Unity, resilience, and fortitude are the core values which have strengthened my empire with Grant. Before all the private jets and yacht trips in Europe, we almost lost everything. This is the honest story of how one earth-shaking moment changed it all…

The year is 2008, and the evening is beautiful.

From our Hollywood Hills home, I glance out the window and see the Golden State lighting up before me. California is spectacular from up here, with vibrant colors stretching from downtown Los Angeles to Malibu.

As I settle in to watch television with Grant, I’m overtaken by gratitude. This home is wonderful. I’m a few months pregnant with our first daughter. Life is good.

But the news flashing on the screen makes me stop breathing.

Everything is falling to pieces.

Banks are crashing. 

The economy is in full collapse. 

I can feel the fear, confusion, and uncertainty bubbling in the back of my throat. 

As I turn to look at Grant, my heart is racing a mile a minute.

“What does this mean for us?” I ask, unable to control my shaking voice…

“It means we’re gonna die.”

Grant’s words hit with immeasurable force. 

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. For a moment, I even thought he was joking.

Maybe I misunderstood. Maybe this is all just a bad dream.

“What?” I ask again in disbelief.

“Oh, we’re gonna die,” Grant repeats.

No. I’m not allowing this to happen. Not to our family.

“I won’t die,” I tell him, this time firmly. These three powerful words gave me the courage to continue.

“Does this look like death to you?” I say, placing a protective hand on my baby bump. “I’m pregnant with our child, and you’re telling me ‘we’re gonna die?’ Don’t do that to me. That’s not cool. You don’t joke with me like that.”

Grant’s silence is deafening — but necessary. 

He leans in, locks eyes with me, and takes in everything I say.

You promised me that if I got with you, my life would improve,” I continue. “You didn’t say anything about dying.”

When Grant looks down for a moment, I bring his gaze back up by pointing towards a door down the hallway.

“You go to your office and you figure it out. Do not come out until you have it solved.”

Without a word, Grant gets up, walks to his office, and locks himself in. 

One hour passes. 

No sign of Grant.

Two hours pass.

My instinct as a wife kicks in hard. I worry if he’s thirsty, if he’s hungry, if he needs anything…

But I tell myself, “No, Elena. You were tough. You have to be tough.”

Three hours later, Grant finally opens the door and walks back down the hallway.

He’s holding something… 


A thick stack of papers, which he places in my hands.

“What’s this?” I ask.

“It’s a manuscript,” Grant says. “It’s my first book.”

Now I’m the one who’s silent.

“It’s not gonna make us rich,” he says. “But I know what I did wrong, I know how to get us out of it, and I will never make you worry — ever again.”

And he never has.

This is just one of the many deeply personal moments I open up about in my book, “Build an Empire: How to Have It All”.

Today, Grant and I have succeeded in achieving financial freedom for our family — for generations to come. But experiences like the 2008 economic crash have strengthened us tenfold as a couple, as parents, as Empire Builders.

I hope these stories inspire you and yours to do the same.

Build an Empire,

Elena Cardone

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