Podcast

Episode 42 – Adelle Archer, Co-Founder of Eterneva

Sometimes inspiration strikes at unforeseen and surprising times. Such is the case with Adelle Archer who, in her quest to honor her friend and mentor who had recently died, created a multi-million dollar business. Eterneva allows people to take the ashes of departed loved ones and turn them into diamonds. Adelle and Eterneva are creating a new category in the business world and are redefining what it means to remember. This week, Adelle shares her story and her entrepreneurial spirit with Jessica.

TRANSCRIPT

Jessica: Hey there, it’s Jessica Honegger, founder of the socially conscious fashion brand, Noonday Collection, and this is the Going Scared Podcast, where we cover all things impact, entrepreneurship, and courage. Today on the show is trailblazing entrepreneur, Adelle Archer. Adelle is the co-founder of Eterneva, a company that turns ashes of your pets or your loved ones into diamonds. She was recently featured on the cover of Inc. in their "30 Under 30" issue. And as you will hear, she is truly disrupting this grieving space and creating an entirely new category that is really all about celebrating life. Twenty-seven-year-old Adelle, yep, she is only 27, her nickname growing up was "Ambitious Adelle" and everyone knew her to dream larger than most can imagine.

After graduating a valedictorian of her MBA class, she made a name for herself in the tech industry as sort of the best go-to market leaders in Austin, but always knew that entrepreneurship was her path. She and I met through an organization that we are a part of and we meet together monthly called EO, Entrepreneurs Organization, and her starter story is so moving that when I heard it, I knew she was the perfect guest for this series. We are currently right in the middle of a series called our Starter series, where we are digging into what it looks like to take a dream and make it happen. Maybe it’s a goal on your life, maybe it’s a business, whatever it is, Adelle’s story is gonna get you going.

 

Beauty Out of the Ashes

OK. I’d love for you to start off and just tell us what is Eterneva.

Adelle: Sure. So, it might blow your mind a little bit. We literally grow real diamonds from the carbon in somebody’s ashes. And so, when you lose somebody that’s really, really special to you and—I think especially if they are one of your closest relationships in your life—you’re looking for something really special to do for them. And if they’re cremated, there’s not a lot of options. There’s urns and there’s kind of vials or things that…you know, more simple stuff. But what we do is we literally grow a real diamond from the carbon extracted from their ashes so you can carry them with you always in a really beautiful way.

Jessica: So, this is funny and I don’t know if you know this. So, Adelle and I are actually in a business group together, it’s called EO, and that’s how we got to know each other. But then the month that Dianne asked us to be in it, you were like on the cover of Inc. and I’m like, "Oh, OK, maybe I will do this, there’s like legit people in the group."

Adelle: That’s awesome.

Jessica: Yeah, so there you go. A little Inc. pushed me over the edge. But I’m wondering, I worked in the diamond industry for just a small little stay. I worked in…

Adelle: No way, that’s crazy.

Jessica: There’s a store here in Austin called The Menagerie, and it’s like a 25-year-old boutique where a lot of people go traditionally to get the diamond rings. So, that’s why I learned a little bit about diamonds and grades, and all the stuff. I had no idea though that diamonds could be made. So, I kinda wanted to talk a little bit and then since then, of course, I watched Blood Diamond. And I didn’t know much at all about like the whole how that works and the ethics around diamond mining. So, I wanted to talk a little bit, can you tell us about the diamond industry? Because I know that it’s fascinating, right? It’s fairly controlled, I don’t know, tell us, I’m assuming you know all about it.

Adelle: Well, what’s funny is that like when we first started this business, we were totally getting into the diamond industry, like we were going to be a diamond company. We just saw a great opportunity with the lab-grown diamonds industry and it’s super up and coming. And there’s a lot of ethical reasons, like you said, that people would decide to choose a lab-grown over a mined diamond for their engagement ring. But then, I mean it was just the craziest thing where, you know, just life serves you something super unexpected and opens the door that you would never anticipate. And I lost a really close friend of mine as we were starting this business, she was my business mentor, and she was like one of my best friends.

And so that’s when I had her ashes and I went through that whole exercise of like I can’t find anything that felt good enough for somebody who had invested so much in me personally. And so, just literally over dinner with one of the diamond scientists where they were like, "Yeah, you can literally extract carbon from ashes and grow a real diamond from it." And my partner, Garrett, and I just were like totally enamored by the idea of like, "What, like how does this work? This is incredible. Like this is just so fascinating and such a beautiful way to eternalize somebody." And so, that like caused this pivot in our business. And so weirdly, we’re really not in the diamond business at all. Like yes, we are growing diamonds but day in, day out, we’re just having like unbelievably emotional, incredible conversations with people learning about like basically the best people in the entire world because you wouldn’t do this for like an average person.

It’s just like these are all remarkable people. And, you know, the focus of our business is just become less of…like we never talk about, you know, the clarity, the cut, the color, all that stuff. Like, you know, we send a certificate home and the end will be like, "Yes, this is a real diamond. It’s beautiful, high quality piece." But all of our obsession and our innovation, it is like everything we’ve focused on as a company is about how do we celebrate a remarkable person who lived an incredible life because we don’t want them to be forgotten? So, yeah, like there’s a lot happening in the diamond space but, you know, we’re definitely more on the celebrating a life well-lived space at this point.

Jessica: I mean, and I can relate to this because for so long, especially at the beginnings of Noonday, it was like what category are you then? Because it’s like are you in the fashion space, are you in the fair-trade space, are you in the direct sales space? And we really do bridge all the spaces which there’s a challenge there, right? Because it’s like when you say iPhone, we think Apple, you know? When you say, I don’t know, purified water, you know, I think KleenWater. I mean, you know, like we have these brands that automatically come to mind and that’s what kinda creates a strong brand correlation with your product. And so, I think it’s interesting the way you just kinda pivoted because I am asking you, "Let’s talk about diamonds." And you’re like, "That’s not what my company is about."

Adelle: Totally.

 

Redefining Memorial Traditions

Jessica: So, you’re saying like, "No, we’re not gonna have the diamond industry conversation because that’s not really what I’m doing." So, what industry are you in? I mean, is there a whole industry around grief?

Adelle: I mean, yeah, absolutely. So, I guess the official term that people say is like it’s the death care space, you know, you’re in the funeral industry. And like we don’t even self-identify with that either, like exactly as you’re saying. You got one kinda tow and a bunch of various that, you know, we think that there’s a real need to stop looking at some…like that space so morosely and so…you know, it’s so driven by tradition and formality. And it doesn’t feel good for people who are really like looking for a way to honor somebody that served them for 50, 60 years of their life, you know, on their most special connections. So, we say that we’re in the celebrating a life well-lived space.

Jessica: So, you would say you’re basically creating a new category which you’re calling the life well-lived space?

Adelle: Absolutely, yeah.

Jessica: Who else would be in that space with you? Like when you think about like your neighbors, who do you wanna be there?

Adelle: A really good question. I mean, I think it’s a bit of a call to action to more people to come here. I think that this is kind of an overlooked space. A lot of people are really uncomfortable with death and that’s something that, you know, having been there myself and then engaged with so many of our customers, it’s like these are incredible people who lived these beautiful rich lives and like we need to be talking about them. But culturally, we’re very uncomfortable around grief and engaging with grief, and I think that’s why there hasn’t been a lot of innovation in the space. But, you know, there’s some cool companies out there that are, you know, doing like end of life celebrations, like there’s some cool entertainment companies and event production companies who put on this like really cool parties, so that’s fun.

“Culturally, we’re very uncomfortable around grief and engaging with grief, and I think that’s why there hasn’t been a lot of innovation in the space.” Adelle Archer

And, you know, people are looking at things like growing a tree from somebody’s ashes or you can send your loved ones ashes into space which is really cool. But I think what’s kinda unique about what we’re doing is that, you know, it’s something that unlike something more traditional like, you know, a casket where it goes into the ground and you’re kind of among the dead if you will. Like this is something that’s beautiful, it’s vibrant, you’re wearing it every single day, and it’s kind of among the living. And it’s something also that lasts, it’s not like a one-time thing where you shoot somebody’s ashes into space and then they’re kind of gone. This is a legacy piece that you pass down to future generations. And so, I’d love to see more innovation in the space so that people really feel like they find the perfect thing for their loved one that just really celebrates their life in the way that feels right.

Jessica: I did an interview with a guy named Ian Cron who is a guru around the Enneagram. Have you heard of the Enneagram?

Adelle: Uh-uh.

Jessica: The Enneagram, it’s a personality test that’s really in vogue right now and it’s fairly complex but extremely accurate. So, I’d be curious once we get off, I’ll have you go explore it. But we ended up talking about grief which I just spent time in the hospital with my dad who is having a health crisis. And he says to me that grief is the cost of love.

Adelle: Yeah, that’s amazing.

Jessica: I thought that was really profound because what he’s saying is you can’t love without grief. And ultimately, if you don’t ever grieve, then you’ve never loved.

Adelle: Absolutely.

 

Turning the Grieving Process into Something Beautiful

Jessica: And I do think that grief is, for me, it’s a feared emotion because I think it’s that feeling that it will swallow you up and you won’t be able to ever come out of it. I mean, that’s when I think of what grief could do. I wanted to hear a little bit more, and I know that this is still really tender for you, about your mentor and your grieving process. Because was this kind of one of the first times that you’ve grieved at that level?

Adelle: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you know, I’ve lost grandparents before but it is very different losing somebody that had a beautiful, rich, full life and you miss them but you’re like that was a life well-lived versus somebody that you lost perhaps too soon. And then, yeah, I mean, I have so many thoughts and experiences on grief, just having engaged with our customers who have lost like every type of person, from, you know, a child all the way up to a grandparent or a spouse, or a best friend, or a brother. And, for me personally, so Tracey, you know, she was just like, I just think that you have, you’re really blessed with a couple of people in your life that just like come along and you totally don’t foresee them walking into your world.

And they walk into your world and you’re like, "Why do you care so much about me? Why is it that you’re investing so much in me, you know, just so selflessly?" And she was totally that person, like it was just like a really fortunate period of my life where I was really struggling with a lot of anxiety at the time. And I had just graduated college and had gotten into my MBA program, gotten into my first job, and I was just having a really hard time like just setting this crazy, ridiculous standards for myself. And she just was so incredible. I mean, she, like every week, we would be meeting and she’d dig in with me, kinda hear what was going on in my world, and then walk away, go research all these tools and strategies, come back the next week and she’s like, "OK, here’s what we’re gonna try."

And you’re like who does that? Like that’s just so remarkable and so, you know, and Tracey was diagnosed. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer stage four and, you know, it was just like she was given a three-month window to live. And I think it was really difficult for her to get that sense because she was so ambitious and so driven, and had such a big vision for her life that she’s like, "Holy shit. I’m not gonna leave my legacy, you know, I’m getting cut short on that." And one of the most amazing things I think that her aunt did who was really close with her, was she actually put a Facebook group together and she found like all of these people from every walk of Tracey’s life. And she asked everybody to contribute a story of an example of how Tracey had touched their life.

And so, like literally, by her bedside every night, she was reading Tracey a different story, telling her like over and over and over again what an impact she had had on other people. And that was literally one of the last things she said, was like, "OK. I’ve accepted that I’ve left a legacy." And that was just like one of the most incredible and meaningful, you know, experiences just to get to witness and to realize that it’s just so important for people to know and to show each other that. But then to kind of continue on after that, you know, I was just so blown away by how much she invested in me that I was like, "OK. Well, what can I do to kind of keep Tracey’s legacy alive?" And a piece of her being my business mentor is just her story is now the core of Eterneva.

I talk about her like every time I talk about Eterneva and it’s just really cool, you know, to kind of find proactive ways to keep some of these stories alive. And I think that’s what, when you have somebody that special, you’re looking for ways to keep them alive. And, you know, they talk about the second death, like preventing the second death is when somebody stops getting talked about and we don’t wanna do that.

“I think that’s what, when you have somebody that special, you’re looking for ways to keep them alive. And, you know, they talk about the second death, like preventing the second death is when somebody stops getting talked about and we don’t wanna do that.” Adelle Archer

 

Starting an Intimate Business

Jessica: Wow. I mean, it sounds like your business is you make it so personal. I mean, you’re actually talking with your customers and listening to their stories. What is that been like for you now kind of being this, I mean, like a grief counselor?

Adelle: So, Garrett and I, yes, like absolutely. My partner, Garrett, he and I when we first started out, we were the only, you know, two that were taking phone calls and you hear some crazy stuff for sure. But the way that we really think about it is like we’re not really the grief counselor, like we direct them to resources as needed. But, you know, what’s really special about this is that it’s a long process. It takes about eight months to do. And we learned that, you know, at the end of it, like this is gonna your absolute, most cherished possession. You know, wearing something beautiful every day, it really is very healing and cathartic, and kind of a beautiful connection point. It brings up the right emotions. But as we go, we’ve really created amazing experience for our customers so we’re like, every month, giving them an update, a picture, a video, and just celebrating their loved one.

We learn a lot about their loved one, like we ask them their favorite stories and what they want them to be remembered by. And we, like, write dedication posts to them on social media, we post their picture in our office. And so, just kind of this ongoing celebration of that person and something they get to look forward to every month when they hear from us. And there’s something really powerful about that when you’ve lost the most important connection in your entire life, like there’s nothing good that’s happening in your world right then. It’s literally the darkest, lowest point in your life. And if you’re given an experience where there’s something to look forward to every single month, you know, we’ve learned that we get to be kind of the beacon of brightness, you know, for people who are grieving.

So, we serve their grief in a very different way. We’re not really there to like necessarily coach them through the grieving process but we kind of lighten their load a little bit by giving them a silver lining that, you know, put some meaning against the pain.

“We serve their grief in a very different way. We’re not really there to like necessarily coach them through the grieving process but we kind of lighten their load a little bit by giving them a silver lining that, you know, put some meaning against the pain.” Adelle Archer on collaborating with grieving clients.

Jessica: So, I’d love for you to walk me through the journey if I, you know, I have a loss. I’ve decided this is how I want to memorialize my loved one. Tell me the whole step because you could have made it like, I don’t know, a little bit more automated. I mean, what you just described is like you give pictures every month and you memorialize a person, you celebrate. And so, tell me a little bit about that journey. And then, of course, I’m gonna ask you how you’re gonna scale it.

Adelle: So, you reach out to us and one of the first interactions with us is, you know, we do a consultation. We help you understand how this all works. Most people have, you know, no idea that you can even do something like this. But a big piece of it is really understanding like just asking them who is this person? Like they have to be amazing to prompt the phone call even.

Jessica: And also because it’s fairly expensive. I mean, it’s…

Adelle: Of course, absolutely.

Jessica: Yeah, I mean, it’s a diamond.

 

Making Memories Eternal

Adelle: And so, yeah, I mean, you’re not gonna do this for just your great aunt Sally that kinda added no value to your life, like this is your person. And so, like it ends up just being this really awesome conversation whether it’s, you know, over the phone or over text, or whatever medium. But we just ask them who they are because like when you lose somebody, it’s really crazy like the rest of the world. They only wanna know how they died and then they’d stop talking. And, you know, that’s like the one question that’s overlooked is somebody saying, "Well, what were they like? Who are they as a person?" And that just lights somebody up, like they love to tell you about that, so we get to know that. And then, you know, if they decide that this is the right thing, like our goal is just to help them think about what feels right because it may not be a diamond.

But a lot of the time, they do decide, "Yes, this is something I really wanna do." And we send them a kit, and in that kit is everything they need to package up the ashes and also pick out a diamond, so different cubic zirconias in the kit. And they can kind of, you know, see and feel, you know, what different sizes are like. It’s really cool packaging with like a personalized video on the inside. So, yes, we even like personalize the video and like talk to you from our kit. And then when we return the kit is when we get the ashes and that’s when we start the process. So, you know, it’s about an eight-month process, on average, 8 to 10, super involved, really intricate. We literally work on everybody individually at a time because just out of respect, out of like, you know, with incredible integrity, like everybody grows even in their own machine at a time, it’s one at a time.

So, quite a bit different than regular lab-grown diamonds. And we’re first extracting the carbon from somebody’s ashes and purifying it, that in and of itself takes almost two months to do. And then we’re growing like a real diamond using extreme pressure temperature in these big machines that are simulating various conditions. And then we examine the diamond, make sure we can get exactly the diamond that you ordered out of it. It’s high clarity, high color, like just a beautiful diamond. If not, we literally regrow it until it’s perfect. And then we grade it, certify it, engrave it within personal inscription. We can color it a bunch of different colors so that we can, you know, really, really personalize it to what feels like the color that really resonates.

And then we can have it set in a finished piece of jewelry. So, then as we go, we provide pictures and videos, and updates, and like fully document the whole experience and just really make it kind of an epic celebration and crescendo towards the final delivery day which we call the homecoming. And we actually have everybody’s diamond hand-delivered and make it a really special day for them coming home.

Jessica: Wow. So, I mean, I know you hedged when you said you’re not in the diamond industry and I completely understand where you’re coming from, that that’s not like what you’re looking towards as your competitors and I get that. But I’m wondering just like from a valuation perspective, I mean, I just didn’t even know, like when did this whole idea come about of, what’s it called? Artif…no, it’s not called artificial diamonds, what’s it called?

Adelle: Lab-grown diamonds. Yeah.

Jessica: Lab diamonds. Like when did this kind of come about? When did they discover the science and when did consumers actually begin to see this as a viable alternative to a mined diamond?

Adelle: Yeah. So, the technology was invented back in the 60s actually, and they grow diamonds for a lot of different reasons. So, there’s actually a lot of industrial application for oil drilling and cutting tools, and lasers, and all kinds of stuff.

Jessica: Oh, right. Yeah, that makes sense.

Adelle: So, they did industrial diamonds for a very long time and then in the like late 90s, early 2000s is when they started getting the technology good enough to be producing gem grade quality diamonds. And then like any new technology, there is definitely an adoption curve, you know, where people are like I don’t know…

Jessica: It’s like screw top wine or something, you know, instead of like the cork.

Adelle: Exactly. Exactly, exactly. I think Blood Diamond helped a lot, a lot, a lot. And yeah, I mean, literally, the chemistry is exactly the same. Like it is 100% a real diamond, you know?

Jessica: So, what is a diamond? How do you define a diamond?

Adelle: It’s just made of carbon. I mean, really, it’s a hard, you know, carbon-based material. Like if you were to bring a lab-grown diamond into a jeweler’s, like into a jeweler with a mined diamond, not telling them which is which, they would not be able to tell the difference. They need specialized machinery to be able to tell the difference.

Jessica: And from a valuation standpoint, is it still the same like E, F, and I don’t even remember what all the… And is the costing the same or like the certificate? Does it have to say that it’s a lab diamond or it can just say it’s a diamond?

Adelle: It does have to say it’s a lab diamond, yes, from like a certification standpoint. Yeah.

Jessica: And does the consumer pay as much for a lab diamond as a mined diamond?

Adelle: So, typically, the lab-grown diamonds are less expensive than mined diamonds. We, again, are kind of in a different like world in categories since there’s much more complexity to our process. And we’re literally growing a diamond from somebody’s carbon and so every time we do that, like we literally have to have different set points on our machine where we’re kind of dialing in the right like pressure and temperature levels based on like working with the different material every single time. And so, our diamonds are usually more expensive than regular lab-grown diamonds. You know, you’ll see them kind of sometimes in line with mined diamonds, it just depends.

Jessica: Because of the actual process?

Adelle: Yeah. Yeah. It’s really hard actually to grow, especially bigger diamonds, you know, from a carbon from somebody’s ashes. Because you’re trying to get it as pure, pure, pure as possible so it successfully grows but yeah, you have a lot more variability if somebody has just totally distinct elements in their ashes that are still bound to that carbon. And so, yeah, it’s really incredible.

Jessica: That’s what I was gonna ask is what sort of like the key point in the process? Like is it the lab that it’s grown in, is it the scientist that’s overseeing it? Like what is it that makes like this is essential to actually having the outcome that you’re desiring?

Adelle: Let’s say…I mean it’s probably two things, like the carbon purification of the ashes is really important. Like somebody’s ashes has, you know, tons of different elements in it. And so, we’re trying to like literally isolate the carbon, you know, molecules out of their ashes away from everything else until it’s like almost 100% pure carbon. So, that is a really difficult process, it literally takes two months to do. And then when we grow the diamond, that is very difficult as well because like we are calibrating machine differently for every person. Whereas, in a regular lab, you know, you’re growing them in batches, you’re working with, you know, generic, scientific carbon and you get kind of the same predictable result every time because you’re working with the same material. So, yeah, I have a lot of respect for our scientists on the carbon purification side and our growth side, and the cutting is hard, too. Yeah, it’s pretty amazing.

Jessica: Wow, so detail-oriented and special, really special.

Adelle: Yeah.

 

Entrepreneurship and Starting Outside the Box

Jessica: So, I wanna go back to the beginning because, so you are already…I missed this part of the story. I thought the whole inception was after Tracey’s death, you were like, "What do I do with the ashes?" But you were already walking into this business of starting a business, is that right?

Adelle: Yep, mm-hmm.

Jessica: So, what led you to that?

Adelle: I mean, I think I was always just very, very entrepreneurial. My mom is an entrepreneur, I have my MBA in entrepreneurship, and I went into tech.

Jessica: That’s funny. I didn’t even know…I love that you can get your MBA now in entrepreneurship because I feel like entrepreneurs of the class look like, "I don’t need an MBA," you know what I mean? But I love that. That’s what I need to go get. Actually, I’m going to Harvard with EO, like that’s gonna be like my first sort of like traditional educational stint.

Adelle: Wow, it’s awesome.

Jessica: Yeah, I know. I’m super excited that I got in, yeah.

Adelle: That’s amazing. Hell, yeah. Well, you should also check out, so there’s this school here in Austin that’s literally called the Acton School of Business, A-C-T-O-N. And they are…

Jessica: Yes, I do know Acton.

Adelle: So, that was where I got my MBA, so it’s very much like by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. So, you wouldn’t do any program I think as an entrepreneur unless it was like here’s entrepreneurs…

Jessica: Like that.

Adelle: Yeah, like cutting you on the street.

Jessica: Like you’re gonna actually create your business plan during…yeah.

Adelle: They were hardcore, man. They like me to just go sell dictionaries door-to-door. They’re like, "Oh, you need to learn how to sell, like go sell dictionaries." You’re like, "What?" So, yeah, a lot of applied learning.

Jessica: So amazing. I love that. Oh, my gosh, I wish my whole education would have been like that.

Adelle: I know.

Jessica: OK. So, you’re at Acton and I mean, gosh, you’re surrounded by people with ideas that are ready to execute on their ideas. So, what are some other…like how did you get into, OK, we’re gonna go into the diamond area because there’s like a million businesses you could start?

Adelle: Well, I mean, I think that’s what’s kinda interesting about entrepreneurship is that like yes, you can have a lot of ideas, it doesn’t mean they’re good ideas. And so, there’s actually a lot of patience I think that comes with, you know, like evaluating opportunities and not jumping until you see the right one. And so, at the time, like I knew this is what I wanna do but I also knew, OK, there’s nothing right now that I’m seeing as that interesting. And, you know, I should go and get these experiences over here that will really serve me as an entrepreneur. I went into kind of the digital marketing, product marketing, launching new products online. And so, that was massively helpful experience. But meanwhile, I’m still evaluating all of these opportunities, you know, on the side, and yeah, I mean, I think that that’s a good lesson learned is that like patience is everything.

And so, when we got to talk on the lab-grown diamond industry, it was another Acton student I started working with it on. And then I brought Garrett in and then he and I just started working on lab-grown diamonds. And then we looked at like a ton of different models within that space. And so, he and I were just like, you know, "Should we go up the supply chain, down the supply chain? Should we be consumer facing? Is there more interesting angle here?" And so, it was just like one of those kind of preparation needs faith when, you know, we heard about that because then we kind of put it through our model and we’re like, "Oh my gosh, this is a really good business." Like we’re really emotionally invested in it obviously, there’s a personal connection here but this is a really good business. So, yeah, it was awesome.

“It was just like one of those kind of preparation needs faith when, you know, we heard about that because then we kind of put it through our model and we’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is a really good business.’ Like we’re really emotionally invested in it obviously, there’s a personal connection here but this is a really good business.” Adelle Archer on getting started in the lab-diamond business.

 

Collaborating Wisely

Jessica: And then tell me a little bit about Garrett because I think there’s so many entrepreneurs who are the solopreneuring it and don’t always bring on a co-founder at the beginning. So, tell me about that.

