The most important is to always trust your intuition. I’ve had so many industry experts give me their opinion, tell me I’m wrong or inexperienced and that they know best. Whenever I’ve doubted my intuition and trusted someone else it’s been the wrong decision. I had a consultant tell me I had to hire a broker and I had this nagging feeling that he wasn’t the best choice. Ultimately he was not a good fit and I spent money that was wasted. I’ve learned to pause, get quiet and listen to that inner voice.
Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elaine Morrison.
Elaine is the founder of Elaine Wellness a brand that helps women feed their beauty from within. Her journey of reversing two autoimmune disorders showed her the interconnectedness between health and beauty. With no prior experience in the CPG space, she launched her brand selling collagen supplements having experienced the benefits first hand. A certified Pilates instructor for the past 15 years Elaine has a passion for showing others that wellness can be easily achieved through whole food and exercise.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Thank you for the opportunity to share my story. I grew up in the 1970s and ’80s in suburban Los Angeles. My older brother and I spent a lot of time running around outside playing with the neighbor kids. It was an era when parents allowed kids a lot of freedom and independence. We knew our neighbors for blocks around and everyone looked out for one another.
My Mom grew up in Korea and my Dad grew up in Tennessee. I was born when they were 39 and 40 which was very unusual for my generation. They were part of the Greatest Generation and I feel it’s influenced who I am and how I see the world. Our parents loved to travel and made it a priority to take us on lots of family trips while we were growing up. We explored a lot of the United States, parts of the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. I had a passport by the time I was 8 years old.
My first sales job was selling Girl Scout cookies. My Dad helped me make phone calls to take orders from friends and family. At 13, I became a fit model for a swimsuit and dancewear company when they found me in ballet class. My first paying job at 16 was in a local bakery. I believe these early jobs help to set a foundation for a healthy work ethic.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I love Maya Angelou’s quote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I believe we get to choose how we show up in the world each day. I’ve learned that you can never know what others may be going through. I try each day to be kind and encouraging. As a pilates instructor for the past 15 years my goal is for people to leave my class feeling physically and mentally better than when they arrived.
My Dad passed away four years ago and I was moved by how many people told me how he made them feel. It was such a potent reminder that we can positively impact those around us by how we chose to interact with them. The smallest gesture or kind words can be a huge gift to those around us.
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
I’m resourceful. If there’s a way to figure something out I’ll certainly try to. In the mid-1990’s I was working for a children’s clothing manufacturer. My boss went shopping at Harrod’s in London and saw a girl’s jacket that she loved but she didn’t buy it. She came back to Los Angeles and decided she had to have it. This was before the internet and smartphones. She described the jacket to me and the search was on. I called Harrod’s and managed to get the buyer on the phone but they wouldn’t take a credit card by phone. Then I called the British embassy in Los Angeles to see if they could help me. A woman there had a daughter living in London. I phoned her and she went and purchased the jacket and then took it to DHL to have it shipped overnight. Three days later and a whole lot of phone calls later my boss had the jacket in her hands.
I’m tenacious. If something needs to be resolved I see it through to the end. My Dad spent 56 days in the hospital after having quintuple bypass surgery. His medical bills were 1M dollars. It was the year I received a crash course in medical billing and the obscene amount of mistakes and fraud that go on. I dug my heels in and took on the CEO of a hospital, Blue Cross, and many doctors to resolve his case. It took a year and countless phone calls to unwind it all. In the end, my Dad prevailed and only paid what he was responsible for.
I’m able to connect with people. We live in a world of technology that simplifies so many aspects of our lives but at the end of the day, you can’t outsource relating to people. After all, relationships make the world go around. I’ve been in sales for a large part of my life and I enjoy connecting with people and bringing out their stories. I attribute a lot of my success to being able to relate to people.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?
I’ve worked since I was 16 and had a lot of experience in retail from starting in a bakery to clothing stores to home furnishings stores. All of it laid the groundwork for customer service, communication, and sales. I still believe genuine kindness and empathy will take you a long way in this world.
