356: How These Founders Launched Georgia’s Only Black-Women Owned 3PL

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356: How These Founders Launched Georgia’s Only Black-Women Owned 3PL

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This week in the guest chair we have Len Ellis, the Co-Founder and CEO of Everlasting Love Fulfillment, a brand-centric third party logistics partner that provides next-level fulfillment. 

In this episode she shares:

  • How she started her company with multiple clients and while working full time
  • How providing personalized service created loyal client relationships
  • How being one of the only Black-women owned 3PL companies gave her a unique platform to support other black women, and more! 

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Nicaila Matthews Okome 0:00

So guys, one of the best events of the years coming up, I'm talking about hub spots annual inbound conference in Boston. Inbound is the event of the year for business leaders working in marketing, sales, customer service, and operations and much more. You can discover all the latest must know trends and tactics that you can actually put into place to scale your business in a sustainable way. And I think you'll love it. So make sure you mark your calendars for September 5 through eighth 2023. You'll be able to catch talks from amazing talent like Yvette Noel Sure, yes, the event Beyonce is advisor and publicists plus guy Roz Morgan to bong and so much more. With multiple stages featuring industry experts and tracks from sales strategy to AI and innovation. You will walk away with practical tips that you can put into action right away. Plus, you will connect with other leaders from some of the most exciting and innovative companies in the world. This year is going to be unforgettable. So tickets are selling out fast, head over to inbound.com to get yours today. You're listening to side hustle Pro, the podcast that teaches you to build and grow your side hustle from passion project to profitable business. And I'm your host Nicaila Matthews a Coleman. So let's get started.

Hey, friends, Hey, it's Nicaila here and I am back with another episode of side hustle Pro. This time in the guest chair I have Len Ellis who is the co founder and CEO of Everlasting Love Fulfillment. everlasting love is a brand centric third party logistics partner aka Threepio that considers itself an extension of its partnering brands. So it provides next level fulfillment services to e commerce brands that go above and beyond just shipping your packages. Their approach is to fashion a unique and memorable unboxing experience for the customer by offering a suite of services to partner brands, things like branded packaging, customer support and email marketing that then carries the message of that brand from Order to Delivery and beyond. And as one of the only black woman owned companies in the market. everlasting love is dedicated to being the solution to the shipping woes that specifically happen for black and minority founders, providing them the runway to grow and to scale their businesses to new glass ceiling breaking heights. I love this conversation with Glenn. I learned so much. I hope this opens up some opportunities for you guys, as you listen to this conversation. So let's get right into it.

All right. All right. Welcome to the guest chair at last. We had a little bit of technical difficulties, but that's all right. I always say interviews that start like that are just the best ones. So if anything, you know, it makes you more relaxed. You're like what else? Exactly. So, as I was telling you, before we started, I learned about you through many of the side hustle pro guests or using your service, everlasting love for fulfillment and I just had to know more about this black woman owned black woman led three PL company. So before we get into what is three PL and what you do, I'd love to know more about your background, I see you have a long career in customer experience. I'm curious, what did you originally envision for your life and career.

Len Ellis 3:47

So I actually studied vocal performance in college was not to be here in this world, but it was to be an opera singer. But sometimes life takes you in a different journey. So I originally thought that I would be somewhere touring the world singing opera and not packaging boxes all day.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 4:08

That is so unexpected. So how did you end up packing boxes?

Len Ellis 4:14

Great question, right. So I actually explored the starving artists life. I lived in New York for a couple of years. And then I came back home which is Arkansas, and I was looking for something different completely outside of my major. What I knew was customer experience. What I knew well was how to serve clients and how to serve customers. So after I retired from being a starving artist, I said okay, let me look for jobs and positions and I came across this job at a logistics company had no idea what a three PL was then, and they were just looking for a Customer Experience Manager. So I applied and went to North Carolina had an interview ended up moving to North Carolina to Raleigh, to take this position and At this third party logistics company, my very first day was I you know, I walk in, I'm dressed up, I'm cute, got my heels on. And tomorrow wear tennis shoes, because you're gonna be thought, I'm sorry, do we want. And so, you know, that is kind of where I got bit by this logistics bug, the world is ever evolving, it's ever moving, there's something different to solve every day, a new fire that's gonna pop up. And it was really just interesting getting to interact with a number of different clients that were producing these consumer packaged good brands, anywhere from watches T shirts, wrapping paper. So it kind of ran the gamut. And every day I was, you know, servicing those clients the best way I knew how packaging packages, counting, inventory, climbing on Pallet Racking looking for things. And so that's really kind of where it was like, Oh, I am doing this

