Transcript EP 316 – Achieving Your Goals: Insights from Self-Made Multimillionaire Anne Mahlum
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Dr. Taz: Welcome back, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Super Woman Wellness, where I’m determined to bring you back to your superpower self. And so for today, a healthy dose of ambition and inspiration. I am absolutely honored to bring to you Anne Mahlum. She’s a founder, a serial entrepreneur, and a philanthropist. She’s living my dream life, by the way. With multiple successful ventures to her name and a self-made net worth of over 100 million. She’s a proven leader with a passion for creating businesses aimed to help people be the best version of themselves.
Welcome to the show, Anne. I’m so excited to learn more about you and your story, and really wanting your story to be an inspiration for so many women out there who just can’t get past that little seed of doubt. So welcome and we’re thrilled to have you.
Anne Mahlum: Thank you so much. It’s lovely to be here, Dr. Taz.
Dr. Taz: Absolutely. So tell us a little bit about you. Tell us about your journey as a businesswoman, how you found yourself, how you gained the confidence to do the things you love to do about your businesses. Give us a little bit of blurb on you and we’ll take it from there.
Anne Mahlum: Well, I will start with a piece of advice that hopefully everybody can learn from because that’s what these podcasts are all about. Right? People looking to apply things that they hear from people who they look at and say, “I want that, but how do I get that?” And when you talked about the confidence to do these things, I think it’s really important to remember any entrepreneur we see that takes that big risk, they’ve really been preparing for so much of that their entire life by taking these risks through going to college and not knowing anybody, moving cities, breaking up with a boyfriend over four years, constantly putting ourselves in uncertain environments that may or may not have anything to do with business.
But you learn over and over again that you can master uncertainty and that you’re going to have to figure it out. I remember moving to DC when I was 22 years old, and I’m from North Dakota, so I was, one, a long way from home and, two, in a completely different environment. And underground transportation, the subway, taking a bus, all of that stuff was foreign to me. And moving in with three people who I had never met before. And a lot of people think success is more complicated than that, but really there’s a lot of our tolerance on risk and how we’re actually putting ourselves in a situation of uncertainty and then trusting ourselves to figure it out.
So when my first entrepreneurial effort presented itself for opportunity was with this nonprofit. I had an idea running by a homeless shelter to start a running club for a group of men staying at that homeless shelter. My dad is an addict. And I could never really figure out a way to help him as a teenager. And I turned to running during that time to really get me through that. So 10 years later, I see these groups of guys who remind me of my dad and I’m like, oh my God, I’m going to start a running club for these individuals.
And very quickly over the next few weeks of running with them, and there’s more to that story, but I began to see that this is what I’m supposed to do with my life. I’m supposed to turn this thing into a fully fledged nonprofit with staff, with programming. I need to raise money, I need to build in next steps for these individuals. And that I truly believed running could be the vehicle and the impetus to changing these individuals’ lives. And that we could get them placed in jobs and homes if we got their emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing in a place where they felt deserving and capable.
And so that leap of this is what I’m going to do with my life, against my parents being like, “This is nuts. What do you mean you’re doing for work?” Everybody likes… Yeah. So you’re like, I’m prepared for this. I have all of this data to know that I know how to get through uncertainty. So I think that was a big part of the beginning of it, is that I felt prepared.
Dr. Taz: Yeah. Yeah. I think even when I look at my journey, I think there’s a slight amount of insanity that comes with wanting to be an entrepreneur because you’re not following between two lines. You’re not putting one foot in front of the other and just walking a path that’s been cut for you. You’re willing to take risks, you’re willing to kind of live on a dream, so to speak.
And I had the same experience. I remember I was working in the emergency room finally. I had a tough residency and med school financially. I’m not from a super wealthy family. So all those years racking up debt, doing all that other stuff. And I thought I’m finally earning money. I’m in the ER. And my own health tanks. And I’m like, well, after years of studying all this stuff, I’m like, I need to start my own practice. And I knew it wouldn’t be a guaranteed equivalent to what I was getting from working in the emergency room, but I had to trust that this is what I was meant to do.
