How Erin Wade used her layoff in 2009 to go after her dreams
Ep. 99
| with
Erin Wade

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    Erin received her law degree from UC Berkeley in 2008 and worked as a lawyer for one year before she was fired. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Erin decided to take a leap of faith and pour her life savings into creating a restaurant dedicated to the best food on earth: mac and cheese. Erin is the Founder and CEO of Homeroom. Homeroom has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, Food Network, Travel Channel, Cooking Channel, and other national media outlets. Homeroom now has over 100 employees and has also received numerous awards for its people-first business practices. Erin authored the best-selling “Mac and Cheese Cookbook,” and business articles for Conscious Company Magazine and the Washington Post.

Here is what we chat about in this episode:

  • Why Erin went to law school even though she had wanted to open a cupcake shop
  • What happened after Erin was fired from her firm
  • How she used her entire life saving to open up a restaurant with virtually no experience in this field.
  • How she found herself unhappy after 5 years in her dream job and what she did to fix it.
  • What Homeroom is doing now to create more female partners in the restaurant industry and how they’re sharing their successful anti-harassment training policy.

Resources Mentioned in the Podcast

Where to find Erin

Show Transcript
Hello friends. Welcome to another episode of lessons from a quitter. I am so excited to have you guys here. Before we jump in I wanted to let you know that we are doing our free monthly coaching calls on zoom. If you have questions about your career or maybe you want to watch other people kind of go through their own fears and talk about their own struggles and maybe that'll help you figure out what you should be doing. We do it once a month. I sent out all the information to my email list, so you want to make sure you're on my email list. You can go to quitter and sign up there and I will send out the time and the link every month and like I said, it's free. It's a zoom call. You just hop on and we'll chat about whatever it is that is bothering you.

I also wanted to remind you that our book that we're going to review for May is James Clear's Atomic Habits. I honestly cannot recommend this book enough. It is an incredible book and you should take the right time to read it, whether you're going to listen to the book review or not. It is a very, very good book. So we will discuss that on the episode next week. So if you haven't had a chance to get it, get it and get caught up so that we can talk about it next week. Okay. Onto the episode. As I have been telling you, if you've been listening for the last couple of weeks, I am rehearing some episodes that we've done in the past where people decided to either make the jump or were forced to make the shop during the 2008 recession. I do think it helps two see other people who are also in a time of uncertainty and free for all and not knowing what was going to happen and still decided to take a risk and still decided to maybe take a jump or go after their dreams even when it seemed crazy.

Because I think that perspective can really help to show us that while it may feel uncertain right now and while it may feel like there is no end, there is an end to all of this and we will come out of this. And really the question is how do you want to come out of this? We, the last couple of episodes, if you haven't listened, you can go back and listen to Paula pant story of how she quit in 2008 and Lindsey Schwartz the story of how she decided to start a side hustle. And in this episode I'm so excited that I'm going to share with you one of the first episodes that I ever recorded for this podcast. And it was one of the first episodes I released. The first day of the podcast is with my good friend Erin Wade. We went to law school together and it takes me down memory lane to go back to the first episode now that we've done a hundred episodes in.

But it is still such a good example. And I talked to Erin about how she was laid off in 2009 and she was laid off from a legal job that she didn't want. But yet so many of us get caught at that time when there aren't a lot of options. We get frantic and panicked and we go after trying to find whatever the safe option is and Aaron will talk about how she just decided that maybe this is the time that she goes after her dreams and at a time when she didn't have another income coming in and her husband's an educator so he didn't have a lot of income coming in either. They decided to put their life savings into her dream of opening up a restaurant and she opened up Homeroom in Oakland, and has gone on to be this incredible success that we will talk about. But I do think that her example is a really important one in this time to show that even when you're scared, even when it's uncertain, even when it feels like the world is ending, there are still opportunities and there are still possibilities and you can still go after your dreams. Things aren't put on hold. And if you do end up liking this, please reach out to Aaron and let her know. I'm sure that she would appreciate that. So without further ado, let's jump in and listen to the episode.

