, the rest of that is not a professional question. It is an emotional slash therapy question of how do you deal with that stress?

But you can't try to force it, I think, is such a powerful lesson. And I do think that, when I look at people who start out and they quit early, obviously, I can't speak for you, but I don't regret not quitting. I'm so glad that we did this-- Same. --that we have this and we powered through.

Yeah. But there is no guidebook as to which disappointment or-- we had our first publisher go out of business and still owed us nearly $100,000, which was everything to us at that time. And I think we both definitely thought about quitting.

But I think looking back, especially from these past couple of years with COVID, I would have even gone back to myself and said, make the choice either way. No choice is right or wrong. But understand that you have to exhaust everything in your power, and then once you're past what you can control, give it up to God.

Yeah, yeah, totally. Yeah, and I just feel like, in terms of wanting to quit, I felt like I always was thinking in my mind, I can't go out on this no. I can't step back now.

If I'm ever going to walk away, want to end on a high note. And that's, in a weird way, what kept powering me through because I'm just like, I don't want to look back on this in five, 10 years and be like, man, you really bowed out when the going got tough. And I was like, that was just a hang up that I had, even though it's totally 100% fine to do that if you need to do that.

But at the time I was just like, I want to just make sure that I'm leaving on the up and up. But I'm very happy that things worked out and that we didn't each quit at certain points. I know.

And here we are today. And here we are today. Yeah, no, the real tough thing, I think, is having a litmus test of where you are genuinely trying your best and when it's out of your control.

Yeah, and this is maybe directly related to that, but also it was very difficult to be your own boss for a very long period of time. I'm still my own boss. We work for ourselves.

And I think that what I really struggled with, especially in the early stages, was understanding that there was no one who is going to tell me to do something or not to do something. It was within my power to either continue down one path until it was no longer serving the business and I wasted a bunch of time, or to have to step back and say, no, you have to pivot. That's just been an ongoing challenge, and even to this day, it's a struggle to find motivation on certain days because you're just like, when I don't have to answer to anyone, I can just phone it in, but then I'll feel bad about it so maybe I should work harder.

And actually, while I'm at it I'll do this thing. And then your day gets going, and it's fine. But it is difficult to be your own boss for a long period of time.

And I think that what's been helpful for me is to see the just entire team as the people that I'm accountable to. And if I don't show up and if I don't do what I have to do, then I'm disappointing several people, which is, in my mind, way worse than disappointing one person, your boss, and getting someone pissed off or getting reprimanded. I would feel super bad if someone that I genuinely liked working with and respect has to come to me and be like, I've noticed that you're like phoning it in.

That would be horrible to hear. That would be horrible to hear. That's a nightmare.

That is an interesting point. Obviously, again, we'll talk about this in depth in the class, but I do think the be-your-own-boss aspect of it is-- and I think probably it's fair to say that I had that to an even greater extent than you did because, as the CEO, I think there was an extent to which-- and majority owner-- I'm sort of a default-- not your boss but the head of things. There has to be, I think, some level-- for any healthy business, I do think that there has to be someone who is able to run the ship with a certain degree of authority, not that I look at you like a boss.

But I think that it is important. Because when you're doing everything 50/50, I think that would be a little bit challenging for you especially because you were the more public-facing person because you had that audience from your previous job, and you were the one who was leading the channel after I had left. I think the stakes definitely felt higher for you than they did for me because I was like, OK at the end of the day-- and we've talked about this very openly.

At the end of the day, if the business collapses, I'm just going to walk away and no one will miss Lauren Ver Hage on the internet. I don't have any presence. I would miss Lauren Ver Hage.

Thank you. But your following is more substantial than mine, and you would have to address it in a way that I wouldn't have to publicly address it. And I think that there is freedom in that.

Whereas, you felt definitely more like, I'll have to answer for the failure of TFD. And I have to be the one to shoulder that visible responsibility even though on the back end we were both involved in it. But yeah, it was a stressful position for you to be in.

And I think that, very early on, we understood where each of our strengths were and where they lied. And for me, definitely, being a leader comes naturally. I do enjoy working with people.

