Not every 24-year-old has the clear vision for entrepreneurship that Elana Joelle Hendler had when she launched her business EJH Brand. From the very beginning, she knew that she wanted to make something of her design passions and offer a product line from her own creative perspective to consumers. Her luxe brand of made-in-America candles and decor items have since graced retail storefronts and online markets, and today she shares with us the journey from idea to brand to business.
Read the full interview after the jump…
Why did you decide to start your own business?
I was 24 when I started my business. It was a very intense period of my life when I was in a transition, like so many 20-somethings, and I felt this deep need to figure out who I was and where I was going. It was a truly defining moment where I thought, “Now is the time to make or break, to put myself out there and see what I’m made of.” I knew I wanted to go out on my own and pull together all my passion and talents to create something unique for myself that I could have as a lasting career that would be fulfilling both personally and professionally.
When you first decided to start your own business, how did you define what your business would be?
When I started EJH Brand, I knew that I wanted to offer a fresh perspective on design driven candles and home decor in a heavily over-saturated market. I wanted to create my own definition of luxury for a new generation of luxe consumers that I could relate to and was very personal. After much thought, I decided that for me, next gen luxury was thoughtfully crafted, sophisticated, design driven, and made in the USA.
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?
Start. It’s really easy to get wrapped up in the planning of your business and sometimes it’s okay to know what you want and just go for it. The best way to learn is by doing so get going already!
What was the most difficult part of starting your business?
Product development. I had no experience with product development and launched EJH Brand with four different home decor categories at one time. It took some time to really understand how products were made and then working with manufacturers was extremely challenging. There’s no manual you can find at Barnes & Noble for how to deal with manufacturers. It’s one of those things you learn the hard way on the job.
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?
Never let anyone define your potential. I firmly believe that a business becomes a vehicle in which you learn who you are and what you’re made of and it’s a true opportunity for self-empowerment. The biggest lesson that I’ve learned is that the ceiling is only as high as you’re willing to set it. It really doesn’t matter what other people think or say. What matters is who you want to be and how hard you’re willing to work to get there. Anything is possible.
Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences?
I could name several that definitely felt like failures in the moment but I would not now throw them in that category. My business experience has been a series of best attempts, failures, triumphs and some you just don’t know where to put, but I believe that in business, you’ve only failed if you quit.
I could tell you about how we won and lost our first five-star hotel or the only time in the history of EJH we returned an order due to a problematic employee, but I’ve honestly learned from these experiences and always aim to turn them into a positive, even if the learning curve was a little steeper than I planned for.
Can you name your greatest success in your business experiences?
My greatest moment of success I think was when I landed Hallmark as my very first client. I pitched them a collection that didn’t actually exist at the time and had it go from concept to development to on the shelves in over 100 stores within a couple months.
I had absolutely no experience with operations, logistics, and branding for mass market retailers and I had to plead and push with my manufacturers to get an order like that rushed out the door, but I felt so determined to make it happen. There were several days straight that it was just me and an intern, in the warehouse, labeling and making boxes by hand because our manufacturer wouldn’t guarantee the turnaround. Despite the odds, we made it happen and got those candles out the door and on the trucks to Hallmark. It was an incredible moment and one that I’m most proud of when I look back on my career.
What business books/resources (if any) would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?
One of my favorite reads when I started my business was, Street Smarts: An All-Purpose Tool Kit for Entrepreneurs by Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham.