Alumni Spotlight: Jennifer Elwell, on Implementing Systems in your Business
Jennifer Elwell on implementing systems in your business and the importance of sharing challenges
Welcome to our founder spotlight! As part of our new SCF community, we've asked a few of our members to be SCF advisors. We're highlighting them and this week, we are talking to Jennifer Elwell. Jennifer is the founder behind Tales of a Peanut, a place for planners and organizational charts for women.
Introduce Yourself and tell us a little bit about you.
Hey y’all! My name is Jennifer Elwell and I run a shop called Tales of a Peanut. I have lived in Alabama my entire life and, except for college, have lived in the northern part of the state. I currently live in Huntsville with my husband, Jason. We were high school sweethearts and we are celebrating our 10th anniversary this summer. We’ve got three children, Charlotte, James, and Hadley ranging from 7 to 2. Along with my family and my business our life is pretty crazy as I’m sure most of yours is as well.
I have a Computer Science degree from the College of Engineering at The University of Alabama. If you know many engineers you might assume that this degree comes with a high level of attention to detail. You would be correct in that assumption! Over the past year I’ve found that I can harness my organizational skills and engineering methods to put in place systems in my business. These systems have revolutionized the way that I run my business and my home life. I’m now working on programs to help other Mamapreneurs do the same for themselves. I want all Mamapreneurs to accept the perfection of imperfection in their self, business, and family.
How long have you been in business and how did you get your start?
Tales of a Peanut opened it’s shop doors on Etsy three years ago as a stationery shop. My love for stationery began as a I child when I would beg my mom for a trip to the local book store. They had a wall full of blank stationery pages and it was my happy place. After having children I began designing their birthday invitations and our family Christmas cards. After friends asked me to design for them, I decided to open my shop.
I have, thankfully, grown a lot in my skills since the early days. But the only way you learn is by trying. Over the next few years I honed my design skills and began to also include children’s products and gift items in the shop. After attending the Creative Founders Conference in 2015, I realized that helping other women in their businesses and encouraging them was my true passion. Because of this I began to transition away from product into workbooks and consulting. I couldn't leave the design world behind altogether though and still have a children's line called miniPeanuts in its own store on Etsy.
What is your favorite thing about being a business owner?
As a business owner our responsibilities range from the exciting like launching a new product to the mundane of paying taxes. And while I’m drawn in a small way to each part of the process, what I love most is getting to develop relationships with women across the country. I am one of those people that is an outgoing introvert and I love the freedom that online friendships provide. They allow me to connect in a more authentic way than I feel I do when I first meet someone in person. Getting to grow those relationships into in-person friendships is a blessing that I’ll forever be grateful for.
Choose one: Maker, Artists or Designer - and tell us why.
I see some of all three of those in my business but designer is the term that I use most to describe myself. I am not creating art with my hands in 3D form nor am I making a product with my hands. Since I design everything on the computer from invitations, to apparel, to workbooks, that title fits. Even when I'm writing my new workbooks, design plays a large part in it. I have to make sure to present the information in a way that draws the reader in so that she can get the most out of it. Having said that, I feel comfortable using all three titles and feel that they represent the same general idea.
What do you wish someone would have told you before going into business for yourself?
Going into business is an overwhelming process. And because I wanted to have every i dotted and t crossed, I sat in paralysis for a few months. At which point I decided to just jump into the waters and finish setting the groundwork once I got going. This was a mistake.
While some of that initial to do list was overkill, most of it were things that I would have benefited from having in place before I started. A business plan, a budget, and a product strategy being three of the main ones. Once you get going it’s hard to make time to sit down and put systems like that in place. But without them you end up going in circles and not having a clear direction for yourself and your business.
Even three years later I’m still working on implementing some specific systems. If I had done more of that work before launching I might have grown sooner and been less overwhelmed. Or I might not have. But I would have been able to pinpoint what wasn't working a lot quicker if I had all my systems in place from the beginning.
What is your one networking tip for this community?
Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone even if you feel that they have it all figured out and are too successful for you to talk to. One of the best things about this community is that we are all in different stages of our businesses. I have yet to come across even one lady who was not more than willing to give me advice, feedback, or encouragement when I reached out to her.
Those who you perceive to be too successful or too busy to talk with you are still working daily on their business. And they also remember what starting out was like and want to help when they can. Don't worry, if they don't have time to help you with something, they'll let you know. But before you reach out, make sure you've done your homework and are asking something that you can't find out yourself. They are generous but they're also savvy businesswomen!
What are you most excited about as a member of this community?
There are two things that have me the most excited about the Society for Creative Founders online community. The first is making new connections with talented women that I have not heard of before. I am excited to use the community as my own little black book of the best in the business!
Second, I am geeking out over the classes and challenges! I have attended a few webinars in the past and can’t wait to re-watch them in the archives. And knowing that I have access to every course and challenge from now on is a great relief. I no longer have to see the announcement for a course that I want to attend and figure out if I’ve got money in my budget that month to pay for it. By having it all included in my membership, I get access to everything without having to find extra money in the budget for it.
Anything you’d like to add?
I want to get to know each member of this community in a real and authentic way. I am going to do my best to be transparent with all my struggles and successes here and encourage everyone else to do the same. I want this to be a place where we feel safe to share our challenges. We can do this because we know that we have a community of talented women who have our back and want to help us in any way that they can. I want this community to be a place that is not just full of the highlights of our businesses but our honesty as well.