March 8, 2023

Why Entrepreneurs Should be More Vulnerable Ep 111

Why Entrepreneurs Should be More Vulnerable Ep 111

Natasha Miller is an award-winning, Wall Street Journal best-selling author. She is the founder and CEO of Entire Productions, an event and entertainment production company based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Natasha is a classically trained violinist and celebrated jazz vocalist. She is a graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10ksb program and has studied entrepreneurship at Harvard and MIT. Natasha is a 3x in a row Inc. 5000 honoree for having one of the fastest-growing businesses in the US.

She is an advocate for homeless youth programs. Natasha is a proud mother of her daughter, Bennett, and lives in Oakland, CA.

Where to find Natasha Miller



This episode is sponsored by Entire Productions- Creating events (both in-person and virtual) that don't suck! and Entire Productions Marketing- carefully curated premium gifting and branded promo items. 


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Welcome to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS. How do people end up becoming an entrepreneur? How do they scale and grow their businesses? How do they plan for profit? Are they in it for life? Are they building to exit these in a myriad of other topics? Will be discussed to pull back the veil on the wizardry of successful and FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS. My book, RELENTLESS is now available everywhere Books can be bought online, including Amazon and Try your local indie bookstore too. And if they don't have it, they can order it. Just ask them. The reviews are streaming in and I'm so thankful for the positive feedback as well as hearing from people that my memoir has impacted them positively. It is not enough to be resilient. You have to be relentless. You can go to the relentless for more information. Thank you so much. Hi. It's Natasha. Today we have a very special and unusual show. We usually do interviews with FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS. Today, we get a peek into a scene from this entrepreneur's life. Entrepreneurship can sometimes seem all-consuming. It's fun, stressful, and oftentimes our identity, but there are other aspects of an entrepreneur's life. Personal, family, hobbies. Today I wanna share with you one of the most challenging events in my life, A low inflection point with glimpses of awe and magic woven throughout. I believe we should share our stories to demystify the impossible, to own up to the challenges, to teach and learn from one another, not just about what we're experts in within our businesses, but also our lives. It all meshes together and you can't completely compartmentalize to exclude one from the other. But we don't wear our vulnerabilities on our sleeves. It's not cocktail talk, nor is it networking, etiquette. But maybe it should be. We'd go a lot deeper, much faster if we skipped the surface level talk. I was just with the group of entrepreneurs that, for the most part, hadn't met. That are members of the INC Magazine Masters group. We all gathered at the Modern Elder Academy in Baja, Mexico, led by the brilliant, funny, and dapper Chip Conley. We were firmly bonded as a group within the first 24. How did this happen? I've been studying this and we'll let you know when I figured it out completely, but I'll tell you this, I didn't know what many of these people's businesses were and I didn't care. What I learned about them first was their deepest feelings, challenges, and what made them uniquely them. So today on this episode of Fascinating Entrepreneurs, I will share with you a bit of what happened to me as a young entrepreneur just a few years into founding my core business, ENTIRE PRODUCTIONS. This is from my book, RELENTLESS Homeless Teen, to Achieving The Entrepreneur Dream. Starting on page 123- Chapter 10, debuts my Sleep. At nine months pregnant. I made my debut with the Oakland East Bay Symphony with a crowd of 2000 before. The orchestra began the haunting introduction to my sleep. A song I had written hand on my swollen belly. I began to sing. You came to me in a dream last night, how lovely it was. It told me you loved me, Become your world, didn't have me. And slowly on life, I know there'll be a time and place. A love won't feel like such a waste. Til' then I'll still here in my sleep, alone. I wasn't debuting as a violinist, but as a vocalist. The entire orchestra was playing a song that I wrote. I was shaking and not in the best voice, but loved that I was performing this piece with my unborn baby inside. I could imagine telling him about the performance when he was older, showing photos from that night, pushing the hair back from his sweet face while singing the song acapella for him. As we went into the chorus, my baby kicked and I knew he could feel the music all around us. I caught his tiny foot and massaged it back to rest. At 37 weeks pregnant, I began to feel contractions and reported to the hospital. The maternity nurse called my ob gyn. She was told to give me a shot of morphine and send me home. I turned down the shot and returned home without seeing a doctor. Why would they offer morphine to a woman over nine months pregnant? I was so sick and miserable that I sent eight year old Bennett to stay with a friend. The sickness lingered for two excruciating days, and at one point I became so weak that I had to roll off the couch and drag myself to the bathroom. I couldn't eat and was dying of thirst, drinking gallon after gallon of water with no relief. Monday came and I crawled to the car and somehow made it to my doctor's office on autopilot. She passed a sonogram over my. And I waited for her report. The silence shot a wave of fear through me. You can't find a heartbeat. I asked in the freeless voice, you need to get to the hospital. My doctor said, can you get yourself there or should I drive you? The hospital I was supposed to go to was 30 minutes away, but there was an emergency room. Just steps from her office. I