This article originally appeared on Thrive Global by Jilea Hemmings
As a part of our series about “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elaine Morrison
Elaine Morrison is the founder of Elaine Wellness a brand that helps women feed their beauty from within. Her journey of reversing two autoimmune disorders showed her the interconnectedness between health and beauty. With no prior experience in the CPG space, she launched her brand selling collagen supplements having experienced the benefits first hand. A certified pilates instructor for the past 14 years Elaine has a passion for showing others that wellness can be easily achieved through whole food and exercise.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! 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?
Thank you for this opportunity to share my story. I never set out to build a wellness brand but I had an idea that I just couldn’t get out of my mind. As a certified Pilates instructor, the journey that would completely transform my relationship to wellness and beauty began in 2013 when seemingly out of now where my health took a complete nosedive and I built it back up from within. I was burning the candle at both ends working six days a week teaching and managing two pilates studios for a private club in Los Angeles.
My symptoms began with a new pair of pants that wouldn’t zip up, even though nothing about my diet or fitness had changed. Next came the fatigue that wouldn’t go away even after ten hours of sleep. My skin lost its glow, becoming dry and lackluster and I developed guttate psoriasis from my scalp to my ankles. Then, a chilling question from my hairstylist: “What’s going on with your hair? It’s breaking and falling out.” Desperate for answers I read Sara Gottfried’s “The Hormone Cure” and the lightbulb went on when she described my exact symptoms and their cause: a thyroid autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s.
I started reading everything I could get my hands on about reversing autoimmunity through diet, and even though this was not the route endorsed by my doctors, I had nothing to lose. I began an autoimmune Paleo diet – first eliminating gluten, dairy and grains, then slowly adding fish to my repertoire after 24 years as a vegetarian and vegan. Collagen came up again and again as an important supplement for hair, skin, and nails so I added that in too. Within a matter of months, my labs had so drastically improved that the Hashimoto’s was completely reversed. All psoriasis faded away, and to my delight and extreme relief, my hairstylist informed me that small baby hairs had started to fill back in.
Coming out on the other side of this experience left me with an unshakeable belief in the profound interconnectedness of health and beauty. And so I launched Elaine Wellness with collagen, not only because it played such an important role in my healing, but because it serves as a potent reminder that small changes in our diet can be completely life-changing.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
There’s been so many on this entrepreneurial journey. I originally started in 2016 with collagen water under the name Eviva Collagen Elixir. I knew absolutely nothing about the beverage industry. My collagen water was still in the development phase but I went ahead and I applied to pitch at BevNet Live and was chosen as one of 15 to present my product. Like many of us, public speaking is not my favorite thing to do. In front of 300 beverage executives, I made my two-minute pitch and was terrified. When I sat down it felt like I’d just had an out of body experience. My friends and family were all watching on live stream and my phone was full of encouraging texts from them. As a result of the pitch, I gained an investor who believed in me and my product. Always push yourself out of your comfort zone as you never know what will come of it.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
I’ve found that success, when you’re building a brand and introducing a new product, isn’t a straight line. With a product, there’s always going to be hiccups along the way. Once you launch a product you have to listen to feedback and ask questions of your customers. Keeping an open mind has been very important because I’ve had to make so many changes along the way. When something hasn’t worked I try not to take it personally. I’ve found success comes when I’ve gotten quiet and listened to my intuition even when so-called experts have given me their opinion. When I’ve doubted my inner wisdom or gut feeling I’ve usually made the wrong choice. Ultimately success takes time, consistent effort, and patience.
In your experience what were the most effective ways for your business to generate leads and sales? Can you share a story or give an example?
Starting as a small brand with a limited marketing budget I’ve found word of mouth via social media or friends telling friends has been valuable. In this day and age, I believe as a brand it’s important to share information and resources with customers. My motto is give first before you expect to receive a sale from a customer. I try to show people my passion for health and beauty and add value before I sell them anything. I’ve also learned the value of using email to nurture a new customer and let them know they’re welcome in our community. I send a handwritten note to new customers thanking them for supporting a woman-owned business. Instagram Live has been a great platform to connect in real-time and share the expertise of my hairstylist, aesthetician, and the nutritionist who creates recipes for Elaine Wellness. It allows followers to ask questions, learn, and build trust.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Every day I’m filled with gratitude for those who have supported me the past four years. Friends and family who have cheered me on, purchased from me, encouraged me when I’ve wanted to quit and who have invested their own money to help me start my business. They have helped and sustained me along this journey.
I was introduced to Reza Mirza, CEO of Icelandic Glacial. I was struck by how kind he was in our brief phone call and his willingness to give suggestions and ideas. He’s spent his career in CPG and taught me so much about knowing and managing my numbers. I tend to be much more interested in the creative side and sales and he kept me accountable about knowing my financials inside and out. I’m grateful for Reza’s encouragement and belief in my ability to succeed when I doubted myself. He’s been a great sounding board, has answered so many questions for me and introduced me to his contacts. He’s also kept me accountable and pushed me when I needed it.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or takeaway did you learn from that?
When I got into the beverage industry with my collagen water I had no idea I was also embarking on being in the trucking business too. I was sending cases in January to Thrive Market’s Indiana distribution center. I’m a native of Los Angeles and it’s always sunny here. It never dawned on me to think about the weather or freezing temperatures along the route between California and Indiana. I received an email with photos of frozen bottles of collagen water that had exploded out the bottom. I could only shake my head and laugh. These are the stories that no one hears about. Accept and realize no matter what you’ll make mistakes along the way.
You have been blessed with great success in a career path that many have attempted, but eventually gave up on. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path but know that their dreams might be dashed?
Entrepreneurship is portrayed in a very glamorous way these days, especially on social media. I’ve worked for myself most of my adult life so I had an idea of what was required to start my own company. It takes longer than you think, more money than you think, tenacity, grit, determination, and a deep belief in yourself and most importantly your “why”. There has to be a core driver that keeps you motivated when you want to throw in the towel.
I remember calling my best friend Stephanie when I was trying to decide if I was going to take the leap and hire consultants to help me formulate my collagen water. She asked me, “will you regret not trying?” I was at a stage in my life where I was willing and able to take that chance and bet on myself.
I believe entrepreneurship is a spiritual journey that will take you so far out on a limb on discomfort but it’s where your personal growth will begin. Old narratives of doubts, fears, and limiting beliefs will come out in full force. It’s an opportunity to grow and move beyond those old stories.
Find other entrepreneurs who can support and encourage you, brainstorm and share resources. I’ve met incredible women that have become dear friends and I love watching them succeed and supporting them in the process.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you please share “Five Things Anyone Can Do To Have Fabulous Hair”. Please share a story or an example, for each.
Yes, I love talking all things fabulous hair and so do my followers who DM me on Instagram!
- Your hair is a reflection of your internal health. If you’re noticing breakage or thinning hair it’s time to get curious about your overall health. For women, our hormones and the endocrine system often send us warning signs about health issues via our hair, skin and nails. Work with your medical provider to do adequate testing to discover the underlying cause of your thinning or breaking hair. Rather than guess what was causing my hair loss I had a lot of blood work done to uncover the root cause which was a low functioning thyroid caused by Hashimoto’s. By eating a whole food diet, removing inflammatory foods, and adding collagen I now have healthy full hair. It’s taken consistency but it’s well worth it. Remember hair grows around a half an inch a month so it takes time to see changes. Beautiful healthy hair begins within.
2. Ingredients matter. Chose shampoo and hair styling products that are supportive of your hair health and good for your overall health. The United States has very little regulation of the beauty and cosmetics industry. Only 11 ingredients are banned in this country. Many of the ingredients in beauty products contain hormone and endocrine disrupters. Part of reversing my autoimmune disorders was changing to products with healthier ingredients. The green beauty space has exploded in the past few years and there are incredible products out there that work well without all the harmful chemicals. I follow Lisa Fennessy of This Organic Girl and Sarah James of Whoorl for all the best beauty products, tips, and tricks.
3. Find a stylist that is knowledgeable in how to care for your hair. I credit my hairstylist, Lauren Sill for bringing to my attention that the health of my hair had changed. It lead me to seek medical care for all the symptoms I was experiencing. I color my hair and throughout my healing journey, she took care to use products that would support my hair in getting healthy. It meant using semi-permanent color for my roots and not doing any highlights or balayage for quite a while which was worth it to not further damage or dry out my hair. She did extra conditioning treatments and encouraged me to only use heat styling products when necessary.