Nicaila Matthews Okome 5:56

world. And you're good at it. Before you got that job, though. What was the customer experience background that you had? Was it restaurants while you were starving artists, or what

Len Ellis 6:05

it was a little bit of that I actually worked at a call center while I was a starving artist, there is the iPhone and I can't get out people. If you've asked like the Help button people so I worked in New York in for them. And so prior to that, when I was in North Carolina, I worked for a call center I worked for AT and T in their call center and was a manager there. So that was really kind of you know, where my experience came from in the customer service world,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 6:33

you see, never discount those experiences. In the moment. You're like, what am I doing here? Now? What does this have to do with my life? And you just never know what it's leading to? So what is it about logistics that made you get into your groove that you just really loved about it?

Len Ellis 6:52

It's the people. To be very honest, that company that I worked for in North Carolina was about 11 years old, but still very scrappy, still very startup and mentality. Again, I can find myself doing a number of different things on a daily basis. And it really was being able to see those small, medium sized brands grow and evolve from just selling products on their website or selling products at market. And then being able to take that to larger, big box retail store shelves, and be a part of that journey is something that I just fell in love with and really wanted to understand and explore, like, Where were black and women on founders going to do that. Because the world is very, very heavily male dominated in the logistics really.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 7:37

So at the time, was it mainly like big box brands that you were working with? Or were you starting to see smaller entrepreneurs and small businesses start to work with your company? And that's where you saw the male dominated industry?

Len Ellis 7:53

Yeah. So before we started out, you know, on this journey to build everlasting love, we look to see if there were other black women owned logistics companies out there. And at that time, there weren't. And even while we worked for that company, and had over 150 clients, we had one black client, the entire six years that was there. And this is, you know, these brands were small startup brands to really large brands that were nationwide and target. We did a lot with Good Morning America deals and steals at that particular company. So there was a lot of high volume sellers, but literally only one black customer and it was Jackie at green top gifts.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 8:34

Shout out to Jackie, go back and listen to her episode, we'll link it

now, okay, so what was the journey from you're working for another company, to deciding to start your own you and Jerrica deciding to start everlasting love,

Len Ellis 8:52

it was a couple of things. So Jackie, green top gifts called and they were leaving. So they decided they wanted to part ways with the fulfillment center that I was working for. My boss at the time was very much like you need to take that personal, like they're leaving you. And I was like, I don't own this company. Leaving me but as a black woman, it was my responsibility to keep this black client for life. Right. And so I started taking that to heart and realize that like, do you actually care about me here in the position that I am in trying to help you grow this business? Or is it just, I'm just a face, and that I should be able to retain a black client? Because I'm black? Yeah. And so we really wanted to understand like, what are black women minority founders doing for fulfillment? Are they doing it themselves because the vast majority of founders are solopreneurs and they don't have the ability, the cashflow, the bandwidth to try to build this on their own. So they end up bootstrapping and their packaging, you know, their shipments in their garage or their pay Some in their spare bedroom. Because there's a tremendous misconception that fulfillment is really expensive and something that you can't afford. And again, we started doing some research, we'd been there about six years had learned a lot of the good, the bad, the ugly, and started very much, I started to feel like it was a place that I no longer belonged. It's very difficult. Leaving there because I thought that I would, you know, help these people build something incredible and build something great. But then when it changed to change really quickly. And so we started trying to figure out how to do this on our own. What What steps do we take? How do we get clients?

Nicaila Matthews Okome 10:37

I'm trying to find out Lin. How do you start this business? All right, what did that look like? First of all, how much money does it take to start a three PL company?