I am so excited to jump into this episode with Erin Wade today. Erin received her law degree from UC Berkeley in 2008 and went on to work as a lawyer for a year before she was fired. Well, that turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise.
Erin decided to take a leap of faith and for her life savings into creating a restaurant dedicated to the best food, honor Mac and cheese. Aaron is now the founder and CEO of homeroom. Homeroom has been featured in every major national media outlet, including the wall street journal, New York times USA today, food network, travel channel, and on and on. Homeroom now has over a hundred employees and has received numerous awards for its people first business practices. In addition to all that, Erin authored the best selling Mac and cheese cookbook and writes business articles for conscious company magazine and the Washington post. We'll talk to Aaron today about how she opened up this business without having any experience running restaurants. How even after having this quote unquote dream job, Erin found herself unhappy and what she did about it and how she's paving the way to help stop harassment and create more female leadership in the restaurant industry.
Goli: Hi, Erin. Thank you so much for being on the show today.
Erin: Oh my God. Thank you so much for having me.
Goli: I am so excited to hear about what you're doing and more about homeroom, but before we kind of get to all the exciting stuff that you get to do on a daily basis I sorta want to start from the beginning and get an understanding of what led you to become a lawyer.
Erin: My parents’ money. I know that's, that's actually sort of accurate. That's the quick version. The longer version is I think I was a little bit lost. I had known that I had these sort of dueling passions for food. I had worked in restaurants but it was very low paying and I also loved sort of, you know, trying to change the world. I majored in public policy as an undergrad and I couldn't figure out any career that combined these two things. And so I had sort of swung back and forth. And the truth is if you have an undergrad policy degree, there’s a ton you can do with it. So I actually had tried to convince my parents to put money behind me to open a cupcake bakery in Los Angeles. And this was before Sprinkles and all these cupcake bakeries existed.
And they were like, no, you know we have saved our whole lives to send you to professional school and you can make your own money and open up your own food business later. So that happens to be what I did, but it was not intentional. It wasn't like, Oh, I'm going to become a lawyer so I can open a bakery. I just, I think I was too afraid. I knew I had this entrepreneurial passion. I knew I had this passion for food. I knew I had this passion for doing good, but I was too afraid to do it. And being a lawyer seemed very safe. It's what my family wanted me to do. My husband's family made it. It was just, you know and it's a thing that people respect, you know? So, yeah, I think it was just wanting to be on a path where someone could tell me, here's the things you have to do to be successful in doing those things and not taking risks and not being afraid, but it turns out that's also really boring and unfulfilling and you're on it.
Goli: No, absolutely. I mean, I think that's such a, you know, it's so many people's stories. I think a lot of people relate to the fact that you sorta just go where your parents tell you or where you kind of see it as like the quote unquote success. Not realizing what actually working as a lawyer is going to be like. But I mean, I think yeah, all of us sort of fell in that line.
Erin: I mean, you know, and to be fair, I don't know how most of us wouldn't. Right. I mean, when you think about how school is structured, you're taught your whole life, like someone hands you a path to success, like you know, answer these questions correctly and you'll do well and then you'll get to graduate to the next thing or to the next good school or to the next award. And you know, it's a really linear path. And so all of a sudden to make a career that doesn't have a path is I think really scary. Cause where the heck else do we get experience doing that? You know, nowhere.
Goli: No. Yeah, absolutely. And it's not very, it's not rewarded. You know, I was recently talking to someone about how kids always in school get in trouble for things like when they find out that they're selling something, you know, they're selling candy or something at school. And so you sort get penalized if you have that entrepreneurial spirit. It's sorta like a total line and do it. You take the test and get good grades and those people get praised and so you end up kind of just falling in line. So, okay. So you decide, kind of take that safe route and you go to law school and at that time, I mean, did you kind of decide, okay, I'm going to be a lawyer or was it like, okay, I don't know what I'm going to do so I'm gonna go to law school and then figure it out afterwards?
Erin: Yeah. You know, I was really excited actually to do some really progressive criminal justice work and I worked at the DA's office in San Francisco the whole time I was in law school. I volunteered there while Kamala Harris was the DA. I was really inspired by her. Cool. Yeah. so I had felt this passion for, for that. But honestly, other than that, I didn't like any piece of law school. And it was funny cause I was such a great student, undergrad, I never missed classes. I really valued my education because I had gone to sort of crummy public schools growing up. And I went to Princeton undergrad and I was just so excited to be around smart people and in good classes I never missed a moment and made the most of it. And then when I got to law school I was this flunky like I never, I mean that should have been assigned to me and that was not the right path, but I fell in the whole world view really not in keeping with, I think values I wanted to have and the way the classes were structured, I found tremendously boring.

