We had the good fortune of connecting with Elizabeth Graf and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Elizabeth, as a parent, what do you feel is the most meaningful thing you’ve done for them?
Quitting my corporate job was the biggest impact I have had on my children to date. I finally had my dream job in international sales and was getting paid to see the world. I loved my job but was traveling extensively and could not imagine leaving my kids for extended periods of time. I knew plenty of women in similar positions who were awesome at their jobs and at parenting but I knew that was not the right choice for me.
We struggled with the transition from two incomes to one, especially in California. I also struggled with feelings of self-worth as it was formerly derived from my education and career. Motherhood is a no thanks job – no accolades, reviews, bonuses, etc. to help with your self esteem. However, I never regretted the time at home with my kids. They aren’t breaking any academic or athletic barriers but they are kind, confident and loving. I have learned that there is certainly no right way to parent but 90% of it is just showing up, both physically and emotionally.
As they get older, I believe the next big impact is them seeing me doing something for myself. After years of being the center of attention, I feel it is important for them to see that they are a part of something bigger. They are seeing the drive and determination it takes to start a business. I have chosen a business that still allows me to be present and get them involved. My hope is to provide a place for my girls and their friends to work where they can develop business skills and a strong work ethic. I believe self-empowerment is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I started my “career” when I was in grad school working as a marketing intern for Delphi Automotive Systems (GM Japan) outside of Tokyo. After graduation, I returned to the States and worked for a beverage industry consulting company. That led me to the first of my two favorite companies in my professional career, Red Bull. I worked in marketing and sales for Red Bull and had my hands in everything from the Red Bull cars with the big cans on top to Red Bull vending machines. I traveled extensively domestically but was longing to work and travel internationally. The perfect opportunity arose at Oakley as the International Territory Manager for Asia/South Pacific. I worked as the liaison between headquarters and subsidiaries and distributors abroad. I loved working at both Red Bull and Oakley where I learned from the best in the consumer goods industry. It has fueled my love for creating and selling what’s tangible.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Day 1 – Visit the Santa Monica pier – it is iconic and never disappoints. Follow it up with cocktails at The Lobster and walk across the street for a burger at Chez Jay.
Day 2 – Walk from Santa Monica to Venice Beach along the boardwalk. Stop and gawk at Muscle Beach because it is a prerequisite. Stroll through some of the cuter boutiques and grab a beer and lunch outside for some of the best people watching in the world. Go to dinner at Darya on Santa Monica Blvd. for the most delicious Persian food in town.
Day 3 – Go to Nicole Singer’s house for runny, cheesy eggs and sourdough toast breakfast. Get her Scubajets and paddleboards. Take them to Venice to motor through the canals. End at Nicole’s house for her famous 4-cheese mac and cheese for dinner and sunset drinks on her balcony.
Day 4 – Chinese Mann Theater and Hollywood Walk of Fame and then hit my brother, Warren, up for dinner and a place to stay. My sister-in-law, Jennifer, makes the best balsamic chicken.
Day 5 – Convince Warren to take us to the Johnathan Club beach as his guests. Memorize his member number to order lots of drinks and snacks on his tab and lounge on the beach. Paddle board and have Nicole meet us with Scubajets to see how fast we can move them in the waves.
Day 6 – Hike up to the Hollywood sign and make sure to tell everyone we remember the old sign. Head to Larchmont and have Salt & Straw ice cream for dinner.
Day 7 – Go to La Brea Tar Pits and surrounding area. Be sure to grab a stick and play in the oozing tar. Dinner in Koreatown – too many great restaurants so pick any with 4 or more stars from Yelp and make sure they serve spicy raw crab.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My husband has been my greatest supporter – he is a truly selfless husband and father. Starting the business without his economic support would have been impossible. However, I am most thankful for his emotional support. I have used our living room to store clothing racks, the kitchen table as a sewing station with multiple machines and our bedroom to hold excess inventory. He has served as a size gauge mannequin, weighed in on countless designs and tied his fair share of hang tags. He has not complained once and I am incredibly grateful.
Nicole Singer has been my go-to friend for all things for nearly 20 years. She is an incredible friend, mentor, writer and a marketing genius. She is my unofficial consultant, which is fantastic because I could never afford her. Nicole has spent countless hours providing advice and helping me build the company. Perhaps most importantly, she points out when I try to skip essential steps and tells me when my ideas are terrible. She is right more often than not and always finds a kind way to tell me, “I told you so.”
Finally, Bobby Barzi, founder of Fodada, has been an inspiration for successfully achieving his goal: “to remove and blur the lines between my personal priorities and my life’s work.” His boys remain his focus while he continues to grow an incredible altruistic company that supports other fathers. Fodada apparel and gear is top notch too.