Eterneva Co-founder Adelle Archer: “Your life is a product of what you focus on”
“Your life is a product of what you focus on: I had a life coach tell me this once, and it’s been a very powerful framework for me since. I realized my thoughts are like seeds, and the ones I water and give sunlight to will be the ones that sprout into my reality. Knowing this, I work to focus on what I care about — my business and my relationships — and I’m constantly refocusing on what I have to be grateful for, rather than what’s weighing on me. It’s a muscle to work, but it becomes easier with practice.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Adelle Archer. Adelle co-founded Eterneva, an innovative company that turns cremated ashes into diamonds, to offer another option to celebrate lives well-lived and keep loved ones close. Eterneva grew by 250% in its first year of operations, and Adelle was listed in Inc’s ’30 Under 30' of young entrepreneurs to watch in 2018. Prior to founding Eterneva, Adelle received her MBA in Entrepreneurship at the Acton School of Business, considered the ‘navy seal’ program for entrepreneurs. At only 23, she graduated valedictorian of her class. She spent four years as a technology marketing leader, launching major products to market with partners like Amazon, Ebay, Square,Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path? How did you get started?
All the females in my family are enterprising, stereotype-busting ladies (from entrepreneurs to famous actresses), so it’s in my DNA to pave my own path. I’m also a very impact-driven person, so I absolutely wanted to do something meaningful with my work. After getting my MBA in Entrepreneurship, I decided to work in Tech for a couple years, to learn the ins-and-outs of online marketing before starting my own company. There I met my business partner Garrett, and we worked together four years at two different companies. Garrett and I were always scheming on different business ideas, and so when we learned about the emerging lab-grown diamond market, we felt like this was the opportunity, so we quit our jobs to start a company.
Shortly after, my good friend Tracey Kaufman passed away. Her family gave me a portion of her ashes, but I couldn’t find any memorial option that felt good enough for her. I didn’t want an urn, and everything else (like a locket or vial of ashes) felt trinkety. I mentioned this to one of the diamond scientists we were working with, and he said it might be possible to grow a diamond from her ashes. We were so enamored by the idea of turning ashes into diamonds, that almost immediately we pivoted our business.
I couldn’t have found a more beautiful way to honor my friend, and now our business is focused on eternalizing remarkable people and pets by turning their ashes into diamonds.
Tell us a little more about your company and what you do?
Eterneva celebrates remarkable people and pets by turning their ashes into diamonds. It’s an intricate eight-month process to create these soulful remembrances, so we’ve created a journey as special as the diamond itself. From interactive video packaging to hand-written letters, to a courier service that hand-delivers the diamond, customers experience a level of thoughtfulness they’ve never seen before, which brings brightness to their grieving.
Talk to us about what motivates/ and drives you each and every day with your company?
My partner Garrett and I are both extremely growth-oriented people, so as leaders of Eterneva, we’re both obsessed with constant improvement. It’s really energizing to have a partner like that. We reflect on what could be done better, push the boundary on growth and work hard to have the best people involved with Eterneva. The biggest motivation for us though is getting to see the difference we make in people’s lives. Knowing that you’re bringing brightness to a dark time, honoring someone’s legacy, and potentially changing someone relationship to their grief is awe-inspiring. We want to learn as much as we can about legacy, and grieving, so we can transform the way our society thinks about around death, dying, grief and ultimately celebrating lives well-lived. It’s such an empowering mission, that there’s no question we’ll break through obstacles in our way. There’s too much at stake to not!
What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive? How are you changing your industry? Your space?
Not much has changed in the way we memorialize loved ones in over 100 years. And now, in our busy 24/7 world, we have less time to visit cemeteries and ashes usually aren’t passed down, so the memories of our loved ones are fading through the generations. We believe our loved ones deserve better, so we’re using new technology to radically redefine the way we memorialize. By turning ashes
into diamonds, we rejuvenate memorials and created a way to preserve a lasting legacy for them.