And I always-- I've had a really wonderful time working with the designers and creating that environment, that safe work environment where we're going back and forth on things like that. And I really do enjoy it. But it's difficult for me to handle the pressure of managing a large team.

Whereas, I think that's more suited to your personality type and you really thrive doing it. So yeah, it's a long, winding road, it feels like, from where we started to where we are now. But I don't have a lot of regrets, and I don't have a lot of big, sweeping changes that I would have made.

One thing that's not a regret or a change-- but I do feel like there's no way to give a sweeping generalization, but I do feel pretty sure, having freelanced for a long time and having started a legit business, if you're going to freelance, obviously, you're solo. And I think that can be a great career for many people. I'll probably never be an employee again after TFD.

I'll probably just be freelance, unless it's the most chill, amazing job ever. But even then, I've seen a lot of people in media get called in by these siren songs at these big companies, with these executive titles, and get laid off seven months later. But that's a whole other story.

But if you're going to start-- if your goal is to start a fleshed-out business, where eventually you'll probably have staff. You might have inventory, office space, all that stuff, my personal recommendation is that you have a partner because I really feel, looking back, no question, this would not have existed if either of us had been alone, first and foremost. No way.

No way. But also one thing-- and I have to say hats off to us. I will never forget someone that I knew in the industry when we were first starting out warned me so much against having a partner, was like, you're going to end up in a courtroom, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

It never works out. This, that, and the other. It has worked out, seven years later, plus.

So it can happen. But it's also that, on paper, when I was starting out, because I had a media background, a creative background, on paper, it would have been more intelligent, maybe, to get a financial person or a sales person. But I always think and say, I don't think it would have worked with almost anyone but you because you did have-- well, not only did you have the support system at home, which so few people have.

And that, in and of itself, it was almost like we were four people at first because of that support system. 100% But also you had the complementary personality type and the ability to power through things, and we could kind of motivate each other and hold each other accountable and things like that. So I actually think, in terms of partnerships, yes, complementary skill sets are important. But often what you're getting in a partner is just the ability to not be alone, to have someone to help keep you accountable, to have someone to push you forward, and also to give, just from the get-go, a reason to have more structure in place. 100%, and also someone that you-- it's essential to me, if you're finding a partner, that it's someone that you genuinely like, and you enjoy them and their company.

And I don't know how you would do this with just somebody that you randomly found because they had a good qualification or some letters at the end of their name that you were like, oh, check. I need this person in my network to help me do this thing and to entrust with this business. I don't know.

We didn't really know each other beforehand, but it was clear to me very early on that we just clicked, and we did get along. Our husbands get along quite well. Yeah, and we're genuinely friends.

And that's difficult to find. People bemoan the fact that it's incredibly tough to find friends as an adult. But it's the most profound friendship that I've made.

It's so meaningful. Shared, shared sentiment. Yeah, it's like, as an adult, it's incredibly rare to meet someone like that.

And I definitely consider 24, 25 adulthood. Totally. But yeah, so I think that that's just something that it's important to reflect on and that's a good piece of advice to give to someone.

Find that partner. Find your someone, and if it doesn't work for the long haul, that's OK. If it's a great partnership for a less amount of time, that's fine.

It doesn't need to be-- you're not getting married to them necessarily. No. In terms of-- in paperwork and in terms of contracts and stuff, it does kind of feel like a marriage of sorts.

And I will say, on that note, two things. One, even if TFD hadn't worked out-- and this is something to stress about entrepreneurship-- it is almost inevitable that, in doing the work it takes to start a small business or create a personal brand or whatever, you are going to be adding a ton of really invaluable skills to your resume for whatever job you end up doing after. So I truly don't believe there's ever anything that is a complete negative unless you were very-- not super responsible about investing money and things like that, which we'll get into in the workshop.

But we've never taken investment. We've never put money into this, except for occasionally like quick loans for payroll and stuff like that when the company was tight on funds. But it's never like we were like, oh, we put a [BLEEP] ton of money.

We we didn't have an office for years. We kept costs as low as possible. So I would say that, even if it doesn't work out, it's important to keep that in mind.

But then the other thing as far as partnership goes, it really-- I mentioned that it forces you to add structure early on, and I think it really speaks to why prenups are very important because the first thing we did starting a company was get a lawyer to do an operating agreement that was like, this is what this person owns. This is what this person owns. This is what they have to be in agreement about.

This is what happens if the company goes away. This is how they get to give themselves raises or payments or all of these things. All of those things were really established upfront.

And that, I think, allowed, from the get go, there to be such a level of trust, protection. And of course, you're a very magnanimous person. I think neither of us have ever been selfish about money, which has been a huge privilege.

But I think a lot of the messiness in small business comes when you don't set up the rules early on, and then once money comes in, was it our lawyer-- someone said, I think it was our lawyer who was like, he called it money madness. He was like, you have to put the rules in place and decide the amounts before the money comes in because, once it's on the table, people go crazy. Well, yeah, because especially when you're in this zone of you're getting paid very sporadically.

You don't when it's going to come in. It's very exciting and overwhelming to finally get that chunk of money where you're just like, we should take it all. And it's just like, well, actually, no.

We should reinvest it in the business in this way or that way. And it's like, you need to make sure that you guys are on the same page before you ever see that money because circumstance and life and the things around you that are not directly involved with the business have an influence on the decisions you're making for the finances of the company, of course. We're human.

It's going to have an impact. But yeah, getting paperwork done and contracts in place and all that stuff done before you really get into the nitty gritty of running the business, I think, is essential and just keeps you safe down the road. Totally, and that's why, again, I bring it back to the prenups.

It's like, I've become more and more shocked as this has gone on that it's less and less a concern for married couples when the divorce rate is 50% because we've had conversations about to be a business partner is to have a level of shared financial commitment and intertwinement. Like we have to co-sign on loans. We're responsible for keeping payroll going.

We have both bought homes in the past year, and that has huge implications for the company's line of credit and things like that. And because of the nature of that relationship, obviously, there needs to be all kinds of contracts in place. These need to be above board meetings that are very well laid out and all of that.

But when you're marrying someone, you're getting more financially entangled and legally obligated than literally anything else in your life. And we don't even think about that. Yeah.

Yeah, that's another conversation for another day. But that is 100% true, yeah. Yeah, so before we get to the audience questions, she was like a traffic cop to that conversation.

I'm not going to go down that route because I don't know enough to intelligently speak on that when I know there are many other people who can. But suffice to say, that yes, you are correct. So you guys sent us in a bunch of questions, so we're just going to go through them nice and quick.

Someone actually did ask us if we would ever do another business. Would you ever start from scratch again, I think they wrote in, and do another business from scratch? My answer-- Yes, they did.

I'll go first is that, yes, I would do that again. I've had so many ideas for very, very creative artistic design-forward things that I would do on a very small scale. There are a number of things that I would do, and I could channel into an Etsy shop or something like a website and sell things that way.

But it would be a product-driven thing that was very small scale and probably just me and maybe one other person, like an arts collective or whatever, what have you. But I don't think that I personally would want to do something as big as TFD again just because-- yeah, I would always be comparing it to TFD, and I don't know if it would ever feel like I could put that kind of energy and single-minded determination into something else in the way that I had to do for TFD. It's intense, and I feel like I had it in me once.

But I could do it again on a smaller scale is the answer. Whenever you meet guys who are like serial entrepreneurs, they are the most dead-behind-the-eyes. I respect it on some level.

I'm like, if you have the energy and the ambition and the drive. But I'm like, I feel like, again, just thinking about everything else that's going on in the world, I just feel mildly sapped of the ambition to do something like that again. It feels kind of like, what's the point?

Yeah, also you made it big with the one thing that you were really good at, and you were really invested and implicated in. And then now your job is to go give a little bit of money to a bunch of companies where you meet with them once a month. And you have no idea what's going on, and just hope it works out.

Anyway. Oh, also to my answer to the question is would I ever start a business again? Only if it has nothing to do with media.

