Behind The Policy | Erica’s Story
"We’ve all gotten that question: 'What would you do with a million dollars?' My answer from a very young age was always the same: 'I’d buy a house for my mom.'
I grew up with a lot of circumstances stacked against me. My dad left before I was born. My mom had to work multiple jobs, raising two kids alone. Some of the father figures who stepped in were abusive. And I had to work 20–30 hours a week while in high school to make sure I didn’t continue that cycle. So, needless to say, I wasn’t sure I’d ever have a million dollars.
When I was in high school, I was set on becoming the first person in my family to go to college. I settled on studying marketing because it was a career path that would allow me to explore my creative side while also providing financial stability for my family—something I had never experienced in life.
I graduated from New York University and started my own business, sort of unknowingly! I was interning at The New York Times, and they offered to keep me on as a marketing consultant. It was 2009 and they were laying people off left and right—a full-time job was out of the question. So, I accepted. The freedom of consulting—to make my own hours, work with other clients, explore business issues in different industries—really suited me. So, I took on more clients and launched my first business, Southern Swallow, a digital strategy consulting firm.
Owning a business was not always a paradise. Sourcing clients was a never-ending process, and sometimes I encountered projects I didn’t have the expertise to complete—so I started bringing on design and development collaborators. That’s when I realized I could do so much more with my talents on a team (as scary as that felt) to be taking others’ livelihoods into my hands. So, I went back to school to get my MBA from MIT Sloan. The extra management training has made my dreams a reality. I’ve since launched multiple collaborations, including a children’s book series, a clothing line, and a long list of marketing projects I would have never imagined leading.
This takes me back to my mom, the person who had faith in me from the beginning. She taught me to be strong and to never give up in the face of challenge.
Last year, I was finally able to buy my mom that house. I didn’t have a million dollars, but I had enough common sense—and a heart full of overwhelming gratitude—to know it was about time I started paying it forward!
But my joy came with a worry I hadn’t considered: What if something happened to me now that I have this mortgage? I wanted to do something good for my mom, but if I wasn’t around anymore, it would leave her in a difficult situation. I realized life insurance was what I needed to make sure my mom would be secure in her new home, no matter if I was around or not.
After researching life insurance options, I discovered Ethos and was impressed by their modern approach. I didn’t realize that life insurance could be so affordable, but what’s even better is the priceless confidence I now have knowing that my mom would be covered. It brings me peace of mind to know that I can keep her safe the way she kept me safe growing up.
I’m excited about all of the new adventures that await me in my entrepreneurial journey (my most distant business goal is to start a winery!). But I think the most impactful thing I can do is to inspire others who’ve come from tough situations to know that they can build a life and give back to those who have supported them along the way a lot sooner than they ever expected."