Erin is the Co-Founder and CEO and of Willful and an angel investor and advisor to multiple startups, including Pressed.
PN: The work you do – speaking engagements, being the boss lady at 88, investor and advisor, etc. – really inspires people, especially young women. Is this something you’re actively aware of when you’re taking on new roles?
EB: Why thank you! I don’t think of myself as a role model for young women getting into the marketing and startup fields, but I do get asked for advice a lot – which I always try to provide and make time for, since a lot of my mentors and people I admire took the time for me when I was first starting out. I definitely try to think about where to focus my energy, and how it ties back to my career goals – I’ve learned that my passions are at the intersection of marketing and entrepreneurship, so everything I do ties back to that.
PN: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a female entrepreneur? And how have you overcome them?
EB: I’ve been lucky to work in female-dominated environments throughout my career, from working for a strong female entrepreneur, to now managing a team of largely women at 88. While I don’t think I’ve faced any unique challenges as a female entrepreneur – at least not the ones we typically hear about because I haven’t raised VC funding – I’ve definitely faced the challenges every entrepreneur faces. Will anyone buy what I’m selling? Will I make payroll? How can I get more people to know about what I’m working on? These are universal challenges for every entrepreneur, and I’m certainly not immune to them.
PN: Tell us more about the Side Hustle. What made you want to start this?
EB: I’m a big believer that millennials aren’t satisfied with having one job and one income stream – we’re creative people who have our hands in multiple things at any given time. If I want to attract and retain millennial staff, I need to recognize that their careers don’t begin and end with this job. I myself have a side hustle, a wine tour business in Prince Edward County, and I learned that several of my other team members do as well. Being open about our side hustles and sharing our key learnings has made the office much more entrepreneurial – and it’s also opened my eyes to how many workplaces don’t support side hustles. I think that will have to change over the next few years if businesses do want to attract and retain creative, talented young employees.
PN: Your staff are often featured in blogs and articles, and you’ve been really encouraging when past employees have quit their jobs at 88 to start businesses. Why do you think it’s important to empower your employees this way?
EB: I think people leaving your company is an inevitability, and how you react to it says a lot about your character. People aren’t staying at companies for decades anymore, and I know when an employee joins 88 they’re not joining for life – they’re joining for a period of time. I hope I can help them get a lot out of the experience while they’re here, but I also want to help them if they realize it’s time to move on or do something different. Quitting a job is hard enough, so knowing you have a boss who supports you no matter what you do makes that it a lot easier – and it also means I get to keep employees as friends once they move on.
PN: What’s something you’re working toward that you haven’t done/achieved yet?
EB: I have two major goals for the next few years – the first is to write a book about how having an entrepreneurial mindset can make you a better marketer based on my experiences in startup marketing over the past decade, and the second is to help my fiance’s company Willful.co grow to a multi-million dollar business. End of life planning is the next industry to move online, and I know he’ll be at the forefront of that trend.
PN: Do you or 88 support any non-profits/charities?
EB: I’m on the Tech4SickKids Advisory Council, and volunteer there when I can (I’m doing storytime at the end of January!). I’m also a member of The Upside Foundation for both of my companies – it’s an organization that allows you to commit to donating a percentage of your company’s equity to charity upon a liquidity event (acquisition or IPO). I intend to donate that equity to SickKids when/if I sell my businesses. We also do pro bono work at 88 for The Upside Foundation, and we’ve done pro bono work in the past for HoHoTO and VentureOut.