Len Ellis 10:49

Yeah, so we started in my spare bedroom, we did not immediately go out and like find this huge building because I left that logistics company and started working for an email marketing company. And at the time I left it was really just a thought for us. It was something that we thought we could do. But once we left, I left first and then Jerrica came with me to the same email marketing company. One of the reasons for that was Jackie said that they were moving to a three PL that was more full service, they can handle their fulfillment, they can handle their customer service, they can handle their email marketing campaigns. And we thought, maybe there's something to that if we're going to build this than less, learn all the aspects of it, so that we can be really well rounded. We knew how to do fulfillment, we knew how to do customer experience, but email marketing was something neither of us had ever done. So we left started working on email marketing, and maybe two months later, a client reached out to Derek on Facebook Messenger and said, Where did y'all go? What are you doing? We want to

Nicaila Matthews Okome 11:51

where i That's like when your favorite hairdresser leaves the shop, you're like, where are you now? I have gone to people's houses like no, I'll come to your house. So that's literally where people

Len Ellis 12:03

Yeah, literally what they did. And so we were like, oh, shoot, we need to, you know, get this train moving. That was probably spring. We kept having conversations with them to understand we knew what their needs were we knew them very well very intimately, to try and understand how can we provide, you know, how can we service your needs? Because we don't have 20 30,000 square foot of warehouse space? We got a master bedroom. And so that's what we did. We established our LLC in May of 2019. Oh, no. 2018 2018.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 12:39

Okay. So how did you start to manage these businesses that could have fit in your bedroom, though.

Len Ellis 12:47

So from the bedroom, we had to evolve to the garage, we we literally just kept growing very small. One thing I learned is, I'm terrified of overspending. I know that, you know, headcount and payroll is expensive warehouses are expensive. So I really wanted us to be able to save as much money in that first year or two of business, in order for us to be able to go out into a for to be able to be in a warehouse. And that's exactly what we did. We were in North Carolina, my spare bedroom, we moved to Georgia, we moved into my basement. And at that time, we had three clients all floating around in my basement.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 13:25

What I'm trying to understand is what this really means. So when you're fulfilling on behalf of a client, and you're starting out of your home, so are you then taking on a whole bunch of inventory, then you have access to the customer purchase, like the website, Shopify or whatever. As soon as the purchase comes in, you have access to that to start the fulfillment. How does it work?

Len Ellis 13:48

Yes, so that's exactly what we did. At that point, we started looking for a warehouse management software system, which is basically a place to manage inventory for multiple clients, and they are very expensive. At that time. With two clients. It was something we couldn't afford. So we were literally logging into the back of their Shopify channels every day and checking their orders, Jared and I are still both working full time. At this point. We had also taken on a customer service client, so we were literally answering customer service tickets and emails while at work. And right after work, we went to my house and we started packing orders, we became very intimately involved with the post office and the UPS and FedEx that would come and literally pick packages up from my house or we would load them in the back of our cars and drop them off at the post office every night.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 14:47

I'm just trying to imagine the scale of this. So as these clients get more and more successful, and more and more orders come in, what did you do?

Len Ellis 14:55

So that's when we knew push came to shove and we can no longer fit in anything in my basement, then we were to a point where, okay, if we want to start taking on larger clients, then we have to have a warehouse space to be able to get a trailer into a neighborhood is impossible. And so we started looking to sublease spaces how we started here in Georgia, we sub leased a portion of someone else's larger warehouse. And it was great because he had a bunch of space and he had just allowed us to like, expand a couple of 1000 square feet at a time. So it gave us right the look and feel of a really large company, while we were still able to grow and scale. And even at that time, we were both still working full time jobs, it was very hard to let go of your full time gig and really take a leap of faith, but I got laid off. And so I think that God was like, Alright girl

Nicaila Matthews Okome 15:51

shoe on out. That's what so what's the difference in costs for sub leasing versus buying a warehouse?