I graduated from UCSB with a bachelor’s degree in Art History and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I worked for a children’s clothing company which gave me a window into the world of overseas clothing manufacturing for chain big box stores. Then I went to work selling textile designs and color and trend forecasting information in the Los Angeles garment and home furnishings industries. This was before the days of cell phones and email. It was a daily routine of sitting on a landline dialing for dollars and booking appointments. I quickly learned to make friends with company receptionists so that when I called to book appointments with designers they would track them down for me and get them on the phone. Then I’d drive all over LA going to client’s offices before the days of GPS.
Sales boils down to forging relationships with people so I leveraged my ability to genuinely connect into a trusted relationship with designers. After six years of shlepping portfolios of artwork in and out of the car and often up and downstairs and I decided to leave it behind. I’m forever grateful for the incredible opportunity I had to see behind the curtain of the fashion and home furnishings world. I met talented designers and was able to travel within the United States and to trade shows in Paris.
One day while I was downtown hustling for business my cell phone rang and it was my Dad saying he’d had a heart attack and he was being wheeled into the emergency room. He suffered two more heart attacks and had quintuple bypass surgery spending 56 days in the hospital. I decided it was time to slow down and I spent the next year helping my parents get back on their feet due to all the medical bills and my Dad’s subsequent retirement. I had an education in health insurance and medical billing.
From the hustle of commissioned sales, I decided to pursue a less stressful career and became a certified Pilates instructor. My passion for health and wellbeing made me want to contribute to others in helping them live their best life.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
I was burning the candle at both ends working six days a week teaching and managing two Pilates studios for a private club in Los Angeles.
I began having health symptoms when a new pair of pants wouldn’t zip up, even though nothing about my diet or fitness had changed. Next came the fatigue that wouldn’t go away even after ten hours of sleep. My skin lost its glow, becoming dry and lackluster and I developed Guttate psoriasis from my scalp to my ankles. Then, a chilling question from my hairstylist: “What’s going on with your hair? It’s breaking and falling out.” Desperate for answers I read Sara Gottfried’s “The Hormone Cure” and the lightbulb went on when she described my exact symptoms and their cause: a thyroid autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s.
I made the hard decision to leave my job and drastically cut back my hours to restore my health. While I enjoyed teaching pilates I felt that I needed a new challenge to push me out of my comfort zone. I reinvented myself in my 40’s by seizing an opportunity to go to work for a stock brokerage and earn my series 7 and 66 licenses. I hadn’t had to study for such a comprehensive exam in over 20 years.
Passing those tests became the catalyst for helping me regain my confidence that I could take on a field I have no experience in and be successful. While I enjoyed learning a whole new industry ultimately, I found the brokerage business didn’t nurture my creative side.
Trying to unravel two autoimmune disorders that had seemingly come out of nowhere led me on a journey. I was told that it was normal for women in middle age to not feel well. I didn’t like that answer so I read everything I could find to figure out how to reverse my symptoms that I had been told by medical professionals could only be managed with medications. Questioning and learning are so important throughout all areas of our lives.
I discovered the profound interconnectedness between health, beauty, and aging well. It led me to start my brand Elaine Wellness offering high quality collagen. Entrepreneurship has been the highest highs and the lowest lows. I believe wisdom and life experience have been my biggest assets.
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
I started reading everything I could get my hands on about reversing autoimmunity through diet, and even though this was not the route endorsed by my doctors, I had nothing to lose. I began an autoimmune Paleo diet — first eliminating gluten, dairy, and grains, then slowly adding fish to my repertoire after 24 years as a vegetarian and vegan. Collagen came up again and again as an important supplement for hair, skin, and nails so I added that in too. Within a matter of months, my labs had so drastically improved that the Hashimoto’s was completely reversed. All psoriasis faded away, and to my delight and extreme relief, my hairstylist informed me that small baby hairs had started to fill back in.
