Just do it, even though you don’t have all the answers. There are a lot of things that I wanted to do in life. One of them was starting a podcast to engage with others and to connect like minded people. I had no idea how to start a podcast, but I did it anyway. Each episode improves with each conversation, and while it’s not perfect, I have been able to begin to build collaborations and a network for good in a short time. For example, we are now working with a marketing team in Uganda, importing sustainable products from Guatemala and creating jobs in the Dominican Republic by consulting on modular building for the betterment of the environment.
As a part of my series called “Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Wendy Yates.
Wendy Yates is an impact entrepreneur and visionary dedicated to leading by example by changing what people believe is possible through design, leadership, and global impact.
Without a formal education, Wendy has used her grit, drive, intuition, and leadership skills to create a collection of lifestyle companies that embody a culture that you can be impactful and profitable at the same time.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Growing up my family relocated often, which made it difficult for me to create and maintain friendships. This reality had positive and negative effects on me, resulting in my discovering and developing my strengths and helping me to identify opportunities to work on improving myself. In many ways I began to be more resilient, and I learned how to create space for myself and how to communicate more effectively with different personality types. Since my relationships were almost always short lived ,I was very lonely and in hindsight I can now see that I lacked trust when it came to building long term relationships. I never really had a sense of home, nor a community, but I believe those factors were key in moving me toward my specific career path.
It was during a recession when I was going through a divorce, didn’t have a place to live, couldn’t find a job, and had a two-year old, that I decided to start Abigail-Elise Interiors in Summit County, Colorado. Although the timing wasn’t the easiest, my shift into full time entrepreneurship was very natural and provided an outlet for my drive to adding value in the world while also helping me find a place to thrive as I always struggled to be employable because I don’t understand conventional thinking.
It took me several failed attempts to learn how to successfully utilize my natural creativity and leadership skills. I am now highly successful at creating and collaborating with high-performing design teams, changing people’s lives, and creating both spaces and experiences that change what others believe is possible for themselves.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
My sense of urgency, paired with my abundance of thoughts, ideas, creativity and a desire to accomplish as much as possible every day, sometimes results in me getting ahead of myself. In the past, I tried to expand quickly by opening multiple locations, adding a showroom, and juggling a variety of unrelated projects. My attempts weren’t entirely incorrect, however I never really had a plan prior to moving into action. I took a lot of risks, some successfully, others not, but I believe those experiences ultimately helped shape my own internal process and mindset to just try things.
I’ve since learned what drives my purpose, and while my mission is clearer, I still have urges to pull myself in a million directions. Everyone has ONE life. Taking risks is part of it. It comes down to how big of a risk you are willing to take and at what stages. When things don’t go as expected it doesn’t mean you are a failure, it just means you have to ask yourself, “What’s next?”, then get out of your own way.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. 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?
My mother has always been supportive, even when I didn’t fully realize it. My husband Zach is an amazing champion of mine and I couldn’t be more grateful for a life partner and best friend.
In addition, any team members now and in the past that have been part of the company have played a role in some way of where we are currently. I also believe that every person that gave me a job or said something kind to me helped encourage me to keep going or to come up with a new idea ,and I am thankful for all of them.
Today, I am grateful for mentors and coaches and new networks that have been championing me always, providing resources, and giving their hearts and minds to help me to continue to grow.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Everything we do in life is woven together. Your choices in creating your environment, foods you eat, your exercise routine, actions towards others, usage of time, spending habits, and a circle of friends all create your personal experience , which has a direct effect on your mental wellness. If I were to add a quote that I live by centered on mental health it would be by Richard Branson. “You don’t learn to walk by following rules, you learn by doing, by falling over.”
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. We’d love to learn a bit about your company. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address?
Future generations are looking to embrace a holistic lifestyle that supports creating a better world. The exploitation of humanity, the environment, and animals for profit is no longer being tolerated. Sustainability, impact travel, social impact investing, environmentally friendly agriculture, ethical finances, and a focus on community are important to us and to our clientele.