I found that the people were not really my kind of people. I mean it was just really an alienating time. And so, I mean I think I spent more time in yoga class in law school than in real class and like, thank God Berkeley's law school was pass/fail at the time. Cause I would have had all C’s for sure. I knew how to do the minimum.

Goli: Right. Well I'm gonna just stop you for a second and let everybody know that I actually went to law school with you. So I'm going to go, I don't know if I want to, I was one of those people that you have to really like. No, I'm joking. No, I'm totally messing with you. No, but I get what you're saying. So did you ever in law school consider quitting or was it kind of like, well, you know, I'm doing this now so I might as well get through it.
Erin: You know, I should have considered, I mean, I think I think I was just too afraid to even think about something like that. I didn't want to look too deeply within myself to say, Hey, you know, if you don't, you're someone who likes learning and if you're not enjoying us to such a degree that you're not even showing up to it and you're figuring out how to do the minimum possible, right, not fail. Maybe this is a sign that this is not for you. That would have been the mature thing.
Goli: But it's not just you, you know? Now, looking back, I, it's so funny, especially in LA and the amount of conversations I've had, you know, whether it was in law school or in the profession when I was at the firm, so many people would talk about how they were having panic attacks or their body would break out in hives or have other physical reactions to the amount of stress or, you know, whatever the job was. And it's so funny, we just push it aside and we're like, Oh, you know, you just got to get more rest, or it is what it is. And now when I look back, I think how crazy that sounds. And it's like people are having physical reactions or they're becoming depressed and they're on antidepressants in law school or you know, or anxiety or whatnot. And not that there aren't other reasons for that, but I know a lot of people that have, like I said, become physically ill and they just are, you're just kind of taught to ignore it and push it down or deal with it and work through it. And when you look back you're like, huh, that could have been a sign. Like I should probably listen to my body. It was revolting against what I'm doing here.
Erin: It's, you know, it's funny that you mentioned that because the first time I've only had two, two panic attacks in my life, but the first one that I had was studying for the bar. Totally know what you're talking about and I didn't think to myself, should I be doing this in my life? I was just like, okay, how am I going to get my shit back together? Right. It's picks up again tomorrow.
Goli: No, I totally relate to that. So, okay, so you get through law school and what do you do after law?
Erin: Well, you know, honestly I had had this VR, like I said, it's very narrow field of interest and the year that I graduated is the year when the, you know, 2008 economic crisis happened. So ironically, I was not able to get government work. I got a job at a corporate firm and I kept thinking, this is going to be sort of a holding pattern until I can get into the San Francisco DA's office. And you know, when the economy collapse was pretty clear, that was not going to be a holding pattern like no government offices anywhere in the country. We're hiring all of a sudden. And honestly, I feel like there were two great gifts I was given because I think I, you know, honestly, had there been openings, I probably would have gone to the DA's office.
And honestly I think at some point I would have burned out and not been happy. I just think it would have taken longer to get there. And I can definitely explain more about, you know, why. But yeah, I mean I think having, the only thing that I was interested in doing not be available and then I was fired from my job because honestly, I wish I could blame it on the firm and be like, Oh gosh, you know, they just didn't appreciate me. I hated what I was doing. And it really wasn't very hard. I was basically taking my same law school, do the minimum possible to skate by attitude and applying it to a job that was paying me a lot of money to not behave like that. And they noticed and they were like, we can pay someone else a lot of money to do this. That's going to actually show up on the weekend when we ask them.
Goli: Right, right. Wait, so how long were you at the firm before you got fired?
Erin: Ah, like a year and a half. So I practiced law for half as long as I was in law school.