I never set out to build a wellness brand but I had an idea that I just couldn’t get out of my mind. I wanted an easy way to take collagen and thought flavored water would be a great way for people to incorporate it into their daily routine. I remember calling my best friend Stephanie when I was trying to decide if I was going to take the leap and hire consultants to help me formulate my collagen water. She asked me, “will you regret not trying?” I was at a stage in my life where I was willing and able to take that chance and bet on myself.
What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
Entrepreneurship is portrayed in a very glamorous way these days, especially on social media. I’ve worked for myself most of my adult life so I had an idea of what was required to start my own company. It takes longer than you think, more money than you think, tenacity, grit, determination, and a deep belief in yourself, and most importantly your “why”. There has to be a core driver that keeps you motivated when you want to throw in the towel.
Mindset is by far the most important skill set that I hadn’t been maximizing. I’ve always said that I’m not a very tech-savvy person and that I needed to hire people to help me get my e-commerce business running. I decided to change my narrative and learn about Shopify, Klaviyo, Canva, Facebook ads, Amazon’s Seller Central, and their ads platform.
The barrier is often our belief about what we are capable of achieving. After a year of learning and making mistakes, I can say I’m able to use all of these platforms. I believe it’s so important to understand them before outsourcing.
How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.
Entrepreneurship is the highest highs and the lowest lows. When I started my collagen water in 2016 I applied to pitch at BevNet Live and was chosen as one of 15 to pitch in front of an audience of 300 beverage industry veterans. It was terrifying but so important to push myself out of my comfort zone.
I launched into 30 stores in Los Angeles, Thrive Market, and Amazon. While I learned so much about the beverage industry I ultimately decided to sell the inventory and change the brand after I learned the name couldn’t be trademarked. I relaunched in 2019 with premium quality collagen sold in 10-gram stick packs.
I’m a direct to consumer brand offered on my website and also on Amazon. Being able to directly communicate with the buyer has been wonderful for research and the ability to offer the best customer service possible. Word of mouth has been an incredible driver of sales.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
When I decided to pivot from beverage to powdered collagen I had to rename the brand because it couldn’t be trademarked. I was really struggling with finding a name that I liked and was available. I heard about a mentorship program with Amy Jo Martin and I sent her a DM on Instagram. We struck up a conversation and we scheduled a phone call.
She was so incredibly supportive and had great wisdom about how to change course and chose a new name and also a brand message and essence. I joined her program with 12 other women and it was the starting point of really stepping into a brand that resonated with my message. While I initially did everything to not use my name as the brand name Amy Jo was a tremendous help in realizing it was the best choice to make. I’m so grateful that she appeared in my life at just the right juncture. I’m grateful to call her a dear friend.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
There’s been so many. My second chapter began the day I took the series 7. It’s a six hour test with 250 multiple choice questions. I studied for six months and there was so much on the line. If I didn’t pass there was a chance I’d lose my job. The test results are instant. I remember closing my eyes and waiting for the results. When I opened my eyes the screen showed that I had passed. I wanted to hug the receptionist at the testing center. I went out to my car and called my parents. Even in my 40’s I still wanted them to be proud of me. Most of all I was proud of myself for doing something challenging and new. It became the jumping off point for reinventing myself these past six years.
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
Yes, I’ve struggled with believing in myself. I believe every entrepreneur does. I’ve done and continue to do a lot of mindset work. Our subconscious is always running the show in our heads. Old patterns and beliefs can become quicksand if you don’t learn to question and challenge the inner mean girl. I’ve used Byron Katie’s work which is a great tool for really looking at limiting beliefs. I journal and meditate to process through all the feelings that come with running your own business. It’s a constant daily effort to keep the doubts and insecurities in check.
In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
I’m a huge believer in participating in group coaching and mentorship programs. I’ve joined several masterminds in the past few years and the women I’ve met have become my biggest supporters and dearest friends. They’re all entrepreneurs and they’re going through all the same ups and downs as I am.
