Welcome Shalomoji Friends to another round of our Shalomoji column where we interview Jewish influencers around the world to help inspire and support aspiring newbie entrepreneurs, creatives, and thought leaders.
For our fifth feature interview, we are Saying Shalom to 6-figure Millennial Business coach and Marketing Strategist Lena Elkins. The creator of online courses including Reaching Richness (Master Course), Instagram Bootcamp and The Spotlight System, Elkins is an official member of Forbes Coaches Council aka a straight up BA. She also offers several coaching programs including Career Spark (a four-month 1:1 program), Success Accelerator (a two-month 1:1 program) and a two-hour intensive coaching program. She also offers corporate counseling.
Elkins discusses life as a Millennial Business Coach, her mind-blowing superwoman status, and offers a ton of valuable advice to newbie entrepreneurs in the online space. Check out the full interview below.
Q: Tell us about yourself and your online business for those who may not know. A: I’m a millennial business and marketing coach. I primarily work with Gen Y entrepreneurs who are looking to raise their level of income and influence online. I coach Gen Y entrepreneurs one on one how to really implement systems and marketing strategies that will help them scale and maximize their reach online and really position themselves as thought leaders and influencers in their industries.
I had a speaking event in San Francisco a few weeks ago and in New York with Gerard Adams and then I’m headed to Nicaragua with Forbes; so I do lots of speaking stuff.
I’m a digital nomad; I travel a lot. I’m mostly based in Tel Aviv most of the year, but I also travel around the world.
Q: What compelled you to start your own online business?
A: I wanted to work for my own happiness, not for the happiness of someone else. I saw all of these adults around me who were in their fifties and sixties who were literally enslaved to these jobs that they hated. And I just thought to myself that there’s no way in hell that I am going to spend the next 50 years being miserable going to an office 8, 9 hours a day, only to eventually retire. I mean, what’s the fun in that?
I’ve always felt the need to have ownership of what I was doing, to feel like I was in control.
Growing up, I just always had a leader personality. I was the captain of the dance club and I started all these organizations. I was always a self-starter. After I had my one and only ever full-time job, I realized that I just couldn’t do this. I was suffering every single day. Having a boss, having to go to an office every day, having to commute, just all these things that most people go through their entire careers, I couldn’t deal with. It was really really hurting me and it just got to the point where I knew that this was the time that I had to try and make it happen.
What other time in your life do you get to take major risks like this, right? Quit your job, try to build something yourself, screw up, embarrass yourself. You can’t do that necessarily when you are older and when you have a mortgage to pay, when you have a family you are responsible for, it’s just different.
So, I knew at 22 years old that this was the time to do it. This was the time to make mistakes and I just had to get started now or else I would never get started. So, that is what compelled me to start my own online business.
Q: Tell us what a day in the life of Lena Elkins looks like
A:So, unlike most entrepreneurs who are like — I wake up at 5AM and then I eat ten egg yolks and then I go to the gym — I am not one of these intense Gary Vaynerchuk-esque entrepreneurs at all.
I built my business so that I can do what I want with my time and to put myself in the situation where there are no rules and I can make up my own rules. And one of the rules that I’ve made is that I don’t do anything in the mornings because I’m just really not a morning person. It’s something I’ve tried to fight my whole life, but I’ve never been a good sleeper and because of it I’m just not a morning person. So, I don’t allow any meetings or I have nothing ever planned before like 10AM every single day. And after that, the day can really kick in.
So the point is, I probably wake up like 8:30, 9:00, have coffee, check e-mails, listen to a podcast episode or two. I like to take the first hour of the morning to really check in with myself, set my goals for the day. If I’m feeling especially motivated, I like to meditate for just a few minutes just to set my intentions for the day — say some affirmations, things like that, listen to podcasts, and do my makeup.
Then, I get to work. Throughout the day I typically have lots of client calls. Right now I am working with 11 clients, one-on-one. So, I have calls with them throughout the week. I’m checking all of their stuff. I’m helping support them.
I’m doing a lot of writing. So, I typically give myself time every day to write great content, whether it’s for my own blog, for my Facebook group, or an online publication. But, I try to create every day. I read every day.
But you know, it’s always different because I am traveling. I am always in a different state or a different country. So, no two days are exactly the same, which I love. So, there isn’t exactly a strict schedule that I go through throughout the day, but I certainly have some core habits. Most of them revolve around mindset, and then of course just also serving my clients at the highest level every day.
Q: How do you personally manage to accomplish creating courses, doing regular fb lives, publishing articles, coaching, and speaking engagements. How do you do it all? You’re Superwoman #goals!