What are your goals? Where do you want to be in 2019? In five years? 10?
We have a big vision for Eterneva — we want to give people better options to eternalize their loved ones and ensure remarkable people aren’t forgotten. This means we need to become a brand with staying power. We had an incredible year of growth this year (250%) and ambitiously want to triple our business in 2019.
There’s a massive market opportunity with diamonds alone, the cremation rate in the U.S. is 50% (some states are up to 75%), but in five years our goal is to be more than a diamond company and offer multiple options with the latest technologies for celebrating lives well-lived. In ten years, we want to be the premier company for celebrating the legacies of individuals, learning from them and capturing their stories for future generations.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share how they made a direct impact on where you are today?
Jim & Genia Blanchard: This dynamic couple took me under their wing while I was going to business school and introduced me to a remarkable tool called the Birkman (a behavioral assessment). They both were very successful business executives in prior lives (Jim was SVP of Marketing at Prudential) before co-founding their consultancy that helps executive teams work better together. They took me through my Birkman results, where I learned some life-changing things about my strengths, needs, and causes of stress, and then taught me how to analyze other people’s results. They truly opened me up to a whole new world of understanding how people tick and optimizing my relationships.
Tracey Kaufman: Tracey was a close friend and also my business mentor who inspired Eterneva. We met every week, and she coached me on many things — from developing and presenting strategic plans, to navigating hard conversations, to getting beyond perfectionism. The gift Tracey really gave me though was the feeling of unconditional support, love and confidence at a time I needed it most. She helped me realize that investing your time in someone is a powerful gift — we’re all capable of making someone feel worthy. I now pay that forward, by mentoring young people working to find their way.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
- Perfect is the enemy of progress: I joke now that I’m a recovering perfectionist, but at 22 I probably wouldn’t laugh. I used to hold myself to excessive standards that would debilitate me with anxiety. After working with a wonderful anxiety doctor, he helped me see that perfect is the enemy of progress. The most successful people are those who above all else act, even if their work is imperfect. He encouraged me to lower my bar to “good enough,” so if I could say something I did was “good enough,” then it was time to ship it!
- Your life is a product of what you focus on: I had a life coach tell me this once, and it’s been a very powerful framework for me since. I realized my thoughts are like seeds, and the ones I water and give sunlight to will be the ones that sprout into my reality. Knowing this, I work to focus on what I care about — my business and my relationships — and I’m constantly refocusing on what I have to be grateful for, rather than what’s weighing on me. It’s a muscle to work, but it becomes easier with practice.
- Stress and worry accomplish nothing: One of the most serial and successful entrepreneurs I know never gets stressed (even in the most high-stake situations), so one day I asked him why that is and he said, “I realized stress and worry accomplish nothing, so I cut that out of my life. And when you’re not fearing loss, you’re freed up to take bigger risks and have fun doing it.”
How are you going to shake things up next? What’s coming next with your company or in your space?
We want our customers to experience a level of thoughtfulness and compassion they’ve never seen before with any company, so we plan to do a lot of Experience Innovation. We’re currently very personalized with our customers and everyone says “well, that won’t scale,” but we don’t buy that. Disney mastered the art of a magical experience at scale- so we can too. We’re out to create an immersive experience, that guides our customers in celebrating their loved ones to the fullest, while simultaneously documenting and recording their lives and personalities for future generations to enjoy.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
My business partner Garrett insisted I read the book, “The Compound Effect” by Darren Hardy, and it’s simple message inspired me to make big changes. Hardy talks about how the little choices and habits we make everyday compound over time, and have outsized impacts on our life. “Routines create consistency which creates results,” he says. I never considered myself a routines person (I love spontaneity and variety!), but this book convinced me that consistency had to become one of my core values because of the outcomes it can unlock. A consistent routine is effortless — getting there is the hardest part. Building a routine is like biking uphill — you need to keep going to make it to the top. If you skip your routine, you lose momentum, and backslide down the hill, and will have to exert tremendous effort to start over. It’s super motivating for me to think of it this way — because it really raises the stakes on what I’ve got to lose if I don’t do my morning routine.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Eterneva has a big vision for how we want to positively contribute to modern culture. First, we want to transform the way our society thinks about grieving. We want to give those left behind the space to both feel the pain and celebrate the relationship and all the emotions in between. We also want to open lines of communication around grief, so as a society we can better engage with those who are grieving and avoid making them feel isolated and misunderstood. It’s not something we’re generally taught growing up, so many will tip-toe around the topic or unknowingly say something insensitive. No one likes to see a friend suffer, so it would be a extremely powerful to develop tools to lean-in rather than turn-away. This entails two things: one is talking about their loved one. Not how they died, but who they are as a person. Two is being patient and a great listener. Grief cannot be rushed.