I would love maybe one day-- Totally, that's right. I totally agree with you. [BLEEP] this industry ever again. But I would definitely-- one tiny dream that I have is I would love to maybe one day own a little-- not own.

I don't know about own. Maybe own a small boutique hotel somewhere. Oh, chic.

I would love to do that. So up your alley. I have a ways to go, but I love hosting.

I love entertaining. I love, even just when people-- we have a lot of overnight guests, and I love I can put out their little slippers and their little carafe of water with their little lemon. And I just-- I love it.

You love curating an experience for people, I have to say. And it shows. It's your love language.

Getting a little granola bar on your pillow with your little thing of water, your fresh towel. I've seen it, people, in person at the Chelsea [? vegan ?] residence. At the estate.

OK, but I know that industry is no joke, so I don't take that lightly. Wait, this person, I just have to shout out for how many question marks they used. Balancing entrepreneurship with exhaustion, five question marks.

How, four question marks. Sounds like you could use some sleep. I don't know.

I drank a lot of coffee. That's how I battled exhaustion. I just put a Band-Aid over it.

But that's, I guess, to the point I was raising earlier, is that I don't think I did have a lot of balance in the beginning. I was exhausted. I was overstimulated.

I was stressed out constantly and not doing so great. And I feel like, is that inevitable for people starting up a small business? Probably, to some degree it is inevitable.

It's a terrible thing to say, but I don't think I really did a great job in the early days. Now, I have a much more balanced life, but it's because we have a staff. Despite having a child.

Yeah, yeah, Lily's is a very good sleeper. She does 12 hours every night out. You just lucked out.

I have to say, anecdote on the coffee thing. A fun fact about Lauren is that, as I've mentioned, she is just the nicest, most pleasant ray of sunshine. But having traveled extensively with her for work, the only time-- there was a different side the mornings that we'd be traveling for work and you did not have access to coffee.

Yeah, I'm not proud of that, but I do need a cup ASAP. I'll be in bed in the morning, and I'll hear Joe get up. And I'm like, can you go make us coffee?

I don't want to have to start the day without just my morning cup of coffee. And I just-- I can go maybe two hours, but then I start to get like nasty. Testy.

Yeah, definitely the manifestation of the don't speak to me until I've had my coffee memes. Get a little testy. If you only had $500 to start with, what tools would you invest in first?

I love this question. Well, I'll let you start with that one because I need a minute. What tools?

It totally depends on the type of business. Yeah. But I would say, what I would invest in is some software for bookkeeping, some basic legal stuff, and invoicing, all of that kind of stuff.

And then just setting up your web presence, getting all your domain names, maybe paying for some help with a logo. And probably, that might go over $500, although a lot of this is available for less. But definitely setting up your online presence as soon as possible.

Yeah, absolutely. And there are websites that make it super, duper easy to get graphics going and get a website started. And so there are a lot of things that, if you spend enough time on YouTube learning how to do these things, you can do them yourself.

I don't think it's outside of anyone's capabilities. But it does take a lot of time, so that's what you're really sinking in there instead of money. But I agree, those are essential.

And I feel like, even with Canva now, you don't even need Photoshop. No, yeah, they have so many tools online that you can get for free. InDesign would be the one.

No, it's Photoshop, yeah, but they're sort of a hybrid InDesign Photoshop. But yeah, there's just so many good free tools available now. How do you find clients?

I'm kind of an introvert and this worries me. So one quick note is, we do have a whole section of the class that's literally just going through client outreach, like the tools we use, examples of emails that work, where we find them, all of that kind of stuff. And it does vary industry to industry.

But I would say, for the most part, in any industry that you're looking for clients, if you just search a bunch of terms around that, you're going to find forums and websites and places where people coalesce to share tips, to share email addresses, to just kind of commiserate. And there are a lot of really good tools. We use Mixmax, which is an email plugin that really helps for email outreach.

Really being good about things like Trello, Google Calendar, all of that stuff. And having templates for the emails. Having good templates that you very, very heavily edit and curate to make sure that they're personalized and you're not just copying and pasting.