A:You know what’s so funny? And what most people don’t realize — I think that a lot of thought leaders, and bigger entrepreneurs, get this question — and it’s almost as if one day we just woke up, and we suddenly had all these different aspects of our business, right? We were just like these multi-faceted influencers, who were just doing a million things at once. This is what it really looks like on the outside and I understand this, super-woman or whatever. But, the reality is that for years and years I was slowly integrating these different skills, one after the other, always focusing on one at a time, in order to build up to this point where I have this whole suite of different parts of my business — between Facebook lives, doing the writing, doing the coaching, speaking, traveling, whatever.
It’s not like it all just came out of nowhere at once. I really never wanted to be the type of entrepreneur who was trying to do a million things at once because then I knew I wouldn’t end up being good at a lot of things; it was always really important to me to become very very good at one thing at a time and then move on.
So, for example, I think at first, I started just doing client work when I first got started on my entrepreneurial journey. Then, I went on to writing articles. Then, I went onto creating courses. Then, I went onto speaking.
It’s like one thing at a time, and now it’s just second nature to me to take on all these things at once. So, I really don’t think about it. But, I really love it. I love being busy. I love always doing something different. I’m just one of those people who just can’t do one thing for more than an hour or two at a time.
So it’s great being able to work on so many different things at once at this point without it being stressful or overwhelming. It’s just, again, second nature; it’s just part of my days and my weeks.
Q: What are the top 3 marketing tactics you would suggest newbie entrepreneurs?
A: The first thing I would suggest is getting really clear on who you’re targeting, to begin with. A lot of new entrepreneurs are so eager to sell their products and services and to make a return on whatever investment they made originally to bring their product or services to life. So they’re willing to speak to just about anybody in their marketing, in order to get lots of different kinds of people’s attention to hopefully bring them in and sell to them. But that doesn’t work.
I think that people who buy stuff today are extremely smart. They understand that there are a lot of options to buy one product from. So for example, for one product they could buy from five different brands. What they’re really looking for is the specific brand that’s going to resonate with them the most. They’re going to read that and feel like — Wow, this brand is speaking to me; I understand what they’re saying; I understand what their brand values are; I understand what their goals are and I relate to that on some level.
So your goal I think as a marketer is to really get clear on who you’re serving because if you’re trying to serve everybody, you’re ultimately serving nobody. Which is why you need to get really, really specific with your target audience — Who are you trying to serve? Who are you trying to help? Who are you trying to speak to?
And the way that I really like to narrow in on it, and I’ve said this a lot to my clients, is really thinking of one specific person who you’re trying to sell to. Sometimes it’s even helpful to find a picture of somebody on Google, like a stock photo and then really describe the person. What is this person’s name? Where do they live? How old are they? What does their lifestyle look like? What do they value? Where do they work? What motivates them in life? What are their goals? What do they really struggle with? What are they insecure about?
If you can get really, really deep into who this specific person is, it’s going to make your job as a marketer a million times easier. Because every single time that you’re creating a piece of content, that you’re writing a sales page, that you’re working on your website, whatever — you’re only creating stuff for them. It’s like a love letter to this one person, right? It’s the only thing that matters. So get really, really clear on who you’re speaking to.
They say the riches are in the niches, so get really, really into who that person is on a deeper level, and it’s going to make your job as a marketer a million times easier.
The second marketing tactic that I would suggest is building relationships with influencers from the get-go. Even if they’re not major influencers, even if they’re only a few steps ahead of you, build relationships with them now. I think that a lot of new entrepreneurs tend to isolate themselves when they first get started simply out of insecurity. They basically feel like — I don’t have enough experience. I don’t have enough knowledge, therefore, who would want to be friends with me or who would want to collaborate or partner with me?
And as a result, you actually really end up isolating yourself, and you end up putting all the work on yourself in order to really bring visibility to your business online, and it’s really unnecessary.
So start developing relationships from the get-go with people who are in your same space who have already been through what you’re going through. And this can just help in so many ways. One, they can be mentors to you, right? And you can end up not worrying about a lot of the same stresses that you would normally have or end up making a lot of mistakes that you would normally make if you didn’t have their guidance and insight. So they can be mentors to you.
But another great way that they can help is that if they have a similar audience to what you’re looking for, they could give you a shout-out. Or they could really expose you to their audience, which is going to make your job a million times easier. If you can just have these relationships in place, you can depend on it to promote yourself. With that, just start building relationships and having a friendship with them.
So as a marketer, don’t be afraid to reach out to influencers and other people who you come across. These are real human beings on the other side. They really do want to make friends. They really do want to find mutually beneficial partnerships.
