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Ariel Wolfe & Liz Dawn

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As I sit here reflecting on the past 25 years of running a business, created by me and my mom, I’m stunned. Stunned that it’s been 25 years; stunned that my mom, Ariel Wolfe, and I even started a business together at all! It was never my intention to be an entrepreneur or even work side-by-side with my mother. I was supposed to be an actress. That was my dream and my “life plan.”

Growing up, my mom was the off-beat mom, but in later years, she became the cool mom. Always ahead of her time, she had me reading books like Be Here Now by Ram Dass and drinking Spirulina. Her way of thinking was a departure from our conservative Jewish upbringing.

Ariel Wolfe & Liz Dawn
Photo By Melissa Kim Corter

In 1995, life took a turn. I was 34 years old, suffering from an eating disorder, completely broke and ended up living with my mother. Little did we know, this move would result in a series of synchronistic events and led us to create a business together called Mishka Productions (named after our family dog).

My mom and I were well-read on all things spiritual and had a deep passion for personal development, holistic health and spiritual education. We blended our passion for learning, growing and expanding with a desire to bring people together in community. We started presenting small live evening events featuring spiritual speakers. This led to larger events with extremely high profile New York Times best-selling authors, many of whom had been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

We created these powerful life-changing events, people travelled from all over the world to attend, and the vision became clearer! The events got larger and larger, our lives blossomed and then our Celebrate Your Life conference was created, which became our signature event.

We naturally moved into our roles. I was the more boisterous one and became a self-taught public relations, marketing guru and event creator. My mom was more analytical, a numbers person, and could see the bigger picture. She took care of all the contracts, the bills and our overall game plan. We had this wonderful natural synergy.

Ariel Wolfe & Liz Dawn
Photo By Synergistic Studios

My mom, Ariel, always knew when it was time to take the next step and grow the business. She had a sense of how to move us forward, though I needed more convincing. I was afraid of it not working or scared that we would lose money. She had a clearer vision and was regularly willing to take more risks. I would go kicking and screaming but eventually would agree. She was often right, and at a certain point, I started to trust and better understand what it took to run a successful business.

Although Ariel handled the day-to-day workings of the bills and accounting, I had an extremely keen sense of how the money in our business had to work. I knew that I never wanted to be in debt and to this day, we have never taken out a business loan.

“Everything is perfect!” —Ariel Wolfe

As we grew, Ariel and I became well-known in our community; we had a regular segment on the morning local news station; we were featured many times in national magazines; we obtained Oprah & Friends XM satellite as our media sponsor. People would recognize the mother-daughter team when we would be in public together, and our events were off-the-charts amazing!

Working as a mother-daughter team was not without its challenges however. I stepped on my mom’s toes more than I care to admit. It was easy to be flip and regress into an angry teenager, forgetting she was my business partner. I was not always successful and had to do a lot of apologizing. At one point, Ariel (I often called her by her first name) turned to me and said “Elisabeth, stop the apologies and change your behavior.” It was a wake-up call from my normally extremely patient mom. Throughout the years, my mom was asked what it was like to run a company with her daughter, and she often shared the following: “My intention, when this business became a business, was to assist in getting it started and organized and just let Liz fly with it. Somewhere along the way that intention went down the tubes. It was obvious to both of us that we each had a niche to fill and that spirit intended for us both to be fully involved. Our paths are always conveniently “strewn” with the lessons we need to remember. And so mine was now “littered” with not only creating a working relationship with my daughter but also cleaning up our mother-daughter relationship.

Ariel Wolfe & Liz Dawn

One of the first things I had to learn was to honor my daughter’s feelings and intuitions. Liz was always able to express her feelings instantly and demand that you meet her at that level. That was not easy for me—I’m a thinker, a philosopher if you will. I see and feel things on a more global level, but if we were to work together on a daily basis, I needed to meet her on that expressive level just as she had to learn to see things from another point of view.

The most important element in all of this is that Elisabeth never doubted that I loved her with all my heart, and I never doubted that she loved me. So, all of the ups and downs, yelling and screaming (yes, there was that too) was done in LOVE. And where love exists, harmony and balance followed.

