Hello friendly faces! It’s that time of the week! We’re back with a new CNSMoms’ Meet a Mom spotlight brought to you in part by Mary Gifford of Gifford Law. This week’s Meet a Mom interview is with Erin Gallagher, social media influencer, CEO and Founder of Ella, an inclusive network unlocking women’s access to capital – both human and financial.
The Arlington Heights transplant is a mother two wee ones and a self-proclaimed disrupter with a mission to achieve intersectional gender equity AND build generational wealth for womxn everywhere. Erin states, “Break the cycle. Doing things the way you were taught, the way society has conditioned you to think or the way you’ve always done them isn’t always the best way forward. Give yourself the opportunity and space to consider a different way.” Erin is kind, strong in all sense of the word and the kind of mama you want in your corner. Welcome, Erin!
Hi Erin! Please introduce yourself. Where are you from and how did you find your way to the burbs?
Hello! I am Erin Gallagher. I am the CEO and Founder of Ella, an inclusive network unlocking women’s access to capital: human and financial. I am a mother, a wife, an Aries, a Michigan alum (Go Blue!), a disrupter and abortion beneficiary.
I’m not truly “from” one place in particular. My mom was in the Coast Guard. So, we moved every 2-4 years my entire life. I was born in Long Beach, California and then lived in New Orleans for four years, Hawaii for four, New Jersey for two, Virginia / DC for two. Then, my first two years of high school were in Hawaii (at Obama’s high school, Punahou) and my last two were in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
I went on to attend University of Michigan and live in D.C. for our my first job out of college, followed another stint in Michigan…and finally, Chicago (where I’ve been for 13 years).
I now live in Arlington Heights, IL. We just celebrated our one year anniversary of moving to the burbs after living in our Bucktown condo for six years (and six years before that in three different neighborhoods in Chicago).
Even though I was born on the West Coast, I am a Midwesterner at heart.
You’re a mama! How many kiddos do you have and how old are they? Feel free to brag here.
I have two boys ages 6 1/2 and four. I always knew I would have boys. It was my destiny. My boys are fierce, loving, empathetic, energetic, enraging, brave, bold, big-feelings kids. They have changed the way I look at the world. They have changed the way I see – and take care of – myself. Being their mother is the greatest – and most challenging – gift of my life. They are hilarious and always keep me on my toes.
What are one or two things people would be surprised to know about you?
The last time I saw my dad was the day after I graduated from high school. He’s still out there somewhere, but has chosen to not be a part of my life.
Growing up and through my first year of college, I wanted to be in the FBI.
What are your favorite local places to spend with the family?
We love to take the boys to all of the amazing parks we have in Arlington Heights and exploring Lake Arlington and the many forest preserves in the surrounding areas. Our boys are nature lovers and leave no tree unclimbed.
We also love family brunches at Scratchboard and Coco & Blu, lunches at Cortland’s Garage and dinners at Armand’s pizza and Javier’s in AH.
We’re excited to check out the River Trails Park District indoor children’s Parkour over Thanksgiving break. Any space that allows our boys to work out their energy is a win in our book.
Your LinkedIn description introduces you best and I love that you are not afraid of self-promotion. Afterall, if we don’t champion ourselves, who will? I’d love to chat about all of this but I’m going to stick to your most recent endeavor, Ella.
What is Ella?
Ella is an inclusive network unlocking women’s access to capital: human and financial. We recognize women’s value and increase their valuation.
Our mission is to power our disruptive ecosystem to achieve intersectional gender equity + build generational wealth for womxn everywhere.
Our vision is to create a world where womxn realize the unencumbered, uninhibited + unlimited personal, professional + passion potential they have always deserved, but never experienced.
What was the impetus behind starting Ella and when did you start it?
I’ve always been interested in mission-driven work.
For 15 years of my career, I worked *in* the system (running marketing and comms at agencies) trying to change it — to make it a more equitable place for women and all historically excluded groups.
I then spent 2 ½ years at the last company I founded working *on* the system (with some of the world’s biggest brands and companies like McDonald’s, LinkedIn, United Airlines and Carhartt) trying to change them.
I didn’t feel that either way was creating enough change or progress— or having the impact that I hoped to have on the world.
With Ella, we’re focused on a third way. New system. One created for — and by — us.
When I turned 40 in March of this year, I made the decision to recommit my career to helping women build generation wealth. Because when women have more money, everybody wins.
Photo credit: Lena Jackson
Who does this network serve?
The impact of the work we do serves everyone. But we focus on serving anyone who identifies as a woman. And any allies committed to investing in women individually or at the corporate level.
