elizabeth stephens imperfectly empowered podcast with ahna fulmer
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The Key To Thriving Through Life After Loss

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Business coach and brand strategist, Elizabeth Stephens, shares her personal story and how the key to THRIVING through life after loss will leverage success in all areas of your life!

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  • Key mindset in dealing with loss and grief
  • Realistic steps to cope with the loss of your loved one
  • Elizabeth’s effective success strategy
  • How Elizabeth’s key to THRIVING personally will also help you professionally
  • The importance of discovering your personal brand’s DNA



Elizabeth Stephens is a keynote speaker, personal branding expert, and the Director of Community at The Brand Builders Group.  She has worked with clients ranging from 7-figure entrepreneurs, NYT Bestselling authors, Top Ranked Podcast Hosts to Reality TV stars and everyone in between to build their influence, impact and income. 

Elizabeth also runs a nonprofit that supports children with limiting illness and their families. Her efforts have led to hospital staff positions, new rooms, and grand rounds for physicians on pediatric palliative care.

Business coach and brand strategist, Elizabeth Stephens, shares her personal story and how the key to THRIVING through life after loss will leverage success in all areas of your life!
Ahna Fulmer Signature

People misunderstand this at least from a business and brand building sense is networking. Mm-hmm . I need to be connected to the right people to get where I need to go. There is an element of who are you meeting and how are you leveraging those connections with those people to further your success?
Welcome to the imperfectly empower podcast with leading DIY lifestyle blogger on a fuller. Where women are inspired with authentic stories and practical strategies to reclaim their hearts and homes by empowering transformation. One imperfect day at a time. Hi, and welcome to another episode of the imperfectly empowered podcast.
I am your host on a fuller today. It is my honor to introduce you to Elizabeth Stevens. Elizabeth is a keynote speaker, personal branding expert, and the director of community at the brand builders group. She has worked with clients ranging from seven figure entrepreneurs, New York times bestselling authors, top ranked.
Podcast hosts to reality TV stars and everyone in between to build their influence, impact, and income. She also runs a nonprofit organization that supports children with limiting illness and their families. Her efforts have led to hospital staff, physicians, new rooms, and grand rounds for physicians on pediatric palliative care.
Welcome my friend and personal brand strategist Elizabeth Stevens. Elizabeth welcome to the imperfectly empowered podcast. It’s so fun to have you here. Oh, thanks, Anna. I’ve been looking forward to this for a really long time, so I’m really glad to be here. Yeah. Well, it’s fun when we introduced you, everyone is well aware that you are a brand strategist.
You’re a business coach, and what’s crazy to think is that you were my very first. So I’m also working with Jeff. Who’s been on the podcast, but you were my very first brand strategist. And that was almost a year ago. Now, can you believe that we first met? December of last year. Oh my gosh. It is exactly a year.
it has. I know. Isn’t that crazy? It feels like, look how far I’ve come. I know. I mean, it feels like it’s been such a long time, but then again, It hasn’t, you know, like you’ve accomplished so much in just 12 months. Well, I have you and many people to thank for that. It’s funny. It always makes me laugh. I mean, you’ve been with me at several of the brand builders group conferences, and I always have to laugh because it’s like all these 6, 7, 8 figure entrepreneurs, and then it’s little old me.
Hey, you know, You have to be in a room where people, I just firmly believe, like you have to be in spaces and places where people are excelling over you because, oh, absolutely. If you were in a hurry with people that were just getting started, which is great too, you would just be like, oh, well I’m doing great.
Like I thought, but now you’re like, wait a minute. Like, those are all such good ideas, really glean from all those people. But I love it. I love that. You’re the one who’s like. Hey, it’s me. I don’t have an eight figure business, but I’ve got an eight figure mentality. That’s exactly right. I have an eight. I love that.
I have an eight figure mentality. Well, it makes me laugh because I remember the one conference that we were at just like the simplest things that anybody with a business degree of any sort would know. I leaned over the one time. And I was like, what is B to B like, is this like a rap group? I’ve never heard of like, what is B to B right.
Yeah. B to you’re like, um, it’s business to business group, right? Yeah. Business to business. Which, you know, now, you know, wanna talk about coronary arteries or. Yeah, transient ischemic attacks. We’re good speaking my language. I have no idea what B2B is though. Did you, so you are very, very good at what you do.
Let me just brag on you for a second. You are excellent. You’ve transitioned roles now in the brand strategist company that you work for, but when you look back growing up, Did you see, did you kind of always have that entrepreneur mindset or that like, sort of the business mind for things that you would do or looking back, would you have been like, who I would’ve never, ever seen myself doing what I’m doing today, you know, like who was Elizabeth?
Steven, right? Who was I? The woman, the myth, the legend, right? Like it all started in child form. Yeah. Right. No, you know, that’s a really good question because I think I grew up. Being an oldest child. Very typical. I achieved. I wanted to do well in school. The best child is what you’re saying. You were the best child.
I, you and me both best child mm-hmm right. I don’t think, I don’t know if my brother, I might send this podcast to him just so he hears that and that you, that you affirm it and that it’s out in the world. I do like, yes. Thank you. But I worked really hard, but I also. Have always grown up really loving people like connecting with people deeply has always been very important to me my entire life.
I will always put people before grades before work, like for better or for worse. Mm-hmm , that’s just the way that I am. And when I decided to go to college and when I was looking at all the places to go to college, I picked Vanderbilt university in Nashville for one reason, like I went and visited and I didn’t really look a to, I didn’t go into the college search being like.
This is where I wanna go. Yeah. I didn’t have preconceived notions, but they had a program called human and organizational development and basically it was business and then human development and psychology combined. And that was really appealing to me, not so much for the business part. I knew that I needed.
To have an understanding of business in order to be successful. At least I did at that point in my life, but it was the human development and psychology part that I was like, this is what I really want to dedicate my life to. I don’t wanna be a psychologist. I don’t wanna be a teacher, but this marriage of subject topics is really intriguing to me.
And so I went to Vanderbilt for four years and I, I left and then I was kind of like, okay, How, what do I do with this degree? I mean, it was hugely impactful. It was all about team building and managing and developing people within business. And I had a few different jobs. I kind of floated into the corporate space for a little bit, got really burned out and was like, okay, that’s not for me.
And then I, the pendulum swung the other way, which I didn’t anticipate at all. And I went into ministry for eight years, which I loved, but there was still something that was. Missing a little bit for me, like went into the, into the spectrum. I was totally burned out and I was like, no, like just close that door.
The other, I was like, this is awesome, but I still want more, like, I want, what did you do in ministry? What were you specifically doing? Uh, I was a youth minister, which was definitely talk about not surprising. Yeah. Right. But talk about not on my radar are like, I went to Vanderbilt, like I’m an achieve.
Like I paid a lot to go to college. And then when I was a youth minister, I made less than what I paid to go to school. So. There we are right. I was like, OK, real life. Sometimes you gotta do what you love, right? Yeah. Real life hashtag real life. And when I, when I left ministry, I had this time to really sit back for the first time, I think, in my life and go, what do I really want to do?
And it was then that I reached out to Donald Miller who had just started StoryBrand like announced that he was starting this program I got in right at the very beginning. And I realized. So quickly that this melding of a ministry servant led heart led focus, partnered, and married with business. Again, like from college to now.
Mm-hmm was the sweet spot for me. And it gave me what is story brand? Explain the story brand. Yeah. Good question. I’m talking like everyone, a story brand. I don’t even know what it is actually. Oh, oh my gosh. I’m so excited it to tell you. So Don Miller, Donald Miller is a New York times. Bestselling author.
He started off as a Christian narrative author, and eventually over time moved into the messaging, marketing and business space. He saw a really strong connection between the hero’s journey that we all learn about in high school college, just, you know, there’s a hero. He encounters a problem. Has a call to action.
It, you know, moves towards success and away from failure, right? Just the typical arc that happens in all of literature and movies that we read. And he saw this really strong connection between the hero’s journey and the customer’s mindset. And if businesses just were exceptionally clear and followed this hero’s journey and their marketing and messaging, keep a client every time.
Right. And so it was super, super simple. And so he created this framework and started this business that helped companies and organizations, leverage story and human connection to grow their business. And it was this giant aha moment for me of, this is exactly this sweet spot for me. And I got to work with so preneurs business owners, companies, helping them craft clear and compelling messaging using a framework that really kept the customer top of mind.
And that was so fulfilling for me. And that is how I met Ru Vaden and the brand builders group. Other servant. Led mission, mind, entity that worked around personal branding. And that was when my mind was blown because I did not know that there was a business model out there. And honestly, I think brand builders group is one of the first business models to really go after individual personal and help them build their brands where I went, this is it for me.
Like, this is amazing. This is ministry in terms of working. Intensely one on one with another individual person to help their own original message, original passion desire, ability to problem solve, get out into the world in ways that help them not only impact other people, but make a living, make a really great living.
And so it was this marriage of business, some connection that was just insanely eye opening for me. And I’ve been doing it ever since. Yeah. When you look back over those years. Cause I think so many of us have this period in our life where, like you said, you’re in one job situation mm-hmm and then that one’s not really panning out.
You move to another job situation. Can you think of a time where there was like a lesson learned the hard way type of a scenario that’s kind of led you to where you are or a mistake made that was challenging, but also helped give some clarity. Can you think of a time in that? Period of life, where there was an example of that.
Yeah. I, um, worked in the corporate world when I left college. So a little bit of a backstory. I had a job lined up right before I left college at Southwest airlines, which is this cultural Mecca of companies in the United States, right. Who doesn’t want to work for Southwest airlines and was really exciting opportunity for me.
And I had nailed it down and then very suddenly my dad died. So he died about five weeks before I graduated from college, a little unexpectedly, he got really sick, really fast. And at that point I kind of came to this fork in the road of saying, do I stay here in Nashville and take this amazing job or being the oldest child, you know, being close to my family, do I need to just go a home and kind of start over from scratch and.
Be still for a minute. And I did, I made the tough decision to pivot really quickly and move home. So I left the job opportunity and moved home to San Antonio. And when I got back to San Antonio, I kind of went. Okay. Like, what do I do now? Mm. And it had not been too much time, you know, everyone was like, well, take your time.
Like, your dad just died. Like you really need to, you have permission to take some time to really figure out what you’re gonna do and kind of sit in your grief for a bit and all sorts of different things. And I think. My mindset was like, okay, then they’re done that. I’m done. I need to get a job. Like I just need to move.
Like, I’m an achiever. I went to a great school. I’m just sitting here. I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing. Right. Mm-hmm , I’m just sitting at home. And so I got a job really quickly. I did not give myself the permission to step back and think, what do I need to do right now? Now what do I want to actually do right now with this unforeseen unexpected and.
Really not welcome, um, yeah. Change in my life, but sometimes during really hard times in your life or during transitions, I think our natural inclination is just to fix it and to move when really it’s an invitation to sit back and reassess, like it’s an opportunity to do that. And I didn’t take that opportunity.
I jumped right into the corporate at space and worked myself. I mean worked 80 plus hour weeks, which is not my personality really put my nose down to the grindstone. And after about two and a half years was just done. Mm-hmm, totally burned out. Not healthy, not in a good place in my life. And normally I am right.
Like I just, I wasn’t and I think. That not taking that space, not just allowing. So whether it’s a pivot in your life or a transition, whether it’s devastating or whether it’s just natural, we need to take the time to stop. And reassess, like it’s a gift, right? Mm-hmm . And I think that is one of the biggest things that I have learned to do moving forward that with every transition and opportunity I’ve been given in my life, whether I elected to take it or something happened, the fast-paced achieving excitable nature.
That is part of me I’ve learned to temper and just be like, what can I commit to that? I love. And that’s gonna give me life. It’s a hard balance because I think especially with COVID now, I think there are so many people that can resonate with the sudden loss or unexpected. Challenge of loss maybe more so than before.
And I think it is hard or maybe even just, you know, not even just with illness, but even just with job loss. I think there are so many more people that can relate to this sense of being forced to pivot in a way that you are not expecting nor was it welcome. And I think one of the challenges is often.
Finding that balance of you don’t want to just simply skim right over the grief. You don’t want to push it away. You don’t ignore it. You don’t want to put your rose colored glasses on and not allow yourself to settle there for a little bit, but then you also don’t want to settle there. Mm-hmm for too long and stay there in an unhealthy manner.
And that’s always the challenge, I think. And I guess for you looking back, obviously this was. Not real recent, but can you speak to what would be a practical piece of advice for somebody who may have. Just had to pivot maybe in this last year or two, whether it be because they suddenly lost a loved one or they suddenly lost their job, they were laid off or their job has drastically changed.
What is a practical piece of advice that you could give them to make it through this stage so that they can live there in a balanced manner, but also have their site ahead that they’re keep taking steps forward. Mm-hmm what would be a word you would give them? Yeah, that’s really good. So I tend to look at this.
In a really realistic. Take a really realistic approach, cuz I think a lot of people would tell you a lot of things that were yeah. Aspirational, right? Like if you just do this or focus on this, then this will happen or something like that. So mine is pretty raw and it’s just it’s this. So yes, when things don’t go our way, whether they’re tragic and hard or.
Just a little blips in our journey that really set us back for whatever reason. And we want, you mentioned like just sitting in that grief or that upset or just becoming stagnant, right. Just saying like, I cannot move. Like I don’t really know what to do next. And that is on a wide spectrum range. We have this phrase in our family.
And it’s based on, on lots of things that have happened in our lives and being really realistic about allowing setbacks and challenges to really own them and feel them because it’s really important to do that. Like I did not allow myself to do that and it set me back, I think years and just not even emotionally, but just moving forward in what I wanted to do in my life.
Like really taking a hold of things that were exciting to me. So it’s not just an emotional thing. It’s truly a. Right. What are you doing on Monday? Like what are you taking advantage of? And so we have this phrase in our family that says, we tell each other that we’re going to Milwaukee. And for those of you from Milwaukee, I’m not trying to dog on the city of Milwaukee.
Okay. So if you have any listeners from the Midwest that are like, we’re gonna stop listening to Anna right now, this girl is dogging on our city. I don’t know why we picked Milwaukee. I’m not sure. There’s not really a reason. And I’m sure Milwaukee during the summer is beautiful. I lived in San Antonio.
It is hot as hell during the summer, right? Yeah. Truly. Yeah. That’s not even a phrase. It’s a reality, but Milwaukee, Milwaukee during the winter, I don’t know many people. They’re like, oh my gosh, it’s January. You know where I wanna go Milwaukee. Yeah. Right. And so we have this phrase and if we’re going through a tough time or we are really down on ourselves or something that happened in our life and we just feel stuck.
We feel stagnant. We cannot move forward. We don’t want to, we will tell each other my husband and I like I’m gonna go to Milwaukee for a bit. and that is permission to be like, I’m not gonna be in a great mood. I’m gonna feel like a victim. I’m gonna feel a little stuck. I might act that way for a second, but.
And we let each other, we give our other grace in that, like, we don’t try to fix it. We don’t try to be like, pick yourself up by your bootstraps. Don’t be a victim. Yeah. But we just say, I’m going to Milwaukee for a bit, but the good thing about going to Milwaukee, and this is what we know is like, I don’t wanna stay in Milwaukee.
Yeah. That’s not where I wanna stay, you know? Yeah. And so we give it each other permission to go to Milwaukee, but we sure as heck aren’t gonna live there. And I think that’s the big thing is like, Go to those places, feel stuck for a bit. When you lose your job, when you lose someone you love, like, and not just at the beginning, but throughout that cycle of grief, like go to Milwaukee, give yourself full permission to do it.
You’re just not gonna wanna live there. Right? Like no one does. So, and let people know, like, whatever that like phrase is or your special thing is for you be like going there for a bit. I’m. And I’m gonna come back from there cause I don’t wanna be there forever, so right. I mean, it’s really simple. It’s kind of silly, but I think even in the hardest times we tend to make them so heavy.
Mm-hmm , you know, and so serious. And every now and again, you just need to say, this is what it is, this is what I’m gonna do and keep it a little light. And that I think has helped us a lot. Me. Mm . Yeah. Well, and I’m also hearing the importance of having somebody in your life to remind you to come back from Milwaukee.
for sure. My husbands, like you’ve been there too long girlfriend time to come back mm-hmm yeah. Yep. Yes. Yeah. And so I think that’s a great takeaway too, for somebody listening is one, give your yourself the permission to grieve, whatever it is to the loss, to grieve the change that you weren’t expecting and to don’t downplay it.