Women are wired for community and collaboration. We support each other through resources, encouragement, and mastermind sessions where we brainstorm together to come up with ideas and solutions. They are my rock and source of strength as I navigate the ups and downs of launching a business.
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
I always say if you want your comfort zone removed then become an entrepreneur. I’m an introvert at heart so being the face of my brand moves me out of my comfort zone all the time. From showing up on Instagram to pitching in front of a room full of beverage executives I’ve had to push beyond the desire to hide from any spotlight.
When I pitched at BevNet Live to 300 people and my friends and family watching on live stream I felt like I had an out-of-body experience. I was so nervous but I did it. Out of the experience I raised money from an angel investor. I believe your growth comes from getting uncomfortable and trying new things. Pushing beyond what you think you’re capable of helps with believing in yourself.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1. The most important is to always trust your intuition. I’ve had so many industry experts give me their opinion, tell me I’m wrong or inexperienced and that they know best. Whenever I’ve doubted my intuition and trusted someone else it’s been the wrong decision. I had a consultant tell me I had to hire a broker and I had this nagging feeling that he wasn’t the best choice. Ultimately he was not a good fit and I spent money that was wasted. I’ve learned to pause, get quiet and listen to that inner voice.
2. Things are as challenging as you make them out to be. This circles back to mindset. For so long I’ve said I’m not a tech-savvy person. Last year when I decided to learn all the technology required to run an e-commerce business I discovered that my mindset played a huge role in what I’m capable of learning and implementing. With this shift in mindset, I’ve been proud of all that I’ve learned. While it’s taken time and persistence on my part I’m proud of myself for buckling down and learning it. In the end, I’ll be so well equipped to hire someone because I have an understanding of what is required of the job.
3. Take advice from people who’ve started and operated a business in the area you want to be in. LinkedIn is full of consultants and experts who are dying to take your money and give you advice. I find a lot of them haven’t run a successful business. I’ve learned the hard way by paying consultants that are spread too thin and who ultimately don’t have much practical advice to share. I now only work with advisors who have first-hand experience with building a profitable e-commerce business. In the past year I’ve worked with Rory McGonigle and Emily Vincunas who have supporting me in learning how to grow an e-commerce business.
4. Your “why” should be your north star. Entrepreneurship can be lonely and is most of the time very unglamorous. If you have a deep desire for why you want to start your business and what you want it to stand for that makes it much easier to keep going when you want to give up. I have a passion for wanting to help women realize that food matters when it comes to health and beauty. I believe beauty is an inside job and aging is a privilege. My “why” stays at the top of my mind always.
5. You have to be scrappy and resourceful in the beginning. When I was starting in the beverage business I had a cooler and went to small stores in LA asking for the beverage buyer. When I was trying to get into Thrive Market I went on LinkedIn and found the buyer and cold emailed them and managed to get an appointment. When no one knows who you are you have to go back to basics and just stay persistent. Nowadays so it’s so easy to track buyers or investors down and get in contact with them. I always seize the opportunity to contact people and get in front of them.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Changing the narrative for women around beauty and aging is my passion. Radiant beauty is an inside job and aging is a privilege. The diet and beauty industries have shamed women for long enough and I believe there’s a better way to talk about aging. I’ve created a company that sells high-quality products to help women look and feel their best from the inside out. There’s so much opportunity to create community and conversation around beauty, health, wellness, and aging that has a positive, inclusive message. Very few companies are speaking to women 45+ and I’m here to fill that void. I’m building a community of women to have conversations around what it means to age well.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂
Lunch with Sara Blakely would be a dream come true! I follow her on Instagram and I love how honest and hilarious she is. She preaches getting out of your comfort zone and I listen to her message and try to use it to remind myself when it feels hard to put myself out in the world. She’s also a huge inspiration for taking on an entrenched industry and turning it on its ear by launching Spanx in 2000. I love that she says she’s led her company with kindness and empathy. We need more women leaders like her.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!