Laura Thornquist, from News Anchor to Blogger to COO of an Energy Company
Pivot, Grow, Repeat. A news anchor turned blogger, turned COO of an energy company, Laura Thornquist proves it is not what is on your resume that matters; it is all in your mindset and seizing opportunities.
Laura Thornquist, COO Energy Ogre
So how does a former news anchor, turned blogger become the COO of an Energy company? Serial entrepreneur Laura Thornquist shares her inspiring story and shows us it's not about what's on your resume that matters; it is the grit and mindset that will determine your fate.
Entrepreneurs create their success by learning from setbacks and successes, keeping their eyes open, and seizing opportunities. And everyone can become an entrepreneur if they have a growth mindset to see every experience as an opportunity to learn, grow and pivot. It's what we do with these opportunities that can change our lives.
Laura was a former news anchor for 20 years, growing market to market from Billings to Denver to Kansas City. During her anchor years, she also moonlighted with her own PR company, which she was quietly building on the side, aware her (anchor) position had limited job security. That business built her a treasure trove of contacts.
(Pivot 1- started building a second career while she was still working).
She was hugely impacted by the economy in late 2008 with job losses and her husband's transfer to Dallas, essentially forcing Laura to build a new career from scratch on a slim one-income budget. That's when she discovered a new frugal way of living and a new way to earn a living while being a mom of two young athletes.
After learning valuable money-saving strategies she created a blog, My DFW Mommy, and began sharing her tips with other moms. Side note: she didn't earn a penny for six months, but she believed in her mission and posted to her blog at least 10-15 times a day.
She also took advantage of her television experience, and she was the featured 'savings' reporter for WFAA, a Dallas/Ft. Worth ABC affiliate. By this point, her mega-popular blog for budget-conscious moms, was drawing more than 400,000 visitors annually, with 3 Million page views. She started getting featured nationally on Good Morning America, Fox, CBS, and NBC.
By that point, she had a staff helping her run the blog and she started consulting in Marketing. She was working with PR companies, advertising agencies, and corporations, such as P&G, CVS, ConAgra, Krispy Kreme, and Albertson's, to help them build effective blogs and affiliate networks.
That's when Energy Ogre reached out to her. They wanted her blog to share their story. Energy Ogre is an electricity management company whose mission is to save its members money by consistently monitoring the (deregulated) electricity market to ensure its members are always in the lowest energy plan for their home.
Laura started as a consultant for Energy Ogre, then became their Marketing Director, and now, she is the COO.
Building on each experience, using that knowledge to grow and pivot, Laura seized opportunities as they were presented and kept moving forward.
There are so many bloggers out there, and many offer money-saving tips; What do you think was the key to your success?
I focused on a niche market and chose to localize the blog as it proved to be more personal with my readers. We grew into a loyal community with a common interest. I also connected personally with my readers.
But, it grew to where I had national readers because our team was really good at finding deals. This resulted in not only national sponsorships because of the traffic visiting the site, but a ton of regional and local advertising dollars as a majority of my readers were from Texas.
I can see the first two pivots and how they came about, but how did you go from a marketing and blogging consultant to the COO of an energy company?
Energy Ogre reached out to me as an influencer to share the word about their service. They were an industry disruptor, and our missions were totally aligned.
Then, Energy Ogre flew me to Houston to meet the team and learn more about their vision. The passion I felt after meeting with the company paved my next pivot. I started consulting for them (initially for free) on the Texas market and how to build their brand awareness. They offered me a position as their CMO shortly after that, working remotely from Dallas, all while continuing to oversee my blog.
A year later, they asked me to oversee the company's operations as COO, and I moved my family to Houston. That was in 2017, and I'm very proud to say over the past three years, we've won multiple awards, including Best Places to Work and Inc 5000 Fastest Growing Companies. I attribute this to amazing service, a dedicated staff, and a business that has a genuine desire to simply help people.
What is the key to pivoting and reinventing yourself? And what advice do you have for other women in terms of spotting and seizing opportunities?
Find your passion and be aware of your strengths or 'special gifts'.
Sometimes that's easier said than done, but we all build skill sets we often don't even realize. For example, think of all the skill sets you learn as a mother, such as time management, planning, and problem-solving, crisis management, and negotiation skills; the list goes on!
I discovered my passions by recognizing when I talked sincerely and confidently to someone about a particular subject and wanted nothing in return but to share my knowledge. That's how both my blog and my consulting career came to be. I was passionate about helping others think outside the box and find ways to grow their business. Sidenote: expect to give your time for free at times in order to earn that opportunity.
What advice would you give to women who are feeling stuck and don't know what that next chapter is?
Being stuck can be a good time to reflect. I was there, and I forced myself to be silent and listen to my "inner-self." After realizing that I no longer wanted to be in journalism, I was lost for a bit, but I also realized I could use the skill sets I gained from this position moving forward.
And be open to all opportunities. In the end, I remained in control, stayed confident, and had the faith and drive that hard work results in rewards.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Because I've pivoted many times, I've never become a true expert in any one space besides journalism. Perhaps it's a bit of an imposter syndrome, meaning the inability to accept my accomplishments and have self-doubt.
However, in hindsight and now, I consistently remind myself that perhaps my lack of complete expertise in a field is advantageous as I bring a different perspective to a company.
I have used my life knowledge, experience, and education and leaned on that in my various positions. I have been fortunate to find executives who understand and appreciate my whole life experience and how it applies to the job at hand. Meantime, I work hard at continually educating myself in the industry.
What is the best advice you have received?
This sounds so cliché, but it's what my mother always told me. "One day at a time, baby, you've got this!" (I even hear her voice while I'm saying it).
Life can be hard and throw so many curveballs. We all get them, and there are some days you don't want to get out of bed. But facing those good days the same way you face your bad days; with fire, grit, determination, and joy at being alive, it has been the best tool at navigating through not only my job but also my life!
Who or what has been your biggest inspiration?
My childhood. I had a loving family though a bit unstable. I remember the day I made a decision that would pave my future clearly. I was in 8th grade, and I vowed to provide my family's mental, emotional, and financial needs that I felt were missing in my childhood.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Being a mother. It's the hardest job I've ever had to do and the most rewarding. In my opinion, it's the most important legacy I will leave behind.
What's next for you?
I don't believe I'll ever stop working as it's in my DNA. Energy Ogre has a couple of sister companies that I would like to put some effort into. After that, I'm incubating another business (of my own) that I can run remotely that services busy families like my own.
But what's next, in terms of the near future? My son is graduating from college with a mechanical engineering degree, and he might get drafted (MLB)- WooHoo!
What advice would you give your 25-year-old self?
Listen to your elders! I was stubborn and thought I knew it all (my daughter comes from the same cloth), and I endured some bumps and bruises in life that I didn't need to learn on my own had I listened at that age.
And more importantly…BE PATIENT. Good things will happen if you know you've put in the effort.
Who are the five people- living or dead- you would invite to your dream dinner party?
Sean Connery (just to listen to his accent)
Patrick Mahomes (he's from Texas and plays in KC, my hometown).
What is your motto?
Stay cool, be kind, and do great things.