Goli: But I think that just makes you smart. You love before a lot of people, you know, I think a lot of it, you didn't waste any more of your time, which is the right way to go about it. So

Erin: True. And I wish I could tell you that was total bravery, but honestly it was just having the economy be so bad, be so narrow and feeling like, okay, if I was ever going to take a risk, and also being so deeply miserable in that work, the right mission just made it made me realize. And you know, it honestly took a conversation with a friend where I was just so afraid to take this leap. And I had been thinking about and talking about starting the restaurant before I lost my job, I could quit anyway. So it was actually a blessing because then I had a nice severance package, help boost the startup expenses for the business. But yeah, I was talking to a friend and she was like, Erin, what's the worst that happens? You lose your life savings and you just go back to being a lawyer. She was like, your other option is you're just going to go back to being a lawyer. She's like the worst case in what, like one at least has an upside. Right? The other one, you know, there's no upside. And I was like, God, she's right. What am I afraid of? The worst that could happen is that I will lose a lot of money, but professionally I will show up to the same job. I'm so terrified of having to show up now. So it just became clear that it was something I should do.
Goli: We blow up the fear so much and when you actually work through it and you realize like what? Like you said, what am I afraid of? Cause we make it seem as if like, Oh my God, if I fail at this, I'm going to become homeless on the street. And that's most likely not going to happen. You can, we create these things in our head that it's the end of the world. I had the same thing. I mean when I was quitting, my husband kept being like, okay, so you know, this doesn't work out. Like what? I don't understand. In a couple of years you go back and be a lawyer and I'd be like, no, I can't do that. But I don't know. I don't know why. I couldn't, you know, I couldn't even articulate why that wasn't a possibility, but I just created it in my head that that's not a possibility.
Erin: Well, I mean I think that there is, I mean for people who have succeeded on a high professional level and done well in school and things that I think that fear of failure just for failure sake. We blow it up, we make all these other things like, Oh gosh, you know, I don't know what will happen. I think we blow it out of proportion because the truth is we are so deeply afraid to look inside ourselves and face whatever it is that makes us so afraid to fail. Right. I think we feel like it would say something deep about us that we don't feel comfortable with. All the other stuff is BS. And I think the type of people who are, you know, perfectionist like that and high achievers, it's just, you know, but yeah, tend to be incredibly self critical and I think it's just really scary to not do well.
Goli: Okay. So you start thinking about, now going back really quickly, you said you'd worked in kitchens, but did you have any experience in any kind of management of a kitchen?
Erin: No, absolutely not. So I had only worked, I'd worked as a line cook for other people, which, you know, like when people would ask what I do, I'll often say a chef cause no one knows what the heck a line cook is. But a chef is the head of the kitchen. I was definitely not a chef. You know, I had a chef who would tell me what to do and so yeah, I had no idea. I'd never managed a single person in my life.
Goli: So how did you even know where to start? Like what setting up a restaurant, you know, I mean going down this path, like how did you figure out what to do?
Erin: You know, I really grossly underestimated how hard that would be. I think I've always been, I mean I guess the thing I had going for me is that I've always been a good natural leader. You know, it was like sports tools growing up or any sort of group activity. That's just a rule I would gravitate towards. But leadership and management are two really different things. And I think actually to this day I'm an exceptional leader and I'm a mediocre manager, hire really good managers that work. So, but you know, when your company is first starting out and is small enough, you really need to be excellent at both. And so yeah, I had this really utopian idea. I knew I had not really enjoyed anywhere I had ever worked. And this, you know, starting homeroom was sort of my moonshot to hopefully like going to work.
And honestly, like if, truthfully I was not super sure that was gonna work. I thought it was quite possible that there's just a type of person that gets, you know, that says things like, I get really excited to wake up and go to work in the morning and I thought, it's possible. I'm just not one of those people. I'm just not built like that. But this was sort of my best bet at what might make me happy to wake up in the morning. So I just felt really passionately that I wanted other people to feel that too. Or it would be super depressing. I love coming to work, but everyone at my company hates it, you know? So I felt really committed to making Homeroom the best possible place to work. And actually our first Craigslist ad is so utopian in scope, over 300 people showed up for the job interviews.
It was just insane. It took eight hours to get through them. I had only been to interviews and it was insane. Yeah, it was really, really cool. I think that that message really spoke to people. Yeah. And I had no idea how to deliver on it. I think I just had to create the kind of place I would want to work, which has someone who's a natural leader and very independent. I was like, Oh, just have no rules, just have maximum freedom. Just let people do the right thing. And I mean, honestly, Homeroom was not despite like I'd say, the gap between the ideals that I held and the way it actually felt to work at the restaurant. It was a pretty giant chasm for a long time, you know?
Goli: Right. Well, yeah, I mean I think that a lot of that stuff sounds great in the ideal, but like, you know, I don't know how well a restaurant would run if there was anyone was just doing whatever they wanted, you know, and not meeting certain expectations or being on a schedule or whatnot. So it, well, I think it's admirable to want to create a place where people want to work. I think that probably within certain confines, there has to be certain rules.
Erin: Yeah. I mean that was pretty much, and I'd say that that's actually really the process of trial and error that happened over the coming years was realizing, Oh, actually the keys to making a great place to work or creating the right boundaries within which you gives people freedom. Right. So that it's really clear what we're all expected to do so that we can all be a team and accomplish great goals together. But also where we're not prescribing so much of what every team member does, that they feel like they lose their individuality, like they have no agency. Right. So I think that's just the balance and that's what I spend most of my time working on. I'm thinking about it at this point.
Goli: That's awesome. I want to definitely want to know more about that, but really quickly before we get to that, like kind of going back, so when you, from when you decided you wanted to open up this restaurant how long did it take for you to kind of open it up and how did you fund that? I mean, was it just all personal money or did you have to get loans or investors? How did you kind of go about that?
Erin: It was really hard. So especially because I didn't realize how much it would take to open a restaurant. And so at first I started off proposing to my husband. I was like, okay, what if we use a quarter of our life savings and put it into this? And he was like, okay, you know, go for it. If you lose it, it's okay. And basically the budget just kept increasing and increasing and increasing. Honestly, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who opened a restaurant more cheaply than I did. I mean, it was really done on the cheap. It still took the entire it in the end it took. So first of all, we're not eligible for a bank loan. It turns out for restaurants actually pretty impossible to get them unless you're an established restaurant business already.
Yeah, they're so high risk have such a high rate of failure. Even though I was a lawyer and had perfect credit and all these things, no way I tried every bank under the sun could knock up so couldn't get a loan. And I actually started the company with a friend. I've since bought her out of the business. But I mean, both of us, I literally picked her, like we had just met at a cafe like months beforehand because I was so desperate for money and she was the only person I knew who also wanted to open a restaurant who had savings to do.