This is a journey I take with much gratitude and joy, for my child and I have a relationship that is solid, honest, guided by spirit and constantly growing. What more could a mother ask for?”

Years later, my mom was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. Ariel Wolfe was a courageous, spiritual warrior and stayed with us for the next seven years still working together side-by-side until she could no longer.

When she transitioned into spirit, I was unprepared for the enormous cloud of grief that encompassed every cell of my body. While I continued as the leader of the company, losing her left me breathless for almost two years. I had to figure out how to do all the things she did so flawlessly. She was the one who trained our staff; she was the one who organized the books and the contracts, and the list went on. Thank goodness my sister, Jaime, stepped in for a while to help me get on my feet; she was a saving grace.

Once I came out of the fog, I picked myself up and charged forward with our Celebrate Your Life events, just like my mom would expect. In my wildest dreams, I never thought there would be anything in this world I could do that would make my heart sing and love as much as this; it’s now 2020, and our 25th Anniversary, and I still feel the same.

I believe our imagination is the real diamond of success, because when we feel that enormous excitement for stepping into our life’s passion, we can then harness that excitement into taking action.

Every time we create an event, I have visualized it first; I see it in my mind; I feel it in my body; I feel the joy of community; I hear the teachable moments that our presenters will share; I experience the connections that our participants will experience and feel how it will serve people in their lives. Everything unfolds inside of me, and then, I get to work on the details.

Through my experiences, I’ve learned to be insanely and nauseatingly tenacious. I’m not going to tell you that life is always rosy running your own business, let alone with someone who is a mentor, mother and best friend. At times, it’s scary and exhausting. In the end, there is no one that cares as deeply as you both do about the outcome. It’s lonely when you have to make tough decisions that you know will be unpopular. It’s no fun when there are projects that do not make the money you projected, and you’ve put in thousands of hours of work. The kind of pressure to perform outweighs any kind of pressure a “real boss” in the outside world would ever put on you. And, vacations are spent with ten percent of your energy still inside your office.

Having said all this, I would never trade it for the world. Mishka Productions and our Celebrate Your Life events are the greatest, most fulfilling loves of my life.

As I sit here reflecting on the past 25 years of running a business, created by me and my mom, I’m stunned. Stunned that it’s been 25 years; stunned that my mom, Ariel Wolfe, and I even started a business together at all! It was never my intention to be an entrepreneur or even work side-by-side with my mother. I was supposed to be an actress. That was my dream and my “life plan.”

Growing up, my mom was the off-beat mom, but in later years, she became the cool mom. Always ahead of her time, she had me reading books like Be Here Now by Ram Dass and drinking Spirulina. Her way of thinking was a departure from our conservative Jewish upbringing.

Ariel Wolfe & Liz Dawn
Photo By Melissa Kim Corter

In 1995, life took a turn. I was 34 years old, suffering from an eating disorder, completely broke and ended up living with my mother. Little did we know, this move would result in a series of synchronistic events and led us to create a business together called Mishka Productions (named after our family dog).

My mom and I were well-read on all things spiritual and had a deep passion for personal development, holistic health and spiritual education. We blended our passion for learning, growing and expanding with a desire to bring people together in community. We started presenting small live evening events featuring spiritual speakers. This led to larger events with extremely high profile New York Times best-selling authors, many of whom had been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

We created these powerful life-changing events, people travelled from all over the world to attend, and the vision became clearer! The events got larger and larger, our lives blossomed and then our Celebrate Your Life conference was created, which became our signature event.

We naturally moved into our roles. I was the more boisterous one and became a self-taught public relations, marketing guru and event creator. My mom was more analytical, a numbers person, and could see the bigger picture. She took care of all the contracts, the bills and our overall game plan. We had this wonderful natural synergy.

Ariel Wolfe & Liz Dawn
Photo By Synergistic Studios

My mom, Ariel, always knew when it was time to take the next step and grow the business. She had a sense of how to move us forward, though I needed more convincing. I was afraid of it not working or scared that we would lose money. She had a clearer vision and was regularly willing to take more risks. I would go kicking and screaming but eventually would agree. She was often right, and at a certain point, I started to trust and better understand what it took to run a successful business.

