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Eliis Ashley Ruus: “Learn and Grow.”

Learn and Grow. I am learning daily, whether it’s as a result of my mistakes or my experiences, and I always try to apply those learnings to whatever project I am working on. When I launched TooFaced London I had no idea how to run an ecommerce business or how to sell online. It was […]

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Learn and Grow. I am learning daily, whether it’s as a result of my mistakes or my experiences, and I always try to apply those learnings to whatever project I am working on. When I launched TooFaced London I had no idea how to run an ecommerce business or how to sell online. It was completely new territory for me, and despite it being in the fashion industry which I knew well, I had no idea where to start. So, I committed to learning — I studied online webinars, watched hours of training videos and learned everything I could about launching an online fashion brand. I didn’t have a big budget to spend on marketing, so I had to do it all myself. As a result, I have learnt more in the past 3 months than I have in 3 years. I have learnt that there are so many useful resources online, including different software’s, apps and tools that you can use to grow your business — you just have to look for them. I strongly advise anyone thinking of doing the same to research, sign up for free webinars and undergo training courses. Most of all, just keep learning. Even if you do just a 30 min webinar every day — it really will make a difference to your brand.


As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Eliis Ashley Ruus.

Eliis has been part of the fashion industry for 10 years now, after progression to a new role in 2010 saw her become Brand Manager with SZTV Media Group in Los Angeles. The role provided Eliis with the opportunity to manage and liaise with international designers for Celebrity Style Lounges, spanning across key events such as the Oscars, Golden Globes, Emmy’s and Cannes just to name a few.

In November 2011, Eliis launched her first business — Elpromotions Model and Events Agency based in London and Ibiza. The following year, in 2012, Eliis founded Birmingham International Fashion Week® in Birmingham, England, with a vision to push and extend international interest with the work of designer’s collections. Showcasing the work of numerous designers who have each influenced the platform in their own unique way, BHMFW was designed to bridge the gap between new talent and international exposure, as well as providing an innovative platform for fashion. Five years later during the lockdown of a worldwide pandemic, Eliis put her creative juices to the test, launching her first ecommerce business — and so TooFaced London was born, based in South-West London in May 2020. TooFaced London is a brand new UK face mask brand with one mission in mind: to protect each other — in style. From the heart of London, the aim is to actively reduce the impact of Coronavirus in the community.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Istarted my career working for SZTV Media Productions, a Red Carpet Celebrity Style Lounge and Production company. I started as the Intern for a Producer, and quickly worked my way up to become an Account Executive and then Brand Manager position. I worked remotely from the UK with my Director being based in Los Angeles. It was tough and challenging due to the time difference, and I worked such long hours, but I knew I wanted to have a career in fashion and that meant working through the days and some evenings, often until the early hours of the morning just to prove myself and do well in the industry. Fast forward a few years, I had the tools and drive to start my own business in the fashion and event world. I was so motivated and inspired and took on board everything I had learnt, including the good and the bad over the years. I knew I could do much more if I went out on my own. When it became time for me to launch my own Fashion Week in Birmingham, England, I was so excited about the prospect of building something new from scratch, and providing a platform that would inspire designers and creators from all over the world. We managed to run three consecutive years of successful shows from 2012–2015, and to this day this remains one of my greatest achievements.

My current brand, TooFaced London, was started under very different circumstances, when I realised I had the skills and knowledge to fill a massive gap in the market — contemporary and cool fashion face masks which would be attractive but also help buyers meet the government regulations in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. As many small businesses will well know, the events industry took a hard hit across the world during the pandemic, and all our 2020 events and campaigns were cancelled with no foreseeable way out on the horizon. Rather than wallow in this, the only way to keep the business afloat was to start a new enterprise; something to withstand the uncertainty, which utilised my skills and experiences but also allowed me to expand into new areas. I knew whatever it was it had to be ecommerce because of the situation, but it wasn’t until the Government announced the mandatory wearing of face masks on all public transport that I decided to design my own brand of face masks which met the regulatory need, while also proving a comfortable and fashionable item that buyers would revel in wearing. I was as apprehensive as anyone about wearing a mask at first, thinking that all it would do was hide my identity and force me to shy away from the world. But luckily, I found the Rachel Zoe website and was inspired by some of the incredible things she had created — and my idea was born. Fast forward a few weeks, and we are now live as an ecommerce site, selling over 25 different designs.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

When I launched the TooFaced London brand I had one mission in mind: to allow my customers to fulfil their social responsibility to protect each other, while also retaining their individuality and personal style. One thing I’ve learnt during my career is the power of devoted customers, and so I would say that as well as creating a great product, I also knew the importance of selling the concept and the brand — the most important part of capturing repeat custom. I wasn’t really trying to make the product disruptive in any way, I just wanted to find new ways of engaging and working my way around the obstacles that Coronavirus had thrown up. In this case, we had to find ways of standing out quickly in a market packed full of competition from massive retailers — all able to sell products at a fraction of our price.