Adelle: Absolutely. Well, I mean, Garrett and I, like we’ve been really good friends for a long time. We worked together at Big Commerce and then another tech company called TrendKite. And that I lived with him for a year as a roommate so we always jived super well and…

Jessica: By the way, I’ve not told everyone that you’re like 28 or something.

Adelle: Twenty-seven.

Jessica: Twenty-seven, OK, sorry about that, sorry about that. I mean, 27 so, you know, it’s pretty amazing what you’re able to accomplish already. OK. So, you and Garrett in your very young career life is what I’m trying to say.

Adelle: Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, it was just super complimentary. Like he’s incredible with sales and business development, he’s very strategic and I was more on the marketing side, and so very complimentary skill set. And I think like what we both really appreciate about working together is that we’re very growth-oriented and we’re growth mindset people. And so we’re always like, you know, like let’s question our assumptions here, like how can we get better? And, you know, we both love like giving each other feedback and just like learning and always synchronicity of getting better. And so, yeah, I mean, it’s been a really awesome partnership and, you know, just so much alignment from what we wanna do and like the division we have for like how we wanna change how the world grieves and treats the grieving, like there’s so much to do here.

“It’s been a really awesome partnership and, you know, just so much alignment from what we wanna do and like the division we have for like how we wanna change how the world grieves and treats the grieving, like there’s so much to do here.” Adelle Archer on collaborating with Eterneva Co-Founder, Garrett  

Jessica: So much to do.

Adelle: We’ll see it and feel it.

Jessica: And do you guys, I mean, I’m assuming the answer is yes or you wouldn’t be partners, but I’m asking about like your shared vision for growth. Because I feel like this could be the type of business that you are like, you know what, small, high touch, it’s not necessarily about growth. So, what is y’alls vision for the future? Like what’s your ultimate, you know?

Adelle: Yeah, I know. We wanna be a huge company. Not just like…you know, we’re fully bootstrapped right now so it’s not like, you know, raise a bunch of money and sprint really fast because our investors told us to. But it’s like we see how meaningful it is like what we’re doing and the impact that we have on people. And by the end of them engaging with us, like they literally tell us that we’ve changed their relationship to their grades and that’s just like the coolest thing. And I just wanna be able to do that for so many people and serve, you know, as many people as I can and just…you know, that like there’s just so much to do. And so, yeah, we absolutely like while a core tentative of who we are is keeping it personal and honoring the legacy of the person that we’re doing this for.

Like they’re never, ever gonna become a number or a product in our system, like we will know, you know, like everybody will be called by name, like all of that. It’s equally met with like a serious emphasis on systemization and like building kind of efficiencies into the business. Like one of our first hires is somebody who’s literally just focused on our tech stack and integrating things, and automating a bunch of stuff, and we’re like a seven-person team.

Jessica: Wow.

Adelle: Yeah.

 

Overcoming Adversity to Shine Your Light

Jessica: What are your obstacles to growth? What’s your current challenges right now?

Adelle: So, I mean, one that we’ve almost fully finished, you know, addressing but I think in the space, there’s a challenge of supply. So, these are massively specialized machines and there’s…you know, it’s just a very hard space to get into so everybody has capacity constraints. And so, we’ve been fortunate enough to start working with like a really, really phenomenal scientific partner. And so, you know, we’re pathing towards not having the capacity problems that a lot of our competitors are experiencing right now, so that’s been a really great one. And then it’s just awareness, like we really are…you know, so few people know that you can even do something like this. And so, you know, it’s totally one of those…I guess it’s less of an obstacle, more of an opportunity, and we’re really excited about it because that’s the fun stuff. It’s just, you know?

Jessica: That’s such an entrepreneur thing to say. I love it. You’re like, "Obstacle? What’s that?" Like I had someone on an interview that I was doing for someone else asked me their day like, "What people have held you back?" And I’m like, "People? People don’t hold you back, like what do you mean? Like the only person that can hold me back is me."

Adelle: Totally, exactly, it’s so true.

Jessica: But I was like, oh, my god, this is such an entrepreneur, you know, we’re like, "We don’t see walls. We’re just gonna scale whatever we see."

Adelle: It’s so true, absolutely. Like life as Tony Robbins says, "Life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you." So, it’s go time.

Jessica: That’s right. So, a lot of people listening, this whole series is around starting. And we are talking about…you know, I’ve been on the road for my book tour and I know as entrepreneurs, you and I are natural. There are personalities that are a little more bent towards having that bias towards action. And I do meet a lot of people though that are afraid, that are letting their perfectionism that they have to be able to understand if they’re gonna be 100% successful before they start or they think that they need to go get that MBA before they start. So, what do you say to the people and you’re…I mean, gosh, you’re 27. So, other people that are like, "Man, I wanna be able to go do it." You know, they have a business idea. What advice do you give them?

Adelle: Yeah. I mean, I think…so like don’t get me wrong. Like I mentioned, I massively troubled with perfectionism, like that was a really difficult period of my life where I had to lower my standards so that I could just like operate. And so, I think…

“I massively troubled with perfectionism, like that was a really difficult period of my life where I had to lower my standards so that I could just like operate.” Adelle Archer on adversity and imperfections.

