Adelle Archer is the co-founder and CEO of Eterneva, a grief wellness and consumer technology company that honors people and pet’s lives by turning their ashes and hair into memorial diamonds. Adelle earned her MBA in Entrepreneurship at the Acton School of Business in Austin, TX. Following her time at Acton, Adelle would become the Business Manager at CrateJoy, the Senior Product Marketing Manager for Bigcommerce, and the Head of Product Marketing at TrendKite, experiences that would prove invaluable when she co-Founded Eterneva with Garrett Ozar in 2017.
Adelle Archer has been featured in both Inc and Forbes’ 30 Under 30 lists. She has starred in a segment on the popular investment TV show Shark Tank, which led to billionaire Mark Cuban investing in Eterneva.
When did you realize that you were constituted in a way that really made you want to make an impact beyond yourself?
I think there’s something really special about the idealism of your youth, and I just encourage everyone to hold onto that for as long as possible. I think when you’re young, you tend to see the world through rose-colored glasses. And you know, you do believe that you can change the world and that you can make a difference, and we all probably have that story. I continued to invest in that feeling and allow myself to be taken down a path where I could set myself up to do something really meaningful and impactful.
Could you tell us a little bit about how doing that has allowed you to accomplish success in your industry?
I guess it’s important to note, to start, that it hasn’t just been all up and up. All of us have a story of the trials and tribulations of discovering ourselves. Back in college, my first chapter was actually in politics. I knew I wanted to change the world, and I thought that my path to do that was through politics. I started a libertarian club in college and was really fascinated by how free-market solutions could solve different world problems.
But when I got to D.C., I knew right away that politics was not my path. I did go through super hard days after college, feeling like I was on the wrong path and knowing that I needed to take a few steps back and figure out the direction that I should have been going. I think that’s an important thing to highlight: Your heart is your compass. You’ve got to stay true to it and not give up on your dream but also acknowledge that you’re not always going to find the right path on the first try.
How has following your heart and going down that more impactful business route played out over time?
It’s just one of those funny things where I think sometimes life delivers for you right when you really need a sign or some direction. Life will offer a door, and it’s on you to see that door and to walk through it. My door opened when I was down in Guatemala, of all places, working at this start-up during the weekend for policy reformers. There was an entrepreneur there who was facilitating for a weekend; I was just so impressed with him, and I started chatting with him afterward. He said, “Oh, I have a business school in Austin, Texas, an MBA only for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs.” And I said, “Well, gosh, I mean, that’s really interesting.”
What was special about the Acton School of Business is that they have a whole course called, “Life of Meaning” threaded throughout the entire curriculum. The idea is to encourage students to think about what they really care about.
What motivates you to succeed in your business and what does a meaningful life for you look like?
Leading a purposeful life by building a business that does something bigger than myself.
So, while you’re learning all this stuff about business, you’re also learning that it’s not just about success in a material sense. It’s not just about personal achievement and accomplishment; rather, it’s about what you want to be said about you at the end of your life. I mean, they even make you write your own eulogy in this class.
I think that was a really important and transformative experience for me. It was definitely the direction that I was meant to be going. I just came out so energized and knowing that I was meant to be an entrepreneur.
Then I went into the technology sector and worked in tech and marketing, where I was given access to some phenomenal leaders and just learned so much. I really encourage other entrepreneurs to consider spending a little bit of time working with established companies you respect; this will allow you to see how they operate and gain insight from great leaders.
But any entrepreneur that has a day job usually has a side hustle. And then one day, while working that side hustle, I had a friend who pulled me into this start-up – his father’s company – that was creating lab-grown diamonds for industrial application. They wanted to get into the consumer side of things, and because I came from sales and marketing, I thought I could help them build a brand.