You also don’t have to. Like you said, make it overly serious. Life will go on. It is only a season, but make sure that you have somebody in your life to help you get yourself back out of it, or to remind you to keep taking steps forward. So allow yourself to grieve, allow yourself to go to Milwaukee, but then make sure you have somebody to help you come back.
To come back. We had talked a little bit about kind of where you started, where you’ve come, where you are right now, you are in the really unique position of helping some of the most successful entrepreneurs, personal brands in the industry, reach their goals and experience success. You have a unique position.
I ask all my guests this question, but. I’m curious to hear your answer, but I’m also curious to hear your answer to this based on the hundreds and hundreds of people that you have seen experienced success. Hmm. And the question is, if you could sum up the key to success, the key to achieving the goal that you wanna achieve in one word, what would it be?
Ooh, it would be connection. Hmm. I’ve not heard that one yet. Connection. Mm-hmm interesting connection to what Milwaukee . Yes. but not for too long disconnect as soon as possible. No Milwaukee friends. Yeah. I know. I know. I’m sorry. I’m Milwaukee so hard. Don’t meet you. I’ll come visit you spring. Invite me, change my mind.
Change my mind about Milwaukee. So connection to me. I think a lot of people. Misunderstand this at least from a business and brand building sense is networking, right? Mm-hmm like, I need to be connected to the right people to get where I need to go. And that’s not untrue. Like there is definitely an element of who are you meeting and how are you leveraging those connections with those people to further your success.
But I think connection as it relates to success and what I’ve seen. Through hundreds of individuals, some who are just starting, who achieve success really quickly, those who have seven, eight figure brands that are unleashing a new level of success that need something more to them. They are deeply reconnecting to how they were made and what they were made to do.
So that’s kind of the first step, even for people who think they’ve made it. People who have New York times besting books who have memberships of tens of thousands of people who come to these individuals for advice on the regular, that they are rediscovering, that they have lost that original connection to their purpose, to their calling and to what makes them uniquely designed to do that.
Mm-hmm . And so I think connection with yourself is a huge. Key the key in my mind to success, connection to your client, connection to the person that you’re serving, really understanding who is this person to me. Like, how can I help this person and then connecting to other people in your industry or even outside of your industry and not just connecting and saying, oh, this is what I do.
How can you get me in front of the right audience? How can you introduce me to the right people? Which, like I said, there’s a time and a place for. Absolutely. But how can I be in relationship with this person? Like how can I connect with them on a deeper level? That’s not just furthering my success as the world deem successful, but creating longer lasting relationships because success is a long term game.
Like it’s a long play and personal branding like you as a human being is a long term play just from the essence of birth to death and beyond, right? Your personal brand, your success is going to outlive you. At least that’s what most people want. Right? They want this legacy. If you publish a book, it’s gonna be around past the time that you die, your reputation last forever.
Hopefully. And so connection is the most integral part in my mind, a deep connection of a long term play towards success. Well, and I think what’s beautiful about that concept is that extends to our. Personal lives as well. You know, I always like to bring it back to the stay at home mom, cuz I think there’s a lot of women and even men who maybe not necessarily have the like big aspirational goals in terms of their career and their profession.
And that is okay. I really have a lot of respect for the women who are like. I don’t have career goals. My goal is to be the best mom that I can be to be the best wife. Like that’s what I want to do. And I have so much respect for that. They own that that’s their mission. And I think what you’re saying is so applicable even to that man or woman, it’s the same idea that whatever you want, whatever your goal is, that sense of connection.
To be the best mom that you possibly can requires connection. Whether it be with other moms that you can learn from or whomever, it may be. So one of the challenges right now with COVID in this world that we’re living in is connection, I think is becoming harder and harder. In one sense, it’s easier because now everyone one’s comfortable with zoom.
mm-hmm, mm-hmm for example, unlike before, but I think more than ever, we are struggling to connect. In the most authentic way possible. And the fact just simply is there is no better way to connect than in person mm-hmm we’ve talked about this before. Yeah. I think the virtual world is great, but at the same time, we’re almost sometimes sacrificing yeah.
Real connection. So I just wanna throw that out there too. I love what Elizabeth said, but if you’re listening to this and. You have been secluded for a really, really long time. At some point you have to reconcile this idea that if you truly want to thrive, you still need to be in connection with real life people.
Yep. Virtual is not enough. Take the precautions that you need to take. Even if you have an autoimmune disease or your immunocompromised or whatever the case may be, or, or you’re elderly. Yes. You may have risk factors, but if you, at some point you need to figure out what kind of steps do you need to take to make real life connection with at least.
One or two people that are meaningful yeah. Were not meant to live in isolation. So I love that idea of connection. No matter what it is, make sure you’re connecting. Yes. And one, I also think kind of circling back around to moms that that was great. I’m so glad you rotten them up. I have three small children connecting to my children is more important to me than anyone else in the world.
Yeah. I, like I said, I always put human beings for work for better or for worse, right? Yeah. Some people could argue both ways. Like don’t do that all the time, Elizabeth, but I do. And I think connection is something everyone can do. Right? When you think about success in dividing success, a lot of people say, you need to have massive email lists.