And so you take that leap of faith. And many of us are very risk averse. What would you say? And my husband says this all the time, he feels like women are more risk averse than men because so much of our wiring and so much of our upbringing, first of all, is about the home and staying within a homelike setting. And secondly, about the family that we’re not going to disrupt the apple cart because the family is much more important than any of our personal ambitions or personal things. How do you help women cross those barriers? Because those are big barriers for men.
I even honestly, thankfully he was around, but I had those seeds of doubt. Well, what if I don’t make it? I think I made him sell… I was a breadwinner at the time. I was like, “We got to get rid of this car. We got to get rid of this. We have to get rid of that.” I was like, “Because I’m only going to make X, and we got to live that way.” But that’s how believing I was in what I wanted to do. But he never had that doubt. So do you feel like women have more seeds of doubt than men? Is that necessarily true? What have you seen in your experience?
Anne Mahlum: I think it’s really astute to bring up the masculine feminine energy in relationships and some of those traditional roles that still fall into place. And all the data still shows that even though women are working in the workforce, they’re still doing the majority of things at home. It hasn’t been split equally at home. And I’ve been on a big journey of masculine feminine energy in relationships in this last year, and how we’ve been sort of taught to drive toward 50-50 relationships. And all that is great, but really all you do is introduce neutrality in the relationship. And what drew you to each other to the beginning was the polarity of the masculine and feminine. Yeah.
So I think the prior Anne, when I was building my career and dating, I was like, “Oh my gosh, that’s such a silly thing to think about. Get over it.” And the reality was there’s a biological, I think, response from men. The men’s job is to provide, protect, and to please. My therapist has told me that several times. And if you’re taking away from those abilities for that individual to do that, it can disrupt the relationship. So I do think women feel that pressure to stay in their femininity, and stay in the nurturing role, and the supportive role, and the vision role, and that their professional career will disrupt that polarity, the relationship in that way.
And it wasn’t long ago, Dr. Taz, my mom is in her sixties and she had to get permission in 1980 to get a credit card. She had to have my dad sign for her. So I still think there are those lingering effects that come about like, what is my role as a female. And am I selfish for wanting an ambitious career versus choosing to stay home? And I think it’s important to remember too that you can be CEO and Entrepreneur of the Year and Mom of the Year, but probably not in the same year. It’s just too many things.
So our priorities change and shift. And having a supportive, amazing partner and husband that isn’t threatened by your ambitions, by your wealth making, I finally feel like I have found someone that that’s the case. And I’m not dancing around insecurities, or dancing around someone’s ego, and trying to make my success feel meager or small in order for that person. That’s really important when choosing a partner, I think, and explaining what those ambitions are for yourself, and making sure that person doesn’t feel threatened by that.
Dr. Taz: I love that. I think that’s good advice. I think evaluating your ambition from that context is so important. And even choosing a partner and thinking… None of us are educated to think that way. We’re not educated to think about, “Hey, there are things you may want to do with your life. Is this person going to be someone that is going to support that, or is it going to be someone who’s going to block that because they have their own very stagnant role of what a relationship should look like?”
So I want to hear more about your businesses. So you create this running club for men, you start a nonprofit. What’s the name of this nonprofit, by the way?
Anne Mahlum: Yeah, it’s called Back on My Feet.
Dr. Taz: Back on My Feet. I love it. And it takes off. What kind of happens next? What is the next step of this journey, and what pearls of wisdom would you share with the audience as you’re navigating building this, turning it around, and then moving on to your next business?
Anne Mahlum: Yeah. Well, the beginning of advice was the simple question of if this doesn’t work out, my life doesn’t end. This is not a video game. My life wasn’t over. If I go get a job, I’ll figure it out. Again, trusting myself and my resourcefulness to be able to go get a job and be okay. But the question that really just like I knew I would spend the rest of my life wondering was, gosh, what would’ve happened to those groups of people I was trying to help and all the other people I felt like a program like this could help. And there was just too much of a motivation for me there, too much of a what if to not at least to try. So when attempting to do something, really get clear on why you want to do it.
And Dr. Taz, my personal story here, my dad’s an addict. I couldn’t help him. I came across these guys 10 years later. Running was my healing force. Now I’m using… And I’m like, this is making my life make sense, and for all of the pain and struggle to be worth it. So I was highly motivated for this to work. And I was driven by deep emotion for that to be the case. And so I wasn’t worried about, is this important to me. It was everything to me. And when something means that much to you and it turns into something, I almost felt like I must do this. It didn’t feel so scary anymore.