I was like, how do you pick a partner? And I was like, yeah, I mean that's also a notorious problem within companies, you know, is, is people that kind of start things together. And then once that, if that breaks down or, you know, it's, I mean, if people have different personalities, I can create a lot of problems. So it was definitely a gamble. I mean, going with someone you don't know, I guess.
I mean, there are, there are some benefits to that, you know, which is that you don't have like a preexisting friendship to destroy. Right. You know? But I do think like, I think what we can't appreciate in that moment is that you're really getting married to someone and you know, I mean it's in fact you often have more assets with them than you.
Goli: Yeah. As it ballooned. I mean, was there a time where you were just like, what the hell am I doing? And I'm assuming you're obviously not getting paid while you're setting all this up and you're just burning through your own savings.
Erin: Yeah. You got it. And I'm married to an educator, so it was not like we had this giant bankroll coming in. Yeah, no, it was pretty terrifying. I used to sleep. Definitely before that. I'd say it was the only downside of my current life is I actually do love my job a lot, but I love it so much that I think about it and just sleep over it. But yeah, I mean I became an incredible insomniac. I was really stressed cause we were going through our entire life savings. Plus I took out every dollar humanly possible on credit, maxed out every credit card. And even so it took a year to get the restaurant up and running. And when we opened, we only had two weeks of operating expenses in the account. So. So yeah. So had it not been an immediate success, it would have been an immediate failure. It would have been like, Oh my God, I just spent a whole year of my life and all my life savings and you know, and honestly, most concepts take more than two weeks.
Goli: Right. I mean, that's definitely, I mean, even though I know how this story turns out, I literally have anxiety for you. Right. Wow. Okay. So, and then, so when did you guys end up opening? February, 2011 and I'm assuming that it was an immediate success because it wasn't a failure.
Erin: Yeah. Thank God lion's out the door, crazy busy and thankfully has been that amount of busy ever since.
Goli: That's incredible. And I don't even know if we've mentioned it, but Homeroom, the restaurant is a restaurant dedicated entirely to Mac and cheese, which literally is the dream. I mean, you're living everybody's dream.
Erin: Yeah, no we are THE Mac and cheese restaurant. I mean we have literally published the authoritative book on it. We've been in USA today, WSJ and NYT cooking channel. If they're writing or talking about Mac and cheese, you were mentioning homeroom. So I'm definitely super proud of it.
Goli: That's amazing. And so how has it grown since you guys have opened it? You're still, are you still the one restaurant or are you multiple locations?
Erin: We're sort of two locations wrapped into one. We have a a full service sit down restaurant and then a block away actually because it was so packed and busy. We opened a takeout, a standalone take out location. And that's also where our headquarters are. Yeah. So there are two spots, one block away that do dramatically different things. Are both quite packed all the time. And then our plan is to keep growing, growing.
Goli: Awesome. That was so amazing. How many employees do you guys have right now? About a hundred. That's insane. I mean, I must feel like such a proud feeling. The fact that you are helping support a hundred people. I mean you've created a hundred jobs. That's incredible.
Erin: Yeah. And I think, you know, to my point earlier where I really want it to be a place where people want to work. I mean, I'm super proud of the jobs that we've created. I mean our starting hourly is almost $17 an hour, which is obviously way above where like anyone in the industry is, right. Our average tenure is over a third of our staff have been with the company for more than two years. And the average tenure in the restaurant industry is about three months. So yeah, I mean we're just like, I think eventually over time like it did turn into that place that people really do love coming to work and like feel a super huge passion for. And I think that feels great.
Goli: Yeah, that's wonderful. Okay. So I watched a speech you gave in 2016 where... If anybody wants to watch that speech, I recommended it. It’s on YouTube. You can just look up Erin, but you talk about how in the after, you know, working in this kind of dream job of yours or you, this career that you built at Homeroom, like you found yourself still unhappy and you ended up taking a sabbatical. Can you tell us a little bit more about sort of what was happening in that and what kind of came out of that sabbatical for you?
Erin: Yeah, I mean I think that one thing, so I feel really fortunate to have gone to, you know, like I had always dreamed of opening a restaurant. I got to do it. And honestly, I was really happy doing it for the first couple of years. I mean, it was exhausting. Those were definitely the hardest years I've had at the company in terms of my daily schedule and what a grind it could be and how it was. But I really loved it. And felt just so passionate about it. But then it sort of reached this point of stability sort of nearing the five year mark and yeah, I found myself just honestly really miserable and it felt obnoxious to be honest, you know, cause, you know, I was literally living my dream and yet I wasn't happy. It just really felt like the ultimate and like, you know, like hashtag white people problems.
Like I just, I really don't want to listen to that person. But yeah, it did not change the reality of how I felt, even though I didn't want to feel that way. And so yeah, I was really struggling. I couldn't quite put my finger on why. And so I did take a three month sabbatical and I had not taken much time off at that point. I hadn't even, I had only taken off a few weeks when each of my kids was born. I mean I just could not stop to breathe right. Since homeroom had opened and having that perspective, I think the thing that became clearest to me later, it was just that, you know, when you watch a movie or something like read a story, basically when people have a sort of a dream they want to accomplish, it's like one thing, right?
And the whole story is leading up to that moment and then they're there and then that was the end of the movie. So I had not really thought beyond that dream. And the great thing about dreams is like once you achieve them, like basically you need to have new dream. Right. You know, and that's not a bad thing. I think we're just sort of, you know, like we were talking about how everything's a linear path. I think I had even treated bridging this alternative career path is like, okay, now I've, I've done it, you know, and thinking like, Oh, at some point you can't just live in that forever. You need to keep growing and evolving as a person and, and so what's the next challenge that you want to do that's gonna make you feel excited to wake up in the morning again, you know?