Len Ellis 16:00

Yeah, sub leasing for us made sense. Because you are paying just per square foot that you use. And so we had the opportunity to say, Okay, we got X number of pallets coming in. That's 200 more, you know, 100 square foot, and that could go to the guy we're releasing from and say, I got a truckload coming in, can I expand? Now we're in our own space. And the biggest difference is overhead. Rent is extremely, you know, expensive on on a warehouse facility, you think about, you know, your like, your electric bill at home at times, then 15 times to operate 30,000 square foot, which is the amount of space that we occupy right now.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 16:41

I am just so impressed. So you got laid off? What about Jerrica? Does she get laid off to like, when did you guys go full fledged full time with this,

Len Ellis 16:49

she did not get laid off. She held on longer than I did, for sure. And she was so part of the transition was I moved to Georgia. And Jericho was still in North Carolina. So we were operating the business from two different places, which meant that Jerrica took on everything customer service related and was managing all those clients, she was our customer service rep. She was managing the clients answering tickets. And then on the flip side, I was here in Georgia, fulfilling orders receiving inventory. So for a very long time, about three years, two, almost three years, we were the only two employees that we had, managing, like six clients on both sides. So it took a lot for her to say okay, you know, and we really just had to make sure it made sense. Yeah, because you know, at the previous three PL, the last thing I wanted to do is we didn't want to jump out there and not be able to support ourselves and support, you know, our loves, let alone not be able to support the clients that we have brought on. So it was a really hard decision.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 17:52

I'm so impressed by your commitment to doing as much on your own. So you didn't overspend before growing slowly. But how were you really literally packing them all yourself? Or were you managing, you know, volunteers at times, or contractors at times,

Len Ellis 18:12

No, literally packing them all myself. My husband would come and pack or litter literally packing them all ourselves until I would say the switch for us was really immediate. When growth really just happened and took off. It was around George Floyd and Black Lives Matter. And they're being such a huge right presence put on buying black and supporting black owned brands that we took on a marketplace. And then she started referring the vendors that she had. And it really from that point on it was like, oh, shoot, I can't do this by myself. We need employees. But even then I was still very terrified, because payroll is a heavy lift, and you don't want to bring and not be able to sustain supporting them.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 19:00

So when did you start bringing them on?

Len Ellis 19:02

It was 2020 when we started bringing them on. I have a friend who had a daughter that was out of school for summer. She was 15 years old. So she came and lived with me that summer. So our first official employee, one of my best friend's daughters. And just it was just her and I tried to manage it all for a while. And then I realized like, Okay, this is bigger than just the two of us. And so I started bringing on probably two more people. And that time that were both in college, and it was summer break. And then yeah, so it was about five of us in a six month period that I was like, Okay, we really need all of these people to manage the volume,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 19:43

and what size businesses do you work with and why?

Len Ellis 19:47

Yeah, so when we started out, we started with very small startup businesses, which is the same today. We really wanted to be able to provide brands with what I like to call this runway for growth. Um, so being able to take the back end off of you, not having to worry about picking and packing and shipping orders late night and really give founders the opportunity to focus on the brand focus on marketing focus on being the face of the brand. And so that really looks like customers that are brand new and have zero orders a month, all the way to customers that have you know, 10 to 15 to 20,000 orders a month. So it really just kind of depends on where you feel like you need help. And at what point

Nicaila Matthews Okome 20:30

and what does the process entail? Does everyone have to be shipping all of their products physically from your warehouse? Do you do anything at all with people who also have products that are coming from international places?

Len Ellis 20:44

Yeah, we do. We have several customers that are that way. We have one customer that has a US fulfillment center, and also has an international fulfillment center. So we do we allow customers to come in, we have some customers that are in big box retail, and that's all they do with us because their website volume is slower. And that's still something that they're handling themselves. We have some that we're just doing Amazon for. So it really just depends on what your needs are and where you need help the most.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 21:15

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What does someone need to know who's getting into this space of three PL? I think more awareness is forming around this. And it can seem kind of simple, right? Like, I'll leave somewhere else based on like packing, I'm good at logistics, I could do this. What does someone really need to know before they get into this?

Len Ellis 22:32

Yeah, I think there are a couple of really key things inventory management. And really understanding how you track your customers inventory at all times, knowing where it is, is is a tremendous thing. So inventory management is huge for us. We managed it with a you know, small free software. And so we got six clients, and we were like, Okay, we really have to have a warehouse management software system. So I think software and technology is going to play a huge part into growing at three PL, just so that you can track orders inbound volume, outbound, and really have a pulse on how much inventory your customers have, what needs to be ordered when and just allowing them to have visibility to those things at all times. I think relationships is another large one. When it comes to three PL being able to build those carrier relationships is very important. We've got reps with both FedEx, and USPS, and UPS and those relationships are very valuable to us. Especially if packages aren't moving, or something's getting lost, being able to know like I can reach out to a person and say, What do I do with my packages like what's really happening? I think relationships is another really big part. And I think slow rolling it because space is expensive. And cashflow is slow in this business. So you know, for us, we are essentially paying for all of our customers shipping upfront, and then they're paying us back. So you really want to make sure that you ease into this not to overwhelm your cash flow.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 24:00

So how do you actually make money? You're making money from their profits, and they're paying you back? Can you explain that a little bit?

Len Ellis 24:06

Yes, so we charge an order fee. So we are making money for the labor that is associated with us packing the order queue, seeing the order and shipping it out, as well as on the receiving inbound side. So there's costs associated with counting the inventory on the inbound, making sure that there's no damage, making sure that it's up to the customers quality standards before we ship it out. So that is really how we make money. The margins aren't tremendous. It's not, you know, it's not like I could go out and make a product and have a 300% markup. That's not it's 12% is you know, the industry standard for three knows it's a 12% margin.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 24:46

Okay, so how do you ensure that you are making a profit?

Len Ellis 24:50

It really is just understanding the project's volume is another really big thing. Because once you get into a space you need to be able to do volume to system stay in that space. And so as long as you can continue to maintain the state the space that you're in and really glow grow your clients or, or bring in more clients that are growing, then that's really wants it, it gets profitable. It's really a numbers game, shipping, you know, 100 orders out of this location I'm losing, but shipping 100,000 orders at this location, you know, there are certain elements that you begin to win,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 25:24

do you have more than one location?

Len Ellis 25:26

We only have a single location right now. And I say right now, because you know, it definitely is on our roadmap. And one of our goals for the next three years is to have a second location.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 25:36

Yeah, heard that in your, you know, meeting between the lines like, oh, okay, just just this location for now. For now, yes. On the flip side, I asked you what people need to know before they get into this line of business, but what to businesses who are looking for a three PL service needs to know as well.

Len Ellis 25:56

Yeah, it's a lot about knowing your numbers, understanding your average value for your for your shopping cart. So you know, if we think about our order, fee being $3, in order and your product is $12, that feels like a lot of margin that you're losing. But if you can figure out how to be creative and bundle three products, and now you've created a $36 cart, and you're still paying the same $3 fulfillment, then that's when it starts to make sense. So it really is about knowing the buying patterns and habits of your customers. And it also comes down to is this something that as a founder isn't worth your time, is, you know, a 12 $13 an hour job worth of founders time that could be out and making the business so much more money? So I think that's the other thing to consider is what could I be doing? If I weren't doing this? How can I push the business forward if I weren't spending my time doing something that anyone else could do?

Nicaila Matthews Okome 26:57

It's funny because as I was researching you, I came across an entrepreneur on YouTube who was talking about I am you know, move it all my stuff to everlasting love today. Do you know what I'm talking about? Her name escapes me at the moment. But she and that's so cool that she does that. But she was showing how, you know, I'm, I'm getting ready to do this and that, and I just can't own this anymore. And I'm so excited to work with this black woman loan company who does this? So how do people know when it's time to let go? You talked about the hour? I know he talked about Okay, could I be using my time differently. But I think it's still so scary to when you don't want to overspend. It's still so scary to go from doing. Okay, I know I can package this myself, I know I can just ship this out, drop it off on my way to work? How do you really know when to let go or when to take that leap? And have your company do it?

Len Ellis 27:56

Yeah, it's hard. Because I always say like, this is your baby, you're entrusting your baby to somebody else to make sure you're going to take care of it, it's gonna get ready to go and you're going to help it grow. And we really see, I would say founders come to us at three different points of needing help some founders out of the box are like, this is not my wheelhouse. Now, I don't care to figure it out. Others are at a point where they really are looking for a shift in their business, maybe they've been stagnant. And their sales have been the same for a period of months. And they know that something needs to change, they just don't have the bandwidth to do it. I always welcome people to come for a visit, I want you to see where your products are going to be, I want you to meet the team, I want people to feel good about the decision you're making, because changing three peels is something that nobody wants to do, ever, it is not an easy task, you know, once you're integrated into a system to have to change that. So I always tell people, like, I understand how large of a decision this is for you. And I want to make sure that you're 100% comfortable. And if you're not, that's okay. You know, maybe you need to think about it a little more. Maybe you need to really dig through the numbers. But it really is that conversation of are you content with where your businesses today? And where could it be if you had the opportunity to devote 100% of your undivided attention to it? And what are your goals? Do you see yourself in big box retail? Do you see yourself you know, doing more Amazon fulfillment, that type of thing also plays a part into it just gets to a point where it's no longer scalable for you. And you know, if it's someone that's looking to go into retail, there's even more technology to understand chargebacks to learn how does each retailer want to receive their shipments? And so for a lot of founders, that is also something that comes with additional complexity that you just don't want to spend that time learning

Nicaila Matthews Okome 29:50

you're talking about, like returning orders. Yes.

Len Ellis 29:53

Processing return every every part of that. Yeah,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 29:58

yeah, that that sounds like a headache. To me, and that's always my fear without my own shop. I'm still just so impressed by the fact that you left this company, and your customers came knocking on your door like, hey, help us. What is it about your unique personal touch here at everlasting love, that is different than what other three PL logistics companies were doing?

Len Ellis 30:22

Yeah, I, I always like to say, and I stole this from a pastor in North Carolina, that our goal is to be small enough to know you, but large enough to serve you. So you're gonna have a client relationship manager that's gonna walk with you every step of the way, from onboarding and beyond, you can connect with her at any point in time. I also think that Derek and I are very accessible, which you don't get with a lot of larger three peels, I would say probably 75% of our clients have my cell phone number, and can call and text me, you know, at any point, if it's like, Hey, I have an urgent order, I need to get out. So I always want us to maintain that personal touch. I think that's a lot of what draws people to US versus some of the competition is just knowing that you have a place that you can go, we're gonna take care of you. And we really care about your business and your brand and seeing you grow and seeing you succeed. And we just love to be a part of that story. We, I get so much pride, it's a habit. And my daughter always is just like, Here you go again. But every Target or Walmart store, I walked into that I'm looking at the aisles that our customers products are in and making sure that the bottles are faced to the front or if they're out of stock, you know, whatever it is because I take pride in knowing that like, we are a part of how this got there. And not only do we want you to show up well, you know, in the rest of the world, we want to help, you know as your best self everywhere.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 31:53

I love it, one of the things you pride yourself on too is really be the solution to the shipping woes of black and minority founders. What are some of these shipping woes, these biggest challenges that you help to solve for?

Len Ellis 32:07

Yeah, a lot of it is cost. So we do have negotiated rates with our carriers that you won't necessarily be able to get on your own, because you're not by yourself shipping a ton of volume, as well as just knowing how to get things to where they belong, and packaging. We love custom packaging, we always want to make sure you know we call it an elevated unboxing experience. So we want packages to arrive to your end users and they're proud, right, these Instagrammable social media moments that they're posting their packages as they arrive and how they present is one of the other things that we just love, we love helping you curate the experience that you want your clients to have.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 32:47

I love it. I think too, that, you know, a lot of times, yes, the side hustle experience involves doing a lot on our own in the beginning. But I'm also big on pain people whose zone of genius is something that is not my zone of genius. And then figuring out how to make the money to have it pay for itself. Like okay, this service cost this they're taking this amount off top, like how can we market? How can we do more business to pay for this, because I'm never gonna be as good at, you know, third party logistics as lead and Jerrica everlasting love never ever, ever. So the longer I keep that in my wheelhouse gets lower my business will grow, the harder it will be. And you know, I'm just it's just not going to work. So I hope this encourages some of you who are thinking about okay, when should I, you know, look into this, to think there's no, there's no real when it's a decision. It's a decision that you make, and then it's about coming up with a strategy to pay for it to make sure that okay, now that I have this, I can fly. I can fly because I'm able to do XYZ and not have to think about this anymore.

Len Ellis 34:00

Yes. 1,000%. That is absolutely the way it is. And we've seen a lot of success with that. Our very first customer now only works four days a week. And he's like, that's in part. Thanks to you guys. And we're like, yes, that's our goal one day to think that once you get to that point, and you really make that decision, then you know, for everybody, the sky's the limit.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 34:25

Let's talk a little bit about your experience as an entrepreneur now though, I mean, this is was the very first business you ever started.

Len Ellis 34:32

So I started I started two businesses around the same time. One of them failed miserably. It was a frightening boutique. I honestly don't know what I was thinking.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 34:48

What inspired the clothing boutique?

Len Ellis 34:51

Um, hi, Instagram I'm pretty sure social media got right anything that I could create this clothing brand I have it was social media, I can't even begin to tell you a lot. It was literally social media that made me think I could do this. I spent months working on it creating, you know, the fall drop, and what these pieces would look like. And we had different categories that kind of expressed, like different sides of me that I thought would resonate well with other women. It was mostly my my friends, my mom, the people that bought the stuff. And I was quickly like,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 35:32

no, no, no. So what have you learned as an entrepreneur? You know, what do you like about it versus when you were working for someone else.

Len Ellis 35:43

Um, the journey is hard, but rewarding. I think, especially with a clothing brand, I can say you see all of these instant successes on social media that aren't really instant. I know a lot of people will say it's just a highlight reel. But I have learned that my race and our race that we're running is our own. You know, one of the things that I've realized is, when we started this company, we were the first black women on Threepio. Now, we're not the only and so I do take a sense of pride in that and saying that there are others out there. But also it is a very hard lesson to say like, okay, there is competition in this space, but nobody can do what you're doing. And you really just have to focus on what you're doing, how you're building, how you're growing, and making sure that you don't worry about the things that you can't control around you, I think was a really hard lesson like only only focus on what you can control and be the best at you know, those controllable things, was a lesson grow slow, I think was another lesson for us because we grew slow, and then it just it exploded. And because of that fact, I think a little bit in the beginning, we weren't ready for that explosion, because it was just me. And you know, I had to go out and hire more people. So we learned a lot from that, you know, our first holiday season, we learned a tremendous amount about really how to put a plan in place. I am very much a My husband always says I am a Ready Aim. Oh, no, I'm a ready fire. There is no aim. Jerrica is the balance to that she is definitely a ready, aim. Ready, Aim. Aim again, and then fire. So I think just having a really strong support system that balances you out. That doesn't allow you to just go go go, but really helps you put a plan in place to make sure that you can get to your goals. Yeah, yeah. It's been another lesson that I would say I've learned on this journey.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 37:48

Is there a sense of stability? Now? What are you five years in in terms of revenue, making payroll, all those things?

Len Ellis 37:58

There is, now that we're at this point, we have some consistence. And some studies, which is really nice. There are things that today I don't necessarily worry and cry about as much as I did two years ago. But there are still places that we want to be that I don't think we're at yet. There are growth goals that we haven't hit. And so sometimes that can just honestly be a little discouraging, especially when it comes to new clients. And as you start to approach larger brands and larger clients, just realizing that sales cycle is slower, I'm the salesperson as well. So realizing that that sales cycle is slower and just knowing what we have to offer.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 38:42

What do you mean by the sales cycle is slower for

Len Ellis 38:46

for the client. A lot of the larger clients that you know we're talking to are approaching or already with a three PL, which again, like I've said, no one wants to move. It's an undertaking that if you can avoid it, you avoided at all cost. But just knowing that there are brands out there that we can serve us a lot better than who they're currently with. So it just takes a little bit longer for people to realize like okay, I need to move, especially because it's such a large undertaking.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 39:17

So now let's jump into the lightning round, you just answer the very first thing that comes to mind. You ready? I think so. All right, number one, what is a resource that has helped you in your business that you can share with the side hustle pro audience?

Len Ellis 39:33

Ooh, this is gonna sound crazy. Google has been a tremendous resource for us. So a lot of things will start there, whether that be looking for grants, trying to find a business coach. A lot of things even comparing software's and what we should use and how we go about it. Google has been a tremendous help for us. It will take us so far. And then you kind of have to take it the rest of the way yourself. off by picking up the phone and you know, following some things through. But I really would say in the beginning, if there was something I did not know, Google, and then having a mentor was a tremendous help our old boss, actually, you know, became our mentor, which was

Nicaila Matthews Okome 40:15

no good.

Len Ellis 40:18

It was a, it took a while, right for us to get to that point. He's still a tremendous resource for us to this day, because he has, you know, 20 years of experience. So I think having a mentor is is a tremendous is a tremendous help.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 40:34

All right, number two, who is a non celebrity black woman entrepreneur, who you would want to switch places with for a day and why?

Len Ellis 40:43

Oh, okay, I would go for partake foods, Denise, okay. Um, I have just enjoyed watching her journey and what she created and how she created it, and the scale that it's at now, just with her being in so many retail stores and continuing to have these really cool partnerships like Ben and Jerry's recently, you know, and still being able to innovate on something that is a classic that's been around for a while. So I think it would be cool to switch places with her. And just to kind of understand, you know, what's happening behind the scenes at party?

Nicaila Matthews Okome 41:19

Oh, yeah. Denise is coming back to the show she was on in the early days, and we have a lot to chat about now. A lot has happened since then. Yeah. Number three, what's a non negotiable part of your day these days?

Len Ellis 41:32

Um, I think it would have to be eating dinner with my family. The days are really crazy and hectic. I am up early and out the door. My husband is you know, just school duty. So I miss a lot of the morning routine. But definitely one thing we always make sure to do is, is eat together. So I think that would probably be my non negotiable part of Monday.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 41:59

And what do you think number four? What's a personal habit about you? That's really helped you significantly in business.

Len Ellis 42:05

I would have to say it is the Ready Aim part of me. I'm ready, shoot, we are ready. Thank you The ready shoot part of me. I will I am probably more of a risk taker in business than I am in everyday life. Which is different. I take some risk, but I really do now that it is our own company and it's it's my baby, I know that there are certain things in certain areas that I've just got to push through. You know, if we want to get to where we're going, Yes,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 42:38

I can so relate to that. I am definitely a risk taker more in business and in life. That is socially I've never heard it articulated that way. But it's I totally relate. And then finally, number five, what is your parting advice for fellow women entrepreneurs who want to be their own boss but are worried about losing a steady paycheck

Len Ellis 42:59

I'm losing the steady paycheck will be the hardest part. But really just create a plan. For me, I didn't necessarily have the full opportunity to get the plan together. The rug was you know, kind of essentially snatched from under my feet when I got laid off. But I'm grateful for that plan and then just try not to have any regrets and know that every step that you're taking may not in step one get you to the end goal but it is a step in the right direction. Nobody's perfect. We all make mistakes, still making mistakes to this day, but being able to learn from those mistakes. Figure out how to pivot and I think is is another really big one is understanding here's where I am here's what happened. How do I absolutely am here again. Just go for it. Just just do it you know like I said the clothing business Ready Aim? I mean Ready Fire ready? It was a ready fire.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 44:06

You live to tell the tale listen, you got to try different things. How would you know that? Hey, you know what I don't think the online boutique thing is for me unless you started online.

Len Ellis 44:16

Still got clothes in my closet and to this day?

Nicaila Matthews Okome 44:21

Go on vacation. That's all right. With that bled where can people connect with you Jerrica and everlasting love after this episode.

Len Ellis 44:31

Yeah, you can find us on social media Facebook and Instagram at have dot everlasting love. Our website is also have hyphen everlasting. love.com.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 44:43

All right, guys. And there you have it. I will talk to you next week. Take care guys. Thanks for listening to side hustle Pro. If you like the show, be sure to subscribe rate and review on Apple podcasts. It helps other side hustlers just like unify In the show, and if you want to hear more from me, you can follow me on Instagram at side hustle Pro. Plus sign up for my six bullet Saturday newsletter at side hustle Pro, that CO slash newsletter. When you sign up, you will receive weekly nuggets from me, including what I'm up to personal lessons and my business tip of the week. Again, that side hustle pro.co/newsletter to sign up, talk to you soon

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Meet the host:

Nicaila Matthews-Okome

Hi! I’m Nicaila, the Creator and Host of the Side Hustle Pro Podcast. I started Side Hustle Pro when I was a side hustler myself. I was a digital marketer at NPR by day, side hustler by night. Through the powerful stories shared on this show and the courage to launch my own initiatives, I was able to quit my own job and go full time with Side Hustle Pro.

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