But listen, I went all in. I convinced other people to volunteer, to join, convinced people to give me, donate money to this cause, and told them what the vision was and what I was trying to do. And I was just relentless. I was like, I have to make this work. I need it for myself, for my life to make sense. And I feel like I know this can help so many people living in homeless shelters have a different life.
So listen, I made a ton of mistakes. And I think that’s another thing to realize is there’s no entrepreneur out there who has a blueprint that you don’t have. We are all figuring it out as we go, especially on our first venture and go around. And it’s having the tolerance for knowing that. The expectations need to be in place, that you’re going to wake up and be like, huh, I didn’t expect that to go that way, but that’s okay. I’m going to pivot. So if you’re not somebody who tolerates change very well or unexpected surprises, entrepreneurship is going to feel very chaotic to you. But when you can settle into it, it’s supposed to be this way, it’s going exactly as planned. It doesn’t feel so scary anymore.
Dr. Taz: I love that. I think for so long, it’s like, I know many entrepreneurs and myself included, were like, “Oh my God, I did this wrong. I’m wrong.” Or there’s a lot of self-judgment or self… Not hate, but just a lot of judgment of yourself. Or, “Maybe I’m not a savvy entrepreneur.”
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It’s taken me till now to understand that a business is almost like a child where it has its own energy to it. It has its own desire for growth, it has its own weaknesses and limitations. And you have to work with it almost like you’re molding clay to a certain extent. And you have to know when to let it go. And you also have to know when to reign it in. And if you think about it in terms of energy rather than this thing that has to be successful and there’s all this demand around, it’s way easier to be an entrepreneur. It’s literally you just breathe through the day and you breathe through the decisions. And that’s helped me tremendously to shift my thinking that way rather than kind of like, “Well, I have to get an A today. I have to make a hundred on this test of my life, which is today.”
So that’s helped. And I think the other part of entrepreneurship that I’m hearing from you, and I’d love to hear how it played out in your subsequent ventures, is this firm faith in yourself, faith in your own judgment, your intuition, your knowledge, and your resourcefulness. And I think the other thing I see happen over and over again is people jump into businesses, but that faith in themselves is not necessarily there. So they become privy or sort of trapped by the people around them because they’re too… It’s very easy to listen to the voices around you and believe them when you’re not able to listen to the most important voice, which is your own.
So I don’t know if you’ve, you’ve ever experienced that or if you’ve seen others experience that as they’ve moved through their businesses. How did you move from one venture to the next? And were there new challenges along the way?
Anne Mahlum: Yes. When I was starting Back on My Feet, I asked every adult… I was 26 years old. So I’m looking for some adult to be like, “This is a good idea.” You almost want permission and to feel like, yeah, you’re being responsible and someone else sees it as… And I couldn’t find one person. I didn’t have any money. I didn’t have money saved up if this didn’t work out, which frankly was even more of a motivator. I had to make it work on so many levels.
But that was the moment again, where I’m like, listen, this is the first time in my life. And it’s not like I ever made other decisions, but the really big decision on what is right for me. I know my talent, I know my passion, I know my capabilities. I know how hard I’ll work. I know how much this means to me. I have all of the ingredients. If it’s not me, then who would it be? And instead of listening where other people’s doubts can become your self-doubt, which is very easy to do.
And I also think it’s really mindful, Dr. Taz, of whom you’re asking advice from. And I realized back then too, I was asking advice from people who were not entrepreneurs. It was not in their nature. So of course this sounds scary. My mom and dad had the same job their whole life and lived in the same house in the same city. It sounded absurd. So you want to be asking advice from people that you respect or admire in the category. Just like if I was going to ask somebody advice on marriage, I wouldn’t ask somebody who’s never been married. If I was going to ask somebody advice about being a mom I’m probably going to ask a mom. So be mindful of that.
