Female Founders: Elizabeth Polke of Avere On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Always have belief, strong vision, purposeful action, determination, and gratitude. These five pillars will help anyone to succeed, not just in starting your own business. It is easy to get frustrated when starting your own business and these guiding principles will help entrepreneurs stay on the course.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elizabeth Polke.
Elizabeth Polke, a serial entrepreneur, brings over 20 years of business experience to market. Most recently, Polke launched her newest business endeavor, Avere. A line of high-quality CBD offerings, the company’s products help consumers with their overall health and wellness while offering a dedicated team of direct sales professionals with the opportunity to earn and achieve their career goals. Previously, she launched another direct sales business, Prodigy Consulting, which grew to become a $50 million organization through marketing and sales in the telecommunications, solar, and retail energy sectors. In this role, Polke’s mentorship helped create seven-figure income earners for her team of direct sales professionals. Polke’s passion for mentorship has become a driving force in her business decisions. Through sharing best practices and motivating a team of industry professionals, she has helped coach a team of consultants on the strategies and skills necessary to become successful in business and in life.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I am very proud of my background. As a pre-teen, my family and I emigrated from Ecuador in search of a more prosperous life. The journey to the United States was not easy, but it helped me appreciate that to reach my goals, both hard work and determination were required.
For many years I worked a typical 9 am to 5 pm office administrator position. After being passed over for a promotion because someone was tenured longer, when I was very clearly the most qualified candidate, it hit me that I was no longer feeling fulfilled. I wanted more out of life.
Having made the decision to find an opportunity that would allow me to grow personally and professionally, I soon recognized the potential in sales. While I was proficient in my administration position, a career in sales would provide me with the flexibility and control over my own success that I so deeply desired.
I decided to quit my job and switch gears. I left my comfortable schedule and consistent compensation for a job where my only income was the commission I secured. It was a risk, but it encouraged me to work hard, determine my own worth, pursue my goals, and to venture outside my comfort zone.
Having achieved success working for someone else, it was then time to go in business for myself and share with others the methods that made me successful.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
The whole process of launching your own business is a fascinating experience. Through a great deal of hard work, not only do you see your company grow, but also you see a transformation in yourself.
For me, as my company and team developed, I too grew from a rather shy individual who sought the advice of company leadership into the powerful businesswoman providing guidance and direction to others.
This personal and professional development only assured me that taking risks was the right thing to do. Oftentimes, we don’t know how much we can accomplish until we put ourselves in the position to do so.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
After initially pursuing a career in sales, I had recently been promoted to sales manager. In navigating the new role and the responsibility of managing a team, I tried to focus on organizing the day ahead while simultaneously motivating my colleagues.
As I closed the meeting, instead of saying, “Let’s go kick some ass!” I said, “Let’s go get some ass!” Even though it was a funny, light-hearted mistake, it’s an event I still remember and take lesson from to this day. The experience stressed what it meant to transition into a corporate setting and the measures I would have to revisit like meeting planning, public speaking, and generally acclimating to the corporate environment.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I would not be where I am today without the encouragement and support of my husband, Christopher.
My husband and I actually met working at the same company that inspired me to pursue a career of entrepreneurship. In those early days in direct sales, I remember while I was cold calling businesses to try and sell my product, a business owner was incredibly rude and offensive.
This was unlike any other experience I had professionally, and I considered it a very low point for me. Honestly, it made me question my abilities and this new career path I had chosen. I called my (now) husband and explained to him that I didn’t think the industry was for me. And he said to me, “That person who made those comments to you isn’t going to remember you, but right now you’re deciding to let him determine your future.”
It was the advice I needed to keep going. Without his support then, and all these years later, I would not be the person I am today.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience, what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
For centuries, women have been made to feel inferior. It has made the process of working towards a position of power feel unattractive, and many times unattainable.
To right this wrong, it is essential that women realize their true potential and learn the skills necessary to be the most powerful versions of themselves. Being a mentor to not only my team of sales professionals but women on a larger scale is my greatest passion, and I hope to serve as an inspiration to others looking to pursue a similar career path.
Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?
As I mentioned previously, women must realize their true potential and learn the skills necessary to be the most powerful versions of themselves. We must be able to share our experiences and lessons learned to help empower those looking to start their own businesses or jump into leadership roles.
This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
I believe that women offer unique ways of thinking and can leverage their experiences into thoughtful decision making. While stereotypically women are perceived to be more emotional beings, I do not see this as a fault. In fact, in a leadership position I think that it allows us to see all possible outcomes and ramifications more clearly. Often, ignoring the “emotional” component of a decision could be game-changing.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?
I don’t believe the assumption that a founder is detached from the day-to-day responsibilities of the rest of the team. In order to be successful in business, especially as a new company, the founder needs to understand each component of their business. Knowing the ins and outs of every aspect of the company will allow for proper delegation and effective leadership.
I remember one time I was having an issue with the packaging sector of my company. There were consistent errors which was not only frustrating, but also cause for concern. I could not understand why there was still room for error after addressing the problem several times. It wasn’t until I physically went into the factory to witness the packaging process, that I was able to fully comprehend the intricacies and obstacles that were encountered when completing proper packaging. Not only did this educate me on the steps, but it also allowed me to make adjustments elsewhere to allow for a more seamless flow of production.
Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?
I think there are learnable traits that are useful to become a founder. However, I don’t think that inherently means that everyone is ‘cut out’ to start their own businesses.
I teach my mentees the five pillars to success, and I believe these qualities make for great business founders.
In addition to these pillars, individuals looking to start a business should be willing to learn and be flexible no matter the environment. It’s important to be patient and resilient because results may not be immediate, and they aren’t always the measure of success. While an individual may not be ready to start their own business, it does not mean that they can’t be in control of their own success. These pillars really are the foundation for having more in life.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
Always have belief, strong vision, purposeful action, determination, and gratitude.
These five pillars will help anyone to succeed, not just in starting your own business. It is easy to get frustrated when starting your own business and these guiding principles will help entrepreneurs stay on the course.
Your desires will only come through action.
Don’t just dream about a desired result, make it happen! After wanting more control over my ability to succeed, through hard work and determination I not only changed careers but have started two successful businesses.
Don’t settle on being a dreamer.
Stating your own business takes a great deal of creativity and thoughtfulness. Bringing that vision to life, takes resilience and action.
There is power in manifestation.
If you are able to envision your achievements, it will help you achieve your desires.
Always start with a plan.
When a great idea strikes, there can be a sense of urgency to achieve your desired result. Take the time to stop for a moment and plan out how you envision bringing this new venture to life. While you might not always follow the plan exactly as written, it will help you plan for multiple outcomes.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I am very excited about my newest venture, Avere. With my husband, we recently launched a line of high-quality CBD offerings that will not only help consumers with their overall health and wellness. We have put together a specially formulated line of CBD oils, balms, and capsules is intended to not only help users realign and balance their body’s optimal levels of wellbeing, focus, and performance, but to also raise awareness of the power of pure, highly potent CBD. After seeing the positive effects on my mother’s health, I realized the potential CBD has to treat physical and mental ailments and felt compelled to start my own venture.
Additionally, our proven business model provides an infrastructure for motivating and helping direct sales professionals achieve their financial goals. The company is structured to recognize and reward a community of “Advisors.” Through mentorship, professional support, and passion, our team of direct sales professionals will have an opportunity to develop their careers and thrive in a new, social selling business.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would inspire a sort of ‘pay it forward’ movement. I think there is always room for people to reflect and say to themselves, “How can something I have, be of use to someone else?” We oftentimes overlook what we’re not using. So, encouraging the ‘pay it forward’ movement would not only promote those with limited access and resources, but also uplift other women in business.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I would love to have the opportunity to speak with Ivanka Trump. Other than her iconic fashion brand, her advocacy for women and minorities in business and helping them find their professional journeys in the U.S. inspired me to use my resources to promote other women’s ventures. Former-President Trump’s policies on paid family leave and childcare came from Ivanka whose prioritization for working women and families never ceased to be in action.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.