A third marketing tactic that I would share is — don’t just speak about your business. Speak about the values beneath your business. And I think a lot of people think that this is easy advice, but it’s so easy as a marketer to just focus on sales, sales, sales and numbers, numbers, numbers, that you forget that you’re not just looking for customers, you’re looking for loyal brand advocates, and people are only going to feel loyal to your brand if you can connect with them on a deeper level than just the seller-customer transaction relationship.
So really make an effort to identify — beyond what you are selling, what are you really selling? Are you selling happiness? Are you selling comfort? Are you selling being smarter, an increase in knowledge? Are you selling relationships? A way to easily connect people?
You have to figure out — what are you really promoting and what are you valuing beneath what you are selling on the surface? And if you can really touch on all those points throughout your marketing, through your sales copies, your email marketing whatever it is — it’s going to resonate on a much deeper level with your people and it’s going to get them to continue listening, continue buying from you, continue promoting you to their friends and their people.
Q: As the great Albert Einstein once said: “Failure is success in progress.” What have been some of your failures, and how has it helped propel you towards success?
A:Wow. I have failed so many times, and I don’t even feel embarrassed saying that because I don’t know a single entrepreneur who has not failed and embarrassed themselves.
There’s a quote “If you aren’t embarrassed by the first product that you ever launched then you launched too late.”
I always liked that quote because it always gave me a lot of confidence to just put myself out there and take risks, even if it wasn’t going to work out because I know that it’s just a requirement; it’s what you have to do to move your business forward. You have to make mistakes; you have to take major risks; you have to embarrass yourself in order to learn and to get to the next step.
If you don’t change any of your habits, then your results aren’t going to change either. So you just have to put yourself out there sometimes and risk these things.
When I quit my full-time job and first started my business, within a month of it, I was 100 percent broke. Didn’t have money to pay my rent; I was actually in debt to the bank; I had to have my roommate cover my rent that month.
And I’ll just never forget this one day where I was sitting with Eliav, my now fiancé, in a really nice breakfast restaurant, in Tel Aviv and was just sobbing in this restaurant in the middle of the day, crying my eyes out, because I was like — what the hell have I done? I quit my job. I thought I could start my own business. I thought that it would be successful, and now I just don’t know what I’m doing, and I feel like I’m going to be homeless, and everyone’s going to hate me, and all these horrible things are going to happen to me.
None of those things actually ended up happening. But, I’ll never forget that day, where I just sat there, and I was like — I am such a failure. How am I possibly going to make this work?
But the thing is, in that moment, what I could have said was — I’m just going to go back to my full-time job — which would have been Plan B — I’m just going to go back, or I’ll find a new full-time job and everything’s going to be OK.
I think that’s what 95% of people would have done. But I didn’t allow myself to have a Plan B. I knew that I had to make Plan A work. Because, again, going back I knew my greater vision for my life was that I wanted to be independent, that I wanted to be my own boss, that I wanted to have this control over my career. I knew that I had to make it work, and I think that that’s what propelled me to move forward and to keep going was that I didn’t allow myself another option. I didn’t give myself a back-up plan. I knew that if I had that fire under my ass, if I really was at my most desperate, lowest point, that the only way I could go was up; I had to make it work no matter what, and that just gave me the motivation and the ambition to hustle and to make it work. And then about three months after that, I had actually tripled my income from what I was making previously at my full-time job. So that was a big failure, but it also had a big turn-around.
Something else that I did — OK this is a failure. Speaking of partnering with different organizations and companies and influencers, I partnered with this company that will remain nameless. But they really wanted to partner with me. They wanted to work with me and my brand, and we ended up going into a partnership. And I was promoting their stuff to my clients and whatever. And then they turned out to be a huge scam — They weren’t a real business. They were selling a fake product that didn’t even exist.
And you know what? It was my fault, because when I was first having these meetings with them and first thinking about partnering with them, I just had a feeling in my gut like this seems really sketchy.
But I had heard from another friend that they were so great, and they had been so amazing and helpful in their business.
So I ended up following through with it and working with them, even though in my gut it didn’t feel right, and then they turned out to be this huge fraudulent company. And then it reflected poorly on my brand because then some of my clients had found out that they weren’t legit but they knew that I was partnered with them and I was helping promote them so it reflected really poorly on my brand and I was humiliated, and of course gave refunds to a bunch of people who had ended up buying something that was kind of a joint venture between me and them. So that was also a mistake. It really taught me to listen to my gut, and to stick with my own stuff.
You don’t have control over what other people do. All you have control over is your own work and your own integrity. So that just really showed me to be more independent with what I was doing and not rely so heavily on partners. It was more important for me to maintain my own brand.
Q: You have created a Facebook group called Millennial Go-Getters with over 3,000 members. Tell us about the inspiration behind the group and what group members gain from joining?