Tell us about your launch of The Fairway Membership.
On December 1st, 2022 we are launching our Fairway Membership through our new Fairway app. This exciting new product launch is in response to the incredible success of our Fairway Dinners and the desire from women around the world to be in more places, more often. In just eight weeks, completely self-funded, we were able to accomplish so much: 120 women. Six dinners. Five markets. We’ve created access to: 2,400+ new connections; 100+ human capital hours; 75+ un-gettable meetings; 50+ job opportunities; $2.5M+ increased wealth.
What can womxn expect from membership?
With The Fairway Membership, our chief concern is women’s access to capital: human and financial. Whether you’ve attended a Fairway Dinner and want to stay connected to your Squad or are interested in bringing The Fairway to your town, becoming a Fairway Member will recognize your value and increase your valuation.
Through our app, we apply the same inclusive, intersectional, curated approach we use to bring 20 women together at our dinners to build even more Squads of women around the world. Every Fairway Squad is made up of geographically proximate women – to expeditiously build our in-person Fairway dinners and encourage additional face-to-face interaction, activities and hype Squad moments. And they represent an inclusive, intersectional mix of women:
- Established (c-suite and senior leaders at Fortune 500 and large companies)
- Elevating (mid-senior level at small to large companies)
- Entrepreneurs (female founders and small business owners)
Our platform encourages and enables women to ask for what they need, discuss money and wealth-building and to do business together. Our membership is $40/month and includes:
- Private space to connect with your Fairway Squad
- Fairway Forum: elevated access to jobs, projects and personal-brand-building opportunities
- 20% discount on future Fairway Dinners
- 15% discount on The Ella Store
- BTS access to The Fairway Podcast content
- A VIP invite to Ella’s incredible one-year anniversary celebration in July, 2023 in Chicago
Be sure to sign up for the Ella Newsletter for launch news and check out our website and social properties.
You’re about to launch a podcast, The Fairway Podcast. What can we expect to hear from that, and with whom have you had the pleasure of speaking?
We’ll be kicking off The Fairway Podcast with award-winning broadcast journalist and executive producer Soledad O’Brien. Like our Fairway Tables, our guests will represent an intersectional, inclusive mix of women who are established, elevating and entrepreneurs. We’re keeping the rest of our guests under wraps for now. But we can’t wait to share them with you all soon.
Can’t wait! Do you have a launch date?
We are launching our podcast smack dab in the middle of Women’s History Month on March 15th, 2023.
Let’s talk about LinkedIn. Ok, I’m just going to say it to everyone out there, if you don’t already follow Erin Gallagher on LinkedIn, it’s a must. You’re writing is a craft, all things inspiring, motivational and… controversial. And I’m here for it. Tell us about when you first became outspoken and how your voice has grown.
I’ve been outspoken since I was a little girl. I always speak up for what I believe — and stand up for those who may not be able to use their voices.
But my outspoken voice on LinkedIn began on March 31, 2022 when — for the first time in my professional life — I was my one and only boss. With no one around to try to silence me, minimize my experience or question my perspective, I brought my full self to the platform. And I’ve never looked back.
You’ve spoken about “unconditioning” womxn. As a moms network, our audience is primarily women and a lot of them are currently reinventing themselves. What are two pieces of advice you can offer up to our readers (ie. work/life balance, money matters, etc.)?
First and foremost: You matter. Inherently.
As women — as mothers — we are taught that our value is determined by our service to others. And so we spend a lifetime focusing on everyone else’s needs but ourselves. It’s not sustainable. And in the unforgiving climate of the past few years, it is mentally, physically and psychologically detrimental.
Second: Break the cycle.
Doing things the way you were taught, the way society has conditioned you to think or the way you’ve always done them isn’t always the best way forward.
Give yourself the opportunity and space to consider a different way. For yourself, for your children and family of creation and for the healing of your family of origin, regardless of whether they participate or accept your growth.
What is your most proud professional and personal accomplishment?
My most proud accomplishment is breaking generational cycles in my life…both personal and professional.
Turning 40 was a really pivotal milestone for me. I made the decision to stop abandoning myself in service to others. It’s changed the way I view and experience everything. And it’s reminded me that I exist — and I am the most important person — in the story of my life.
About Our Meet a Mom Sponsor
A very heartfelt thank you to CNSMoms’ Meet a Mom sponsor, Lake Forest mom of three and owner of Gifford Law, a solo Estate Planning Firm (wills and trusts). Mary, we appreciate your support of local moms in our North Shore communities! Learn more about Mary by visiting her Meet a Mom spotlight here! Contact Mary directly here: [email protected].