Goli: Yeah, absolutely. And I love, I mean I love that you're saying this because I think that so many of us have already experienced it where it's like, Oh, once I become a lawyer, once I become a doctor, once I become this, then everything will be great. And then you get there and obviously that's not the truth. And I think that we, even though we know this, we still constantly think, Oh, when I get to X, when I do Y, then everything's going to be great. And I think realizing that it is a constant self evaluation, it is a constant learning process.

Erin: Well, you know, and I love, I have a good friend who is always saying, when I'm making a decision, she's like, well, what kind of problems do you want to have? Because like, you know, we always think like, Oh, I'll be happier. I won't have problems if I do this or that. And that's just never true. And so it's literally like when you're thinking of your life choices, it's like, what kind of problems do I want to have? You know? And in that case, I think I was, I had reached this point of stability and I was afraid of disrupting that because I knew what it looked like to sort of start something new and how much energy that can take and how scary it can be if you have that much money on the line and all these things. Right. But, you know, you just have to ask yourself like, okay, what, what problems do I want to have? Like what do I want to have? And in that case, I was like, basically by avoiding problems, I also wasn't embracing any new challenges. And that's not, and then your problem is that you're not growing anymore as a person. That's not a good problem.

Goli: Yeah. No, absolutely. I think that that makes total sense. So now what's sort of next for you guys at Homeroom?

Erin: Yeah, well I'm really excited. You know, we're working on two big things that are really intertwined that I'm super excited about. One is taking our business model and you know, I do have, you know how I was saying earlier that I have a strong passion for food and social justice work and ironically, like you know, I ended up being able to combine the two in the world of Mac and cheese. But so we're really, really focused on female leadership particularly cause the restaurant industry really lacks it at the higher levels, like in terms of employees, more women than any other industry. And yet they're absent from high level leadership roles. So I'm going to be pursuing, I'm not sure if it's gonna be a franchise or a partner model, but essentially a growth model that's about having female partners and franchisees that open future homerooms.
Yeah. So super excited about that. And then we're working on developing our own internal training and development program. A large part of it, which will be dedicated to working with our new partners in growth. But a lot of which is going to be externally facing because we have all these really cool business practices that we'd like to share with the world. We have an amazing anti harassment policy that our staff came up with and it actually, like I wrote a piece about it for the Washington post, New York times covered it in 2020 covered it and it really got a lot of traction. So taking some of the cooler, more influential things we're doing and putting them out there so that the world can access them. So really just trying to influence the world of business by building a great business with homeroom and then teaching other businesses and leaders how to do some of the great stuff that we're doing.

Goli: Good for you. That is so admirable and I will link to that article in the show notes for anybody that wants to find it. I think it's so interesting and inspiring what you're doing. One of the problems I had when I was quitting law because I was a federal public defender. A lot of times we get stuck in what we thought we were going to do. And that's the only way to, you know, quote unquote save the world. But there's so many ways, you know, especially even in business and we're, luckily we're seeing this now. A lot of companies are becoming more socially conscious and doing things to help out whether it's the environment or you know, gender inequality or racial inequality, all that stuff. So I commend you for taking that seriously. Cause a lot of people talk the talk but they don't really walk the walk. So you know, implementing that is incredible.
Erin: Thanks. And you know, I mean to your point about wanting to change the world, I think that's something that we're also not taught. You know, when we think about evaluating all these different career paths is like, you know, I had a similar mind frame that I really wanted to, to change the world. And I think the thing I didn't realize about law that I can only appreciate now is how destructive that framework is, right? Ee're literally, the way it's set up is that you have two opposing sides that are supposed to just duke it out and be in battle with each other and supposedly, justice happened in that somewhere in there. And I think the thing I love about the business world is that it's literally creative. You have to bring people together to do something together and to create things and you get to make things. And I did not realize it for me and the way I feel, I found that approach with law that was so adversarial and so extreme about what positions you take. Yes it was a really depressing way to approach the world.
Goli: I agree wholeheartedly. I feel the same way. So. Okay. So what advice would you give somebody that sort of feels like you did when you were at the firm? You know, if you have any resources or books or anything that you, you know, I think a lot of people, it's easy to look at someone like you and look at the success and think, Oh yeah, well she, you know, had experience in the restaurant industry, but the reality is, you didn't have experience running a restaurant. You took this huge risk. And I think a lot of people don't realize that it's just normal people doing this every day. And so, you know, anything that you either like a motto or some advice or a book or something that you can recommend to people that sort of feel stuck in their career.
Erin: Yeah, I guess I have, I have three things that I'd recommend in terms of a book. There's a book called How Will You Measure Your Life? I'll link to it again in the show notes. Yeah, I think that he asks some really interesting questions and I think that it's just a helpful book to get your mind going. But you know, I would say two things. I think one, if there's something that you think that you might be interested in, you know, something that's sorely lacking from really like any of our systems of education is, is practical experience. And you know, I did this in restaurants, like how I got started cooking is, I just volunteered when I was in college and then I was like, Oh, I love this. You know, and it was just a way to get my feet wet.
And so, you know, I think a lot of people, they're like, Oh, I think I want to cook professionally. They put down all this money and then they go to school for it and then they get out and they're like, Oh shit, I don't like this, you know? But almost all jobs, you can get exposure to them if you're willing to do them for free, you know? So you don't have to go quit your job. You could literally go, just approach someone somewhere in an industry that you think you might be interested in moving into and just be like, can I come and work for free for you one day a week? And you know what, or like one evening or one weekend or whatever. And most people will say yes, you know, offering free help. And so I think that's one thing that we just aren't encouraged to do that I would encourage people to do because you generally don't know if you like it until you've tried it.