At Abigail-Elise Brands we are on a mission to change what people believe is possible. We start with designing their spaces, bringing wellness into their lives, and then showing them how to bring it all together to create positive global impact. We all have the power to create a world we can all thrive in together.
When you first started the business, what drove you, what was your primary motivation?
The primary motivation for starting Abigail-Elise Design Studio was simply a drive to improve the lives of others. Since our beginning in 2008, we have evolved into a collection of lifestyle brands, Abigail-Elise Brands, that creates a positive impact on a global scale.
I believe what elevates us as a company is our passion for creating spaces and experiences that change what others believe is possible, and our goal is to inspire others to design their own lifestyle. Our expansion to consulting, sustainability, development, wellness and travel has been very natural because of our whole life approach to design. We want to help others design every part of their lifestyle in an implementable and approachable way.
What drives you now? Is it the same? Did it change? Can you explain what you mean?
Our motivation to improve the lives of others is still the same, but the impact that we can make evolves and grows every day. The questions have remained the same, “What do I have? Where can I give? How can I serve?”, but the possibilities have become endless. This message is the heart of our company culture as we are ever evolving through new relationships, continued education, constant consultation, and increased collaboration with like minded thinkers and creators.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes! Currently, one of our most passionate projects is building Well Fit Human Elevated Retreats. These exclusive retreats will help impact leaders, social entrepreneurs, and humanitarians expand their platforms and grow beyond what they believe is possible. We share our knowledge of how to build and create company cultures and mindsets rooted in passion.
As for Abigail-Elise Design Studio we are working on some very exciting projects! We are currently collaborating with developers in the Dominican Republic and beyond to create sustainable communities that will help uproot poverty cycles.
The topic of this series is ‘Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue’. Congratulations! Seven figures is really a huge milestone. In your experience what was the most difficult part of being able to hit your first million-dollars in sales revenue?
The most difficult part has been managing a team, while being a business owner, accountant, mentor, saleswoman, mom, sister, friend, wife, and human. Entrepreneurship is about creating beyond yourself, learning how to delegate, and knowing where your skills are most valuable. Money is easy when you have the heart to create a positive impact, it’s the thought and intention you give to it that is important.
Could you share the number one sales strategy that you found helpful to help you reach this milestone?
Follow up and keep following up until you get an answer, even if the answer is NO. Don’t be afraid to keep reaching out, keep getting rejected, or doing the difficult things.
A sales strategy must be authentic, transparent, and accountable. A good tip is to always offer everything in 3’s ,for instance your fees and services. Offer your availability in 2’s and always be closing.
Does your company have a sales team? If yes, do you have any advice about how companies can create very high performing sales teams
To date, we have not had a sales team other than myself, as we have built our business on referral and word of mouth.
My advice for building any type of high performing team is to invest in good people. Be patient while finding team members who are loyal and aligned with your goals and values. Reflect on your strengths, weaknesses, and where your time carries the most value for yourself , to create a team that is filling in the gaps of your own skills.
Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue”. Please share a story or an example for each.
- Create a clear purpose. Don’t worry if you don’t have an immediate answer, this will take time. Start by asking yourself the hard questions, “What do you want your life to mean?” and “What do you want the rest of your life to look like?”. Spend a day to outline these answers, write your life out, and work backwards. Next, create visuals, reminders, and stepping stone goals to help you focus on your answers daily. Remember, if you don’t know why you are doing something it’s easy to get distracted. I used to focus on how I was going to do something and ended up running in circles. Now, I focus on the “why” and everything I do has an intentional result with goals that match my purpose.
- Align your actions with your purpose. The space between your dreams and reality is called action. Schedule time for action and learn to distinguish opportunities from distractions. If I say that I want to spend time with my family, but I don’t block out the time to be present and intentional with them, then I will never be close to them.
- Challenge yourself to learn something new everyday. I prioritize an hour of learning into my daily agenda because I have found it is the only way to get closer to my achievements. Some days, my hour of learning is simply practicing skills I have not quite mastered. For example, I started Spanish lessons because learning to speak more than one language opens up many opportunities for my brands. When I practice Spanish everyday, I become closer to becoming fluent, but the moment I stop, I start to forget. Always take your dreams seriously.