Although Ariel handled the day-to-day workings of the bills and accounting, I had an extremely keen sense of how the money in our business had to work. I knew that I never wanted to be in debt and to this day, we have never taken out a business loan.

“Everything is perfect!” —Ariel Wolfe

As we grew, Ariel and I became well-known in our community; we had a regular segment on the morning local news station; we were featured many times in national magazines; we obtained Oprah & Friends XM satellite as our media sponsor. People would recognize the mother-daughter team when we would be in public together, and our events were off-the-charts amazing!

Working as a mother-daughter team was not without its challenges however. I stepped on my mom’s toes more than I care to admit. It was easy to be flip and regress into an angry teenager, forgetting she was my business partner. I was not always successful and had to do a lot of apologizing. At one point, Ariel (I often called her by her first name) turned to me and said “Elisabeth, stop the apologies and change your behavior.” It was a wake-up call from my normally extremely patient mom. Throughout the years, my mom was asked what it was like to run a company with her daughter, and she often shared the following: “My intention, when this business became a business, was to assist in getting it started and organized and just let Liz fly with it. Somewhere along the way that intention went down the tubes. It was obvious to both of us that we each had a niche to fill and that spirit intended for us both to be fully involved. Our paths are always conveniently “strewn” with the lessons we need to remember. And so mine was now “littered” with not only creating a working relationship with my daughter but also cleaning up our mother-daughter relationship.

Ariel Wolfe & Liz Dawn

One of the first things I had to learn was to honor my daughter’s feelings and intuitions. Liz was always able to express her feelings instantly and demand that you meet her at that level. That was not easy for me—I’m a thinker, a philosopher if you will. I see and feel things on a more global level, but if we were to work together on a daily basis, I needed to meet her on that expressive level just as she had to learn to see things from another point of view.

The most important element in all of this is that Elisabeth never doubted that I loved her with all my heart, and I never doubted that she loved me. So, all of the ups and downs, yelling and screaming (yes, there was that too) was done in LOVE. And where love exists, harmony and balance followed.

This is a journey I take with much gratitude and joy, for my child and I have a relationship that is solid, honest, guided by spirit and constantly growing. What more could a mother ask for?”

Years later, my mom was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. Ariel Wolfe was a courageous, spiritual warrior and stayed with us for the next seven years still working together side-by-side until she could no longer.

When she transitioned into spirit, I was unprepared for the enormous cloud of grief that encompassed every cell of my body. While I continued as the leader of the company, losing her left me breathless for almost two years. I had to figure out how to do all the things she did so flawlessly. She was the one who trained our staff; she was the one who organized the books and the contracts, and the list went on. Thank goodness my sister, Jaime, stepped in for a while to help me get on my feet; she was a saving grace.

Once I came out of the fog, I picked myself up and charged forward with our Celebrate Your Life events, just like my mom would expect. In my wildest dreams, I never thought there would be anything in this world I could do that would make my heart sing and love as much as this; it’s now 2020, and our 25th Anniversary, and I still feel the same.

I believe our imagination is the real diamond of success, because when we feel that enormous excitement for stepping into our life’s passion, we can then harness that excitement into taking action.

Every time we create an event, I have visualized it first; I see it in my mind; I feel it in my body; I feel the joy of community; I hear the teachable moments that our presenters will share; I experience the connections that our participants will experience and feel how it will serve people in their lives. Everything unfolds inside of me, and then, I get to work on the details.

Through my experiences, I’ve learned to be insanely and nauseatingly tenacious. I’m not going to tell you that life is always rosy running your own business, let alone with someone who is a mentor, mother and best friend. At times, it’s scary and exhausting. In the end, there is no one that cares as deeply as you both do about the outcome. It’s lonely when you have to make tough decisions that you know will be unpopular. It’s no fun when there are projects that do not make the money you projected, and you’ve put in thousands of hours of work. The kind of pressure to perform outweighs any kind of pressure a “real boss” in the outside world would ever put on you. And, vacations are spent with ten percent of your energy still inside your office.

Having said all this, I would never trade it for the world. Mishka Productions and our Celebrate Your Life events are the greatest, most fulfilling loves of my life.