Jessica: And do you think that’s what ultimately is one of the things that helped you kind of with your anxiety, is realizing that you had perfectionistic thinking?

Adelle: A hundred percent, absolutely. Like one of the most helpful questions I get to ask myself is, "Is this good enough?" Like can it be shipped, you know? Like is this good? Great. Let’s ship it, not like is it perfect? And that was a really helpful focus. But I think, you know, there was another big epiphany I had which is, you know, I think we have…if we’re not conscious of it, we’re driven by kind of the core set of basic needs. And I think, you know, you’re even…there’s kind of certainty, uncertainty, significance, or loving connection. And, you know, one of those is your primary driver and then there’s more spiritual level needs which are contribution and growth. And I think if you’re not conscious of it, you let one of those lower level things to drive you.

“I think we have…if we’re not conscious of it, we’re driven by kind of the core set of basic needs … then there’s more spiritual level needs which are contribution and growth. And I think if you’re not conscious of it, you let one of those lower level things to drive you.” Adelle Archer

But if you become conscious of it, then you’ll tap into so much more fulfillment and, you know, satisfaction and purpose when you’re letting the higher-level ones drive you. And so, for me, it was like let go, perfectionism is significant. It’s like needing to feel like, you know, you did a good enough job or that, you know, you kinda got the A-plus or whatever. And let your own significance and just focus instead on growth and contribution. So, it’s like if you decide, "You know what? This work, like yeah, it might take me a while to build this business and, you know, I won’t be making as much money as if I were like a lawyer and on a lawyer’s path. But I’m giving back to people and that just feels good, like that is amazing.”

“I’m giving back to people and that just feels good, like that is amazing.” Adelle Archer

Every single night going to bed and knowing that, doing that. And I’m also personally growing in so many ways and so it just like really lets go of the pressure a lot. And then, you know, like success comes with that when you’re not really focused on being successful. It’s, you know, let yourself just feel the fulfillment of giving back and growing as a person. And then it’s kind of crazy how much you actually do progress when you do it.

 

Staying True to a Vision and Mission

Jessica: I love that, that’s such great, practical advice for our listeners. Tell me this because I struggled a little bit and now I don’t. But even in our group, most of the companies in our group are VC backed. And I feel like the challenges with the VC-backed company is so different than a bootstrapped company. And, you know, of course sometimes I get a little bit like, "Ugh, I just wish I had money to just throw at marketing right now," you know? But we are very deliberate in how we are spending because we are bootstrapped and which in some ways is like so extremely empowering because we have all 100% decision making in the company. Are you planning on raising and, if not, like do you ever grapple with kind of that like, I don’t know, feeling like I want the sexiness of the VC-backed company?

Adelle: So, the only I think concern I have or, you know, thing that I think about is, you know, how could we like really outpace anybody that potentially comes into our space at any point, and just have a massive head start on them? And so that would be one of our raising money, but I just have such a huge respect for bootstrapped companies. I just think it’s such…I don’t know. Like I just think you earn a certain like kind of stripes by being a bootstrapper. You’re making just really thoughtful business decisions. You’re really in tune with the economic drivers of your business. You’re just so much more like attentive to creating real value. So, I think that you’re kind of a pretty bad ass entrepreneur which is funny because I think that, externally, the impressions are the opposite.

Like I was reading with the Inc., like all of the girls that were on the "30 Under 30," somebody commented, they’re like, "Wow, how sad? Like look at the gap between how much money the women have raised versus the men." Like, you know, it shows the bias in our fundraising environment. They’re like, "Maybe they’re just smarter and they decided not to give away a bunch of their company early on."

Jessica: Right. Yeah, it’s really interesting in this entrepreneurial space. I feel like the conversation is so different than from like when my dad was an entrepreneur, you know? I feel like now it’s more about how much money are you raising instead of how profitable your company is, you know, and how much percentage you own, and what decisions you’re able to make?

Adelle: So true.

Jessica: I don’t know, it’s been something that I’ve grappled a little bit with and ultimately, this is my only company that I’ve ever done so I’ve never done it in any other way. And so, sometimes it’s easy though to look and go, "Gosh, I just want a little bit of cash to just throw at that thing."

Adelle: Yeah, I feel that for sure. Definitely.

Jessica: Sure. Oh, my goodness. Well, OK, so this is the Going Scared podcast and I really identify or I define courage as being scared but going anyway, and not letting our fear to hold us back. So, I like to ask people how are you going scared right now in your life?

 

Letting Go of Uncertainty

Adelle: Oh, man. Well, like there’s just being a first-time entrepreneur you feel like you’re doing it all the time. You know, we did have it a lot this year, like we at one point thought our whole supply chain was gonna go away, so that was like something we had to solve. I mean…

Jessica: Now, with someone who deals with anxiety, I mean, it feels like you were like wrestling it to the ground. It’s like I also say like if you’re afraid, the antidote to fear is doing that thing that you think you’re afraid and then you kinda keep doing that and you’re realizing like I’m so much more courageous than I ever could have imagined. So, yeah. How, as someone who struggles with anxiety and then you’re in these situations that are super uncertain at this space in the business especially as a startup?

