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Entrepreneurs Samantha Ettus and Amy Nelson are on a mission to share women’s untold stories through their new iHeartRadio podcast, What’s Her Story with Sam and Amy. Ettus is the founder and CEO of Park Place Payments, a company she designed to help women re-enter the workforce and revolutionize the payment processing industry. Nelson is the founder and CEO of The Riveter, a community platform built by and for working women. They sat down with Jessica Abo to discuss why they’re celebrating, and sharing, women’s successes, failures, and everyday lives.
Can you start by telling us a little bit about what made you start your respective companies and what problem you were trying to solve when you launched it?
Amy Nelson: I was a lawyer before I started The Riveter. I’d been practicing litigation for a decade, and the world really changed for me when I had my first child. I kind of looked around sadly, I think for the first time and said, “Where are women in leadership at the law firms I work at and the companies that we are our clients?” And I realized for the first time that I just didn’t really see a lot of working moms in those CEO, C-level positions. I thought, “Is there a path for me forward now that I’m a mom, or will people look at me differently?” I think in America, we really do look at working moms differently, and I wanted to change that. I wanted us to look at working motherhood as a strength instead of a weakness, and to gather women together, to share their tools and resources to really make that paradigm shift.
Sam, on top of being a founder and CEO, you’re also an author and public speaker. Tell me about what was going on in your world when you created Park Place Payments.
Samantha Ettus: About 11 years ago now, maybe 12, I was at a credit card processing conference for the top guys in the industry, and I didn’t know anything about it. And I asked, “Where are the women? Where are the people of color?” They kind of laughed at me and they were like, “There are none.” They had all arrived on private planes and I thought, “Okay, there is this vast sort of pocket of people earning a ton of money in an industry women and people of color don’t have access to.” And when I was on the book tour for my last book over four years ago now, I had run into so many women who left the workforce, wanted to return and found no opportunities, and it hit me. I thought, “What if I could actually train these women to sell financial services to their local businesses and earn recurring revenue?”
That is the genesis of Park Place. We train people with zero background in financial services to sell credit card processing to their local businesses and earn recurring revenue, kind of like life insurance. But it’s not just women now, it’s also anyone who’s sort of, not had access to financial opportunities. It’s also people who’ve been victims of ageism. It’s people of color or anyone who hasn’t had access to the right opportunities. We train them to be financially successful in their local communities.
How did the two of you connect and what were you doing when you looked at each other and said, we should start a podcast?
Nelson: We actually met through a mutual friend of three or four years, Rachel Sklar, who is an incredible entrepreneur herself. She connected Sam and me, because we were both starting companies and also building families at the same time. Sam and I immediately connected when we met in Los Angeles over lunch. And we really have been supporting one another as we’ve grown our businesses, connecting to investors, figuring out how to deal with management issues. You know, all the big problems that come with scaling companies. We’ve always wanted to find a way to build something together.
Ettus: When you’re a new entrepreneur, you need entrepreneur friends, people who really understand what you’re going through. Amy’s been that support system for me for so long. I used to host a call-in radio show for many years and people would always say, “You should do a podcast.” I kind of felt until it’s the right fit, I’m not going to just start a podcast for the sake of it. I’m already so busy. But when this opportunity came to Amy and me, it was just such a perfect way for us to start working together. There are so many synergies, just in the way we think and what we care about. We’re so obsessed with getting women to be much more comfortable talking about their ambition and earning money. We just decided to go for the gold and go for our dream guests and that’s what’s come through. So, it’s been really wonderful.
Your podcast is called, What’s Her Story with Sam & Amy. What do you think makes someone’s story compelling?
Nelson: First of all, I have to say, I think every woman has a compelling story. We live these really interesting lives, full of different chapters, so many different roles, and every woman chooses a very different path through life. The stories that we’re telling are stories about women who’ve managed to build really important careers, whether they’re authors, whether they’re CEOs, whether they’re politicians, right? It can run the gamut, but at the same time, they live these really interesting and complicated personal lives, too. It’s just really amazing to see all of the different and unexpected stories that you can hear from women.
Ettus: Sometimes we see one dimensional views of successful women, and we also hear about too few successful women. So if you read business magazines, you think that the only women out there are Marissa Meyer, Sheryl Sandberg and Oprah Winfrey. You forget that there’s a lot of depth on the bench. So, one of the goals of our podcasts is to share the stories of an Austin Channing Brown, or a Tina Chen or a Vernice Armour, who you might not have been familiar with. So that’s always the goal of ours is to make you as obsessed and interested in their stories as you are with the ones that you’ve heard of.
I think it’s amazing when women can be unfiltered and celebrate their wins as well as show the not-so-glamorous parts of their everyday lives. What do you want to say to women who worry they are humble bragging or dumping their dirty laundry on their social media feed?
Nelson: I think we’ve entered a place where women are no longer afraid to be multidimensional, we’re finally leaning into the space of like, “Okay, you have a lot of shit going on and you are remarkable in the fact that you can deal with it all. It makes you better. It makes you stronger. And we want to hear all those stories.” So I think there’s something really important to continuing to push forward with that momentum and really asking those questions and not to say that it’s messy, but it’s real. And the only way women are going to believe they can do it is if they see it.
What do you want the women listening to you to know about valuing their own story and where they are in their journey?
Ettus: We want all women to leave an episode of What’s Her Story With Sam & Amy, feeling like ‘I’m just going to go for those goals! What’s the worst thing that happens? I fail and I’ll try again.’ And I think that’s the common thread of all of the women we’ve interviewed. There is no such thing as overnight success. We’ve never interviewed one person who didn’t work their ass off to get where they are. And I think that that’s what you don’t see. You don’t see those hours that led to their current situation. And I think it’s so important to realize that there is no substitute for hard work. And so you’re going to have to fail a zillion times before you get to the finish line and that’s okay. And that’s what’s going to make you really successful once you get there.
Nelson: You will also see in every single episode of whatsherstorypodcast.com, a discussion on failure. I mean, Sallie Krawcheck tells us about being fired on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, right? Suzy Welch tells about the failure of her first marriage and how she had to raise four little kids on her own while becoming the editor of the Harvard Business Review. These stories are wild. And I sit there, I am a crier and I get tears in my eyes. I think every episode, Sam?
Nelson: But watching these women go through, I put myself where they are, in their shoes, in whatever I hear we’re talking about. And I want to be like, “How did you get out of bed?” How did you keep conquering. And there’s something remarkable to that. And I think that it’s so important to talk about failure, because failure is the only thing that can lead to success.
Sam, for the women out there who are facing some sort of struggle right now, what do you want to say to those women?
Ettus: It’s all about realizing that every “no” you receive gets you closer to the “yes.” But that “yes” is what makes it worth it, and you just have to keep on trying. You have to be very comfortable with the fact that certain people are not going to like you, whether it’s because you’re successful, whether it’s because you represent something threatening to them, live for the lovers, not the haters. The haters will always exist, and you can’t give them the power to control any of your thoughts or actions and just live for the people who are going to support you and are really positive in your life.