We also hope to share the wisdom of Eterneva customers with the world — because they model an empowering approach to grief. We’ve learned so much from these extraordinary people, and the one thing we’ve noticed is that every one of them channels their pain into purpose. They celebrate their loved one’s life unapologetically (see #thisisflorian) on Instagram for a recent example) and find causes to get involved in that would make their loved one proud (see Stephen Youngerman’s campaign to walk seven 60 mile Susan G Komen walks in his wife’s honor). At their lowest lows, they allow themselves to feel their pain and be vulnerable and honest about it with others, but then slowly shift their focus from sorrow to service. This approach won’t “heal” or “cure” — the pain will always be there — but it gives someone a sense of contribution and growth, which gives new meaning to their life.
The third movement we want to inspire is celebrating and documenting a life well-lived. There are so many remarkable people to grace this earth, who live rich lives and have outsized impacts on others with their words and actions. And yet only the ultra-famous lives are properly documented in biographies. We think it’s a shame to have a rich life forgotten or reduced to a terse obituary. We believe our loved ones deserve better, so we want to be the enablers of really capturing the details and stories of who someone was, so future generations can “know” them too.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Oh yes! The mantra that rocked my world is, “Life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you.” It’s SUCH a powerful reframe. I tell myself this anytime I’m in a state of stress, period of uncertainty, or facing an obstacle or hardship. It gives me a sense of ownership over the challenge and makes me appreciate that on the other side, I’ll be a stronger person.
This quote is evergreen for me, but one time it was particularly relevant was when we had to go through the process of buying a business partner out. There was a tremendous amount of uncertainty around how to go about it, how everyone would respond, what would come of the business, etc. At the time, it was one of the most emotionally difficult things I had faced, but rather than focusing on fear or being a victim, I reminded myself this was life happening for me, and calling for me to step outside my comfort zone and show myself what I’m capable of. And it couldn’t have gone better for everyone involved.
If you can give other businesses/startups some advice, what would it be? What key lessons have you learned that have led to your success?
The first piece of advice is don’t waste your time on bad opportunities. It’s worth being patient, and testing and evaluating a lot of different business models before truly committing to one. It’s a LOT of work to build a company, and you need to put yourself out there from a finance and reputation standpoint. Nothing is worse than realizing three years in, that that customers don’t really need your product so it’s a hard sell, or your business is completely at the whim of Google changing their algorithm.
Another amazing piece of advice comes from Ira Glass in his speech, “The Gap.” He talks about how there’s a gap between being a beginner and being a rockstar, and no successful person has got to where they are without bridging that gap. “You gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work,” Ira says. “It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions.”
Would you believe 10 years ago, you would be in this space doing what you are doing today? And if you could talk to your past self, what would you tell them about your current journey right now?
If my 18 year old self knew what I was doing now, I think she’d be really happy and proud, because I’m getting the chance to become the biggest version of myself, serve others, and have an impact that inspires me. If I could give her some advice, I’d would tell her to not be so hard on herself. I’d say, “When you allow yourself to be guided by grace and courage, a lot opens up in your life.”
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can find us on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn at @eterneva. My personal Instagram and Twitter handle is @adellearcher.