Interview with Elke Goversten, Founder of Mamalode Magazine

Thanks to Tanya Thompson from ThinkFun for interviewing Elke Govertsen.


I met Elke Govertsen at a conference called HATCH.  What is HATCHHATCH is a community, movement, and a series of experiences designed to unite creative thought leaders to HATCH a better world.

It was such a privilege for me to meet Elke and I’m blessed to now call her a friend.  Her life story is inspiring and she embodies what is HATCH.

Elke was raised between Alaska and Montana.  She’s always had an entrepreneurial spirit; she started a welding business at age 16.  She is also the mother of two beautiful sons.  In 2009, she combined her entrepreneurial spirit with motherhood and founded Mamalode.  Her decision to launch Mamalode came from a personal desire to build a strong community of mothers looking for support and social outlets.  Mamalode is a magazine, a website, and a movement.  The Mamalode community gives something that nobody else does – the truth and connection with each other.  Mamalode has become “America’s BEST parenting magazine” according to Lisa Stone, CEO of BlogHer.

In one sentence, who are you?

Elke Govertsen: learner, yearn-er, candle burner—mom and entrepreneur.

There are a lot of mother entrepreneurs launching media platforms online, and many are very successful. What are some of the challenges of starting your own independent media outlet, and what makes it compelling to launch in the face of many competing voices?

I believe that MEANING will always cut through the noise. At Mamalode we have always focused on meaningful content and meaningful connections. Starting a print publication in 2009 was a bit like taking on the worst business model at the worst time-- but it worked. Because it meant something. And it grows because our readers care. It is not about impressions or eyeballs at the end of the day-- it is about what actually happens to those eyes-- do they smile? Cry? Roll? Look deeper?

And it means something to me-- for me personally building Mamalode (print, online, social, mobile, events, radio-- all of it and whatever is coming next) has been a creative process that I thrive on. I am always been challenged by Mamalode, I am always inspired by our community, and I am in a constant state of solving. The WHY behind Mamalode is vital. That keeps me pushing.

What is that WHY-- Mamalode has the opportunity to connect mothers to each other, and to themselves in a unique way. We share, validate and empower. It is real and I think the world is ready for a post-Photoshop conversation about family. And at a 10,000 foot level-- if moms feel supported, they are happier. If they are happier so are their families. If families are happier, the world is a better place.

We met at HATCH, a community that unites creative thought leaders to hatch a better world. How would you help to HATCH a better world?

I try to make my way through the world with some semblance of grace; I try to raise my sons to be good people. In a bigger scope, I work very hard every day to create environments where authenticity and communication open doors—we need honest communication to solve problems.

If you could only have two tools to create with on a desert island, what would they be?

MIG Welder. Fiberglass.

How to you activate creativity?

I appreciate creativity found in unexpected sources—I have always thought that the ultimate creativity comes from survival, problem solving.  I am inspired by the ingenuity of the unusual. In order to activate that level of creativity it must first be acknowledged

What is your Superpower?

I like to think it is being a hearth where people gather.

What are your passions?

My kids—truly the most amazing people I know. I am also passionate about entrepreneurship, networking, reading, and creating a home where there is always room for more at the table.

What is your hope for your kids?

That good friends surround them and that they are good friends in return. And that they grow up and still love to come home for visits.

In your opinion, what are three life lessons we should be teaching our children?

1. Jump in-- there are so many ways to check out. I want kids to know that the world around them is muddy and messy and hard and worth every ounce of their effort.

2. There is always, always a way-- no matter what gets thrown at you, you can do hard things.

3. Love. It's worth it. You are worth it. Give it. Receive it. Motivate yourself and others by love.

4. You should totally know how to use power tools and fix the basics in your life.

You can give one object (the same object) to everyone in the world. What is it, and why?

A Leatherman because I am infuriatingly practical. And it is empowering to fix your shit.

What is your place of inspiration? 

I have an old shitty lime green couch on my porch. It is my favorite place in the world. When the well runs really dry I get my ass on a boat in Alaska.

What would your DJ name be?

E Shizzle or Ass For Dayz

What was your favourite toy or game as a child?

I loved Merlin, memory games and I was one of those kids who did the Rubik’s Cube for the talent show.

What are you excited about?

What am I NOT excited for? Sometimes I make my legs actually sore from sitting on the edge of my seat.

Who is or has been your mentor? What piece of advice did s/he give you?

Lisa Stone CEO of BlogHer is a good friend and great mentor. She told me (she was quoting someone but in my mind this was her gift to me) “People first, then terms, then valuation.” This is solid advice in most contexts.

If someone asked you to give him or her a random piece of advice, what would you say?

Take it easy but take it in.

What leadership qualities do you most admire?

Openness and a desire to improve themselves

What “rules” do you live by?

  1. Make good memories
  2. People first
  3. Men who wear white shoes squat to pee (my grandmother taught me that gem)
  4. Women who wear uncomfortable shoes will eventually turn grumpy.
  5. Say yes

When is breaking the rules okay?

Depends on the rules. Unkind is never ok. Neither is entitlement and feeling above the rules. That said, things some things need to bend—like gravity and other perceived limits.

How do you get balance in your life?

What is this mysterious “balance” you are asking about? Never heard of it.

What are 3 key books you feel I should read, and why?

East of Eden, The God of Small Things, Dandelion Wine, The Moon is Down, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Harry Potter, Calvin and Hobbs, Refuge, Finding Beauty in a Broken World, and… wait, did you say three? What the hell, I can’t answer that in three…

What is your favorite gadget, APP or piece of software that helps you every day?

Sharpie pens

If you could learn one random skill, what would you learn?

Singing. My absurd ability to memorize lyrics is lost in my tone-deaf singing.

What are you grateful for?

Life. It sounds corny and obvious, but I really mean it. I am grateful to be alive.

When do you feel most like yourself?

When I pull into my driveway and come home.

What is the number one challenge for parents right now, and what are they doing to address it?

Distraction. I think we are trying, but it is really hard to get distracted and ignore your kids while you check email, or make a call. And right about the time our kids start plugging in and connecting we realize how much we are missing out on. I know some sporting venues have signs that say "Your kids are playing, you should watch" and the like, but I think building in parameters for focusing is a primary need.

I have a house on my drive home that is my indicator that I have passed through some sort of invisible barrier and that it is time to stop thinking about my day or my to-do list and start thinking about what I am going to do when I walk in the door. It really helps me-- by the time I get home I have my home hat on.

Describe the best day you ever had....

Today. And yesterday. And tomorrow.

Thank you, Elke, for a great interview!