- Don’t let fear become an excuse. Fear is natural, but if there is no “real” danger to your health, there is no reason let fear stop you. The first time I gave a board presentation, it was to an audience of men who were not prepared to take me seriously. Although I missed a bunch of points, due to being nervous, my authenticity still shone through and I landed the project. Had I let my fears stand in my way of giving that presentation, I would have never gotten the chance to work in hospitality design, which has opened up many opportunities and collaborations for me in the years following.
- Just do it, even though you don’t have all the answers. There are a lot of things that I wanted to do in life. One of them was starting a podcast to engage with others and to connect like minded people. I had no idea how to start a podcast, but I did it anyway. Each episode improves with each conversation, and while it’s not perfect, I have been able to begin to build collaborations and a network for good in a short time. For example, we are now working with a marketing team in Uganda, importing sustainable products from Guatemala and creating jobs in the Dominican Republic by consulting on modular building for the betterment of the environment.
What would you advise to another business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth or sales and “restart their engines”?
If you are feeling stuck, it’s time for coaching and a new approach.
(1) Complete an audit. Use a critical eye to look at what practices are effective, ineffective, and what could be improved upon. This will help you identify where you need to take a step back, where you need to hire help, and where you can focus your skills most effectively. Evaluating where you are and why takes courage and honesty.
(2) Invest in business coaches and networking. They will be able to help you excel and grow faster.
In your specific industry what methods have you found to be most effective in order to find and attract the right customers? Can you share any stories or examples?
The best method that has worked for me has always been grassroots strategies which include building relationships, being authentic, following up often, supporting the initiatives of the people you want to attract, and sending thank you gifts. Show authentic support for the companies you want to work with by participating with their company and investing in their causes.
For example, I support and volunteer with my mentor’s nonprofit organization. This way I can create a stronger relationship with her outside of coaching, which benefits her mission as well as creating a stronger connection for my coaching.
Based on your experience, can you share a few strategies to give your customers the best possible user experience and customer service?
Be Available — Receiving “out of office” replies can be frustrating for clients. If you are out of the office, make sure to add a team member’s contact information and update someone else about the client before leaving.
Be Responsive — Sometimes difficult situations arise. Even when you don’t want to deal with someone or the situation ,make sure to send an update and respond to the client’s concerns.
Be Respectful — Time is the most valuable asset. Make good use of other people’s time by adding value when you are with them.
As you likely know, this HBR article demonstrates that studies have shown that retaining customers can be far more lucrative than finding new ones. Do you use any specific initiatives to limit customer attrition or customer churn? Can you share some of your advice from your experience about how to limit customer churn?
Sometimes the types of customers you want to work with evolves naturally. Instead of focusing on customers as something to keep, I try to focus on nourishing customer relationships. I would say that no matter the size of the project, always elevate your level of service to the standard that will impress the next big client.
Wonderful. We are nearly done. Here are the final “meaty” questions of our discussion. You are a person of enormous 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 am committed to leading by example to create positive change, by showing others how to find opportunities and helping them overcome limiting beliefs. When we share knowledge and work as a global society, there is greater equality. For me, the movement to end poverty starts with equity, empathy and education on a global level. If we could see money as an expansion tool of the heart and not something to hoard ,we would have a greater ability to positively affect the world. If more people could adapt this type of mindset it would be a major game changer for future generations.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders 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 🙂
This is a great question and it’s honestly a toss up. I can’t choose just one and I am always adding to the list. Here are a few currently at the top of my list; the Musk Family and Bill & Melinda Gates.
The Musk Family; May, Elon, Kimbal, and Tosca Musk. May is a phenomenal woman who raised her kids as a single mother. She created some of the most caring and passion driven human beings of our time. They are all doing incredibly impactful work. Kimbal is focused on teaching schools how to plant sustainable healthy food, Tosca is a brilliant director who creates valuable content, while Elon is advancing the world of technology.
Bill and Melinda Gates because they have dedicated their lives to making the world a better place.
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!