Uplift Active is an American company that sells aerial equipment to both individuals and studios around the world. Founding her company only four years ago and now having a seven-figure brand, Elaine Eason has seen speedy success. In her interview, Eason shares information about her time working and traveling around the world at the same time, the importance of trusting your intuition, and much more.
What do you wish you knew before you first started Uplift Active?
I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur from a young age, but I had a lot of misconceptions about this career path. Because I had this ambition so young, I didn't feel like I had skills around which to start a business. In my mind, the idea of "entrepreneur" was a lofty silicon valley stereotype. I went to school on an academic scholarship for entrepreneurship and felt pressure to create something innovative, unique, and amazing. This pressure was really in my own head and held myself back. I didn't see the vast amount of opportunities in front of me in just my daily life, and how diverse entrepreneurs really are.
You don't need to know all the answers before you begin. You don't even need to have a unique idea to get started; there are opportunities everywhere. If you want to start a company, choose something you have an interest or skill in, and as you get started, listen to your customers. You will learn and find ways to add value that sets you apart.
What has been the largest obstacle you have had to overcome, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge for me personally has been growing from a solo entrepreneur to managing a team. As a solo founder, all major decisions rest on my shoulders, in regards to hiring, firing, and all other bumps along the road. The E-Myth Entrepreneur was a great resource for me in this, and I've had to learn to delegate in an effective manner. The process of hiring, training, and keeping employees motivated is an ongoing challenge for us as we've grown quickly over the last year.
What has been the highlight of your career?
There have been many wins and highlights along the way. My day is brightened every time a customer shares a photo with our product. When we see studios and gyms thrive after adding aerial equipment, they are impacting their own communities and helping people live happier and healthier lives. It's amazing to know that we helped in even a small way. It is truly the impact that our products have on our customers that make everything worth it.
What has been the hardest part of adjusting to COVID-19?
COVID has thrown global supply chains out of wack. We have many new customers purchasing equipment for at-home use, but it's been difficult to get inventory in stock. At the same time, our studio purchases dropped off significantly, and it's been heartbreaking to see the impact COVID has had on small gyms and studios around the country. We've hired a few of our studio clients to helps us create an online class streaming platform for aerial yoga, to keep students motivated and moving at home. It's been a busy few months for our team as we adjust to the new normal.
What do you think has been the “key” to your success this far?
There is no one key to success, but there have been a few things to which I can attribute growth. First of all, finding a person that supported my ambition. For me, this is my partner, who is also an eCommerce entrepreneur himself. We run separate businesses but support each other, motivate one another, and share strategies. Secondly, it is finding a community. Entrepreneurship is lonely, and having others around you is really key to growing. I joined an online eCommerce forum group this year; that group has been an invaluable resource in keeping up with industry trends and networking with others in the same position that I am.
Can you describe what life was like traveling and working at the same time? Was it difficult to balance between work and vacation?
Traveling and working was both wonderful and challenging at the same time. We traveled slowly, staying one month in each location. However, if we were to do it over again, we would travel even more slowly. It takes us about 2 weeks to adjust and create a routine in a new place. The biggest benefit of traveling was the networking opportunities. We attended eCommerce conferences and events all over the world and worked from co-working spaces. We met other entrepreneurs and were able to share ideas, tools we were using, strategies that worked, strategies that failed. We learned so much from those in-person interactions, and they motivated us to work harder and smarter. There's a lot you can learn from networking online, but once you've met someone in person, the connection is always stronger.
We were brimming with ideas after meeting so many amazing people through our travels, but actually implementing those ideas proved challenging. Travel itself and planning where to go is a part-time job. Managing a remote team is difficult when you are in one place. Managing a remote team when you're hopping timezones on a regular basis is even more challenging. As our companies grew, my partner and I found it unsustainable to continue traveling full time while working. However, we will certainly continue traveling to attend events and networking events when COVID is over.
How has failure helped you later in life? Can you share any specific lessons you have learned?
In my last semester of college, I didn't have any entrepreneurial ideas of my own, so I decided to work for a start-up. I worked throughout high school and college in retail jobs and didn't really enjoy it. Working for the start-up was different. The culture was very laid-back but exciting; everyone wore many hats. I started as an unpaid intern (red flag #1) but was promised shares in the company as well as a salary upon graduation. The company raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from angel investors and had big dreams. But the leadership wasn't there.
The founder was charismatic but disorganized. He had new ideas every day, and the direction of the company changed on a weekly basis. They tried to do too much, too fast. Slowly, the company unraveled. The money disappeared, and they didn't have much to show for it. I witnessed firsthand so many mistakes in starting a company - hiring too many too fast, being distracted by what competitors were doing, rushing developers to unrealistic deadlines. From this experience, I knew I wanted to avoid outside investors, and would start my own business as lean as possible.
What is some of the best advice you ever received? Some of the worst?
Early in my business, I wanted to rebrand to a name that was broader and would allow us to create different categories of products. I met with a marketing manager who told me not to, that my brand "Aerial Yoga Gear" was descriptive of what I was doing and relevant. Two years later, I still wanted to rebrand. This time, I knew it needed to be done (for trademark purposes in addition to the original reasons that still held), but that point, the company was a lot bigger and it was much more costly to do so. It was still worth it, but I wish I had trusted my intuition and stuck with my vision early on. It can be hard to sort out good or bad advice for your specific scenario, and if it's something important, it's best to get a few different opinions.
What is some advice you can give to an aspiring high school entrepreneur?
If you have a business idea, just go for it. It doesn't need to be unique. Learn the processes of starting a business while you have free school resources to help you. Interested in digital marketing? Offer to manage social media for local non-profits to gain experience, then pitch your skills to local small businesses. Start with something small and attainable, and don't quit - with time and experience, opportunities will emerge.