Here’s a ‘what not to do’ lesson from Lori, except, she didn’t have any choice. A story of resilience that is now turning a corner, preparing for much bigger growth.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s go to the very beginning of your story. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of circumstances?
Lori Steele Contorer: I was born and raised in a small town in Ohio. I was raised primarily by my mother and my mother’s mother. I had a sister. My mom’s sister was also a part of our family. I was raised in a lower middle class family that wasn’t into business or entrepreneurship at all.
Sramana Mitra: What about college?
Lori Steele Contorer: I went to a state university in Ohio, which was a great place for education. I saw it as a place for learning how to become an adult and what I wanted my life to look like. I studied Business there.
Halfway through my college education, I moved to California. I realized that I wanted to live in a place that was beautiful everyday and that would allow me to have career opportunities as I got out of college. I moved to California and ended up going back to finish college. As soon as I graduated, I came back. San Diego has been my home since.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do after you finished college?
Lori Steele Contorer: I saw that I would get into the travel industry because I wanted to see the world. I looked for a job in travel. While I did that, I called a stockbroker friend of mine who I’d worked for in college and said, “Can I work for you at night while I’m looking for a job?” For many months, I did that. It occurred to me that I was really loving what I was doing. I was loving thinking about the financial markets and companies.
Sramana Mitra: What was the job?
Lori Steele Contorer: I was a cold-caller for a stockbroker. I realized that what I really wanted was not to get a job in travel but to get a job in the financial services industry and become a financial advisor. What I really wanted to be was a money manager. I wanted to learn how to analyze companies and management teams and then make investments in those companies. That’s exactly what I did. I figured if I did that well enough, I’d be able to travel on my own.
Sramana Mitra: What happens next?
Lori Steele Contorer: It was difficult at first because I didn’t see myself as a salesperson. I struggled through and continued to do what I thought was right. I became quite successful. In the end, I nearly had half a billion under management. I had a specialty of looking at technologies that would be transformational to the world and figuring out the management teams that could help me turn that technology into companies that would actually be sustainable and growing. That’s what I did most of my adult life.