So before you commit just, you know, give it a go. But the other thing I would say is I think like this is how I, I now figure out how my career is going to continue to develop and it's proven to be true, not just for me but for anyone who I really admire and consider successful in their field is that I always say yes to ideas that I just feel really passionate about and excited by, even if it is not clear how I will make money from them in the beginning. And so I'll give you a tangible example. I mean the restaurant is certainly one example. If I gave you what our business plan look like? I mean, I, I did not think it was going to make money to be honest. I was willing to do it despite that and, and, but it's, I think the reason it's so successful is because I had such a deep passion that I was willing to do it even if physically people weren't really paying me to do it.
You know? And when you bring that kind of passion to the table, it shows, and you know, I had the same thing happen when we were approached to write a cookbook a few years ago. And honestly, the economics of cookbooks, if you've ever lived in, it's absolutely terrible. It was just shocking. I was like, this is not worth my time. But I had always dreamt of writing a cookbook. It was a big dream of mine just said. Yes. And you know what? It's a bestselling cookbook. It is earned out tremendously. It is one of the success stories where it did make financial sense to do it. I mean, it's like in that 1%, you know? And I think it's because again, it was just a project where I was like, if I'm basically not being paid to do this, but I'm going to do it anyway.
And so I think that when you feel like a passionate excitement for something, you know, people always follow your passion. And I guess my followup to that is, ask yourself what you do if no one was paying you to do it. And if you do it and you stick with it, at some point someone will pay you to do it. It's what I've generally found. It's great advice. And it's funny, it's a theme a bunch of people on this show and in future episodes. You'll see, it's funny how all these people that have made these transitions did exactly that, where they just like found something they wanted to do and they asked somebody if they could do it for free for them or they, if they could, you know, work for maybe a little bit of money but not what they were making.
They took a huge pay cut in order to learn something and just put it out there and follow that passion because passion is infectious and eventually people are like, I want to be near that. I want to write, you know what?
Goli: Great. why don't you tell everybody where they can maybe follow along with homeroom or find you and what's the best way to do so.
Erin: So an easy way to follow along with Homeroom is, you know, Homeroom5101 Facebook and Instagram and all that. And if you want to reach out to me directly, you can just go to the website and click on the contact us button and it'll, well first of all send it to our marketing person. Then they'll send it to me.
Goli: Wonderful. Thank you so much, Erin. Thank you so much for listening. I can't tell you how much it means to me. If you liked the podcast, please rate and review us on iTunes. It'll help other people find the show. If you want to connect or reach out, follow along on Instagram and Facebook at lessons from a quitter and on Twitter. At quitter podcast. I would love to hear from you guys and I'll see you on the next episode.