Laura Maly – Grab That Life By The . . . – Opt Out

Laura Maly – Grab That Life By The . . .

7 months ago · 1:15

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This is our best podcast episode to date. In it, we sit down with our guest Laura Maly and talk about her rise to becoming a successful entrepreneur and liver of the “Opt Out Life”. What makes this episode, and Laura’s story, so great, is that just a few years ago she bottomed out. She was newly divorced, living in Japan, with no job and no plan.

Laura flew home to the States and quickly found momentum by picking up a few clients in the dental industry who she helped do local marketing. She soon met her now-husband (and business partner) Michael, and the two launched the Wonderist Agency. These days, Wonderist is a thriving business, with dozens of employees who enjoy its laid back culture, yet fast-paced growth.

Laura isn’t some whiz kid who cashed out big. In fact, unlike some of our other guests who worked to find financial success before “opting out”, she has deliberately built a life that let’s her travel, control her time, and enjoy her work, now.

And did we mention that this episode features a guest host? That’s right, episode 3’s guest and our good friend, Gabe Galvez, joined us in the studio to help bring Laura’s story to life. It’s actually very fitting, because Laura and Wonderist recently acquired Gabe’s company, MergerLabs.  Cool, yes?  Listen in to our “party” on the Opt Out Life to get all the details.


Laura Maly: 00:00:00 I was teaching and doing Wonderist, and I was just about to sign the second client. And my marriage fell apart in the snap of fingers, and I found myself back in LA right before Christmas with no marriage, no job and no idea what the hell I was going to do with myself. I ended up going home for the holidays, I laid in my parents’ bed for a week. And then I went out with some girlfriends and ended up meeting Michael at a, and he will like the nuance of this at a very high-end restaurant’s bar. I usually just say a bar, and he’s like, “It wasn’t a bar.” I just went MIA on this second client that I was about to sign. And I had to call him basically three weeks after I had left Japan, and I was like, “Hey, listen, my life just kind of fell apart and I’m getting a divorce. And I am so sorry that I’ve kind of left you hanging.” And he said to me, and he’s still our client and he’s somebody I have so much … He’s a fantastic dentist and he’s a fantastic person.
Laura Maly: 00:01:10 And he was like, “You know what, I get it. I’m divorced too, you take all the time you need and you just let me know when you’re ready.” And I came back to him I think a couple of weeks later and I was like, “Okay, I’m ready to go now.” But if you want to talk about a failure, that I felt. I think about it all the time.
Nate Broughton: 00:01:30 This episode of the Opt Out Life podcast from the Opt Out media network was recorded here in San Diego. This is the Opt Out Life story of Laura Maly.
Dana Robinson: 00:01:41 Welcome to the Opt Out Life podcast, the no BS guide to living the modern good life hosted by subversive millionaires Dana Robinson and Nate Broughton. The Opt Out Life podcast explains exactly how creative hustlers are turning side gigs into real income and taking back control of their time. From their studio in Sunny, San Diego, the Opt Out Life welcomes guests who are solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, travelers and creatives who are proof that you can choose a lifestyle over money but still make money too. If you feel like you’ve been chasing your tail, running the rat race or stuck in a system that’s rigged against you, we’d like to offer you an alternative here on the Opt Out Life podcast.
Nate Broughton: 00:02:24 If you lived long enough, you’ve probably come to realize that life is hard. Relationships are hard, business is hard, going against the grain to get what you truly want is hard. This episode is the story of a woman who’s had her fair share of hard things happen, but she has emerged on the other side as the owner of a growing business with employees who are treated like family and a business partner who is family in the form of her husband Michael. Her name is Laura Maly, she’s a woman entrepreneur about town in San Diego, owner of the Wonderist agency and a well-earned liver of the Opt Out Life.
Dana Robinson: 00:02:56 Laura is not a millionaire whiz kid who cashed out big. In fact, she initially spent 10 years working a corporate job. At the age of 28, she found herself stranded in a foreign country, freshly divorced and unsure about the next step to take. All she did know was that there was a better path for her to take with her life and involves something greater than some job at some other company. As she flew back to the States, she did have an ace up her sleeve. Laura’s job had allowed her to learn the ins and outs of localized media buying and marketing. She had been working on a little side gig helping a friend market his dental practice. As we’ll hear, the gig blossomed from her dining room table into a flourishing agency called Wonderist, a rejuvenated Laura continues to run and grow Wonderist alongside Michael, their four dogs and a loyal band of employees and raving customers.
Nate Broughton: 00:03:46 What’s cool about Laura’s that when she hit a low point, she picked herself up by her bootstraps to build a company and more importantly, to build a life that allows her to travel frequently, pursue new business ideas and blend the personal and professional. Laura lives the Opt Out Life now and it’s not by accident, her story is a cool contrast to some of our other guests who may have had an exit or a meteoric rise with a business.
Dana Robinson: 00:04:09 And did we mention that Laura’s agency recently acquired the business of one of our previous guests, that’s right. We’re bringing back Gabe Galvez as a co-host so we can hear about how their deal went down.
Nate Broughton: 00:04:19 Throw in our film guy and we’ve almost got enough for three on three with a half-court. Here’s me and Dana and Laura and Gabe. Today, on the Opt Out Life, it’s a party. We’ve got four people in the room, we have a very special guest. Laura, hello.
Laura Maly: 00:04:39 Hello.
Dana Robinson: 00:04:40 Hi Laura.
Nate Broughton: 00:04:40 And we have our first guest host, our first returning guest to the studio from episode three Gabe Galvez.
Gabe Galvez: 00:04:49 Hi guys.
Dana Robinson: 00:04:51 Welcome back.
Nate Broughton: 00:04:51 He’s here to take the pressure off of us.
Gabe Galvez: 00:04:55 I’m here to keep the pressure on you guys, got to keep you on your toes.
Nate Broughton: 00:04:57 That’s right, that’s right. Well, you are the reason that she is here not that we wouldn’t have found her on her own because she is a local accomplished entrepreneur with a very cool story that I’m excited to hear more about. But you walked in the office here and he said, “Guys, I got someone that you need to have on the show, her name’s Laura. We have a bit of a history together on the business side,” which we’ll hear about. And that’s why we’re here having a party.
Dana Robinson: 00:05:20 Laura brought a special gift, some whiskey. You’ll hear the glass is clinking every now and then. The one requirement is if you mention Opt Out or Opt Out Life.
Nate Broughton: 00:05:20 You drink.
Dana Robinson: 00:05:31 You got to drink. I think Nate you said this podcast is turning me into an alcoholic. It’s the famous quote from airplane.
Nate Broughton: 00:05:43 Right. I’m not going to get away with-
Dana Robinson: 00:05:43 It looks like I picked the wrong day to quit drinking.
Nate Broughton: 00:05:45 With calling this work if we keep drinking every single time. But I think it does make the podcast better. So, thank you for bringing me the gift.
Laura Maly: 00:05:54 My pleasure.
Nate Broughton: 00:05:54 Come bearing gifts, I don’t think anyone else has done that yet.
Gabe Galvez: 00:05:57 I sure as hell didn’t.
Nate Broughton: 00:05:58 Right. You were [crosstalk 00:06:02] present.
Laura Maly: 00:05:58 Your present is our present Gabe.
Nate Broughton: 00:06:03 To drag you the 35 feet down here again, to be here. But actually, I think it’ll be fun to have the interplay and not take the pressure off of us, I’m joking about that. But this is the first time that we’ve had a situation where someone has sold their business and we’ve got both the seller and the acquirer in the room. That is one of the stories that we will get into. But Gabe, I won’t put you on the hot seat too many times. But just to kick us off, where do you think we should begin learning about Laura’s story, her life and what she’s done with business to date?
Gabe Galvez: 00:06:38 Well, off air, we’ve talked a little bit about the couple different Opt Out trajectories that I think we see as a commonality with guests here, with our friends, our own network that we share in some regard. And those tend to be one of two things, they’re sort of your home run guys, which I put Nate and I to that category not because we’re the best hitters but because a couple times something cool happen to us. The rest of the time, I see Nate every day, the rest of his life is not that cool. Two, three things happened really cool, the rest of time he’s just jogging around mission [health 00:07:11]. And the other track I think Dana represents really well and I think is what got me thinking about Laura, which is more of this deliberate design oriented slow-burn track. The people that didn’t accidentally fall into this but in turn actually said with intent, some version of this opting out as we call it now was the impetus for their startup idea or for their big leap.
Gabe Galvez: 00:07:40 And they can be similar or different means to a similar end in the sense that the work flexibility, the travel, the amenities, the mastery of your own life can be a result of either of these two things. And I think Laura is a great example of that ladder, of that slow-burn track because it’s my interpretation and we’ll get into it that they’ve built a number of businesses or built and bought and are building a number of businesses that I think they probably don’t admit to the team. And we’re going to admit it now or I’m going to guess, but are built around the idea of can we be travelling for half the year or a quarter of the year, or can I stay home and the model not break when I’m gone? And they do a really good job, Laura leading that effort. When I think about folks that slow burn by design, I think about her, I think about you.