was delirious from pain and confusion, so I didn't ask why I waited in the doctor's office for Greg to pick me up as she passed me in the hallway on the way to see other patients. We sped over in his pickup every bump twisting my tortured body with pain, sheer grit, carried me into the hospital and upped the maternity floor. I whispered my name to the clerk and passed out onto the gurney. A nurse pulled me out of my clothes and into a hospital gown, hooking me to a bank of monitors, beeps, blips. It was all like a dream fading in and out. Voices in the room. A tall Indian doctor entered and examined me. "Oh, No heartbeat." he said in a soft and wilting tone. Almost musical. "So sorry. No heartbeat." "So sorry." I faded away. Stirring to hear one nurse ask another 14 vials of blood. Are you sure? When I woke again, Jeremy was standing at the foot of my bed. If my brother is here, it must be bad. I turned and threw up a thick, oily, black substance. Jeremy held his phone to my ear. I'm sorry, my mother's voice said, "I love you, Tasha." I opened my mouth to reply, but nothing came out. If my mom's calling with those words, I must be dying for sure. The information came in, pieces, protein in her urine, blood pressure 135/110. Liver failure. Kidney failure. The brain shuts down with major organ failure. You can't make basic decisions like calling 9 1 1 or demanding to go to the emergency room 20 feet from your gynecologist's office door. "But what about my baby?" I asked. The hospital gave me a strong dose of magnesium to prevent a stroke and Pitocin to induce labor. I lay for hours waiting to give birth early in the morning of March 4th, Aidan was born. Weighing eight pounds, five ounces, and 21 inches long. Although his lips were a cold shade of blue and his skin jaundice. Aidan was absolutely beautiful. He had a full head of brown, curly hair in the tiniest elegant fingers. I held him briefly before falling back to sleep for the next 24 hours. We all held baby Aidan. Greg and his parents, Bennett and my dad. Then they took my sweet baby away. My health got worse. I was visited by a revolving door of grief, counselors and doctors of every discipline, nephrologists, perinatologists, hematologists, and occasionally my OB- gyn. I felt nothing. No pain, no fear, no sadness. I could not eat. I could not cry. I could barely speak, and was only able to sit from a straw held to my lips. Family and friends filtered in and out of the room. My dad stood guard to make sure no one lingered too long. Flicka brought me a boom box and a stack of CDs. Nurses drew blood every four hours to the point where they had to start looking to my feet for usable vein. One doctor mentioned dialysis, talking about it as if I wasn't even in the room. She's not going on dialysis. My dad insisted we're going to figure this out. He knew I was unable to advocate for myself and began asking more pointed questions, pushing back, making sure I was a priority, and not just rolling over to the best guesses and whims of the medical. At some point, I decided I needed to try to get up and walk. My friend Rebecca was there and she helped me sit up and swing my legs over the side of the bed holding my catheter bag so it wouldn't get tangled in my feet. Crisis reveals who your real friends are. I tried to stand, but my legs were spaghetti crumbling under the slightest weight. Rebecca plopped me in a wheelchair and took me for a spin around the hospital. After a week, it was time to be discharged. The ride home was surreal. Everything felt dangerous. Traffic zooming around me, tall buildings looming, ready to crush my bones, to dust everything, a threat in my most weak and vulnerable state. Greg helped me into my apartment. We were never married, nor did we live together at this point, but a new kind of romance began to take. Sweeter, deeper and more meaningful than before going through a disaster either pulls you apart or pushes you together. Thank God Greg Preston becoming my protector. Even though our baby was still born, he was still a father. The grief was massive, but we would find a way forward together. I wasn't capable for caring for Bennett yet, so my dad stayed to help. She was having a hard time coping, trying to wrap her young mind around all that had happened. Every night, she would wail and I would pull her close against me. Until we both found some level of comfort and peace. I was still afraid that death could strike at any moment in that beautiful space. Between awaken the sleep, I would jolt upright, gasping for breath, fearful and unsure of whether I was drifting off to sleep or dying. My father wanted to pursue a lawsuit against my OB Gyn for negligence. She knew about the protein in my labs, the high blood pressure signs that something was terribly wrong. Lawyers warned that even if we did win, we could only expect a $30,000 settlement at best. We learned that was the maximum value of a baby that died before. Had he taken one breath outside of my womb, it would have been a much different story to me that would only add suffering to tragedy. So we let it go. The doctor knew what she did. She would have to live with that knowledge for the rest of her life. Aidan's bassinet was still set up next to my bed. I would open my dresser drawer and look through his clothes, poo bear onesies and tiny shirts with rainbows and balloons on the. I knew I should be grieving, crying, screaming, kicking that dresser through the wall. I hurt for my dad. I hurt for Bennett, but as for my own loss, I could not feel a thing. Greg visited every day and a nurse acquaintance stopped in to check my vital signs. When Greg mentioned holding a funeral for Aidan, I just pushed him away even though he found a burial plot and chose a casket. I refused to set a. Finally, a mutual acquaintance named Liz walked in, sat before me in an atone, both loving and stern, said "Natasha, it's time." We are having Aidan's funeral on March 17th. When you are shellshocked and dead inside, sometimes you need someone to take control. On the day before the funeral, Greg told