After six years of leading an apparel company, Eryn Erickson looks back at the lessons her parents taught her as the reason for her passion for self-worth and love.
Erickson, founder of So Worth Loving, a self-worth apparel company based in Atlanta, Georgia, challenged hundreds of Auburn freshmen to find a community that will stand by them through life's hurdles. Her presentation on her life, struggles and business endeavors, held in the Student Activity Center gymnasium on Sept. 21, focused on community and what it should look like.
Her parents, owners of a furniture manufacturing company, were role models to her and she said she watched them fail and succeed throughout her life, teaching her the importance of weathering life's storms.
"When you surround yourself with wise people you learn what wisdom truly is," Erickson said.
Erickson said after high school she was unsure of what she wanted to do and left her parents company at 19 for a company she admired, eventually getting the job of art director, a position she thoroughly enjoyed.
She was asked by her superior, "What are your aspirations? What do you want to do?"
Erickson pointed to the crowd of new-to-college students.
"I just want to go ahead and ease the room, if you are dealing with pressure from society saying, 'What do you want to do,' or 'What do you want to major in,' just know that sometimes we don't have the answers," Erickson said. "It's when we start to be comfortable sitting in the uncertainty is when we get to learn what we are certain in."
Although she assumed it was a trick question sitting across from her boss, she thought about her love for music and a dream she had depicting a career centered around that passion.
Three EPs later, she was opening for JoJo in New York and recording a 24-hour production music video that went viral. Her fans, or as Erickson likes to call them "family" were supportive of her readiness to be vulnerable and available.
"I wanted to love on the people that supported me," Erickson said. "I came up with the phrase, 'So Worth Loving,' and I offered to spray paint T-shirts for free."
Erickson put her home address online and the response showed her how many people need to hear they were worth loving. She never saw the "passion project" as a business, but instead an opportunity to share her appreciation and much-needed confidence.
So Worth Loving as it stands today was born. At six years, the apparel company sells to all 50 states and 30 countries. Erickson said the numbers and responses taught her that it is normal to feel unworthy of love, but unusual to talk about it.
The online community, Erickson said, provides a platform for people to share their stories and connect with others who are feeling the same type of depression, anxiety and heartbreak.
"I bet you can all agree with me that when you go through something hard you start to question who you are and you might feel a little bit crazy," Erickson said.
She said when fear of vulnerability sinks in, people miss out on the community that can heal wounds and create waves of positivity and relief.
"Community is empathy -- it's feeling with someone," Erickson said.
She said community is "seeing and being seen." For those searching for convenience, community done the right way will not be comfortable. Erickson said community is for those who want to roll up their sleeves and dig into what another is going through, unafraid of "catching the bug."
She painted a verbal picture of a 100-year-old tree atop a massive hill with roots dug deep and a storm coming through and unhinging those previously sturdy roots.
"What we need to remind ourselves of is what are our roots, what are the things -- who are the people -- what are the virtues that are holding us down," Erickson said. "When we bend in the storm, who will come for us."
"It's about doing life together," Erickson repeated three times.