Gabe Galvez: 00:08:38 And that might be an interesting place to start. I know we don’t do too much historical work here, but you’re here in the middle of the day with us while the rest of us a schmucks out there are sitting at their desks. I think it might be really nice to hear a little bit about the intent and the design behind the business of Wonderist that is now becoming a platform for both new startup developments and the acquisition of other small businesses in similar situations.
Laura Maly: 00:09:07 My husband and I co-own a marketing agency for dentists.
Nate Broughton: 00:09:11 And co-CEO, right?
Laura Maly: 00:09:12 Co-CEO, whatever you want to call it.
Nate Broughton: 00:09:13 I think that’s [crosstalk 00:09:16].
Laura Maly: 00:09:16 It’s a very sexy industry, dentistry. And I kind of did it on my own, started with a friend who has continued to be a great friend. He was opening a new practice and was struggling to be a business owner and a dentist and a marketing manager, which is what these dentists have to do when they leave dental school and they want to own their own business. And it poses a huge problem for them, they’re overextended, they’re not trained in business. They’re trained in dentistry, but they have to own a business by default. He called me and he was like, “Hey, listen, I signed this big marketing package. I don’t know what to do with it, I think you do this for big clients like fortune 500 clients, can you do it for a little client?” And I was like, sure. At that point, it was just an exchange, he paid me in iPads and whatever else felt appropriate at that time. We kind of started working together on formulating a localized plan and he opened his second practice, his third practice and he’s quite the entrepreneur himself.
Laura Maly: 00:10:17 And from there, he was like, “You really got to do this, I think you found a problem that guys don’t have time to do this, dentists don’t have time to do this. You need to find a way to go give this to other people. He put me in touch with a couple of other dentists who were owning practices or scaling practices. Did it again and did it again. I met Michael at that point and Michael again was like, “I think you’re onto something here.”
Nate Broughton: 00:10:17 Michael, your husband.
Laura Maly: 00:10:43 Michael, my husband who is also my co-founder, co-partner co-person in life.
Nate Broughton: 00:10:43 Co-conspirator.
Laura Maly: 00:10:48 Co-conspirator.
Nate Broughton: 00:10:49 I know that guy.
Laura Maly: 00:10:51 At that point, I was farming out to the best candidate, the things that I couldn’t do myself. I can’t build a website, don’t want to. I would go find somebody who was in a good position to do it. And Michael was like, “Well, I can do that stuff. Let’s just bring it all in-house, turn it into an agency and see what happens.” This started very organically on weekends. I remember I’m laying on a carpet in the living room doing social posts for the three clients we had at that point. And Mike is trying to build out a Wonderist website in our free time. And what ended up happening was we had an opportunity to kind of scale it and I guess we can dig into more how that happened, but we had an opportunity to take a risk, a big risk and scale it fast. And I remember when we got our first client where no one knew us and it wasn’t a friend or a friend of a friend and we had done some drip campaigns to areas that we were going to visit that year.
Laura Maly: 00:11:42 I was going to Charlotte to visit friends and I sent out some emails and we ended up getting a guy who’s still with us to this day, he’s amazing. And we were like, “Oh, this could work, this could be something.” We went to dinner, we celebrate, it was the biggest deal ever. And from there, it slowly snowballed. Early on, I think Michael and I were really hoping to live, I’m going to get my drink the Opt Out Life.
Nate Broughton: 00:12:04 Mike’s pretty opted out in just his demeanor I feel like. He’s a pretty chill, pretty-
Laura Maly: 00:12:10 Significantly more mellow than me. Oh, I got to drink now. That’s tough for 3:30-
Dana Robinson: 00:12:23 For those-
Gabe Galvez: 00:12:24 Gets you in the feeling.
Nate Broughton: 00:12:24 What are you talking about, give me that back.
Dana Robinson: 00:12:24 Are you sure man?
Nate Broughton: 00:12:26 What are you doing? Come on [crosstalk 00:12:29].
Laura Maly: 00:12:26 Nate, you’re hardcore.
Nate Broughton: 00:12:28 Come on.
Dana Robinson: 00:12:28 You just clinched.
Nate Broughton: 00:12:29 No. I just did that for mic, come on now.
Dana Robinson: 00:12:34 We’re drinking straight whiskey for those that care to know, it’s Basil Hayden’s and it’s middle of the day. I just put a little water in mine and and I was going to help Nate out but he refused.
Nate Broughton: 00:12:43 That’s right.
Dana Robinson: 00:12:44 He wants straight, straight.
Gabe Galvez: 00:12:45 Nobody even offered me water.
Dana Robinson: 00:12:47 Gabe is gone already.
Nate Broughton: 00:12:49 He’s gone, he’s got-
Gabe Galvez: 00:12:50 I might have showed up [crosstalk 00:12:51].
Nate Broughton: 00:12:50 I’m going to leave at 4:30 and slamming the drinks. Sorry, please continue.
Laura Maly: 00:12:57 No, you’re fine.
Nate Broughton: 00:12:57 Please continue.
Laura Maly: 00:12:58 I remember early on, we were thinking to ourselves we’re going to have a remote agency and Mike and I are going to go live in Costa Rica and it’s gonna be awesome. And I think we very quickly realized that first we had to scale it, make it work and then maybe we could move in that direction. We very consciously decided at that point, okay, we’re going to building this at home. This started from $100 bill at a kitchen table and it was very weird moments where like people would be wrapping up the day and Mike would be cooking dinner. And then sometimes people would stay for dinner.
Gabe Galvez: 00:13:29 I ate dinner at that same table last week.
Laura Maly: 00:13:33 And then the tipping point was when we had some family in town, Mike and I are both adopted, side note, weird story. And my biological father and his wife were in town and they were staying in our guest room. And he walked out to get a cup of water in the morning and totally forgot in his boxer shorts that there was going to be five people sitting in the house working. And he pulled me to the side and he’s like, “You need an office.”
Nate Broughton: 00:13:56 All right Dana, our first break in. Laura has told us a bit about Wonderist. Gabe’s there using his big fancy words helping us get Laura started and her story started. And we want to explain a little bit specifically about Wonderist is and this concept of slow burn. I will explain what Wonderist is. Wonderist is an agency, they are basically a marketing partner that helps in their primary case dentists market and build their practice. If you can imagine a dentist, I actually know a lot of dentists through my wife’s family. They are very smart people and they have a lot that they have to do on the dental side. They’re not necessarily going to have time to build websites and run AdWords ads and get people in the door of their business. It’s pretty clear I think that this is a challenge that any medical professional would have. It’s a whole nother thing to run a business and market a business rather than do the practice of the business.
Nate Broughton: 00:14:55 Wonderist is a provider of a service that makes that easy for dentists, and it’s grown really, really quickly. And I’ve met some of their customers at an open house they had and they love it. They’re taking a pain for these people and making it very easy and helping them drive patients and understand the whole world of the internet.
Dana Robinson: 00:15:17 And I think Gabe throws in the word verticals, the idea is that there are a lot of other professionals like lawyers, accountants that are good at what they do and if they’re say solo or small practice, no one in the firm is really going to have the expertise or the time nor should they to dedicate toward managing Facebook Ads or even just the Facebook account that engages their community. More and more are realizing they need to hire agencies to do that, and those agencies are specializing in each of these niches. And each niche, we call it a vertical.
Nate Broughton: 00:15:53 And we’re going to hear more about how Wonderist is expanding into the legal vertical in this story. Hopefully, we’ve kind of qualified that a bit for you. And the other thing that Gabe introduces Laura as is a one version I guess of a business person or an entrepreneur who quote-unquote lives the Opt Out Life. And Dana and I are a bit of a contrast in this way as well where some of the guests that we’ve had on have found success quickly or took a quick rise over the course of a few years to an exit or at least a success with their business. And a lot of other people who live the Opt Out Life have done it slower. They’ve figured it out over the course of several years where the path to the Opt Out Life is certainly not like three-year run, in 500, big exit. That’s mostly not the Opt Out Life and the stores we try to tell.
Nate Broughton: 00:16:45 And we’re introducing Laura as someone who’s living the Opt Out Life now by running her own business, but she’s deliberately planning how that business is set up, how her lifestyle revolves around it, the culture of the business so her and her husband can take a trip when they want to.
Dana Robinson: 00:17:01 Yeah. And I think it’s pretty important because I think that fast burn, the skyrocketing business is the exception not the rule. And it doesn’t mean that you don’t shoot for it, but if every entrepreneur were to pour themselves into a venture as if it’s going to be a meteoric rise to the top, they’re going to burn out and they’re not going to be living the off that life, their business enslaves them. In fact, we’ve had a couple of our guests that have had those rises just about kill them, just from a health and well-being standpoint. It’s cool when it happens, I know it happened for you with one of your early ventures. And those of us that have certainly wanted it to happen to our ventures but designed our lives to ensure that if it doesn’t, then we keep going. We still keep having control over our lives. It’s a matter of designing your entrepreneurial life to empower you.
Dana Robinson: 00:17:56 Certainly, agencies grow, and I’ve heard of several in the last year from friends of ours that have sold for double-digit millions, 10 and up. These can be massive exits, Laura could get there. But it doesn’t matter if she does because she’s living the Opt Out Life with a business that generates the money she needs to live the life she wants right now.
Nate Broughton: 00:18:16 Yeah. Keep that in mind as you hear more of Laura’s story, and now she’s going to tell us a little bit more about what she was doing before Wonderist came around.
Laura Maly: 00:18:24 Mike and I are both originally from Wisconsin. I went to school in Florida at Florida State and then moved out to LA. And I bounced around a whole bunch in there, but the basis of this all started in LA.
Gabe Galvez: 00:18:34 Laura used to be super LA, by the way. Now, we’re cool.
Dana Robinson: 00:18:34 Well, I want to know what part of LA.
Laura Maly: 00:18:37 West side, of course.
Dana Robinson: 00:18:39 [Nabi 00:18:39], west side people.
Laura Maly: 00:18:43 Culver City, that softens me a little bit. But I was working as a media planner and buyer for Sony Pictures Entertainment, which by all intents and purposes everybody would think that is the fucking coolest job ever. And it was awful, and I was terrible at the job. And they did not like me, which I think we can all safely say this many years in hindsight, it was not a good fit mutually. It was just time for me to go, and at that point I’ll check the yoga teacher training box I was going through yoga teacher training. I was like, “I think it’s time for me to just lift this thing off the ground.” I was living in LA. Then I moved to Japan and in the typical Opt Out fashion, drink again, I had a side hustle that I was teaching yoga in Japan and very quickly became sort of a-
Dana Robinson: 00:19:35 Guru.
Gabe Galvez: 00:19:37 Kind of, right?
Laura Maly: 00:19:39 No, no, but people were intrigued by what I was doing. I had a lot of classes, had a lot of notoriety in Japan really quickly as I was doing one dressed in tandem with that. And then a divorce led me back to the States very quickly. I was kind of at this point of impasse where I had to make some new decisions. I went home and laid in my parents’ bed for a week and whined about it. And then I decided to pick myself up by my bootstraps and was going to scale this thing. That’s when I met Michael and we all started working together on it, and that’s kind of where that piece weaves in together.
Dana Robinson: 00:20:14 I want to know a little bit more about the nitty-gritty, the details. A lot of our listeners are starting businesses or want to start a business, you got $100 dollars on a table. How did you survive? Did you have a day job? Did you get funding? Talk a little bit more about how you managed to get from that point to where that was all you’re doing.
Laura Maly: 00:20:32 Yeah. We have never taken any funding, this has been a debt-free endeavor. I’m pretty proud of that, I think that’s pretty neat. It’s been a brick by brick thing, we’ve maybe moved a little slower than other people. But I think we’ve done it safely and that’s been a nice peace of mind for me.
Nate Broughton: 00:20:48 Were you still working at Sony while this happened?
Laura Maly: 00:20:52 That’s a great question. I had been working on Wonderist just with one or two clients, just one client on the side while I was doing this job at Sony.
Nate Broughton: 00:21:03 Was there anything you were doing at Sony that gave you a skill that you leveraged for Wonderist or was it completely not useful?
Laura Maly: 00:21:12 Well, what I had been doing prior to that is I was doing the nine-to-five for close to a decade probably in there. Boo hiss. I was doing media planning and buying for fortune 500 companies, usually furniture, home stores, Lennar Homes, PG&E, Sony Pictures, I can’t even remember-
Nate Broughton: 00:21:31 The job, which would seem cool not just because it’s Sony but because you were working in digital advertising perhaps was horrible or some way you characterize, it it was not cool. But you did get the practical skill of getting to run those big ad campaigns. That’s pretty cool, that’s rare.
Laura Maly: 00:21:49 The unique thing is I was not doing what would be called tier one, which is national level stuff. I was doing tier two, it was the in market. I’ve bought almost every market in the United States, there’s 210 of them, radio or TV. I had a very unique understanding of a lot of markets in the US and how to apply that stuff on a very local sort of grassroots level.
Nate Broughton: 00:22:13 That’s cool, that’s the story that we sometimes come back to is the job that you hate gives you the skill that you can leverage or something that you don’t hate. And that is really unique. I guess in retrospect should be like, yeah, it was shitty in a lot of ways, the nine-to-five. But that skillset gave you not only that tactical knowledge but probably the confidence enough that you could figure it out. Why did you say yes when your friend asked for help at that moment?
Laura Maly: 00:22:40 I think most people about me know that I don’t do anything halfway and I can’t just do one thing. I always I’m doing a million things. He needed help, and I gave him help, it’s just what I do.
Dana Robinson: 00:22:50 Did you plan to build an agency out of it?
Laura Maly: 00:22:53 I think somewhere in the back of my head I kind of knew this may always come to be, but I don’t know that I ever thought I had the tools for the toolbox. I think one of the things that you guys always ask, I’ve heard you ask a couple of times is did you always know you were an entrepreneur? And I can say absolutely not, I did not know that. But I carry a lot of the traits I think. I’ve always been a busybody, I’ve always been somebody who likes to tinker with things and explore things. I’m a avid learner of anything-
Dana Robinson: 00:23:23 Tinker is becoming a new theme actually for us because I think it’s one of those things that whether you’re an entrepreneur or not, it’s the product of curiosity and curiosity is foundational for people that are going to do entrepreneurial things. We’re finding more and more of our guest stars talking about that of life when they were tinkering, sometimes it’s the thing that leads them to the side gig, to the thing that then turns out to be a business. You’re a tinkerer.
Laura Maly: 00:23:52 Tinkerer, reader, learner, hands on everything kind of a lady. I do a lot of nonprofit work here in San Diego and stuff with dog. I don’t know, I like to tinker. I get stuck in rabbit holes on Google and suddenly I’m an expert in something that I wasn’t expecting to be.
Gabe Galvez: 00:24:09 I feel like you have the trait that I think in some level, we likely all share along with some of the audience, which is the desire to master or to at least have a good amount of exposure to all the things that are critical pieces to the puzzle, which can be a bit of a disease. We don’t all need to be experts in building a website like the guys in the office next to us doing research. Certainly, we don’t all need to know those things. But it’s a certain personality who sits down and says, oh, these are all the pieces, let me become at least as apt as somebody I could hire first and then do the job, which can come at a sacrifice of speed of growth, which can create a lot of extra work and extra responsibilities. But I think it’s a character trait that is unique to people who share this kind of mindset, walking the floor so to speak in that warehouse or selling to customers, which I know you still have some interaction with.
Gabe Galvez: 00:25:11 That’s something that I think folks like us don’t always necessarily realize is not how it usually gets done. You know how to do your thing, and you’re, using Dana as a bad example because he’s way too multifaceted, but you’re a lawyer. Well, okay, so you practice law. He’s broken that mold a dozen times over. I think you have a lot of that same stuff, I know you can do a little bit of everything now. How much of that initial push, that fun start with the team in the house and the big leap of focusing solely on the agency and a few things that we’ll touch on later, how much of that was deliberate in the context of your lifestyle now, of the dogs in the office, of the international travel, of the personal time dedicated to nonprofit and community? Was that a grain of the sort of mantra of starting this business or is that just something that’s come from … Is that a luxury of running a business that’s growing and profitable?
Laura Maly: 00:26:15 No, I just think it’s innate to who I am as in a way. I think I really connect with some of the other episodes where you said you’re just an unemployable person, someone can be an unemployable because they just know what they want their life to be and then they have to go make it that way. I think most of it is very intentional. But having been in the agency world prior to doing this, I had a really good blueprint of things that I liked. I liked being able to bring my dogs to work, I liked being able to have happy hour and have my friends be my co-workers. I really liked having the flexibility of summer Fridays that we were allowed to have. I think I had some good blueprints with some of the places that I had worked earlier in my career. And in addition to that, I think I’m a very pushy person who wants to make sure that they’re doing the things that … We get one life.
Laura Maly: 00:27:05 I got to make sure I’m doing the stuff I want to do and I’m checking the boxes I need to check so that when I hit the end of the road that I feel pretty good about it. I think the travel especially, I think having our dogs around, which are super important to me is awesome. I love the community we’ve created it Wonderist because our friends and our family and people who come to visit us out here in San Diego, everybody kind of just herbs and flows out of the office. And I think one of the biggest insights I’ve made recently is I think there’s this drumbeat of balance, balance, balance where it’s like you have to have your work life and you have to have your personal life. It was the most freeing thing when I realized that they’re just all mixed together for me, I can’t keep trying to push them apart.
Laura Maly: 00:27:42 They’re all one thing for me, the people that I spend time with at the office are the people that I spent time with afterwards, are the people that I do business with, who come over to my house for dinner, who are the family people who come in to see the office and spend time there. It’s just all sort of integrated into one big thing, there’s no dividing line for me.