You need to have all your tech stack done. You need to be, have certifications and expertise and all of these pieces, money or money, right. Or money is just like the easiest people money. There you are. You’re successful. Like you can do anything when you have money, right. Is what a lot of people say. And I think connection is something anyone can do.
You might not, you might be nervous to do it, but you have the ability. Yeah. You have it within you. Like you said, we are naturally inclined as human beings to be in community and connection to other people. We are not meant to be alone. And I just feel like anyone can do this. So with your stay at home, mom, You can leverage connection to succeed.
If you are in transition with your business or a solopreneur, you can leverage connection to succeed. If you are a eight figure CEO of a massive company, you can leverage connection to succeed in the ways that you need to mm-hmm. right. So I just think it’s a really, it’s a universal. Option. Yeah. I love that.
Well, we’re gonna take a quick break here, but when we come back, stay tuned for speed round of this or that with Elizabeth and we are going to hear her expert advice on how finding fulfillment in what you do with your life. And especially in terms of getting really clear on your message. We’re gonna talk about that with Elizabeth and more right when we come back.
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We are gonna play a quick speed round of this or that. How this works. You get two options. They’re not life changing questions. Answer whatever comes to mind first. Okay. Chocolate or vanilla, chocolate candy, or baked goods. Baked goods all day. What’s your favorite baked well, what’s your favorite baked?
Good. A blueberry muffin. Super simple. Really? Like a homemade one or specific brand? No, like a homemade blueberry muffin. Do you have an amazing recipe for blueberry muffins? No. I just leverage other people. So just like first it’s all about connection folks. It’s like even connection even for a great blueberry muffin.
I’m like, do you make a good one? Let’s get to know each other. Okay. It’s gonna, we can be friends. That’s right. Oh, here I was hoping I was gonna get a really good recipe outta that answer. Nope. Right. Connection country or pop music. Pop. Who’s your favorite artist? Ooh, Rayla Monta. Ooh, that’s a good one sort of poppy, but not.
Yeah, no, I agree with that one. Kindle or old fashioned book. Old fashioned book. Okay. Captain America or Thor? Thor. Would you rather be a ninja or a pirate ninja, toilet paper crumple or fold? Oh, she’s like thinking back here, what do I do? Crumple? She’s a Crumpler folks. I am a Crumpler. I roll. I realized I don’t even do either of those options.
I’m a roller, huh? Interesting. It is interesting. Yeah. I think it also is less risky. Crumpling makes me nervous. There’s a lot of, um, the risk to reward factor. There is. I hear you on that. I might reevaluate this now. I haven’t really spent time thinking about it. Yeah. But I might really need to make some changes.
Yeah. In my toilet life, you know, pray about it. Mm-hmm I will today for sure. Um, New York or Paris. Oh, that’s hard. Paris for sure though. Flats are heels flats run in the woods or lift in the gym. Lift in the gym. And lastly, at a movie, do you get candy or popcorn? Popcorn? Yeah. Do you have a specific, I’ve gotten so many amazing answers with popcorn.
Like people mix them, like they mix the butter and caramel thing, which I was like, I’m so simple. I just get buttered popcorn. I know people like put candy in popcorn. I know there are a lot of things you can do at popcorn. And another thing I should pray about and explore perhaps a little bit more, and as we’re starting to go to movies more often, I think I’ll have the opportunity to really figure makes it natural.
What my niche is when it comes to popcorn. Mm-hmm yeah. What your heart’s desire is in terms of truly, truly like what’s my, yeah, for sure. I hear that butter popcorn with M and MSS is a family favorite. I’ve heard. That’s good. I need to, like I said, I have a lot of things that on my bucket list, you really need to explore, you know, uh, big goals in life here, folks.
That’s true. It’s. So I love how this has transitioned because we have talked about this idea of struggle and perseverance and having to pivot when you’re not expecting to have to pivot. And you have had your fair share of pivot moments. We talked about your dad, which I did not know about your story.
What a lot of people don’t know listening. We mentioned earlier that you run a non outfit that supports children with life limiting illness and their families. . And what we haven’t talked about is that this foundation was started in honor of your son, GU tell us about Gus and the foundation. Yeah, so we, my husband and I started this foundation right at the end of 2015.
And it was, it’s a memory in honor of our son, Gus, who died when he was on almost seven months old in November of 2015. He was born in April of 2015, perfectly healthy. He was nine pounds in three weeks early, which bless me. I’ll just go and own that. Bless say I’ll own it. And, um, but really, I mean, super, just big baby.
So healthy, progressing and growing, normally meeting all of his milestones. Kind of in August, I started noticing as most moms do just some slight changes in his ability in his, he was kind of getting a cold, but he was just a little bit more lethargic. He was having a harder time holding his head up even, and it was very S.
Light, but you know, moms just see things. And I think sometimes we think we’re crazy, but I was like, am I seeing this? Or am I not? And one night he’d had an upper respiratory infection, which he was in, in school, in daycare with his older sister. And that just that’s par for the course. And it was certainly nothing that we were really concerned about.
But one night he was laying with kind of like on the couch. I was folding him and I looked down and he was turning blue. Like he was. Out of nowhere just stopping, breathing, which I think no parent should ever have to. Endure or is ready for that moment. Right? You take all the classes, you do all the things, but you’re like, okay, this is happening.
And so we took him, I gave him mouth to mouth. He, he was fine. He never stopped reading. He never passed out or anything, but took him straight to the ER. They intubated him immediately and he was fine. Right. And everyone was like, what the heck was that? And doctors and nurses were like, well, you know, all these.
Rhinovirus, all of these things are going around right now and it can in bad cases, kids that can happen to kids. And I was like, no one told me that, like what in the world? And it’s kind of started this 12 week journey almost in hospitals with him because after I told the doctor some other symptoms and they looked at him, they’re like, something’s not right.
Like this isn’t good. Like these symptoms together, they threw out a lot of scary diagnoses, right at the beginning saying, you know, it could be SMA, which is spinal muscular atrophy, which happens to a lot of kiddos. It is terminal. They were just kind of throwing around some different muscular diseases just because of his.
An ability to hold his head up as well. And things like that partnered with this stuff. And so it started us on this journey to all of this testing, to doctors being completely stumped. I mean, we had 20 specialists seeing us a day and they were, this was like the kid everyone came to see because no one could figure out what was happening.
Um, but he kept getting worse and worse. Like he was awake, alert and alive. Like my child was not in a com, um, but it wasn’t getting better. Um, and it wasn’t until one morning, my husband and I were like ships in the night. Like I would go spend the night at the hospital and spend the day there. And then he would stay with our child, our daughter at home, and then we would just switch and transition.
And that happened for a long time. And one night it was probably a at two or three in the morning, our doctor came in and said, I just took another echo of your son’s heart. And it’s doubled in size in two weeks. Which not good. And he said, this is really bad. And he was like, and I’m, I’m honestly, I have no idea what to do anymore.
And I’m really worried. For your son. And that was all I needed to hear. I think it was amazing that a doctor whose entire job is just to make someone better. Like they don’t like to lose, which is awesome about doctors was kind of coming into me in a really vulnerable moment and saying I’ve got nothing which doctors hate to do.
They hate it, you know, as a nurse. Hate it, I mean, nurses hate to do it, right. It is it’s crappy. And he was like, I, he needs to go somewhere else. And I was like, okay, what do I need to do? And he was like, you need to get him on a flight out of here to a better hospital. And I was like done. And so I just spent, I waited until six in the morning.
Like I waited until it was a normal time to get ahold of people. And I just started leveraging my connections. I started calling everyone. I knew to be like, do you know doctors at duke? Do you know doctors at Boston? Children’s does anyone sit on the board at Texas? Children’s I need to cuz they were saying it’s gonna take days and we didn’t have days.
at this point. And so I got a call back saying, I know someone on the board at Texas children’s we have a room for you. Fly him out today. We’re sending a plane. And I was like, great. So we got on a plane and we went to Houston and we spent two more weeks there where they did lots of extensive testing and discovered that he had an exceptionally rare genetic condition that no one knew that he had.
That I’m a carrier for. So I carry an ex chromosomally elite condition, which I think a lot of people are like, well, it’s always awesome when like, I mean, yeah, I think I can kind of laugh at this. I’ve been through it, like when you, and you not meaning to do so or the cause of this, this malfunction in your children’s DNA, you know, it’s just, it’s devastating.
And it’s something you have to really wrestle with as a parent, as someone who gives birth to children to protect them always. Um, and that it was terminal and boys. And that he was not going to survive and that he was declining really quickly. And so we took him off of like, we made the really excruciating decision to take him off life support and he died within seconds really.
And, you know, they tell you a lot of things like kids, you don’t know how long it’s gonna take for people to die. I mean, no, I mean, you’ve had probably to do that too. Like it could be days it could be week, you know, and it was affirming even though it was probably the closest I’ve ever felt to heaven in such a weird way.
Um, which I don’t think is all that weird, but it was really affirming to see that it was. Truly a minute, you know? Yeah. It was like, okay. And so after that happened, we made the trip home to San Antonio, feeling defeated and devastated and really raw. And then decided we sat with that for a while. Like, this is the thing I didn’t do before.
Mm-hmm right. Mm-hmm we sat with it for a long time in a really good, healthy ways and had. Tons of communities surrounding us. And we’re still, I think a lot of people when they’re going through hard times, like this really isolate, like we’re gonna stay in the hospital with our child. We’ll have a messenger, tell everyone what’s happening, but everyone leave us alone, like in the middle of it.
But we were like a. Heck, no. Like we wanna be the ones to talk to people. I wanna be on the phone with people. I want people to come see us at the hospital. I want people to come see us after he dies. I do not want this stigma of these people had a loss. We need to stay away from them and give them space.
You had been there done that. Yes. And it was not a good outcome. People don’t need all that much such an staying experience. Yeah. Right. Like people need space sometimes, but they don’t need like. They’re isolated and untouchable, and we don’t know what to do kind of space. And so we really just spend a lot of time inviting people in, which I think was one of the main reasons that my husband and I stayed married.
Not that we struggled during this time, but a lot of people that lose a child get divorced and right. We were like, that’s not happening to us. Like we’re not doing that. And so I think connecting with people, having our community around us, like. Truly was a game changer for our marriage in terms of making it insanely stronger and more amazing.
And so we decided after sitting with it and talking to our community to start a nonprofit, because when we were in the hospital, we were given the amazing gift that I think 90% of the population is not given. Unfortunately, our jobs allowed us to take out a, as much pay time as we needed. Yeah. Our. Our companies paid for things for us, that we maybe were harder to reconcile with insurance.
We had people going to bat for us daily. We were able to be with our child 24 7. We were able with no repercussion, we had families surrounding us that could take care of our other child and make her feel totally secure and loved. And I saw time after time, especially store in this hospital room next to us in the.
In the PICU, there was a little boy and there was probably two and his mom could only come see him between the hours of midnight and three. And it was because she was a single mom with three other kids at home and she worked full time to provide for those children. And if she did not work, she would lose her job.
She’s not work. She would not get paid. And it put a parent in, I think to me is the worst possible scenario that no parent should ever have to endure. And it’s this idea that you have to make a choice. Between supporting your family and caring for your child, which is this innate thing. And it was exceptionally unfair.
And I don’t take our situation lately. And I said, that does not ever need to happen to parents. And while I know I can’t change it for the world, I can change it for a few. And so we started a foundation that helped these families that had kids with chronic and terminal illness that have to spend massive amounts of time in the hospital and leave their jobs and leave their children, the ability to do that without repercussion.
So we step in and we help. Pay for daycare of children who are fine and healthy. We pay for some bills. We pay for hospital bills and hotel stays for families that need to stay far away from home. And that is really where we put a stake in the ground for our community and really brought palliative care, which is quality of life care.
Not a lot of people know about palliative care, hospice thing, but palliative care is definitely something that we need to. Pay attention to and support, which is just, how are we ensuring quality of life for everybody involved in this child care? And that’s what we’ve put a stake in the ground for. And because it was so available to us and we don’t take that.
For granted. Yeah. Now is that money supporting people in a very specific area? Or can anybody apply for that? Who is that supporting? Yeah. So anyone can apply for it. We have really immersed ourselves in central and south Texas. So San Antonio, Austin sometimes will go up north Dallas, Fort worth of necessary, but a lot of the valley.
So those cities closer to Mexico, which aren’t close to really good hospitals. Like the Texas is big. It takes 10, 12, 13 hours to drive across the state and people that are close to the border that don’t have access to really good quality care, have to often drive four or five hours minimum. Yeah. To come to a decent hospital.
And so we are really stepping in for those families a lot as well. but anybody can apply together anyone. Okay. Yes. Okay. Mm-hmm and that makes sure I have this website, right. For anybody interested in. Certainly if you want to apply, if you’re in a position like that, you definitely need to check out this organization, but also if this story resonates with you and the mission of the foundation is dear to your heart, then it is www dot.
Go S I know it’s for Gus that’s Gus Owen Stevens, but G OS foundation.org. Mm-hmm . So that’s www.gs foundation.org. Definitely. Wanna check that out. Thank you for sharing that. And I love your unique perspective. I know that’s kind of veered off a little bit. What, you know, we’re gonna talk about here in a second sort of, uh, pivoting topics, but.
It’s such a unique perspective because you’ve been there with a significant loss and then you changed it the second time. And it’s such a beautiful story to hear how staying connected to people, not isolating yourself, made all of the difference. So there’s a hundred percent, there’s clearly a through line here.
People there is connection. There’s a through line. Um, So we, we’re gonna dive in here a little bit, again, we’re pivoting, but we’re talking about how connecting still the through line to your passion and uniqueness really sets you on a path to feeling fulfillment in all areas of your life. We’ve talked a little bit about connection and how that’s important, but I think one of the things you are so good at that made all the difference for me in my business was helping to really establish that.
Message specifically the brand builders group, the company that Elizabeth works for has what they call this brand DNA event. But I think it’s so applicable for almost all areas of our life, whether it’s business or not. Mm-hmm but tell me a little bit about this idea of clarifying sort of your purpose and how that.
Ultimately creates so much more fulfillment in life. Mm mm. Something that we tell people a lot that I think is a very big game changer for even the stay at home mom. And do you see how we, and I do this too, and I think we are all guilty of labeling people by their circumstances and what they do. Right.
Right. And I think it’s just. The world, right? We just, that is how we define people is by, by the action, what you do, the jobs that they do on the daily. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but I wanna shift people’s perspective and really diving into what we call your brand DNA, understanding your unique positioning.
Like what makes you unique mm-hmm and who do you serve with that uniqueness? And what’s the outcome of that that is no longer defining yourself by what you do, but by who you are. And that was a big game changer and has been for people that I have worked with is saying, wow, I no longer define myself by what I do.
I’m a stay at home, mom and me. It can be who you are. But when we say stay at home, mom, we all know what’s behind that. We’re not saying we’re stay at home moms. We’re saying. We do the dishes. We’re driving our kids for five hours a day. Mm-hmm in a taxi service. Mm-hmm sometimes we’re cleaning up puke.
Sometimes we’re sometimes we’re trying, just not to kill our children. I mean, that’s a full time job just this morning. I message Zach I’m like your son may not make it to his teenage years. Literally I could read the text messages. I literally said it will not be illness. It will not be trauma. It will old age that takes him out.
It will be his mother. Oh my gosh. Right, right. And so it is, and so I think when we say those things, even when we put labels on stuff, it’s still not defining who we are. Right. Because here’s the thing. And I’ll go back to stay at home moms, because I know you have a lot of female entrepreneurs who are stay at home, moms who are working so hard that naturally come to you for things that when we start living into this is like, this is what we do.
This is what we do. You were something before you were a stay at home mom, like you’re a personal brand. What makes you unique? I believe is from birth. Like there is something in the way that you were designed and made and the experiences that you had mm-hmm that any job, any, what you do is an extension of who you are.
I like to tell people if you were a teacher on Monday and you decide on Friday, you wanna go into space and be an astronaut. Most people would be like, What in the world, like that feels really disconnected, but you know that there is a problem that you solve in the classroom that you could solve in outer space, space, space.
There’s a flu line, right? You’re what you do is, are only an extension of who you are. And if we kind of flip that on its head and start. Defining ourselves, not by what we do, but by who we are, that uniqueness is gonna come to the surface and stay there. Mm-hmm like that’s gonna be our anchor in being really true to who we are fulfilling our passions, making a living impacting lives, and that definition just needs to be reversed.