But you should have an easy way to, this is what I attached. This is the information I provide. These are the stats, like that kind of stuff.

Yeah, and I would also add to that, as business owners, I think we did several things along the way that weren't exactly typical. We were never really super, duper networking heavy. We kind of played the long game of, if we take time to find clients that we enjoy working with, it'll never feel as forced as it might have if we just went out and we're selling at all times, at any cost.

And it's just like, those relationships at the end of the day might have felt much more tedious to sustain and much you ever have to get it up to do that again and again. And as someone who's slightly more introverted than you, that would have been difficult for me. So I think that seeking out the kind of clients that feel a little bit more-- I don't know-- just like within your aura was the word I'm looking for, or more like your speed, your vibe, it makes it easier to do those things in the long term.

You're not having to sort of put as much effort into it emotionally, socially. Totally agree. So we have Andrea asking, what metrics can I use to decide if I should continue or to try something else?

Obviously, again, this is very dependent on your trade, but I would say, from a financial perspective, one thing that I wish we had done was set out some benchmarks for ourselves in the beginning, do some market research, make them realistic, make them based on also what our needs are. And have those benchmarks-- and again, we'll go over this-- but have those benchmarks in place at maybe quarterly intervals, ideally, while you're still working your full time job so they're not live or die. But really set out benchmarks for the finances and hold yourself accountable to, I set these for a reason.

So helpful. And then I also, to add to that, I would say, what's been really helpful for me, and us as a business, is just understanding the pie chart of where your time is going and the return on investment on that time. I think it's a really useful thing to be like, OK, what am I spending the most time doing?

And what is actually bearing out the most output in terms of investment in dollar amount and revenue that you're driving with whatever that is. And understanding, if you need to shift your time to doing things that are bringing in more money, that's an important thing to have your finger on the pulse of because you don't want to be really spending so much of your resources in terms of time on one thing that's really not productive or financially fruitful for your business. Yeah, definitely assessing whether or not you're getting more efficient.

Our colleague, Jane, likes to say getting more juice for the squeeze. I love it. It's a phrase she's fond of.

But it's really true. Are you able to do more with less? Are you getting better?

Are you learning from your mistakes? Are you template-ing things? Are you repeating what works?

I think those are all really good metrics. So last question from the audience. Actually, it's kind of a two-parter.

How do you work on your leadership skills? And how do you navigate growing a team? I would say that I work on my leadership skills by really doing the work because it doesn't come that easy for me, I guess, as maybe I thought it did.

But understanding the way that other people see me when I make certain decisions, when I say certain things, when I ask for certain things, when I deliver work a certain way. I think that, for so long, I was used to being like the only person in the room outside of you, and I got used to doing things a certain way. But once I really took a step back and was just thinking more of like, how is this person seeing me when I do this?

Or what kind of example should I be setting for delivering work a certain way, or this email, or responding to something like this? I think that the more time I spend thinking about how others perceive me as a leader makes it easier for me to be a better one, which sounds like not really that much of a action item in terms of what other people can do. It's sort of a personal thing.

Then I just like-- reading books. I've read several in the past six or so years, like about running a team and understanding just how to be a better leader and how to communicate. That's just a huge aspect of being a leader.

It's just communicating well. So just trying to be mindful of all that is helpful. And what was the second part of the question?

How do you navigate growing a team? I would say navigating a growing team, I just think that first impressions really do say a lot for me about a person. And I think that any person that I've had a really good interaction with in the first five minutes has usually turned out to be someone really great for the business.

I think that someone behind the camera who we work with all the time, Emily, I knew within the first five minutes. I was like, she's [BLEEP] awesome. She's wonderful.

Emily is-- you're on your [BLEEP] more than anyone we've ever met like industry. And that's just sort of, when you found a good unicorn, you know. And it's just like, I think that we've had a lot of luck with hiring.

And there's nothing more important than that in terms of business. So I don't know. I don't know, taking it slow, and also not hiring too quickly, taking your time and making sure that you're not-- It's not always been 100%.