Dana Robinson: 00:28:00 Hey, Nate, let’s break in, I’ve got a couple of thoughts. I think there’s a lot going on in the past 10 minutes of our interview and worth noting a few things. I think what’s cool about Laura’s narrative is she didn’t really have a plan to end up where she was. And so many people think, well, they got to know exactly what they’re going to do so they spend a lot of time really gyrating. And that prevents them from getting into a business, for example, or starting a side gig. She didn’t design a life where she would end up owning an agency, it was partly happenstance. She didn’t realize she was gaining the skills that she would have. And that’s really a starting point for a lot of people is to take stock. If you’ve been at a job for 10 years and you hate it, step back and take stock of that. What are you doing, and is there a market for that? And with a lot of skills, there is whether it’s consulting, setting up an agency, somehow putting those services into a product. There’s a lot of things that people can do.
Dana Robinson: 00:28:58 She realizes that she’s got something, and I think that’s an important thing because people need to realize what they’ve got and really think what can I do now with what I got.
Nate Broughton: 00:29:08 Yeah. She tells us that she spent a decade working the nine-to-five. She had a big corporate job that people would think was sexy from the outside, but not the way that we discus jobs here on the Opt Out Life. And what that makes me think is she was no different than thousands if not tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people out there. Hopefully, some of them are hearing this that to take some of your advice, to take stock of what they’re actually doing working these jobs that do have particular skillsets or exposure that can be leveraged in the way that you just described. Okay, she’s working for Sony Pictures, that sounds kind of cool. She’s doing local media buying, that’s actually kind of rare that she tells us how she got to buy media in 210 little city markets around the country. That exposure is worth a hell of a lot more than whatever her salary was at the time and maybe it took her some time to realize it, but she was developing a unique skillset and viewpoint that could be deployed for many other businesses and business types.
Nate Broughton: 00:30:08 I’m envisioning a friend on a Sunday at a barbecue who is a dentist saying, “Would you help me with this?” And she’s like, “I guess I could.” It was kind of the impetus for her saying, “Yeah, maybe I could apply all this crap I’m doing at the job that I hate.”
Dana Robinson: 00:30:20 Well, and she doesn’t admit it, but she has this stint in Japan where she becomes maybe somewhat of a famous yoga teacher. We didn’t get the whole story.
Nate Broughton: 00:30:30 Yeah. I’m so curious about that, I need to Google that one.
Dana Robinson: 00:30:31 Yeah. She’s dodging a little bit. But I can envision a lot of people taking this path, they go get certified because they love yoga and then they think, well, I’m going to make yoga my thing, I’m going to make money at it. And it’s often a red herring, it’s a big distraction from doing what you can really do with your skills when you try and pursue this idea that, well, I love yoga, I’m going to go become a yoga teacher. And she did that and lucky for her, it didn’t work out because it forced her to then really in the rawest sense, assess what she had that she could turn into a business.
Nate Broughton: 00:31:04 And to go with that, there certainly are hundreds of thousands of people working these jobs with these skills. But I think no matter how many of them maybe come around to the idea that they have a skill that could be leveraged this way, only the ones who have the mindset to go out and do it, to think about it, to recognize the opportunity when brought up on a Sunday at a barbecue, to not hear that and say, oh, I don’t really know how to do that or, oh, I don’t have time but to have a kind of a curiosity and just the awareness to be like, yeah, I could give that a try and that would be an interesting thing to kind of refresh myself based on the things that I know how to do. And Laura clearly has a very strong entrepreneurial mindset, we’ll call it as we’re going through this story. Someone doesn’t just spin up a business out of a side gig without having the right mindset to do it.
Nate Broughton: 00:31:54 And I hope that Dana and I can figure out ways to bring awareness to that, to instill that mindset in other people. I start to feel like I’m doing Svengali shit when I’m saying this mindset, mindset. It’s not a tactical, practical thing that you can chew on, but it is very important. Her success is a product of the fact that she has that mindset.
Nate Broughton: 00:32:19 Their conversations end with these culture questions all the time, where mine is like I don’t give a fuck what’s the projected EBITDA this thing is going to be, what’s the working capital requirement? Can I leave now? This is what I ask. And I think their focus on culture has built something that is a little more fun, a little more personable but also that is defensible because where other companies have to compete on salaries or are strictly on benefits or on structure and reviews, they compete on you’re going to want to come here and do a really good job. And as a somewhat observer, I’m technically integrated into a little part of their team and in a different capacity. But those people want to do a good job, and it is apparent. I can’t speak to the job they do necessarily, I have my own little team I have exposure to. But the intent from the top that you should want to really be driven to perform is very apparent.
Nate Broughton: 00:33:16 And that’s a deliberate thing that they’ve done that has been really interesting to watch.
Laura Maly: 00:33:21 Yeah. I think our hiring process has really, really evolved. It has not always been this way, we’ve had some really tough moments. But our hiring process has really evolved and we are very, very particular about who we bring in. We actually just went through a round of interviews and ultimately got it down to two candidates and said no to both candidates and just restarted it. And actually right before I came here, we gave an offer. I was pretty excited about that. But sometimes it means you have to wait and sometimes it means you have to endure a little bit of workload and pain and frustration, which I understand. But it’s so much easier to get the right person than it is to make a guess or a leap and then have it be the wrong person. That’s a huge part of it, and I think also we have unlimited vacation approved and a work from home policy approved. But I think those things give people the flexibility to live the lives they want.
Laura Maly: 00:34:13 One of our employees who’s fantastic, he’s just like the culture master, Walter. He’s up in Vancouver right now for the next 90 days spending some time with his love interest up there. He’s working remotely for the next 90 days, and then he’ll be back. We want to be able to give that to people, we want people to be able to have experiences in their lives. We want people to be happy every day when they come here and spend time at the office. It’s so important to Michael and I on who we are as people to make other people happy.
Nate Broughton: 00:34:42 Yeah. It kind of parallels that slow-burn versus the not slow burn too where you’re saying, [inaudible 00:34:47] cares about EBITDA, you’re saying, it could take a little bit longer, but we’re going get it right. It’s still the tortoise against the hare.
Dana Robinson: 00:34:53 Well, look. you’re building a business that makes you happy and you’re doing that by saying I want to create an environment that empowers other people to be happy. If they’re happy doing what they’re doing, then that makes your life what you want it to make, that’s part of your design.
Laura Maly: 00:35:07 Yeah. We’ve done so much travel this year, we did Bali last year right around this time. And I ended up staying an extra week because my yoga teacher from LA happened to be there. We decided the day before we were supposed to leave to come back. I was like, “I must stay another week.” Mike is like, “Great, have fun.” To have that flexibility, amazing. To have a husband who’s like, “Yeah, no problem. I’ll take the 36-hour flight home myself,” superb.
Gabe Galvez: 00:35:31 Maybe he just wanted to get out of there.
Laura Maly: 00:35:33 He probably was just like, see yah. And then we go home for a while every year back to Wisconsin. We got married so we went to Ojai, we went to my sister’s wedding, we went to Thailand and Vietnam for three weeks over the holiday.
Gabe Galvez: 00:35:49 You went to Japan this year too.
Laura Maly: 00:35:50 We just got back from Japan because I went to a wedding from somebody that I know there, which was fantastic. And we’ve hired well that we can leave and everybody does a great job. And that’s the most amazing feeling in the world. And we definitely work while we’re gone too, but it’s our team. Our team is awesome.
Nate Broughton: 00:36:06 Yeah. Kudos for creating that, that’s really cool. And you know that we’re big fans of travel obviously. Any opportunity we get to talk about travel makes us happy.
Dana Robinson: 00:36:15 Yes, glad you brought it up.
Nate Broughton: 00:36:16 Yes, thank you so much. What drives you to travel? Why chase these experiences? I agree it’s cool, I want to do it. But why fly all over the place? What are you looking for? What do you get out of it? Why keep doing it?
Laura Maly: 00:36:30 I think I just have a mechanism in me that needs to explore and see things and do things and be a part of things and have unique experiences. We’ve been very lucky this year to get all over Asia and I’ve been very lucky to travel to a lot of the places that I have been. But I think it’s just a passion to see and meet other people because when you come back from a trip, you feel like, now, I’ve got these 10 things I need to work on that I’m so excited about because my brain got space to think about new things, to experience new things, to meet new people and hear what they’re doing and see how I can apply it to my life to make it better. It creates so much space. Is that a weird thing to say, it creates space?
Dana Robinson: 00:37:06 No, I don’t think anyone has actually said that. But I think it’s true. In fact, in Gabe’s interview, he talked a lot about mind share, the amount of energy that you put into something and how it’s important to edit so much of what you’re doing in order to free up mind share, not just time. And I think when I travel, it does that. It’s like a decompression of all these fragments in your mind and unimportant stuff disappears, your creativity kicks in. It’s a reframing of everything and it gives you a certain revitalization that you bring back to your life and your business.