I cannot give like enough amens and praise hands for that, because I think it was so eye opening for me when I started through the brand builders group program and especially working with you. And I think you were really, really good at not only helping me find the through line from a business standpoint, like what is the connection here between DIY recipes, fitness and nutrition.
The fact that the nurse practitioner, the fact that like, you know, I’m a little bit of a lot, but you were really good at helping me find. That through line that kind of, that superpower, if you will, is this idea of embracing imperfection? I mean, Elizabeth was literally the one who came up with that phrase and using that kind of like imperfection to me as a superpower, we try to like, we wanna filter imperfection, but I’m all about no, no, embrace it.
And then you can empower transformation in your life, the quicker that you can own that. So I love how you’re connecting that sense of who you are, the God given. Abilities that you have that are spiritual they’re inherent to who you are, that has been supernaturally molded over your experiences, maybe education, but it was ultimately at the core of who you are.
Mm-hmm and how that can give you purpose and then living out of that and embracing that strength and developing it. Is so beautiful. So anyway, I can testify to how that has been so helpful for me to be able to focus then on my strengths, as opposed to being like, well, I’m not as good at this, so maybe I should do better at this.
Instead of being like, no, here’s my strength. Here’s who I am. This is what I’m really good at. Let’s now build off of. Off of that. So I love that for you. What is yours? My uniqueness, your super, your superpower. Okay. Well, I, this gonna be super power. This is gonna be incredibly surprising to you and to everyone that’s listening, but it’s connection.
that is it’s my unique, it is my entire brand. It is what makes me is like story brand. See, we’ve gone through the whole. We are full circle. This is a hero. Yeah, she didn’t connect at the beginning. Mm-hmm trial connected. And it I’m so proud of us right now. Well, right. I mean, we really just went through a lot and just the time we spent together here on this, on this interview, but I think that is, and it takes people, even for me, I had to sit down, I teach other people to do this all the time.
And I think this is the plight for teachers is I teach you like the cobbler’s daughter does not have shoes. Like I teach people, we’ll do this all the time. And when someone’s like, well, what’s yours. I’m like, It took me a very long time, even with these massive things in my life to say, oh, from the time I was born and little, I have had an insatiable desire to connect with people and not just know a bunch of people, but to connect deeply.
And I was able to see that through my life and then see how that’s been game changer in really hard situations. And now even in the current job I have now, my entire job. is helping people connect really deeply with themselves. Mm-hmm and then in turn, I get to connect on a very intimate and deep level with them.
Right. Mm-hmm and so it’s just been like, that’s the answer for me is I believe connection changes. Everything. And that is what my uniqueness is and that’s, and there is only, and other people might feel that way too. And when I say define yourself, not based on what you do, but who you are is because there are a lot of business coaches in the world.
There are a lot of nurses. There are a lot of people with side hustles. There are a lot of people in the world that do things in industries, but there’s only one view. And so my view on connection and, and what a game changer it is is unlike anyone else’s. And I have to really own that and believe it. And that is what we encourage.
You to do Anna. That’s what we spent a whole year being like mm-hmm, , don’t let doubt creep in. And you’re a really confident person, which is awesome. But every now and then doubt creeps in it’s. Absolutely. It’s human mm-hmm and it’s like, is this you it’s just really circling back to, does this connect with you?
Are you connecting with people? in this area. Is it bringing you life? Is it what you want to do for the rest of your life? If you looked back at your life and said, if I accomplished this one thing, it was a life well lived. Is this what it is? Mm-hmm . And when you can say yes to that without any hesitation, you’ve nailed it.
Yeah. You have shifted roles within the, a brand builders group. So you were a brand strategist and now you are, is it the director of community, but the mm-hmm it should be the director of connection. I knows. I think you be like, what is that? , you know, I know I should, I should be like, Hey guys, I would understand it.
And nobody else matters. So that’s true. It’s true. I’m just kidding. I love though that you’re the director of community. Again, coming full circle. You are so good at living out of your uniqueness. That is for sure. I have benefited from it personally. If anybody wants to learn more about and builders group, the company that.
Elizabeth works for the company. I have benefited from greatly. It is www dot brand builders, group.com. And of course, all of these links, including the link for the foundation will all be on the show notes from today’s episode@hammersandhugs.com on my blog and Elizabeth, I wanna personally thank you. I pray.
Just continue blessing over your life, over your home, over your work. You are ministering. I have benefited so much from your wisdom and all of your knowledge and experience, and I am so grateful for you. Oh, well, Anna, it truly is a gift for me. And I have just loved spending a year, just noses to the grindstone with you.
Yeah. And then beyond just being your friend and your cheerleader in all things that you’re doing, I loved watching you and connecting with you and becoming your friend. And I’m so grateful for you in my life. And the opportunity to come on here and connect deeper with you and with everyone else. Yeah.
Well, thank you girl. Appreciate you, you got it. Thank you so much for joining us for this episode of the imperfectly empowered podcast. It is my honor to be here with you. I am so grateful for each and every one of you. If you are watching on YouTube, be sure to click the subscribe button below. So you don’t miss a show and leave a comment with your thoughts from today’s episode below.
If you are listening via your preferred podcasting platform, would you help keep us on the air by rating our show and leaving an honest review of your thoughts from today in case you haven’t heard it lately, your story matters and you are loved. This is your host, Anna former, and I will see you here next time on the imperfectly empowered podcast.

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