Adelle: I mean, I think my anxiety typically is more like about, am I doing good enough? Am I like, you know, contributing enough? When something crazy like that happens, it’s just like I don’t even get stressed out. It’s like, "OK. Well, we just need to solve this." But I think it also really, really, really helped having a partner and when you have somebody that is just like in it with you, and it’s like, "OK. We’re in this, dude. Like let’s go fix this." You know, it’s just such a comfort, you know, you know knowing that there’s somebody else that’s like got your back and like you are going to figure this out together. So, yeah, I mean, I think that that’s a big piece of it. And another thing is like, again, I’m just a really growth-oriented person, like that’s like one of my biggest motivators is if I can help myself see how I’m gonna grow from a situation, then it makes it a lot easier for me to go do it.

“I think it also really, really, really helped having a partner and when you have somebody that is just like in it with you, and it’s like, "OK. We’re in this, dude. Like let’s go fix this." You know, it’s just such a comfort, you know, you know knowing that there’s somebody else that’s like got your back and like you are going to figure this out together.” Adelle Archer

And so, I always tell myself that it’s like your growth always lies outside your comfort zone. So, if I feel really uncomfortable but I’m like, "Oh, look, it must mean I’m growing," I like picture myself literally getting stretched to where I’m like, "Oh, this is literally me being physically stretched so that I can grow more."

Jessica: Do you have some rituals in your life where you kind of stop and reflect to understand like what you did learn from something?

Adelle: So, I mean, personally, I do have kind of a morning ritual where like I do, you know, meditation, I focus on gratitude, you know, visualization and things I’m trying to accomplish. Like Garrett and I have a really good, you know, couple of days a week where we’ll go and get coffee to check in with each other. And he highlights a lot of blind spots for me. And, you know, it’s really helpful to have somebody else tell you that and then, you know, as I go throughout the days, I kind of like will journal sometimes and just be like, "Oh, OK. That’s where that thing came up. Now, I’m aware of it." So, yeah.

Jessica: That takes so much stress and vulnerability, and bravery to have a relationship like that. But man, when you do, that is growth ultimately.

Adelle: You know, you need to show the other person that you’re giving them feedback because you care about them and you want them to be better. And then it’s such a powerful source of learning about yourself because there’s only so much you can identify on your own, I think.

Jessica: I interviewed Alli Webb, the founder of Drybar.

Adelle: Oh, cool.

Jessica: Yeah. And, you know, her company is huge, huge. And I was kind of asking her how do I go about defining kind of my founder role now that the business is…you know, we’re really in that scaling mode. And she’s like, "You just need to sit down and ask a couple of key people, like where do I add value to the business and where do I take away value," you know? And so, I did that this week with a couple of people, and man, it’s already been so extremely helpful, so I think that’s just another practical tip for our listeners even if you aren’t, you know, starting a business or running a business. I mean, the whole point of this series is really about starting, so that can be like starting a new workout routine or starting to be healthy or starting, you know, a non-profit, or whatever it might be.

I think it’s such a healthy process when we can really sit down and be ready to receive feedback of, you know, not just our strengths but also where those areas where we could grow, or the areas where we’re just like, "You know what? You’re just not good at that and that’s OK. So, like don’t even try, you know?"

Adelle: But I love what you said about like having people actually do tell you where your strengths are because I think we’re really quick to be like, "Here’s where I’m falling short." Especially when you’re doing something really hard like entrepreneurship, like just a pat on the back throughout the week, like really being conscious of like complementing somebody when they do a really good job, like it just feels so good. You’re like, "Wow. You know, yes, I worked really hard on it and somebody noticed and so, yeah." I just think that’s just as important because a lot of the time, we actually forget to focus on that part.

Jessica: You know, whenever I hear about a mentor or, you know, whatever you wanna call it. Sometimes I feel like mentorship sounds so formal and I think that often times we can pour into others without even calling it a mentorship. But man, this story of how that mentor really changed her life and then has now been the catalyst behind her entire company really inspired me and got me to thinking about how I can really call forth other people, especially as I’m dreaming about 2019 right now. You could keep up with Adelle on Twitter and on Instagram @adellearcher. And before we go, speaking of Instagram, if you don’t follow me over there, go give me a follow. It’s just Jessica Honegger, one N, two Gs.

I often do giveaways and contest over there with our guest, so you can often find out a little bit more behind the scenes. And also, it’s a great place to engage about the podcast. I love hearing about what you’re learning, what you wanna learn. Go give me a DM, go just give me a follow over there. We even have an Instagram account for the Going Scared podcast. You can stay up to date and that is just @thegoingscaredpodcast.

Our wonderful music today’s show is by my good friend, Ellie Holcomb. Going Scared is produced by Eddie Kaufholz and I’m Jessica Honegger. Until next time, let’s take each other by the hand and keep going scared.