Nate Broughton: 00:37:43 Yeah, you could be in the noisiest place in the world. You could be in Tokyo, but it could be the quietest time in your mind because everyone else in the US is sleeping and the problems and the things that pull at us every day, every hour are gone. We have an episode with Brian Kidwell that’s coming out here soon or I guess it’s already out, excuse me. And he talked about he did several stints in Southeast Asia and Bali. And I was envisioning this kid backpacking, just kind of doing the young vagabond thing. And he actually spent most of his time at co-working spaces building his business. What he really enjoyed about it was it was just a quiet time where he couldn’t be bugged by all the other people that were working here in the States. I can sympathize with that, I want to get out of here all the time. People sending me slack messages at 10 a.m., it’s beautiful if that 10 a.m. for you is 2 a.m. for them.
Gabe Galvez: 00:38:32 I’m one of those guys who’s slacking me all the time.
Nate Broughton: 00:38:38 It’s okay when you do it, it’s okay when you do it.
Gabe Galvez: 00:38:39 Well, I think there’s maybe another interesting avenue to explore in Laura’s story here as we hear about creating the space through travel, through the design of a team and a culture that can allow for some freedom and for some autonomy for owners at the top. I’m curious how much of doing our little deal was incited not only by just upside because I think the stewardship of the company is much more appropriate with your awesome team. but how much of it was about, hey, this can get us even closer to that intent of having freedom, of having space without having to build it?
Laura Maly: 00:39:20 The vision of it makes great sense. We’ve built this amazing engine at Wonderist that has insane process, they have insane ability to deliver amazing product. If you had told me that our next vertical was going to be in the M$A and PE space, I would have like laughed at you.
Dana Robinson: 00:39:38 You might have laughed at me.
Laura Maly: 00:39:39 I might have actually laughed at you. But once we kind of thought through it and we were like, “Oh, this makes so much sense, it’s totally relatable.” It wasn’t the vertical we were going to choose to go into next, but that’s cool because this opportunity is too good to pass up.
Gabe Galvez: 00:39:52 And now, there is a new vertical you guys are chasing more in the startup vein but similar paths. You’ve built the foundation, the mechanism to fulfill in different verticals so now there’s three verticals all of a sudden. That’s the last 12 months, what’s the next 12 months?
Laura Maly: 00:40:17 NOMOS Marketing, which is going to be a law specific marketing agency is launching on Friday. and we’ve already been doing obviously a lot of the work on it, but we have two really great partners there one of which is an employee at Wonderist, April Roberts. And the other is Tyler Roberts, her spouse who is an attorney. Marketing for lawyers by lawyers is a unbelievable tool to open up a conversation for these guys. And our product for dentists, our product for merger labs is top-line, incredible service, incredible performance, incredible infrastructure. And there’s no doubt we’re going to do exactly the same thing for law. And then on top of that, we’ve got a couple other things in the works-
Gabe Galvez: 00:40:59 Somebody is building a brewery somewhere, something in that sense.
Laura Maly: 00:41:01 Yeah. Michael has got a brewery project in the works, I’ve got some stuff in the works. We are looking at a SAS product probably by the end of the year that we’re hopeful about. Yeah, there’s a lot going on. Wonderist is really the engine that’s allowed us to put legs on a bunch of other things that we’re excited about.
Nate Broughton: 00:41:18 Where did you get the confidence to launch a brewery and a law version of Wonderist and etc, etc? A lot of people would be held back by fear, I know that’s obviously not something that you’re held back by.
Laura Maly: 00:41:32 It’s taken a while, it’s taken a while. I think that fear is very real and I think you just fail enough that you get used to it. It never feels good, it’s not comfortable and it never gets that way. In the beginning, I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I was always waiting to wake up in the morning and get 30 phone calls that are like, Laura, sorry we’re leaving you. And it hasn’t happened yet.
Gabe Galvez: 00:41:55 I’m still waiting for that day.
Laura Maly: 00:41:57 You kind of just get into this comfort zone I guess of like, I don’t think it’s all going to fall apart tomorrow so we have to start planning for the future now. I think you just kind of get used to it, I don’t think it ever feels good but I think you get used to it.
Dana Robinson: 00:42:13 Yeah, I love that. A little bit of imposter syndrome.
Gabe Galvez: 00:42:13 I think we all have that.
Dana Robinson: 00:42:15 I remember with all of my businesses that there’s a point at which you stop thinking that it’s going to shut down the next day. But early on, you’ve got confidence because you failed, and what’s the worst that can happen? You’ll fail. And once it doesn’t, then it kind of freaks you out a little bit.
Laura Maly: 00:42:34 Yeah, totally. And it can be really gutting. I think you were talking earlier about this dirt under the fingernails, there are days that are gutting, there are days that are gutting. And it’s hard, and it’s not fun. And working with your spouse is no walk in the park.
Nate Broughton: 00:42:50 Dana, I love that we opened with a bit of a gutting soliloquy on the intro but then for the most part, the past 40 minutes or so have been happy things, impressive things, things to an outsider that are like, “Wow, I want that. I want to be here, I want to own an agency, I want to travel. I want to acquire a company and launch another one.” This is-
Dana Robinson: 00:43:11 All with dogs.
Nate Broughton: 00:43:12 All with dogs in the office and employees that love them and the flexible work schedule both for them and the culture that they have there. This is all things that we would admire and aspire to have. But she started to tell us a little bit about how every day is not great, a few points in this conversation she’s told us about that. But I think right in here where we’re breaking in, she’s admitting that working, running a business still work for one and that there are days that are just absolutely gutting. Your emotions from 100 to a negative 100. And I know as entrepreneurs, we’ve all experienced that and sometimes it feels like when you’re growing a business, 95% of it is just bad and sad and hard and frustrating we’ll say because it’s hard to predict what works, it’s hard to predict other people. And I’m glad that we’re working some of that into the conversation because it’s easy to think, oh, I want to be like Laura and do all these things and to not think about all the hard work that’s really going into it.
Nate Broughton: 00:44:13 Her best self has been shown and now we’re getting some of the reality too.
Dana Robinson: 00:44:17 Yeah, she says it’s no walk in the park. And I think that’s true about business, it’s even true about side gigs. When you’re doing a side gig, we talked about them being sort of low-risk and easy in and not a lot of money. But for a lot of side gigs, you’ll spend months and months building something and not getting anything for it and then you’ll wait what might be a couple of years for that to climb through the hundreds of dollars a month into the thousands. And during that time, you’ll have days where … We talked about one of my side gigs right when I hit 500 bucks a month, I got banned on Google and went to zero. And I had to reconstruct everything from scratch and it took a year to get back to the point where I was making decent money. And business has those weaved into the oomph power.
Nate Broughton: 00:45:03 The enth degree
Dana Robinson: 00:45:04 The enth degree. The businesses have those days where you’ve got dogs in the office and everybody loves you or where you’re taking the Friday off and you’re not thinking about work for three days, but there are those days where the shit hits the fan. And part of owning a business is to have the grit to get through that.
Nate Broughton: 00:45:24 It’s interesting to hear about her and her spouse working together, having so many projects together. I don’t know if they ever spend time apart. I guess she gives us a little qualification that he’s working on a brewery and she’s got her side projects, which may or may not include podcasting here soon. But I want to hear a little bit more about that. We asked her about what it’s like to work with your spouse, how they deal with it, how they help each other on those hard days and how they enjoy those high highs together as well.
Laura Maly: 00:45:50 I love him, it’s no walk in the park.
Dana Robinson: 00:45:53 Let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about it, I think that you’re the first guest we’ve had that’s in business with their spouse. I think there’s a lot of people that are trying to figure out how to do that, are you crazy? Should other people think about this? Is there some deliberate approach you’ve taken that makes it work?
Laura Maly: 00:46:12 Michael and I were not married when we started the business, we had been together for a very short amount of time. And it was very close after my divorce and everybody in our life was like, don’t do this, terrible idea-
Dana Robinson: 00:46:25 Don’t get into business or don’t married?
Laura Maly: 00:46:26 Don’t even get into business with this right now.
Nate Broughton: 00:46:27 Don’t talk to this guy.
Laura Maly: 00:46:28 This is a terrible idea. And honestly, I think we both just knew it was the right thing to do at that time and we knew everybody thought we were crazy, I think we thought we were crazy. But it just was like we couldn’t be pulled in any other direction, it was just the thing we had to do. I will say our lives are very intertwined in our personal lives and our work lives like I was saying earlier. And I think our relationship is very much the same, it’s all sort of melded together in this big messy pile. I would never not work with my spouse, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. Our highs are our highs and our lows are our lows. But I will tell you, the hardest part about it, and if you can get through this, you’ll be fine is that when Michael and I have a bad day, we both have a bad day. If we lose a client or if we don’t do great on a pitch or something really frustrating happens, we both are having a bad day.