Our batting average is 99th percentile, but there have been some missteps. And that's really hard to deal with, honestly. There have been-- my goal is always like 100% employee retention because the very few times over the course of seven years where it hasn't worked out with someone has been really, really difficult because I don't take lightly that having to let someone go is horrible.

Not fun. It's not fun. Horrible.

And there have been, very rarely, but there have been times where, because I do think something that I really do pride myself on and try to have a consistent batting average on is like, if someone works with me, OK, maybe I'm like opinionated or whatever the case might be. But it's important to me that everyone walks away like, I was treated fairly. I was compensated fairly.

I was-- Respected. --respected. I wasn't overworked, whatever it might be. And I would say again, even with some of the partners that we've had, where it's not necessarily an employee or a contractor, but it's people that we've worked with at a very high level.

Even when we've gone our separate ways, we left Complexly, for those who know John and Hank. And even that was a very amicable, respectful, mutually beneficial process that is always very important to me to maintain. And there have only been a few times, but when it's happened, obviously, that publisher was an example.

But it's also happened with individuals where I think I was a little naive at first about the fact that everyone is always operating with 100% good intentions or good faith or is going to be totally honest and upfront in their dealings. And I do think that something that is important in leadership is to remember that, when you have someone who is not doing their job or not behaving respectfully or what it may be, it's not just that person. It doesn't just affect that person.

It affects everyone on the team. 100%. And it creates a terrible environment. And there is nothing harder in a professional capacity, especially if you're a business owner, than having to end a relationship, whatever that relationship might be.

But you can only delay it. You can't avoid it. And by avoiding it or by delaying it, you're just hurting everyone and eroding the strength of the team.

Yeah, that's so true. And I think that it's something that we've talked about before, where it's just like, if you could go back and change something, change something with an employee that didn't work out, it's just understanding that knew it wasn't working sooner and not dragging it out and nipping that in the bud more quickly because, at the end of the day, it's not about you feeling uncomfortable about having to have a difficult conversation with somebody. It's about what's getting eroded for the larger team the longer this person is here.

And that's much more important than whatever discomfort is there for the person that has to ultimately have that difficult conversation with them. So I have a little fun, modified rapid fire, just a couple last fun questions. So whatever comes to the dome.

Oh, no. So share a funny memory from the early days. Oh, my gosh.

I didn't want to prep you on these because I didn't want canned answers. Yeah, OK, funny? Something funny, looking back.

It doesn't have to be-- this isn't a stand-up routine. OK, well, this was not funny at all, in the moment, but we definitely laughed about it later on that day. But when we went on our book tour, and we had a shoestring, I'm talking shoestring budget, and we did not know how to-- Lost so much money on that tour.

Yeah, we did. But one thing that was just very, very obviously a LOL idea was getting books that we were sent from the publisher to the various cities and locations. And I think we packed like 80 pounds worth of our books in roller bags at Chelsea.

We were trying to get on the-- I think, I don't know where we were going. It was the Amtrak train or something. We were trying to get on an Amtrak on the West Coast.

No, well, we also did an East Coast tour, but you were trying to lift up-- No, I think that was San Diego to LA. OK, but we were trying to lift up this incredibly heavy bag that was just filled with books. And you were just trying to get it up the escalator.

And I think there was a moment where something broke. The strap-- the thing opened. Your shoe-- I don't know what it was.

But I was just like, what are we doing? How are we tasked with the enormous responsibility of operating, producing, performing at this book tour? It just felt like I have to laugh or I'm going to cry because it was such a bad idea to us manually move 80 pounds of books each to these different locations.

It was just like, oh, my god. It was just a real LOLsy moment where I was like, we are so in over our heads. I don't know.

It was the kickoff of the tour. It was bad. I have to add to that.

That's not even the worst because you weren't there for when I had to go to the USPS on the outskirts of town. I went to this-- it was a-- Well, set them up for why you were there. So the gift bags didn't arrive in time with the books, so you were going to pick it up on the outskirts of town.

The package got delayed, so I had to go to, I think, it was maybe a FedEx office. It was like fully 30 minutes outside of the city where the event was. We are an hour away from the event starting.

