How Natalie Ellis Became A CEO Before Turning 25
“I’m obsessed with the idea of making women feel like they can accomplish anything…”
Not many people can say they’ve started at least two successful businesses from scratch, worked at Buckingham Palace, lived on four different continents and won over 11 national business and entrepreneur awards. And even fewer people can say they’ve done all that – and so much more – before they were 26-years-old.
But business mogul and literal #BOSSBABE, Natalie Ellis, can.
CEO and co-founder of the largest online movement of ambitious millennial women, #BOSSBABE, Ellis is one hell of a badass woman, who uses her own success to help other’s chase and achieve their dreams. With over six million tags on social media alone, Ellis knows a thing or two about building an empire online, never giving up and taking an idea and turning it into a money-making reality.
Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur yourself, social media influencer, businesswoman or just looking for some inspo to get through your day, read on, because I chatted to Ellis and got her invaluable insights into what it takes to be a boss babe…
What happened to lead you on the path of being an entrepreneur?
I’ve always been super into entrepreneurship since a really young age. I started my first online business when I was 13 and it just went from there. I was in love with the notion of having an idea, bringing it into existence and making it happen. When I was 16, I petitioned for my school to have enterprise classes and I carried that on through to university where I started an entrepreneur society, which grew to be the biggest in the UK. I then got invited to consult with governments and become an ambassador for a 112 million pound fund that was going to help young people get into entrepreneurship. So I guess I’ve always been really interested in business, specifically, helping people see that it’s an option for them and inspiring them to do it.
Then, I had the idea to start my first proper company, Oh My Glow, which involved manufacturing superfood supplements and selling them online. Within the space of a year of launching, we were shipping them to over 60 countries and were in over 200 stores throughout the UK, all because of Instagram. All we did was Instagram marketing – we had no budget to do paid marketing or anything like that – and it was literally just these blends I started mixing in my kitchen and then we grew so much, we moved into a factory. It was just an incredible experience.
How did #BOSSBABE come into existence?
I started to see all of these inspirational quote accounts on Instagram and one of them was Boss Babe, so it already existed as a quotes account before I came on board. I quickly got in touch with the girl doing it and told her, “This is incredible and I think it can be a business,” and it just went from there. The business idea wasn’t calling to her and she just liked the idea of quotes, so I took it on and turned it into a seven figure business. I’ve grown it quite substantially, especially in the last year. The reason I’m so into it is that I’m obsessed with the idea of making women feel like they can accomplish anything and not having to be stuck in a situation which makes them unhappy. Whether they see one of our quotes or they join our academy, whatever it is, if it inspires them, and holds them accountable, and makes them feel like they can do something, that’s definitely our “why”.
How do you keep up with it all when your company is growing so quickly?
Honestly, it’s hard. There are a lot of business things that I’ve kind of got a handle on now. I’ve learned I’m very calm and I don’t typically get too overwhelmed, but when your company is growing so quickly, one of the biggest challenges is recruiting fast enough. It’s a challenge we still face today and one I’ve I faced throughout this whole process. It’s about finding the right people to come on this journey with you, and not hiring someone really quickly just because you think you should. We’ve definitely made that mistake in the past, where we’ve been so desperate to bring someone on and we’ve done one interview with them, took them on and it ended up being a mistake. So I think having patience, even though it might seem like there’s a storm around you, is really important.
When it’s all growing so quickly, you have to step back and think, “Wow, this is actually happening to me.” You almost feel like you’re just watching the story unfold, but it’s actually because you’re putting the work in and you know you deserve it. And I think having that in your mind really helps. And, of course, being gentle with yourself, knowing “Okay, I can take a day off and I’m not going to fuck it up, it’s not going to burn down and it’s okay.”
When things are growing really fast, you find you have tons of ideas, and so what my business partner and I do is sit down and have a brainstorming session to get all of the ideas out and then we’ll say “How do we do this over a year?”. From there, we break it down into four quarters and I will only focus on what we’ve agreed on for that quarter so I’m not constantly picking things up and juggling. This means I’m always very focused and I know what my path looks like. It really helps. It makes you feel like you’re not dropping anything and you’re not leaving anything behind.
What are three things you think are important for women who want to be a #BOSSBABE?
I think the number one thing – and I think this catches out a lot of women – is self-belief and confidence. I think it’s one of those things we’re never going to be completely amazing at, and we always have to keep working on it, but, especially in the beginning, business is really slow sometimes and if you don’t have confidence and self-belief in the beginning, you’re setting yourself up to fail because not everyone’s going to believe in you and not everyone has to. You might join a community that really has your back and supports you but at the end of the day, when you’re an entrepreneur you’re the only one that’s responsible for what you’re doing and when it gets hard, you can start doubting yourself. You can get these negative voices in your head and it stops a lot of women from even getting from A to B.
The second thing is something I notice a lot with the women I work with. They’ll often ask me the same questions over and over again: “How do I grow my following?” “How do I do this?” “How do I do that?”
I say to them “You already know the answers to these questions. You already know everything you need to know to get started and all you’re doing right now is procrastinating and thinking that you need to know more.” Early on, you need to find a balance between learning and doing. I really pride myself on learning every single day, but I can never learn more than when I’m actually doing it. There’s nothing that teaches you more about business than actually going and doing it.
Such an incredibly inspiring and insightful day at the #incwomen summit. @sarablakely words really stood out when discussing getting started or progressing: set your intention, start visualizing your big goals and let go of caring what people think. ??? #inc
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Too often, the reason people just aren’t getting off the ground is that they aren’t taking action and they aren’t working hard enough at it. So that’s definitely a big tip I’d give. Whenever someone asks me a question I’ll ask them “Have you heard me answer this question before?” If they say yes, I’ll say, “Okay, you already know what to do, so go and do it.” I challenge the people I work with to do one thing every single day that gets them towards their goal because once get that momentum, it is a lot easier to keep going, but getting the momentum is the hardest part. Think about if you’re uphill on a bike, like it’s really hard to get started but once you get going, you kind of find it’s easier. It’s never going to be completely easy, but it gets a little bit easier.
The third piece of advice I’d give to women, especially, is not thinking that if you take your foot off the gas, someone else is going to get ahead of you and that because there’s so much to do, you have to keep going, and going, and going. Sometimes we can step so far out of ourselves and so far away from our amazing feminine energy that we just become these machines who are working in our businesses and not on our businesses.
I experienced this with my first company. All I was doing was packing orders and getting them out the door. I couldn’t do it quick enough, and one day I realized “I’m not even being a CEO right now, I’m being a postage assistant.” So, I started to allow myself a Friday where I wouldn’t do any of those kinds of tasks and was solely working on my business. I was having CEO days where I would work on strategy and would step back and see the big picture.
Now, I take a full day off a week – like, fully off – and it’s so important. Having a day off is even more important when you feel like you shouldn’t take it. You can get in such a crazy mindset where you’re going and going, completely driven by the fear that if you stop going, you’ll fail. And it’s not true. Because if you do keep going, you’re going to burn yourself out and bring yourself closer to failure. I think it’s so much easier said than done, honestly, and I know there are times where my husband will say to me “You need a day off. You preach about having days off and you’re not doing it yourself.” So none of us, I think, have really mastered it but the more that we can take some time off to just exist and work on bringing our cortisol levels down, the better. As entrepreneurs, we have to fight so much every single day so our cortisol will just be going through the roof and the brain cannot function at that level. So I think taking those breaks is really important.
When everyone is using social media to build careers, what are some of your tips for using it effectively?
The algorithm is a lot different than when I first got on Instagram, which makes it a lot harder. Social media is way more saturated with all kinds of people giving advice and so the first thing you have to learn is how to stand out and really understand what makes you different. Wherever you can, I think you need to be putting yourself in a niche, especially in the beginning, because it’s a lot harder to attract thousands of people if they don’t really understand who you are and what you do than it is to attract thousands of people who totally get you, will be loyal, and help you grow. And these raving fans are the ones that will grow your business. #BOSSBABE content is shared online more by other people than it is by me, because they’re fans who support and believe in my business. We got those fans by niching early, and they began to feel loyal come on this journey with you and that is a hugely important thing. You should be able to answer the question “I am the go-to person for this thing. If someone is struggling with this specific thing, I will help them get to this specific place.” You need to know the exact transformation you can give that person, and all of your value should be based on that.
Literally PINCHING myself right now. We’ve just hit HALF A MILLION followers! ❤? I am so so proud to grow a community of the most bad ass women who support each other relentlessly and are so unapologetically ambitious. – AAAAAND to top this off, I’m currently packing a suitcase to head to LA where I’m in the line-up at Create + Cultivate alongside some of the MOST inspirational women. Think Chrissy Teigen, Lauren Conrad, Kim Kardashian, Marianna Hewitt, Jen Atkin, Julia Engel… ?? – Going to share as much as I can from C+C in our community group for The Société – get yourself in there! ? (link in bio) – #BossBabe #thebossbabesociete #girlboss #femaleentrepreneur #sanfrancisco #createcultivate #losangeles #friday #sharingmywin #happy #bossbabes
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It’s also important to not feel like you have to be an absolute expert all the time on social media. I think we’re all very used to seeing an inspirational picture and then a long-form caption with someone giving you their advice and, honestly, I think it’s wild. Some of these people don’t even have a business, and we should be challenging them a lot more often. Even when I talk about something I don’t consider myself to be an expert on – or even if I do consider myself to be really bloody well-versed in it – I’ll say “This is what worked for me, and it might work for you, and it might not and that’s okay.” I think the more we can be like that, the more people will appreciate it. It’s this authenticity and genuineness which comes through, like I’m just trying to tell you what worked for me and not trying to be seen as an expert or anything. That’s how we become thought-leaders; we do it by listening and being open to change and different ideas.
To really stand out and grow on social media, you need to think in terms of MSI, which means meaningful social interaction, and it’s the one thing the Facebook and Instagram algorithm is completely based on. It’s getting comments on your pictures, replying back, and having conversations. It’s getting direct messages and actually replying. It’s doing polls and engaging with your audience and not just being this page which has no engagement with anyone else and just expects everyone to come to them. I think, now more than ever, social media creators want to see that you’re creating communities attached to your pages. All of these things will mean the algorithm will flag you as someone who actually cares and has an amazing fanbase, which goes back to the ‘raving fan’ methodology. If you’re focusing on a niche audience and a specific type of person, you’re going to find it a lot easier to have a conversation with them and bring them into your community. You’re going to know what three things the people who follow you have in common, whereas if you just go out there to the masses and try and get hundreds and thousands of followers you don’t understand, then it’s a lot harder to build a community around that.
What’s your personal mantra?
My personal mantra is “If she can do it, so can I”.
Whenever I feel like I need any inspiration or anything, I love to read success stories of other women. I just relate to that so well, and I think “Wow, she’s achieved all of this, I want what she has.” For example, Sara Blakely is the youngest self-made billionaire, so why can’t I do that? I look at so many women do incredible things and I think “There’s no reason I can’t do that” and it pushes me to think so much bigger. So I have those words up on my wall and whenever I need any confidence or anything, that’s where I go to.
Images via instagram and twitter.
Comment: When have you felt like a #BOSSBABE?
Kassi is SHESAID's Global Editor, a passionate and opinionated tea-drinker and cat-lover. She's always sleepy, loves politics and lives for writing about social issues. Follow Kassi on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.