The longer I’m in business, the more frequently I’m asked how I started and grew Elle & Company. My answer is never extremely straightforward; there was no quick fix or simple trick that helped me find my footing in this industry, but there have been several monumental steps along the way that have helped me maintain a steady income and create a job I truly love. I always love hearing the story of how other people got started; it gives me a greater perspective and a connection with their business that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. And to be honest, I’ve been hesitant to share this kind of post because I don’t want it to seem like I esteem myself highly or that I’ve “arrived.” In the past year of business, I’ve realized that you never arrive; you’re constantly coming up with new ideas, refining your process, and uncovering ways to run your business better. My goal in sharing this today is to tell you the story of Elle & Company, both the good and the bad, in order to give you insight on where this started and hopefully encourage you along in the story of your own blog or business.
The Starting Point
This may come as a surprise, but Elle & Company started as an online business that sold planners. I launched the business 5 days after Jake and I moved to Charlotte, and although I thought I had a well thought out plan and a narrowed focus, I honestly had no clue what I was doing or getting myself into and I couldn’t find a resource to help point me in the right direction. Planners are an expensive item to produce and a tricky product to market, and I didn’t have the resources available to me in order to make a profit. I may have had a graphic design degree, a desire to work for myself, and a great amount of passion for the planners I was producing, but I lacked a solid business plan and entrepreneurial mindset.
When I launched the planner-centric business over a year ago, I also began blogging 5 days a week about a wide assortment of topics. My blog lacked focus and I viewed it as an outlet rather than a beneficial tool for my new company.
The Turning Point
After months of low profit margins and directionless blog posts, it was clear that something needed to change in order for Elle & Company to stay afloat. Brand and website design had always been an interest and strength of mine in both design school and freelance work, so I decided to officially offer branding and website design services. I also began to understand the need for multiple streams of steady income within my business, so I created a subscription-based printable library to house all of my most recent art print, greeting card, resume, gift tag, and worksheet designs. The shop, the Library, and my design services may not have been cohesive offerings, but they were a start. The different streams of income caused me to start thinking creatively and the experimental phase helped me find my niche.
My husband, Jake, also came on board with the Elle & Company blog during this time and started to help me set goals, brainstorm ideas for content, narrow my focus, and weed out posts and series that weren’t consistent with my brand. It was during this time that I started writing instructional blog series and began to write more authoritatively and intentionally.
The Launching Point
And this is the part where all of the persistence and trial and error gets exciting. Through my design services and my new approach to blogging, I discovered both a personal passion and an industry need. The mission of Elle & Company started to become clear as it transitioned into a design, blogging, and business resource for creative entrepreneurs. And once that became the focus, every decision, offering, and blog post was measured against it. I realized that I didn’t enjoy juggling multiple clients at once, so I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried something that hadn’t seen in the industry before: a 2-week brand and website design process that focused on one client at a time. Not only did this help set me apart from other designers, but it helped me streamline my design process, book clients consistently, and stabilize my income. I also added the original Elle & Company planner to the Library, and my goal is to transition that space into an even stronger resource for creative entrepreneurs and bloggers.
Jake and I would both agree that the best change to this business happened through the blog. What was once an outlet for an online business selling planners has now become the center of an online resource for creative entrepreneurs and bloggers. We transitioned and weeded out the blog topics and series that didn’t mesh well with our mission, and we began to up the ante on content. We put the focus on our audience and began writing useful, high-quality content specifically for those clients and customers we want to attract. We adopted a transparent approach to the Elle & Company blog and freely offer our secrets and tips that we’ve seen success with, and it’s only benefited our business for the better. Our audience has continued to grow exponentially over the past 5 months, and this larger, focused following allowed us to launch a new Adobe Illustrator e-course geared toward our niche that sold out in the first 15 minutes.
I say “we” now because Jake and I have become a team in this venture. He plays a larger role behind the scenes of Elle & Company than most people realize, doing research, brainstorming new business practices and blog posts, and helping with the technical side of webinars and SEO. Jake is a great compliment to my creative, design mind.
Participate In Our Journey
We’re at an exciting point in our business and we want to invite you to join in the journey with us, so we’re announcing something that’s vulnerable and transparent on our end and hopefully extremely beneficial on yours. Starting next week, we’re taking you inside our business through our weekly Elle & Company newsletter. We’ll break down our blog posts and site analytics for you each week and explain which posts were effective in creating audience engagement. We'll also study analytic spikes and declines. Our hope is that by giving you an insider perspective on what we’re doing and how our blog content is growing our business, you will be able to implement similar strategies and create content that helps grow your business, too. By joining in our journey, we hope to join in and benefit your own.
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Jake and I want to be that resource for you that comes alongside you and helps you grow your blog and business. Our hope is that through helpful blog content, a weekly newsletter that gives you an inside look at what’s working and isn’t working for our business, e-courses, and design services, the starting point and launching point of your blog and business won’t be so far apart.
Where is your business now? Are you in your starting point, turning point, or launching point? Where do you want your business to be in 2 years?