And then the second go around when I left Back on My Feet to start a high-end fitness company, people were like, “Huh, how do you go from working on a social issue and helping the homeless to charging $35 for a fitness class?” And I’m like, this is what I want to do. “And my accountant told me gyms have such a high failure rate,” and everybody tried to convince me again that this was a strange pivot.
So I think it’s really, really trying to follow your own intuition. And I’ve gotten really good at listening to that and knowing what feels right for me and having that conversation with myself. And you do it over and over again. And sometimes you’re like, man, I got that one wrong. Why did I get that wrong? And it’s a learning moment. So I think people feel it, just like when you find the love of your life, you know it. It’s hard to describe to people, but you know it.
Dr. Taz: Yeah. Do you have tools that you use as an entrepreneur in some sort of consistent fashion to dial into your intuition to make sure you’re listening to your voice? Do you have practices that are kind of in place?
Anne Mahlum: Yeah, the main question is, am I the right person to do this? So I’ve had ideas around tech and the airline industry. And I’m like, I’m not the right person to do that. I know nothing about the airline. I don’t care enough about that. And I’m not a tech person. I’m not that kind of person who knows how to lead a tech company. I’m not the right person to start that venture.
What I’m really great at, and I’ve learned this about myself, is building experiential brands that make people’s lives healthier and happier. And I can play in that space, and I will happily compete with anybody because it’s really authentic to myself, what I like to do. And I think that I can build environments that people want to be in. So that’s the space where I’m like, I can play really big there, and I’m willing to take more risks there, and I am the right person for that. So I think those are really important too. And asking yourself, are you the right person and why? And there should be a long list there, not just one reason.
Dr. Taz: Gotcha. Well, speaking of which, Ambition I think is a new wellness or fitness concept that you’re launching. Tell us a little bit about that.
Anne Mahlum: Yeah, thanks for asking. So yes, I’ve been growing Solidcore for the last nine years. I stepped down as CEO in April, 2021. And we have 92 studios now. And which, yeah, it’s been really, really fun. But also moving on as CEO from that company and sitting in an exec chair role, I don’t like to run a company that size. We’re a big company now, and there’s a lot of operations, personnel, just things that you come up with that you’re sort of dealing with at that stage that I am not the best person to be in that role.
And so starting something new in the fitness and wellness space where I thrive in the beginning stages of having to figure it out. But ambition will open in New York City in Brooklyn, and two in Manhattan. Between March and April, we’re opening three locations. And we have four modalities in our spaces, most of our spaces. It’s yoga inspired athlete, and then a recovery workout, as well as an athletic conditioning and a strength workout.
So I felt there was a need with so much boutique fitness out there that focuses on one workout. And I’m running around the city and so are other people. And it would be nice to have a place where I can get four different types of workout and variety from different modalities underneath one roof that has sophistication and education behind the programming. So that’s really what Ambition is going to be from the fitness perspective. And then we’re going to have a lot of content and in-person events that we’re doing as well to really double down on the community, and speakers, and panels. And yes, of really speaking about things, all things wellness, mentally, physically, spiritually, and giving that access to our members.
Dr. Taz: I love that, such an important thing. I know in medicine too, it’s been so fragmented that really people want one place to do everything. And that’s what I’m very passionate about, is merging all these different systems of medicine together so that you don’t have to run around. And I’m good with this person, that person, and that person.
So we want to know some secrets, like you made a comment, being a founder, and knowing when to move on in the name of growth. I would love for you to dial into that. And then how did you build a net worth of over a hundred million dollars? Everybody wants to ask that question, and I’m not going to be shy and not ask it. So dive into that for us.
Anne Mahlum: No worries. So the first one is, again, knowing when to move on. As a founder, I feel it is my greatest responsibility to ensure whatever I am building does not revolve around me. It is beneficial for the company, for everyone involved and myself, if this business is not reliant, or dependent, or only works best if Anne is at the helm. And it can be tricky, especially for first time founders, when you put everything in. Your ego, my ego was involved in Back on My Feet for sure. And I had to work really hard against that when I first heard the voices of wanting to quit and leave. And I’m like, what? No way. What if I fail the next time? How do I top this? So anyway, I fortunately learned quickly and early on that the best thing I can do is put system, processes, people, brand, quality, and what I’m doing that I can be sitting and having this conversation with you and 91 classes around the country can be going on at Solidcore, and I’m not coaching one of them. So that’s really important.
