You guys asked, Ellie answered! We decided to dive into new ventures and what better way to start than by connecting with you all and answering all your questions you could have about Ellie’s entrepreneurship journey and building a successful business from the ground up.
We asked our followers some of the main questions they were curious about and we chose 7 that were most reoccurring.
Check out the Live below:
Question 1 - How did you get started? How old were you when you started and how old are you now?
So, to be transparent, I started Ellie Vail Jewelry because I hated the job that I was currently working. I was an executive assistant for a medical supply company, and I'm a very creative person, so for me to be doing excel sheets all day was just not for me - so I needed to kind of, get out and do something creative so I decided to do a jewelry making class. I think I went on to GroupOn, or something, and took one of those random classes, and I made my first few pieces of jewelry, and loved it! I was 23, I think I JUST turned 23, at the time. So from there on, I just sold it to friends who asked me to make them necklaces or bracelets, and this was right around the time where Etsy had started, so I decided to sell it on Etsy and try to make some extra cash, and one thing led to another and it was a full pledged business. Im 29 now, so its been just about 6 years.
Question 2- If you could tell yourself anything in the beginning process, what would it be?
So, this is my favorite question! There's probably several things I would tell myself, but the biggest thing here is - when I first started the business, I had no idea what I was doing, obviously. I never had solutions, I felt like I was always wrong, and it made me feel like I wasn't cut out to be an entrepreneur or have my own business...I was just way out of my league! Six years later, I still have the same problem *laughs*, but obviously, we've come so far and we do have a successful business, but every single day, there's something I don't know the answer to or I'm just not sure I'm comfortable and what I've learned is that, that's truly a part of the journey and it'll never go away. Luckily, I am stubborn and I ignored that so I kept going, but I know a lot of people quit and they think that they're genuinely not cut-out. Don't let that get in the way of your idea because that's genuinely part of the process and 6 years later, you're gonna be sitting here experiencing the same thing.
Question 3- How much money did it take you to start and did you need investors along the way?
This is another good question because I feel like, even myself before I started, thought you had to have a ton of money to start, you need to have connections, you need to have an education, all these things that I didn't have. Come to find out, you don't need any of that. The first memory that I have of spending any large amount of money, was actually spending $650 bucks on my Canon camera, and that was to shoot all my product photos, all my contents, and all of that, so that was my biggest "investment" - but no, I didn't have any investors or any of that. And I didn't have any money saved, I had no business plan, no cash in the bank...just kind of went with it. But the biggest thing here on starting a business with not a lot of money, is doing it yourself and doing as much as you can yourself. That helped me not only cost effective, it helps you learn every aspect of your business because you're gonna find yourself in a position one day where you're gonna need to know the answer to shipping, you're gonna need to know customer service, you're gonna need to know the in's and out's - and if you don't do things yourself, you're gonna end up lost. The biggest piece of advice is to start with little money - $650! Most people have that saved up or you can save it up in a few months. Do every single thing yourself as much as you can to save money, and to also give you a crash course of everything you really need to know.
I feel like that was, like a 4-minute answer *laughs*. Sorry, guys!
Question 4- How long did it take until you hired help?
Again, going back to the DIY concept, I literally did everything from shipping, to customer service, website design, content creation, jewelry photography, which was the hardest thing I've ever done - shooting jewelry is crazy hard....to the point where I physically could not do it anymore, all of it. So at that point, I hired my first employee about a year and a half ago. So, I was working by myself pretty much....whats the math on that? Like, 4 and a half years. So, a year and a half ago I hired my first employee, so from that point on, it just grew, so we're at 8 or 9 now - which still is not a ton of people for the size company we are revenue wise, but again, you don't need to have tons of bodies and pay people to do every little thing so definitely take your time on that.
Question 5- How long did it take for you to become successful?
I picked this question because I felt it was extremely awkward for me to answer, so that's why I chose it - but I feel like that depends on what you consider "success". For me, I've always wanted to be able to pay my bills and do what I love, so that's basically when I reached success, personally, which I think I started paying myself 3 years in....so....about 3 years ago. I was eating peanuts and living on, I don't know , $100 a week. Yikes! But, again, at least I was paying some of my bills and doing what I love, so I was super successful.
Question 6- How do you balance life and work?
Another good one! I don't ! *laughs* No, so, this is funny because this is a constant struggle for me, I feel like for anybody, whether you own a business or not - its like, I don't understand how people do it. We all have enough time in a day as Beyonce, and look at her! She's thriving over there! With that, I feel like a couple of years ago when I first started the business, there was 0 balance and that's a sacrifice as an entrepreneur that you need to make and you need to be ok with. If you're thinking about starting a business, you have to be ok with losing relationships, friendships, losing a bit of yourself in order to make your business work. It's probably taken my about 6 years to somewhat start introducing balance back in my life. I actually have a fiance now - who would have known! My ring is getting sized...I'm not lying! But, you know, I don't even know how we got here because, again, I just started introducing balance - poor guy! He had to make his own dinner every night, about 6 months ago, so I'm trying - it's still a process for me! But I think as long as you're conscious of it whether you're not balanced or you are, as long as you recognize it and you're working on it, it's all you can do. It's not easy owning a busy, it's not - Life's tough! However you wanna slice it. I think everyone is just doing the best that they can one way or another.
Question 7- What is your biggest motivation?
Ok - I'm not gonna cry! My mom, guys! Come on, you know when I talk about my mom, I just start crying. So, my biggest motivation is definitely my mother. I was raised by a single mom, I'm one of 3 kids. Oh my gosh, sorry guys ! So anyways, my mom raised 3 kids by herself with not a lot of help. Starting this business, I wanted to be able to give back to her somehow and I needed to be successful for her, and thank God I was able to do that. Every single morning I would wake up, knowing that I had the opportunity - can you guys understand what I'm saying?Because I'm just crying, I'm sorry! It's also that time of the month so....cut me some slack. It's happy tears, I swear. So anyways, waking up every morning knowing I had the opportunity to be an entrepreneur and building a business and kind of creating that income based off of my hard work, that's basically what it came down to and why I kept going. Recently, I was able to pay off her mortgage, which was, like the most amazing thing ever. So in terms of motivation, she definitely was the biggest motivation and I was able to achieve what I wanted to do for her, which was unbelievable - a couple months ago. Thank you guys for being part of that and allowing me to do that. Now I feel that I kind of helped her and got to that point with her, my motivation has kind of shifted to our customers. As our following grows, and we get new customers every day, I don't want to let you guys down and I just want to do right by you guys. Now, you guys are going to be the reason I'm crying. I definitely feel its the responsibility of having people depending on you, whether its fashion advice and something light-hearted like that, or something a little deeper, its just, the people and the connections for sure. I'm sorry I cried - I really was hoping I wouldn't. That's the last of the questions, I hope I answered them and they made sense. We're doing live for the first time so I just wanted to hop on and be candid, so hopefully we answered some of your questions. If you guys have any other questions, please DM and we will either write back personally or maybe do this again and set something up with a new topic, or touch on additional questions. We will see you guys later - talk to you soon! xx