Laura Maly: 00:47:26 In a normal marriage or relationship, theoretically, you have a bad day, you can go home and your spouse will cheer you up, your partner will cheer you up, they’ll bring you back around. That doesn’t happen for us, our lows are our lows. I think that’s something that we’ve really had to work through, and I think we have a good AB sort of thing where we’ll pick each other up when we need to even if it’s both a crappy day or maybe we’ll just watch a movie and go to bed early and move past it. One of the things that always happens to us is right before we travel, we always have somebody who’s like, “Oh, by the way, I’m moving on to a new job.” And they haven’t done it with two weeks notice, they do it very savagely. Now, every time before we leave on a trip we’re like, “Who’s going to leave, please nobody leave, please nobody leave.” And you know what, it’s happened four times, we survived. It’s not a big deal anymore.
Laura Maly: 00:48:14 And our infrastructure is so much better and our team is fabulous, it’ll be okay.
Dana Robinson: 00:48:18 Other tips for people that are married and thinking of doing business together?
Laura Maly: 00:48:24 Do some of your stuff together, do some of your stuff apart. I think Michael and I have a really, really nice split. We’re very yin to yang. We have very similar personalities but very different personalities at the same time. Michael is insanely good at strategy, at building things, at infrastructure, at process development. I am more drawn towards numbers and launching clients. I do a lot of the outbound sales at the moment. Michael and I really built that, he very heavily influenced how and the style of what we sell, and I do the selling. Yeah, I think we kind of have a good balance where we split the workload but we both very much have a good idea of what the other is working on at any given time.
Dana Robinson: 00:49:04 Yeah, you don’t have boss problems like who’s the chef, who’s the sous chef.’
Gabe Galvez: 00:49:11 I’m pointing at [crosstalk 00:49:11]-
Dana Robinson: 00:49:11 Gabe is pointing.
Nate Broughton: 00:49:14 She’s Tony Danza.
Laura Maly: 00:49:16 No, no. Actually, no, not at all.
Nate Broughton: 00:49:18 You just have well-defined roles.
Laura Maly: 00:49:19 We have pretty well-defined roles. And we may disagree on something and I’m sure the team will be like, “Oh, yeah, I’ve seen them snipe at each other, for sure.” And we will, but not in a terrible way or anything. It would be like Michael said something today and I was like, “Wrong client, Michael.” And then I was like, “Oh, that was rude.” There’s stuff like that and then I’m like, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that.” And there’s always going to be something. We spend all of our time together. If you don’t like who you’re married to, certainly don’t get into business with them because we are together constantly.
Gabe Galvez: 00:49:47 Should you marry people you don’t like?
Laura Maly: 00:49:50 No, but I think people find themselves in situations where they shouldn’t press forward in a situation where they do.
Gabe Galvez: 00:49:58 It’s interesting to watch them again as an observer just knowing how much time you guys spend together etc, it sounds like a lot of this was organic, accidental, whatever you want to call it. But I think the design of the working roles that in their lives I think bleeds into their personal relationship but also having those complementary skill sets is key. You go into their office, you can tell who’s in charge of what as far as business dynamics are concerned with somebody explaining it to you, which means they’ve got it worked out. There’s not a lot of ambiguity as an observer as to what’s going on there by way of who’s driving what conversation, which means whether deliberate or accidental, that’s been hammered out to the point where you can just see it when you walk in the door.
Dana Robinson: 00:50:42 Did you have to hammer that out specifically or is it just a dynamic of who you are as partners?
Laura Maly: 00:50:47 No, I think it’s really come quite naturally actually. I’m sure that there’s been moments where people would disagree with that. Where we are in a moment of disagreement or at an impasse on something and we’ll say we’ll let’s come back to it. And then we’ll leave it and then we’ll talk about it the next day or something like that. But no, I think honestly it’s been a fairly organic thing for us both.
Nate Broughton: 00:51:08 Let’s talk about being a female entrepreneur because I know it’s something that’s you’re an advocate for, for lack of a better term at this point in life. And we’ve had a few female guests on, we actually have one that we just spoke with. And she runs Hera Hub, which is a an incubator here and in a few other locations not women only, but women focused. I was asking about confidence earlier and one of the things she said that stuck with me was that a lot of the women that come in there that her perspective is that they lack confidence. They certainly have the skill set, actually they usually have an enhanced skill set compared to their male counterparts, but it’s the confidence that they lack that forces them not to start a business or to even pursue what we might call the Opt Out Life, what’s your take on that?
Laura Maly: 00:51:54 Yeah. I think it’s super true. I was talking to my best friend actually right before I came here and she was like, I think we just need to talk about women’s confidence. She runs a recruitment agency and so she’s talking to women all day every day. And she’s like, I just wish that these women had more confidence to ask for what they deserve in salaries and things like that. Yes, huge, huge void in the entrepreneurial space I think for women. I don’t know the answer, that’s probably not a great response. But I don’t know what the answer is, I just wish there was more women out there, I wish that there was more community focused on it for women. I’d like to meet women who are doing things that are maybe nearer to what I’m doing, running an agency or running a manufacturing company or doing something totally weird and not lady focused or female focused. On a personal level, I really wish I had a group of female entrepreneur peers, which I don’t have here.
Laura Maly: 00:52:56 This is one right, here he’s not a lady, but sometimes he acts like one.
Gabe Galvez: 00:53:00 You guys don’t know that.
Laura Maly: 00:53:03 Gabe has really been a really great resource for Michael and I to talk about things and and work through things. My best friend from college is a female entrepreneur in many ways and so I talked with her about a lot of things. But I lack the ability to … I shouldn’t say that. I’m struggling to find people to connect with who are in a similar position to me. If you know them, come find me. Ladies, come find me because I would love to have some resources to solve problems with and to help you solve problems and to talk about products together and all of the weird nerdy things that happen in my daily life that I have to think about that I wish I could share or bounce off somebody who’s in a similar situation.
Nate Broughton: 00:53:44 You talk about Wonderist being a place where you guys kind of foster an entrepreneurial atmosphere, that’s one of the, I guess characteristics of the atmosphere that you guys try to build with the culture. Talk about some of the females that work there. Is that a place where you may be doing a small bit of the work to encourage some of them to have confidence to build a career, to jump out on their own and be entrepreneurs? Is there anything happening inside the walls there that at least is a small start or an example of maybe trying to figuring out what to do?
Laura Maly: 00:54:14 Yeah, I think April and Tyler coming into and doing NOMOS with us is a great example. I think April is going to be a magnificent partner in that business with us. She’s energetic, she’s no nonsense. She’s got a delightful southern accent, which softens the no-nonsense part. And she’s comedic and light, and its really a pleasure to be around her and I’m so much looking forward to watching her step into this role as a partner in a business and take on and think through many of the things that Michael and I have to do on a daily basis. And then not only that, but then now also do it with her spouse, which is going to be fun to watch. One of the things that we’ve been doing recently is UBS here locally in San Diego has been running a female and financed seminars at the end of I think every month or something. And those have been really, really interesting. I got invited and I’ve just been bringing whatever women want to come to that with me.
Laura Maly: 00:55:12 And it’s just been a fun piece to educate people and think about things that happen in your life that are more complex than just coming to work and living your personal life, it’s how do I plan for my future, how do I make philanthropy a part of my life, how do I plan for my parents who are getting older? That’s not entrepreneurial totally, but it really is in a lot of ways too. It’s figuring out what to do for yourself and being your own entrepreneur and figuring out what your life plan is going to be, figuring out how I’m going to take care of myself, how I’m going to take care of a potential family in the long term if I choose to do that, how I’m going to make sure I make it to retirement. All those things are not necessarily in a business itself, but something that you need to be responsible for yourself as an entrepreneur or as somebody who’s looking to have a long-term and successful life, how do you do that for yourself?
Dana Robinson: 00:55:59 Hey, Nate, let’s cut in a little bit here and try to talk about women without Laura here. I’m always hesitant to talk about women entrepreneurship issues without a woman entrepreneur present, otherwise, I sound like another man mansplaining. But it was really cool to have a bold, strong woman who was open to talk about the things that women do need in entrepreneurship. And I think it’s important for us to build this into how we help people through the Opt Out Life, through our products and through what we’re writing and what we’re podcasting. But this whole idea that boldness is sort of ingrained into the male psyche and at least American culture. We talked a little bit about it with Felina Hanson when she was here, she’s the founder of Hera Hub and has been involved with dozens of women, primarily women backed businesses. And she seemed to agree on that subject.
Dana Robinson: 00:56:55 Laura notes that there’s not a lot of camaraderie, I think that’s one thing that men have the two advantages as boys were told to go hurt ourselves in sports and riding bikes or whatever it is, just go get hurt, break some bones. You’ll fall, you’ll hurt and you’ll heal. And maybe we coddle our daughters more. But then boys find camaraderie around other men, around the same boldness. I think why do more men show up at our [inaudible 00:57:24], I guess that’s the commonality of the men that we know that have taken those chances at various levels, been bold, been willing to be hurt, willing to fail. And there’s not a lot of camaraderie around that, maybe that’s certainly something we should put into the mix.
