“From Avocation To Vocation: How I Turned My Hobby Into A Career” With Elena Maurel

An interview with Phil La Duke

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There’s no shortcut to hard work: I’d love to see a shortcut or a magic bullet for making your business work but it comes down to you and the effort you’re prepared to put in.

As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elena Maurel. Elena is an entrepreneur, investor, author, international speaker, coach and consultant. She is an unshakable optimist dedicated to helping people reach their financial goals, become independent and transform your life.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I’m truly a global citizen! My father was Russian and my mother French and we lived in four different countries during my childhood. It was just me, as my parents were a little older when I was born.

I guess that’s why I see the world on a global scale and don’t just think about the country I’m living in at any given moment.

What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?

Yes and I remember it well. My business in Paris had gone under due to some management issues and honestly, I hadn’t seen it coming, it was out of the blue. I just walked off into the sunset and spent the next few years travelling and trying to find my place in the world.

When I came back to Paris I was able to save up enough of a deposit to buy an apartment for 40,000 Euros. It was in a terrible state, needed everything replacing and I did just that. After fixing it up I sold it, making an 80,000 Euro profit. I thought “Wow, I could do this once or twice a year and have a great income.” But then came my ‘aha’ moment. It struck me that a passive income would be a much better idea. It would provide me with a solid income but free me up to follow my passion projects. The rest is history!

There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?

The answer is by taking a chance and putting in the hours. If your idea is good and viable it will succeed but you need to put the work in. If you’ve no experience in the world of business, find a mentor. If you don’t fully understand how an industry works, study it, work in it and learn everything you can. It’s down to you to make your idea a reality, no one’s going to do it for you.

What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?

I would say follow your gut instinct. Don’t start up a business you’re reluctant to be a part of. It’s perfectly possible to keep your passions and your work life separate.

It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?

For me, it’s about learning. I love learning and researching my industry but even more than that I love and appreciate the freedom it gives me to turn my experience into teaching opportunities. My real estate business provides me with the income I need to train others up, how can you dread that?

What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?

Good question. I love knowing that my achievements are down to my hard work and that I am able to teach others how they can create their own achievements. I’ve mentioned it before but I think what I love most is the freedom I have from creating a successful business with a passive income.

There have been drawbacks but they mainly occurred when I was starting off my business and I think of them as lessons I’ve been able to learn from. One big mistake I made was investing too much of a down payment into properties and then not having enough money to fix up the problems. I learnt very quickly that this was unnecessary. It’s something I tell my clients about now on my training courses.

Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

I think the biggest difference is that I thought I’d be trapped in my job a little, tied to it but that hasn’t been the case. Making that switch between fixing and flipping a property and investing in rentals has taken me in a completely different direction.

I’m really glad it did because, while I certainly do put in the hours into my business, I have a lot of options in addition to where I work and what I do with my time.

Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?

Not in my current job. When my previous business collapsed I certainly went through that stage but instead of getting another job I made a completely different decision instead.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Well I can tell you a story when I really thought I’d made a mistake and accidentally bought a crack house, complete with bloodstains on the carpet. I was so shocked and I really thought I’d made the worst mistake. I can’t even begin to explain what it looked like inside.

I’d bought it an auction so I hadn’t been able to get inside before I bought it (there’s a lesson) but I did manage to get the place cleaned up and make a good profit on it. Would I buy a property unseen again — absolutely not but it was a mistake that, thankfully, had a happy ending.

Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?

I think the big business giants have all inspired me in some way. You can’t not mention Warren Buffet in this list, his sense of philanthropy and his impeccable business sense is extraordinary.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I love that I’m able to train people to make their own successes in real estate. It really is a privilege and I mean it when I say that almost anyone can do it. Knowing that I’ve helped people on low incomes transform their lives makes me happy every day.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Find a mentor: I mentioned finding a mentor earlier on and I found that having someone to learn from is absolutely invaluable. If you don’t know who to approach, do some research and ask them. You never know, they may even say yes.
  2. Learn your process: once you’ve found a process that works for you, stick with it. Being able to trust my own decisions has helped me negotiate some major deals.
  3. Take calculated risks: following up on that, once you know your process and trust your own judgement then your risk taking becomes minimized and more calculated. This is true of some of my more costly recent investments.
  4. Mistakes aren’t the end of the world: see “crack house”
  5. There’s no shortcut to hard work: I’d love to see a shortcut or a magic bullet for making your business work but it comes down to you and the effort you’re prepared to put in.

What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. 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 love it when we share our ideas and expertise and would love to see that a lot more regularly across a lot more industries.

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

Taking the first step is often the hardest but it’s what gets you started on the journey.

I’ve started a business and lost it. I’ve started again from nothing and finding the courage to take the first step was definitely the hardest part.

Some of the biggest 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.

As mentioned earlier, it’s got to be Warren Buffet

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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