me he was going to the morgue to see aid. I couldn't even fathom such a thing. Bennett caught wind of his plan and demanded to go. She wanted to see Aidan's toes and read, guess How Much I Love You and Goodnight Moon, to him. There was no way I could go through with that, but Bennett made me somehow, even at her young age, she understood that in order to heal and move on, we had to say goodbye. The morgue was dark and cold. Aidan's body was displayed inside his tiny casket, along with blankets from his baby shower, little stuffed lions and giraffes. Notes from family and friends. Bennett reached into the casket, picked Aidan up, and carried him over to me. I sat there, cradling him in my arms, staring at his beautiful face. I did not know what to expect other than the worst thinking that my baby would be frozen or stiff with rigor mortis, but he was not frozen, only cool blue, and so very peaceful. Bennett unbuttoned the legs of the onesie and pulled out his teeny foot or fingers holding his toes. We took turns holding him reading the words. I love you high as I can reach across the river and over the hills. For the first time I was able to cry. Aidan's funeral reception was held on the waterfront at Bay Farm Island on St. Patrick's Day. A bag Piper played amazing grace, and over a hundred people showed up to help us say goodbye. A priest from the Episcopal Church performed the service. I sent word that I was burying my child and didn't wanna hear anything about God or Jesus, but he read from the Bible. Anyway, that really pissed me off. I told Bennett we could leave without watching the casket being lowered into the ground. She stiffened up. "No mama." She said, sternly, "I need to bury my brother. I have to see the casket go down." After the funeral, my dad had to return home before he left. He sat at my piano and played somewhere over the rainbow, a song we used to sing together when I was a kid, I tried to sing along, but my voice was weak and crack. It felt like music was over for me. I could not imagine standing on stage, smiling in the face of what had happened. It didn't feel like I could ever be happy again. Greg stopped by the next day. We're going to the pool. He announced, get on your water shoes. You're going to walk with me. I still felt like a zombie, but went through the motion since I was too exhausted to object. The water felt good swirling around. Moving felt good. Feeling good, felt good. Greg got me swimming again after that swimming, focusing on breath and form all the metaphors of water and baptism and resurrection. I don't know if Greg thought of any of it that way, but he knew I had to get moving. "You know what Tash?" She said one day "You should come with me to masters. Masters was a practice group of hardcore swimmers made up of mostly previous swim stars in high school and college. They did two a days practicing in the pool at 6:00 AM and again at five in the evening. Greg was the fastest swimmer in the master's group, the one to beat and the nicest of them all. "I am the antithesis of you." I told him "I can't even finish one lap." How can I be in the masters?" "Just come with me. "He said, "You'll be fine." We went three or four times a week, and even though I was weak, everyone encouraged me and welcomed me in. I needed community and over time I got stronger and faster. After one morning swim, Greg announced, "Hey, I signed you up for the city meet." "Oh hell no." I replied, you've lost your mind. I'm just now getting to where I don't freak out, sticking my head underwater. There's no way I can dive off the edge into four feet of water. Greg was unfazed. "You can do it." He said grinning. Watch and see there I was at the city spa meet in Alameda, California. Me the shy, snot-nosed kid from Iowa who couldn't even go under water. Wearing a swimsuit in public no less life is so insane. The pistol sounded. I sucked up courage and swam my best breaststroke and a beautiful but sluggish freestyle. I did not win. I did not swim fast. But one year after my son's death, I dove in and swam with all my heart. Victory is not the most important thing. It's the struggle and. The lessons we take from our scars, it's getting back up when life has kicked the absolute shit out of you, and you cannot find a way to go on, but somehow you do. Somehow you learn to live again through love, support, friendship, laughter, and reaching down to help someone else along. That's a key part, helping others. I knew what I had to do. Make good on my promise. To Bobby Sharp. If you wanna know who Bobby Sharp is, you're going to need to read the rest of the book. It's quite the adventure as I record this today on March 4th. It is the 20th anniversary of the death of my son, Aidan. Recently I had what I can only describe as a vision of Aidan. It wasn't him at any certain age or body. It was more like his essence or spirit. I don't typically use spiritual or metaphysical speech, but I can't come up with any other way to describe. He was running around happy and turned into Steph Curry, which I thought was funny because knowing his dad and his energy and athleticism, that didn't surprise me one bit. I'll leave you with this. As entrepreneurs, we love the ups and downs of figuring stuff out in our businesses. We want to scale and grow both our companies and our. We meet each other at events and don't even scratch the surface, but there's so much more beneath. I'm not saying that we start off stating our worst case nightmares, mid handshake, but perhaps we start to go intentionally deeper with each touchpoint after, and perhaps one day you too will want to tell the story of your life in the hopes of cathartic express. Helping others and ultimately leaving a legacy after you're long gone from this physical world. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you loved the show. If you did, please subscribe. Also, if you haven't done so yet, please leave a review. Where you're listening to this podcast now, I'm Natasha Miller and you've been listening to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS.