There’s always more going on behind the scenes than meets the eye.
And while I’m pretty transparent when it comes to sharing my business systems and strategies, there are several things that have gone unshared on this blog.
It isn’t that I’ve been purposely keeping them from you; they just don’t often come up in conversation.
So I thought it would be fun to switch things up in today’s post and share 10 things you probably didn’t know about Elle & Company.
Whether you’ve been following along with this space for years or you’ve just stumbled upon it in the last week, you might find some of these surprising!
1 | I was moments away from switching my degree from graphic design to accounting in college
Like most designers, I battle a tendency toward perfectionism and a love of creativity.
When the two come together, it can be an awesome thing. But that’s often not the case…
Because art is subjective; there’s really no right answer. You can follow certain techniques and learn basic design principles, but a lot of times those rules are meant to be broken.
And while that can be kind of liberating, it can also be really frustrating when you’re a perfectionist.
I remember pouring countless hours into a project, only to come to class and get a bad critique from a professor who simply didn’t like it.
It taught me not to take things personally and it made my work better in the end, but it also made me question whether I was any good at design in the first place.
At the same time, I was hoping to double major in graphic design and marketing, so I had to take some basic business classes. One of which was accounting.
Accounting, unlike art, is objective. You plug in the right numbers to the right equation and you get the right answer. Every. Single. Time.
I called my wise older sister and explained the dilemma, and she talked me off the ledge.
To this day, she still likes to take the credit for me sticking with design. (Thanks, Allyson!)
2 | I quit my salary-paying graphic design job to work at Starbucks and freelance...
A graphic design position at a startup company fell into my lap right after I graduated from Virginia Tech.
The salary pay and benefits were helpful - especially since my husband, Jake, and I had just gotten married right out of school - but my boss was terrible.
And while that job was less than ideal, my discontentment led me to start freelancing on the side.
I started taking on any design project I could get my hands on, from designing wedding invitations to art prints to logos and everything in between.
And it was then that I first considered pursuing design full-time, on my own terms.
I knew I didn’t have enough clients and enough income to quit my job and freelance full-time, but I needed to get out of that 9-5.
So I put in my 2 weeks notice, got a job at Starbucks, and spent more time on my freelance work.
3 | ...and then I worked in an insurance job when I couldn’t make ends meet
But it wasn’t long before I realized that my 20 hours at Starbucks each week and my freelance earnings weren’t enough to help make ends meet.
A family friend of ours who sold life and health insurance offered me a job as a receptionist/administrative assistant, and I took the job for the extra income.
But I spent most of my time there dreaming about taking my fledgling design business full-time.
I spent lunch breaks setting up my Squarespace site.
I hurried to get my work done so I could scroll through Pinterest for inspiration on how to set up my portfolio and brainstorm name ideas.
My heart definitely wasn’t in insurance; I couldn’t get my mind off of starting Elle & Company.
4 | I started my business at the least convenient time
A few months later, Jake decided to take the leap and attend Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC to become a pastor.
It was something he felt called to since before we were married, but we couldn’t wrap our minds around how we could make it work financially.
We quit our jobs, moved to North Carolina… and I decided to officially start my business.
Looking back, I don’t know what I was thinking.
How in the world would my barely profitable business be enough to support the two of us for 3 years while Jake was in school?
On top of my crazy lack-of-logic, this business didn’t look anything like it does now, because...
5 | I originally sold planners when I launched Elle & Company
I’ve always loved organization and design, so I designed planner inserts and tried to sell them online with hardly any audience.
A couple things I failed to consider:
How would I keep the business afloat after sales spiked in December/January?
How could I keep the cost of printing the planners low?
How will I sell enough planners to support our family?
I quickly realized that my business idea wasn’t going to work. I needed to offer design services in order to keep Elle & Company up and running.
Around the same time I started blogging to gain clients. And that was the turning point for this business (and how Elle & Company became what it is now!).
6 | Elle & Company is only 3 years old
It’s been three and a half years since I started this little venture, and a lot has happened since then!
This business has supported us during Jake’s time in seminary AND paid for Jake’s time in seminary, and allowed us to save for the future.
I’ve been able to speak at 15+ conferences and workshops all over the country.
I’ve launched three courses, written hundreds of blog posts, and hosted 50+ webinars.
And best of all, I’ve been able to pursue what I love full-time. I wouldn’t trade it for the world!
7 | I have absolutely zero business background
This one’s a little humbling to admit, but I hope it’s encouraging to many of you reading this.
You don’t have to have a business background in order to have a successful, profitable business.
I knew nothing about business when I first started Elle & Company but I learned as I went, usually by trial and error.
I studied the strategies and systems that people in other industries were implementing. I sought out wisdom from business-minded people (like my husband, Jake). And I stepped out of the box and tried new things (many times falling flat on my face).
The longer you do it, the easier it gets and the more you see what works. You become more business-minded and learn that change and stepping out of your comfort zone is a good thing.
8 | Most of my friends and family don’t understand what I do
This online business world is kind of niche-y. If you aren’t in it, it’s hard to understand it.
So whenever anyone asks me what I do, I usually just stick to: “I’m a graphic designer.”
If they ask more questions, I’ll go into more details.
I’ve come to realize that many people (friends and family included) don’t understand exactly what I do, and I’m okay with that!
9 | I had no intention of teaching courses and offering coaching services
But after transparently sharing about design, branding, and business on the blog for a couple years, I discovered that I really love teaching.
I understand all of the hard work, time, and sacrifice that goes into pursuing a passion full-time, and I love being able to pay it forward and help other creatives through courses and coaching.
Design got me started and I will always love it, but teaching and coaching is truly one of the biggest highlights of what I do!
10 | I have 2 fantastic part-time assistants
I hired my best friend, Jenny, early last year, and she helps me tackle my inboxes, keep up with customers and clients, and track analytics.
Around this time last year I hired a second part-time assistant, Marisa (who was a long-time blog reader!), and she helps me with content creation and publishing, social media, and marketing.
Both of my assistants are super hard workers and keep me on my toes. I wish I had brought them on board sooner and I don’t know how I could ever function without them!
Which one of these 10 things were you the most surprised to learn? Can you relate to any of them?