I am a strong believer that every business is a success — as soon as you have built an idea into a viable business, you have been successful. With TooFaced London, our first real hint of success came in launching the products on time and being able to reach the marketplace in those crucial first days of the mandatory face masks.

We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Since an early age, my biggest role model and inspiration has been my Nan. She taught me integrity, inspired me to work hard and always instilled in me a desire to pursue my dreams. These are the strategies I have applied to every aspect in my life.

In the business world, one of my early bosses Jane Linter — a director at SZTV Media Productions — taught me everything I know about being your own boss and female entrepreneurship. I didn’t know the things I could do or the goals I could achieve until she pushed me to realise them at the young age of 22. I always admired her work ethic and affinity for hard work, and from day one I knew we had that in common — which is why we worked so well together. We are still friends now, 10 years on, and I am so proud of everything she has achieved — as I am sure she is of me too. After all, she taught me all things fashion, showed me the do’s and don’ts of how to run a business, and inspired me to succeed in this industry as a female boss.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. When I first started my company, Elpromotions Agency in the UK, I was well in my comfort zone. I may not have started a company before, but I knew I had the skills, knowledge and the tools to succeed. It was an industry I was fully trained in, and the idea didn’t scare me. When I expanded the agency into Ibiza the following year, after only visiting the island a few times, I was not so confident — and I think that’s what really drove me forward to succeed, even more so that my original launch in London. I didn’t know if the idea was going to fail or succeed. I didn’t know if or how I would get clients, and I wasn’t sure how we would pick up work. I kept asking myself why would anyone hire me or my services? These insecurities kept running through my mind, until a friend said to me ‘Go, get out there — what do you have to lose?’. So, I took the plunge, and am pleased to say that we have now been live in the UK and Ibiza for 10 years, with streams of repeat clients and new inquiries coming in all the time.

Don’t give up. Every small business owner will have that one day, at least once a month (if not more!), where they think, ‘I’m done!’

It’s so easy on those days to think about throwing it all away and returning to the 9–5, working for someone else, with none of the stress of owning a business. Believe me, I have been plagued with these thoughts throughout my career — but I have never given up. Rather, I found ways to make more money, connect with customers, and find new and innovative ways to grow the business. Whether it means making small or big changes, you can always alter your direction; rebrand or even expand your business towards something which better suits you.

Learn and Grow. I am learning daily, whether it’s as a result of my mistakes or my experiences, and I always try to apply those learnings to whatever project I am working on. When I launched TooFaced London I had no idea how to run an ecommerce business or how to sell online. It was completely new territory for me, and despite it being in the fashion industry which I knew well, I had no idea where to start. So, I committed to learning — I studied online webinars, watched hours of training videos and learned everything I could about launching an online fashion brand. I didn’t have a big budget to spend on marketing, so I had to do it all myself. As a result, I have learnt more in the past 3 months than I have in 3 years. I have learnt that there are so many useful resources online, including different software’s, apps and tools that you can use to grow your business — you just have to look for them. I strongly advise anyone thinking of doing the same to research, sign up for free webinars and undergo training courses. Most of all, just keep learning. Even if you do just a 30 min webinar every day — it really will make a difference to your brand.

How are you going to shake things up next?

I am going to focus on growing the brand and creating new designs for TooFaced London. My long term plan is to also introduce other accessories such as hats and perhaps even a clothing line.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

n/a

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? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love one day to start a podcast or web series that focuses on female entrepreneurs and small business owners within creative/fashion industry. I know it is something that I would have found very helpful when I was starting out. The idea of listening to someone guiding me through the process and giving me a step-by-step guide on what to do and what not to do is something I love and am passionate about creating one day. I feel that it’s important to support each other on this journey and not be in competition with each other, particularly as female entrepreneurs.

Can you please give us your favourite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” by Mark Twain.

This quote has truly kept me going and is something I will always apply to my new projects. I have been so incredibly lucky to have a job that has allowed me to travel the world and work from anywhere; being able to enjoy time with family and friends, and work at the same time. I have never seen my work as ‘work’ — it’s more of a hobby to me. Something I love and spend time on even when I consider myself to be having time off. It’s essentially something that keeps me going on the tough days and has kept me grounded through the years. I am so grateful for all the experiences I have had, people I have met and friends I have made along the way — and I don’t plan on ending that anytime soon. I don’t understand the concept of working and doing something you don’t love and are unhappy doing. if it makes you unhappy — it’s time to make a change.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram

@toofaced_london

@eliis_ashley

Linked In

https://www.linkedin.com/in/eliisashleyruus/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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