Liz builds companies that tackle taboo topics. She founded her first social venture at age 15 focused on dating abuse and domestic violence education in schools. The org has been running (on its own) for nearly half her life.
After graduating with a BBA from Parsons the New School for Design, she ran Special Projects for DoSomething.org, one of the largest global orgs for teens and social change. Then, she joined the founding team of Crisis Text Line as the Director of Communications. She oversaw brand, PR, marketing, strategic partnerships and business development— growing the org to 12,000 volunteers, 76 million messages, in 3 countries. After 7 years, she left Crisis Text Line to launch Lantern, a venture backed Public Benefit Corporation on a mission to change the way we talk about and manage end of life and death.
Liz earned a Masters of Science in Strategic Communications from Columbia University in 2019. She is an active volunteer and Board member for Experience Camps, a one-week free summer camp for children who’ve lost a loved one. She is also co-author of “XYZ Factor: The DoSomething.org Guide to Creating a Culture of Impact” published in Feb. 2015, a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, and committee member for the Dying Well Initiative of the Global Wellness Summit. In her free time, she is on a global search for the spiciest food.
Where did the idea for Lantern come from?
Lantern initially came from personal need. I lost my grandmother in 2018 and struggled to navigate what was required of me after her death. The process was confusing, fragmented, expensive and primarily offline. I started asking questions about why a better option didn’t exist and turned to my friend (now co-founder) Alyssa, my go-to person for cracking a difficult challenge. Together we started answering that question with “it should and we should build it.”
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Wow, this question is so different now than it was two months ago. Starting in early March, I’ve been working from home in Brooklyn, NY. My boyfriend and puppy are my coworkers while my team lives inside a screen. Currently, a typical day involves an early morning walk with my “coworkers”, some time for reflection (I love the 5 minute journal), a workout, and then a full cup of coffee to kick things off. I’ve started stacking my meetings in the afternoon because I know my best work and most focused energy happens before lunch. That’s when I do any writing, tackle complicated emails or problem solve. I spend a ton of time on the phone with investors and potential or existing partners. I love to learn about others’ work and brainstorm how we can elevate one another.
How do you bring ideas to life?
With my co-founder. We call each other the kite and string. We even have a matching tattoo to prove it. We’ve worked together on and off since 2012 and found a true entrepreneurial soulmate in each other. I tend to look at things from 10,000 feet up, big picture dreaming (the kite!). I get insanely excited about new ideas. I can be extremely creative and also, extremely scattered. Alyssa is the person that brings those ideas to life. She has an innate ability to keep me firmly grounded (the string!) by focusing my creative energy, figuring out what works and what doesn’t, then laying the groundwork that makes it happen.
What’s one trend that excites you?
COVID19 has changed many things about society, too many to list here. One that gives me huge hope is a collective acknowledgement of our own mortality and the fragility of life. I’m sure that sounds strange on first reading but this knowledge will allow us to live more fully and connect in a more meaningful way. It also allows us to be more action oriented. Most individuals have always known they needed an end of life plan but few actually do it. Now, we are recognizing how important it is to act now.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I make a really conscious effort to respect my time away from work. This is by no means a perfect system but I generally try to stay off my computer starting around 6:30pm on weekdays as well as Saturdays other than the occasional skim of Slack and email. I believe it allows me to show up with more energy and appreciation for the work.
What advice would you give your younger self?
What you do right after high school doesn’t matter as much as you think. The key is to do something that is meaningful to you and is a first step, no matter how small, toward the person you want to become. There’s so much pressure on young people to know exactly who they are during a time when no one knows who they are. Instead, I’d tell my younger self to focus more on the who rather than the what. If you know who you want to be, there are endless paths and opportunities to get there.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Well I wouldn’t say nobody (considering the vegans and vegetarians, for instance) but I don’t think chicken tastes good. It’s just the seasoning/sauce we enjoy.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Find a way to be active every morning. Yes, it’s good for your body… but for me it’s more about mental health. Being able to move (even if just a walk around the block) allows me to focus on how I’m doing (physically, mentally, emotionally), set intentions for the day and come to work awake!
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Finding ways to strategically work with many different types of partners. In any industry, there are obvious people you must work with. For our space, that’s hospitals, hospice, bereavement groups. I’ve found where real growth comes from is finding the unexpected partners that reach new audiences at scale. I am always surprised at how seemingly unrelated industries or individuals working in other fields can actually draw the most engaged users.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Not understanding the price of things and when legal support is necessary. Over the years, I’ve spent more money than necessary on early paperwork and projects before the business concept was fully formed. In hindsight, I would’ve waited until I was certain I was diving in on the idea. In developing Lantern, we’ve learned to question if something is needed immediately or can wait and we always get multiple quotes before choosing a new vendor.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Someone needs to crack accounting software! My co-founder handles our books and seeing the level of frustration and the need for many different apps and processes is painful to watch!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
It was more than $100 but the Buffy comforter. I feel like I’m in a fancy hotel every time I go to bed. If it’s feasible, I highly recommend putting any extra money you have towards a good sleeping environment. Good sleep makes everything else in life easier and more pleasant.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
My co-founder got me hooked on todoist. I was a written checklist kind of gal for many years and thought I couldn’t get the same satisfaction of crossing things off from a digital version. Todoist has cracked it. I get the same awesome feeling when I tick something off and it’s way less time consuming to maintain— the irony of the written checklist is the time it takes to make it!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
When Breath Becomes Air… not just because it’s topical to our work at Lantern but because of the profound perspective it will give you on life. I haven’t been the same since reading this book.
What is your favorite quote?
“Someone doesn’t have to lose for you to win”. I truly have no clue who originally said this but I believe simply acknowledging and living by this would make the world a very different place.
- What makes a strong co-founder relationship
- Highs and lows of an early stage founder
- Building companies in taboo spaces
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.