So, as I was evaluating this opportunity, there was this crazy timing where I had my very close friend and business mentor, Tracy, get diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She passed away. Tracy was one of the most important people in my life. We can all count on one hand the number of people who have made us a different person, and she was one of those people for me. So, when Tracy passed, I knew that I had to do something amazing for her. She had decided to leave her ashes behind to about four of us. Now, I had her ashes, and I was trying to figure out what to do with them. One day, we were eating dinner with one of the diamond scientists, and he mentioned offhand that there is carbon in ashes. So, theoretically, you could extract that carbon from Tracy’s ashes and grow a diamond.
That blew my mind. I thought, “Oh my gosh, that is absolutely what I have to do.” And so, it is just kind of interesting when you look back, and you think of your life in retrospect. Sometimes life happens for you, it opens the door, and if you take a moment to observe it, it’s going to lead you down a path that connects you back to great meaning and purpose.
What would you say to others so that they can be more wired to have an impact? What is some of the advice that you can give them that they can start to implement right now?
I think reflection is a really, really important tool because hindsight is 2020. It’s just crazy how all these seemingly unrelated experiences start connecting. So, I think the more that you reflect on where you have been and what has called to you and what things get you excited, the more you can let them be your compass toward what you’re meant to do.
A good example for me was prior to starting Eterneva; I actually was volunteering at SafePlace here in Austin, Texas. They’re a sexual assault and domestic violence shelter. I started volunteering there after my time at Make A Wish Foundation. I love the Make A Wish Foundation and everything that they do, but I was finding I wasn’t getting to have a really direct impact with the kids; it was more of event planning logistics. So, going to SafePlace, you know, I was accompanying people right after they experienced a very traumatic event – And just being able to be there with people in the moment of crisis and be able to help guide their mindset and what they were focused on, it just felt so deeply personal and meaningful. I thought, “Hey, I’m pretty good at this, and this feels like the kind of impact I’m meant to have.” And so, it’s just kind of funny when I look at Eterneva and I think, “Gosh, I mean, that’s actually totally where I’m meant to have an impact.”
Meeting people in the wake of one of the most important losses they’ve had in their lives and helping them refocus on the meaning that they’re going to give that event in their lives is so powerful. The whole experience we’ve created at Eterneva around the ashes to diamonds processes, you know, sending pictures and videos and updates, we’ve given people something positive to look forward to and to share with their friends and family. We’ve really gone all-in on that experience because we realize that it has the power to change someone’s relationship with grief. And it’s just kind of fascinating how totally unrelated experiences in my life actually really built off of each other to bring me here. So, for anybody that’s really thinking, how could I incorporate greater purpose or meaning in my life? – You probably already have some clues in your backstory. You know, about things that you’ve done in the past that felt really meaningful for you – The things that really gave you a sense of gratification.
Maybe it’s not something as intense as I went through with someone at the time of crisis, but we all have a different gift that we have to give. But gosh, I can’t emphasize enough that when you do find that alignment, you feel like you’re doing something greater than yourself. Your motivation comes from a different place, your resilience comes from a different place; any obstacles that you face, you’re just going to charge through them because you know, ultimately, you’re doing something not for yourself, but for somebody else, and the stakes feel too important not to overcome that obstacle.
That’s something really special. You don’t feel fear as easily; you just feel purpose.
So, do you feel it’s really about the lives that we can impact along the way because that impact is what’s going to endure well beyond our careers and lives?
Absolutely. And I guess a closing thought is that, at Eterneva, we’re in the business of listening every single day to the stories that made people so remarkable that somebody else wants to create a diamond to honor their memory. We hear a lot of themes about lives well lived. Often, it comes back to the simplest of things: it’s how somebody treated someone else, you know, it’s how they made them feel. I guess it’s important, in my opinion, to underscore that having an impact doesn’t mean going and doing something crazy, huge, audacious, or world-changing. It could be that you were just a generous and kind father, someone who really invested in his kids and spent the time.
We go home every single day filled with these stories, and it’s affected how I show up for my boyfriend and how often I call my parents because those things are your blueprints. So to answer your question, yes, there’s a kind of magnitude I guess to leading a very purposeful life.