I am freaking out, sobbing in this FedEx because I'm like-- because it was the distribution center. It wasn't just a random FedEx location. And they were like, yeah, we can't give out books like this.

And I was like, I'm going to kill myself in this FedEx if you don't give me the books. Didn't you say that you ran into a glass door that shattered? Girl, you are just spoiling my story.

So I had gotten an Uber there, and this poor woman was sitting there for 30 minutes, and I was just handing her $20s. I was like, please, stay because I'm never going to get another Uber out here, and I don't have a car. So I finally-- Meanwhile, our event fully started.

I was there. It was already happening. I was working the room by myself with the sponsor, the client there.

And I'm internally having a full-on meltdown. And I'm texting you on the side while I'm working this event that we're supposed to be working together, that you're 30 minutes late for because you're trying to pick up this [INAUDIBLE] But so they give it to me with this dolly. I have these three boxes of books.

And it's like these sliding glass doors. And I just go running out. The dolly hits the glass door and breaks it out of the door frame.

I can't. My face must be so red. I'm crying.

And the guy was the FedEx guy who had already had it up to here with me. It was like, just go, girl. I'll deal with it later.

It was such a nightmare. The mechanics of how that whole thing panned out for you, I don't even know because you were too scarred to even talk about it. All I got from you at that event was just, I broke a sliding glass door and the guy was just like, leave, just go.

Take your [BLEEP] books and get out of here. Never return. I don't want to see your face around here ever again.

It was like I was a hex on that store. Yeah, that's just one big LOL was that book tour. Long story short, when you're shipping things all over the country to various cities, you don't when they're going to show up.

I had things shipped to our hotels that didn't show up that I was downstairs at the concierge desk 20 times a day asking, did that thing show up because we needed it for the event that night. We had no money to hire-- it was just the whole thing. I cannot believe we pulled it off.

I can't. If you asked me to do it again, I'd be like, yeah, with five assistants we could do it. Oh, yeah, and we do do events now.

But we roll in-- Oh, my god. Smell a flower. Yeah.

Open a glass of champagne, have a glass of champagne and just see it happen. It's good times. Wow, you really delivered.

So the other rapid fire. So we had that, and one story where you felt-- an anecdote where you felt really successful, like man, I nailed that. I haven't done a presentation in a really long time.

But I remember, that was a huge thing for me personally. Public speaking is challenging, and I don't remember where our biggest talk was. It might have been at one of the book events, honestly, where we had a room of maybe 500 people.

It was a packed bookstore stop, book tour stop. And feeling like we got off the stage and we nailed it, that was a moment that was huge for me because I was like, wow. I was able to keep it together up there.

I was speaking thoughtfully. I didn't embarrass myself. It's just a huge sense of accomplishment because it goes above and beyond the business that you're building behind a computer screen all day.

It was interacting with the audience, and it was a huge deal. Not to bring it to the book tour again, but that probably was one of the bigger moments where I felt like super, duper proud and just spotting you from across a room. We both have a wine glass in our hands.

It was just peak experience, just loving life. But yeah, and then also just seeing our book in stores. It was amazing.

Launching, there's so many moments, but I'll just cap it at those two. Love that. I have our New York Times Book Review framed in my bedroom.

Yeah. Although that guy did call me foul mouth, which [BLEEP] I guess I am. Honestly, that's not a bad thing.

No. A foul mouthed guide to personal finance or whatever. He's like 70, but anyway.

So thank you, Lauren. Where should people go to attend this life-changing workshop for entrepreneurs and small businesses? In the description of this video, we're going to put the link to the event so you can just head down there and figure out where to go from there, buy your ticket, read about the event.

But it should be in our description below, so that's exciting. Thursday, July 21 at 6:30 PM, and you guys will be getting an exclusive discount. Well, I'm super excited.

Well, Lauren, thank you for joining. Thanks, everyone. You walked all the way over from your desk 15 feet away.

Yeah, I did. And thank you guys for tuning in, and we will see you next Monday here on an all-new episode of The Financial Confessions. [MUSIC PLAYING]