And then the second piece is how I built my net worth, all through investing in myself. I opened Solidcore with $175,000. And I’ve taken liquidity every time we’ve raised private equity. And the valuation of the company as we’ve continued to grow has elevated. So the majority of my net worth so far has been built from that initial $175,000 in Solidcore and just continuing to grow and continuing to be the controlling owner of the company.
Dr. Taz: I think that is so amazing. And I know for many female entrepreneurs out there, the world of private equity and raising is daunting and intimidating. How did you know when it was time to go out and raise, and how did you approach that journey?
Anne Mahlum: Yeah, great question. I felt like I was growing two by two. And I was opening five, six studios a year. And I’m like, I want to open 30 studios a year, and if I’m going to do that, I need more capital. I need an investment to hire better people who know what they’re doing, who can help do this, and of course have the money to open that number of studios over the course of a year. So that’s when it was for me. I was like, I’m ready to challenge myself and grow faster, grow bigger, faster. And I knew I needed capital to do that.
So I actually reached out to the SoulCycle founders, and they connected me to their lawyer, who connected me to six different private equity firms that I got the chance to meet with. And got several offers at that time, people interested in investing in what Solidcore was becoming. And I had in-person meetings and I talked to references. And I’ve made my decision based on, yes, the offer was important, but two, who I felt I could really be myself around.
And the references of private equity are really important. And not just the references of when everything is going well and working out. I was adamant about talking to people when things didn’t go right. How do your private equity partners show up when there’s a crisis? And I can tell you my private equity partner, our first one, Peterson, who’s still invested, they were absolutely amazing during Covid, so supportive from the chairman calling me, “What can we do to help?” There was no blame. It was just like, “This is unbelievable. Who would’ve ever imagined that in a matter of days, we’d have to shut down?” So anyway, be careful who you get into bed with. And you get a chance to call the Xs. And you might as well do that with private equity.
Dr. Taz: Yeah, I love that. Oh my gosh, so much. Great advice. So before we leave today, what do you think your superpower is?
Anne Mahlum: Oh man, I guess I’ll take it back to the beginning of the podcast, which is that I have a high tolerance for risk. I feel like I’ve done the work on myself to trust my capabilities and to trust that I know where, again, I should play and shouldn’t play. And I think that, I tell people, you have a massive leg up if you’re just willing to walk into the arena because the majority of people aren’t. They’re too scared. They’re waiting for the perfect time, and there’s so much food, meat, whatever, however you want to make the description of it. There’s so much for the taking out there if you’re willing to just get in the arena and play.
Dr. Taz: I love that. I think we have to end on that positive, uplifting note. Thank you so much for taking time out today to join me. What’s a great way for women to connect with you? If they wanted to reach out and get inspired or pick your brain, what’s a good avenue for them?
Anne Mahlum: Yeah. So my website is annemahlum.com. I’m also on this great platform called MentorPass, where you can actually book time if you’re building a business and that’s of interest to you. I love that platform because I think a lot of people tend to reach out and like, “Oh, can I have an hour of your time?” And I’m always like, “Maybe.” But everybody always wants time to be free. And it’s like, here you have somebody, whether it’s me or someone else where we pay for schooling, but you’re going to pay, you should be offering to pay or go through a service to get all of this amazing advice, and mistakes, and things to watch out for. So I love that platform. I think it’s really maximizing on a, and there’s a lot of women on that platform too, of women’s knowledge and experience on what they’ve done and not expecting it to always just be free. So that’s a great platform. And then Instagram, I’m pretty active with things on there of just little tidbits and snippets of things that I think can hopefully be helpful and valuable to people.
Dr. Taz: Wonderful. Well, thank you again for taking time out to join me. I really appreciate it. I know I’m inspired. And some of what I believe in terms of trusting yourself, being risk averse, trusting your intuition, all of that you’ve reinforced today for sure. And so for everybody out there watching and listening, I’m hoping you’re able to carry some of these messages with you. And like Anne said, get in the arena and play. You never know what might be waiting for you.
All right, thanks for watching and listening to this episode of Super Woman Wellness. I will see you guys next time.