4. Take collagen. I started my company to share the benefits of collagen. My hair is the healthiest it’s been in my life and collagen has been part of my daily routine for seven years. Collagen is a protein we all have within us that keeps our nails, skin, and hair looking and feeling vibrant and healthy. As we age we produce less collagen and we no longer eat a diet of collagen-rich foods. Collagen is tasteless and dissolves easily into beverages and food.
5. Treat yourself to a fabulous blowout! When I was sick with Hashimoto’s I had so little energy that I couldn’t hold a blow dryer to style my hair. I was walking past a hair salon and asked if anyone was available to do my hair. Lindsay Avanessian was so incredibly kind and she gave me the most fabulous blowout. It boosted my spirits so much that I went back to her until I finally had the energy to do my hair again. Whenever I go somewhere special I treat myself to a blowout. I walk into a room with a spring in my step.
Can you share 3 ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Avoid comparing your beauty to others. We live in a world of filters and photoshop that create an unattainable illusion. The beauty and diet industry spends billions of dollars a year playing on women’s fears and insecurities. Filter the content you consume so that it doesn’t lead you to spiral into self-doubt and self-loathing. Imagine how much time we could take back in our lives if we stopped criticizing and judging our looks and beauty. This has been a life long challenge for me to heal from the inner mean girl that constantly tells me I don’t measure up. Learn to love and accept yourself. It’s the greatest gift you can give yourself.
2. Your physical beauty is a reflection of how you feel on the inside. Have you ever looked at photos of yourself when you were going through a difficult time in life and noticed the unhappiness or stress written across your face? We’re living in an era where many of us are examining our old stories, habits, and programming that no longer serve us. Mindset work and meditation are becoming more mainstream in an increasingly stressful world. I found my illness was a gift that presented me with an opportunity for growth. It was my chance to get curious about what was and wasn’t serving me in my career, relationships, and habitual thoughts and patterns. Working on the inside by carefully editing who and what I surrounded myself with made a huge difference in my outer beauty. Remove people and things that drag you down emotionally. Some of my favorite free tools for mindset work are Dr. Nicole Le Pera of The Holistic Psychologist and Lacy Phillips of To Be Magnetic.
3. Confidence is beautiful. I’ve found the biggest gift of aging has been a sense of confidence. With time and experience, the overwhelming doubts of my twenties and thirties seem to be fading into the background. I care less about what other people think. Taking risks and trying new things in life builds confidence that is reflected in how I carry myself. In 2014 I had the opportunity to go from teaching pilates to working at a stock brokerage. It meant I had to get licensed to trade stocks. I passed the series 7 and 66 exams which is something my younger self never would have dreamed of doing. I decided not to stay in the industry but it gave me the confidence to start my own company in mid-life.
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. :-)
Changing the narrative for women around beauty and aging is my passion. Radiant beauty is an inside job and aging is a privilege. The diet and beauty industries have shamed women for long enough and I believe there’s a better way to talk about aging. I’ve created a company that sells high-quality products to help women look and feel their best from the inside out. There’s so much opportunity to create community and conversation around beauty, health, wellness, and aging that has a positive, inclusive message. Very few companies are speaking to women 45+ and I’m here to fill that void. I’m building a community of women to have conversations around what it means to age well.
Can you please give us your favorite "Life Lesson Quote"? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite quote is from Maya Angelou:
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I shared this quote in my Dad’s eulogy. My Mom, brother and I had the privilege of being with him when he took his final breath. It was a defining moment in my life because it made me think about legacy. When we leave this earth what will we be remembered for and what did we contribute? My Dad spent six years in the military and 45 years as a Presbyterian minister. So many people told us how our Dad made them feel seen, heard and cared for by showing up during both the good and hard times in their lives. He lived his life in service to others. Each day we get to choose how we show up in the world and treat people. My desire is to remind women to see and feed their beauty from within. I believe that aging is a privilege and I hope to remove the stigma for women that aging somehow means they’ve failed.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you’d like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this. :-)
So many women inspire me so this is hard to choose just one. I would love to meet Michelle Obama. I’m inspired by her kindness, wisdom, desire to help others and her unbelievable grace under pressure. She’s in a big mid-life transition and I’d love to talk to her about what the next chapter holds for her and how she embraces aging. I know we’d have so much to discuss and I would love learning from her. My 90 year old Mom is her super fan so she’d want to come along too.