Nate Broughton: 00:57:40 Yeah, I think it’s hard for those ladies to find each other, harder. Hopefully, we can help out in some way. I like that Laura tells us specifically about some of the things that she yearns for and also some of the things that she is participating in that are kind of getting her some of that camaraderie and conversation with female entrepreneurs and females who want to, like I said live Opt Out Life. But she also admits that she doesn’t know the answer, there’s not an easy answer. I definitely am sitting here kind of struggling with what to prescribe or say other than to recognize that this is a problem. When we do sit down and talk to female entrepreneurs, it’s the same conversation. There’s nothing really different about it at all, it’s clear that we can share in this drive for this stuff and to really enjoy these things. I know that when we have kind of [inaudible 00:58:31] events, I’m so excited to hear the stories of other people who have done stuff.
Nate Broughton: 00:58:36 All I want to do is hear the whole story, just tell me the story, that’s why we do this podcast. And yeah, maybe you’re right, those environments don’t exist quite as much. The language that we’ve kind of touched on here in the podcast episode with her, the language is sometimes not the same and can sometimes be a bit of a hurdle whether that’s the language of business or language of finance. I think that men are a little more likely to get thrown around that stuff, to be attracted to it, to try to figure it all out.
Dana Robinson: 00:59:05 Yeah, maybe some of it is what you say and what you receive, how you understand something. If I’m talking to a male entrepreneur and I just go, “Look, dude, you might fail.” It’s kind of like saying, “We’ll go take that BMX bike and ride it off that jump.” You’ve done this, we’ve done it to each other all of our lives. He understands what I’m saying. Part of our job as men and entrepreneurs and mentors if we can be mentors to women is to understand that that language might not play the same, maybe we do better to learn ways to help communicate the things that we know work as male entrepreneurs in ways that really support women in their effort to be entrepreneurs as well.
Nate Broughton: 00:59:47 And also, for a little metaphor, if you said that to me and I didn’t know what BMX was or a jump was, I’d probably still say okay because I just want to say yes. I think that we’ve talked about confidence and overconfidence. It even actually comes out in the interview where Laura eventually kind of backs away and then catches herself. And she’s like, “Wait a minute, damn it, I’m doing it myself.” I’m not saying I can do that, yes, yes, I can, I can live the Opt Out Life. Whatever it is, men are foolishly overconfident and maybe in the aggregate, that leads to some of these opportunities on the business side in our society.
Dana Robinson: 01:00:23 For women listeners out there, email us, help us figure out if we can form a subgroup for the Opt Out live community and bring you extra resources.
Nate Broughton: 01:00:33 That’s right, at least half the feedback I get are from women listeners and I always enjoy it. And we’re sprinkling in women guests as often as we can here. Here’s another one, this is one of our better once, and hope you guys enjoy it. And yeah, reach out, hit us up on Instagram, get on our email list. We can make this as much of your thing as a guy thing, that’s for sure.
Gabe Galvez: 01:00:53 One of the things that is going to be important long haul for entrepreneurial girls in the space, on her team, adjacent to her is how do we bring the language of finance, the language of financial planning and some of this esoteric stuff we all know, budgets and cash flow and working capital, some of these things that somehow seem to expose a little skewed towards men, maybe it’s career choice or school focus or whatever, how do we bring that language towards women? And I just wanted to put a pin in that because that’s something that Laura is personally pretty passionate about and it’s a problem that she’s trying to solve for right now, and it’s interesting to watch.
Laura Maly: 01:01:34 It’s something that I feel very impassioned about because if I hadn’t taken some very early advice in my life, I would not be living the life that I am today, this quote-unquote, Opt Out Life I guess.
Gabe Galvez: 01:01:48 Well, and don’t underestimate yourself. Let’s go back to the stats, you guys-
Laura Maly: 01:01:51 So, you you’re seeing me do it right now-
Gabe Galvez: 01:01:52 I’m seeing you do it right now.
Laura Maly: 01:01:54 I’m like, I don’t know, I guess I sort of live the Opt Out Life. But I do, I do. I took eight weeks of vacation last year, I run a business. I’m working from home today.
Gabe Galvez: 01:02:02 You’ve been working [crosstalk 01:02:03] for months this year.
Laura Maly: 01:02:04 No, I know. Sometimes I guess you just got to grab that shit by the balls.
Gabe Galvez: 01:02:07 Grab it by the balls. But also you go back to the basic stats especially with the new legal offering, you guys have gone from startup to three company portfolio in five years.
Laura Maly: 01:02:19 No, in six months.
Gabe Galvez: 01:02:20 In six months, whatever. That’s phenomenal. I know we all feel like Dana said with the imposter syndrome thing that we’re all under gun, but the reality is you look at it from the outside in and you’re really leading the charge there about bringing that language of finance in the context of entrepreneurism to your team who has a bunch of wonderful women on. I know it feels like there’s not a lot of resources and I know you’re hungry for those resources, but the irony or the reality is, you’re probably the primary resource in your sphere for this stuff right now. And that’s a really powerful position to be in.
Laura Maly: 01:02:54 Correct, I would say so, I would say so.
Nate Broughton: 01:02:57 We’re talking about the language of finance, I’ll equate that to the language of money we’ll say. And the world of personal finance especially in the last 10 or 15 years has blown up online with personal finance blogs led by personas, some of my friends have personal finance blogs. And I actually think that there’s a large online community of women who engage with personal finance, penny hoarder is a great example. The editorial is clearly women focused and ran by a staff of women/ I know that women in my life read that stuff, my mom follows personal finance blogs of guys that was friends with that I hang out at conferences and is really into it and wants to take charge of her own personal finances. I think that’s a wave that’s been happening and that is there and there’s people engaging with that content. I don’t know, I was just curious to kind of throw that out into what you guys are talking about.
Dana Robinson: 01:03:47 Well, I can let you speak, I have a-
Nate Broughton: 01:03:51 Is personal finance part of what you’re talking about?
Laura Maly: 01:03:54 Yeah, for sure.
Gabe Galvez: 01:03:55 It’s the core, it’s all built from that.
Laura Maly: 01:03:58 It’s the core of that. You can’t do the stuff that we’re sitting here talking about if you don’t have your shit together personally. You can’t take those risks because you don’t know if you have enough money in the bank or longevity or when your time is up to go do those things. For me, you gotta be a well-rounded person before you take a jump into starting a business. This is this fail-fast philosophy. You’re not going to go rent a building for the company you’re going to make before you have a company, it doesn’t make any sense. You gotta get your house in order first before you start making these moves otherwise you’re going to end up in a world of hurt.
Nate Broughton: 01:04:33 And maybe that’s a good thing because maybe that’s less intimidating to say if I can figure out how to manage my personal finances, if I can apply for and get a new credit card and manage that and run my own Gabe style income statement [crosstalk 01:04:48]. To handle that because I think the things that we’re talking about do seem extra intimidating if you’ve never dealt with paying your electric bills sort of thing. I’m not saying that’s the case with everyone, but to not even know what’s going on there, it makes it more intimidating to even start. And maybe this is a good thing because it’s like let’s start small, let’s start in the home where you are and then apply those skills to business down the line perhaps.
Laura Maly: 01:05:14 What I’m thinking of in my own head and the thing that I think is not the problem is not the 101. It’s not make the budget sheet and then allocate and use your envelopes Dave Ramsey style, it’s not that. What this is is, what is a 401K? What is the SEP IRA? What is the Roth IRA? What’s the difference? How do you put money into it? What’s the best way to do that? What are the tax breaks when you do that? How long is that going to queue? It’s like what you said in your episode creating this pro forma for your life and creating a trajectory so that you can understand if I’m here today and these are the things I’m doing and these are the forecasts I make, here’s where I’ll be in 5 years, 10 years, 15 years, 20 years.
Gabe Galvez: 01:05:53 And to round that out if you say, okay, well, how do we if we’re vested in this you develop these female entrepreneurs who are maybe underdeveloped for whatever reason by society or whatever? It starts with that. There’s this chicken and the egg thing, you can’t go do all this until you know that. And again, that starts with language, that starts with localized role models, that starts with Laura hiring talented women and giving them exposure to these types of things. We’re pretty deep back in that challenge I think. And I wouldn’t be surprised if she ends up doing all that work one way or another to help elevate some of those ladies out there because you can’t really kill it at this game we’re all trying to kill it at unless you have those tools. And we all know the nuance behind the scenes of our own balance sheets and the risk we take and how we manage our money.
Gabe Galvez: 01:06:44 I can only imagine both you and your husband’s livelihood are tied to the same businesses, which if I was arguing about income diversification, I would say you guys fucked up big time except you’re diversifying by way of new holdings from the parent company. But all these are things you can’t necessarily realize unless you have some basis for these elements that we all manage kind of seamlessly in the background because we’re sort of that space.
Laura Maly: 01:07:12 Yep. Real estate is the other one. You guys talk a lot about real estate. And Alex talks about real estate and how do you buy a house, what does that process look like, how much is it going to cost me? Do I need to budget for clothing, closing costs? I also budget for clothing cost.
Gabe Galvez: 01:07:28 Me too.
Nate Broughton: 01:07:28 Me three.
Laura Maly: 01:07:31 And how much is it going to cost for me to paint the walls, do the wood floors, all the stuff I want to do when I move into that house? There’s just so much to think about. Where is that money going to come from? Is it going to be too much for me out of pocket on a monthly basis when I’m thinking about a mortgage payment, plus maybe an HOA expense to go with that, plus my electric and whatever else is not included? There’s a lot to work back into, it’s not as straightforward as this … I think a lot of what I find available online is just budget sheets 101. I think we need to get a little deeper than that.
Gabe Galvez: 01:08:00 Well, it’s exciting to see that you’re at least leading that conversation with your team. Our team like yours once upon a time was very young and very green and somebody had to ferry them along to that next piece. It’s great to see that you guys are doing it.
Nate Broughton: 01:08:18 All right Dana, last cut in. We actually hung out with Laura for heck another 30 minutes after we were officially done to get some more of her stories. And I know that she is a fan of the Opt Out Life, so I boldly asked her for some criticism and some positive feedback. And she gave us some good criticism, I’m cutting it from the episode here because I actually don’t think you guys want to hear it or maybe I don’t want to hear it again. But I’m telling you, I made a list, I’m using the criticism and I’m going to clean up some of the things on the Opt Out Life based on her feedback because I really respect it. But I’m going to leave in some of the nice things she said about the Opt Out Life because in the end, this is my podcast and-
Dana Robinson: 01:08:59 It is selectively editing.
Nate Broughton: 01:09:00 That’s right, that’s right. You’ll hear some of those nice things around this last break-in. But part of the reason we had her on here because she had listened to the Opt Out Life. And I think that made her an interesting guest because she knew a bit about us and she felt like her story was a fit, and I think it certainly was. I enjoyed this episode a lot from that standpoint. And I think this is also an appropriate time since we’re talking about what we’re doing here to mention a few things that we have coming up. It’s getting close to July and Dana and I have been working on this for several months just the podcast in general and our website. And we have a course coming out called the Opt Out Life blueprint, which is your blueprint surprise, surprise, to living the Opt Out Life.
Nate Broughton: 01:09:46 We’ve taken all the best principles from Dana’s book, Opt Out which is on Amazon right now and the lessons and stories that have come up frequently here on the Opt Out Life through all of our great guests and built it into a 12 to 14-hour course with audio, video, slides to text, PDF downloads, all that stuff.
Dana Robinson: 01:10:07 Some forms too. I throw in a little bit in there to help you with your side gig on the legal side to add some value.
Nate Broughton: 01:10:13 That’s right. I forgot about that little benefit there. All that stuff will be available on the Opt Out Life blueprint launching sometime this summer. But if you’d like to get advanced pricing and advanced information about the blueprint, just get on our email list. Everyone that is on the Opt Out Life email list will get those things. We are also working towards launching a full membership called our tribe on the Opt Out Life, more details on that to follow. But it should be an opportunity for anyone to engage with Dana and I directly on a weekly basis through webinars, through special content we’re creating with tactical partners from CPAs to email marketers, to people we have on the Opt Out Life. If you want to get their hardcore tactics on how they’ve done things to grow their business, that will be available through our membership, through our tribe. And what else we got? That’s a lot, that’s what we’ve been working on.
Dana Robinson: 01:11:05 That’s a lot. And if you’re listening to this and June July or even August, follow us on social because we’ll be traveling the world and independently and simultaneously posting the social and capturing some cool interviews as well from Europe to Bali.
Nate Broughton: 01:11:23 Living the Opt Out Life summer vacation. We’ve worked hard up until this point, we’re going to take a little time to travel the world, which is one of the key components of the Opt Out Life and one of our favorite things to do. Definitely keep up with us there. Thanks for listening this long, here’s a little bit more from our girl Laura. We’ll talk to you guys soon.
Laura Maly: 01:11:42 I finished your book two days ago, that’s why I was saying I feel like I know a weird amount about you guys considering. Things I like, one, I love that it’s local. Two, I am a huge how I built this fan. And the reason I like how I built this is because it’s people that I know. And the reason that I like this is it’s because it’s the this American life of how I built this where it’s like the every man or woman. I’ve really enjoyed that because it’s fun to hear what other people are doing because my social sphere is so small. I don’t know what other entrepreneurs are doing and frankly, we’re all probably hiding in our homes or in our computers at our agencies or whatever we’re doing. I don’t get an opportunity … I met you at our open house, which I did not even put two and two together until this minute to be honest until Gabe said it earlier. But I really like that you guys have sort of the every man’s and every woman’s story in here, which I think is really important.
Laura Maly: 01:12:42 I’ve also really enjoyed hearing about a lot of people’s beginnings and their starts and I know you and Gabe both had exits early. I think one of the things that I’m excited to Prince Abel is I don’t have an exit, the salty Cali girls, no exit. That’s been interesting to hear people who are, I’m living this life, but I also haven’t had some big thing or check box to get me to this place. It’s fun to hear people who are … I wouldn’t say I’m quite where you guys are, but we’re living the life that we want right now but we haven’t completely gone in the direction of you both. It’s been fun to kind of hear their story. I love Alex’s story and he’s in it too right now, which is fun to see. And I’ve been following him on Instagram and he follows me too, which makes me super [excited 01:13:32]. Yeah, that’s what I like.
Nate Broughton: 01:13:33 Thank you, that makes me feel much better.
Laura Maly: 01:13:34 And I also think you both don’t have annoying voices, which is so crucial for me when I’m listening to a podcast is I can’t stand vocal fry. Do you know what I’m talking about? There’s a podcast on this american life about vocal fry, google vocal fry and you’ll know exactly what it is. It’s very prevalent on the west coast and it drives me bananas, I do it sometimes.
Nate Broughton: 01:13:54 Is it up talk or in a way?
Laura Maly: 01:13:55 It’s like, yeah, like that. You both have very like nice voices. They’re soothing to listen to, they’re nice to listen to.
Dana Robinson: 01:14:06 If nothing else, women can put the bath, put some bubbles, put on the candles, listen to the Opt Out Life and retire into obscurity.
Nate Broughton: 01:14:16 Well, Laura, thanks for being here. I was excited to have you in, I’m glad we could sit down and have this chat. Thanks for bringing the whiskey.
Laura Maly: 01:14:23 Thanks for having me guys.
Nate Broughton: 01:14:23 All right, cheers.
Laura Maly: 01:14:24 Cheers.
Nate Broughton: 01:14:29 Thanks again for listening to the Opt Out Life podcast. If you liked this episode or any of our episodes, we’d love to have you as a subscriber. Click the subscribe button on iTunes or wherever you get your podcast. Then head over to, there you can enter your email address to get on our email list so you’ll be the first to know about new podcast episodes as they come out including hand-picked highlights, links to resources we mentioned and top quotes from each episode. Dana and I are also publishing new articles on the site including how-to guides and blueprints for you to use to find your next side gig or find a creative idea to help you live the Opt Out Life. Opt Out Life email subscribers also will be the first to get access to upcoming video content, which includes a short documentary we shot recently here in San Diego as well as opportunities to interact with us and our growing community through the Opt Out Life premium membership.
Nate Broughton: 01:15:20 All that and more starts by heading to and entering your email. If that’s not enough, you can follow us on Instagram at Opt Out Life. Give us a shout out or ask a question about your business, your travel plans or anything we might be able to help you with. We’ll talk to you soon. Opt out, out.

Our Guest

Name Laura Maly
Twitter wonderistagency
Instagram lauraamaly

Key Points

13:33 And then the tipping point was when we had some family in town, Mike and I are both adopted, side note, weird story. And my biological father and his wife were in town and they were staying in our guest room. And he walked out to get a cup of water in the morning and totally forgot in his boxer shorts that there was going to be five people sitting in the house working. And he pulled me to the side and he's like, "You need an office."
35:07 Yeah. We've done so much travel this year, we did Bali last year right around this time. And I ended up staying an extra week because my yoga teacher from LA happened to be there. We decided the day before we were supposed to leave to come back. I was like, "I must stay another week." Mike is like, "Great, have fun." To have that flexibility, amazing. To have a husband who's like, "Yeah, no problem. I'll take the 36-hour flight home myself," superb.
47:26 In a normal marriage or relationship, theoretically, you have a bad day, you can go home and your spouse will cheer you up, your partner will cheer you up, they'll bring you back around. That doesn't happen for us, our lows are our lows. I think that's something that we've really had to work through, and I think we have a good AB sort of thing where we'll pick each other up when we need to even if it's both a crappy day or maybe we'll just watch a movie and go to bed early and move past it.
1:04:12 For me, you gotta be a well-rounded person before you take a jump into starting a business. This is this fail-fast philosophy. You're not going to go rent a building for the company you're going to make before you have a company, it doesn't make any sense. You gotta get your house in order first before you start making these moves otherwise you're going to end up in a world of hurt.

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