A:I first started Millennial Go-Getters because I was simply looking to connect with fellow newbie entrepreneurs. I was still really new at that point. This was long before it was really trendy to use Facebook groups as a marketing tool. I wasn’t really using it as a marketing tool at all. I just wanted an opportunity to connect with like-minded people because in Tel Aviv, I didn’t have many friends who were also starting a business and I wanted to connect with other creatives who were doing similar work. I also wanted to create a space for people to talk about these things.
I hadn’t found a group at that point that I really felt represented that. Even though I was, at that point, involved in lots of different people’s Facebook groups, I didn’t see anything that was quite what I was imagining which is why I created Millennial Go-Getters. I never thought that it would grow as much as it has. We’re over 3000 members now. It’s just been a really cool thing — really the key way that I’ve been able to connect with other entrepreneurs and thought-leaders. I’ve gotten a lot of my clients through my group now, a lot of speaking opportunities. A lot of amazing stuff has come from Millennial Go-Getters.
The people who join my group now, I would say, are a bit different than maybe who they were a year ago. But most people who join my group now are either still in the nine-to-five and they have some kind of a side project, a passion project, that they are really trying to go all in on and optimize, and they’re looking for support and insights and ideas and inspiration to really take themselves to the next level, or they’re already entrepreneurs. Most of them I would say are within their first year or two of their business and they again are looking for that support, that connection, and inspiration that they need in order to really grow their business.
I think that solo-prenuers, in general, have a very hard time because they’re lonely — they’re building their business on their own; there aren’t necessarily people there to hold them accountable or understand what they’re going through, and having groups like this really gives people a safe space to really talk about what they are going through, to ask questions, and to share.
Q: You have an extensive background in both international public speaking and writing. In particular, you’ve written for a variety of top publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, Thrive Global, Business.com and more. Having strong communication skills (both written and verbal) is obviously essential in leading a successful business. How has your experience as a writer and public speaker contributed to your entrepreneurial success? How would you advise newbie entrepreneurs to strengthen their communication skills in order to reach a level where they feel comfortable with public speaking and reaching out to write for well-known publications?
A:It’s actually really funny because when I was growing up I was the kid who was always friends with everyone, but I’m not just talking about other students; I was friends with the janitors, and with the teachers, and with the front office people. I always just really loved people; I loved communicating with people; I loved understanding them and putting myself in their shoes, and really trying to understand what they were going through in their lives and then how I could bring solutions in that relationship.
People were just always very interesting to me, and I loved just going deeper asking people more questions and just getting a better understanding of who they were so that I could be a good friend to them.
But I think when I was growing up people thought that was really weird, like — why is Lena, an 8-year-old girl, giving relationship advice to the clerk at the gas station or whatever?
I was that kid. So I think it was always in me to communicate. I never cared about school work, but what I did care about was relationships and connecting with other people.
I think I was just born a natural extrovert, and yes, that has absolutely helped me when it comes to my entrepreneurial success.
But with that said, I never felt like I was a good public speaker. In fact, I always hated public speaking growing up. One-on-one communication or chatting with my group of friends was fine. But if I had to get up in front of a class, I could not publicly speak at all; that was something that I really had to step out of my comfort zone and push myself to do.
And it’s something that I still work on. Every time I have to speak now, I’m still very nervous, but I just have to say “1, 2, 3…” and then I just go for it. I think that was the only way I could have done it. I just had to push myself.
But as a writer — writing has hugely helped me in my entrepreneurial journey. I have been able to communicate my message and my story, fairly easily. I know a lot of people really struggle with writing and it took me a long time to realize that writing isn’t a skill that everybody just has. I think in my mind I thought that “well everybody’s a good writer.” It’s not true, and I now see that I’m very lucky to have good writing skills because it makes communicating my work much easier. So it’s definitely helped me in my entrepreneurial success.
With that said I don’t think you have to be extroverted or a natural born great writer in order to be successful. I do think that these are skills that can be learned.
Some of my closest friends — it’s so interesting, in person they are so introverted; they are so quiet; they are so awkward, don’t like meeting new people, but online they still have this huge following of people who still resonate with them.
So I do think that they are both things that can be learned, you just have to be able to step out of your comfort zone and really push yourself. They are things that you can overcome.
I think that a big thing that helped me when I first worked up the courage to start pitching publications and trying to get speaking opportunities and stuff like that, was just telling myself that I had to fake it till I made it.
I think it’s mental more than anything. It doesn’t actually come down to your skills, it comes down to how you perceive yourself and if you think you can do it or not. And the best way to do that is to just go do it. The first time I ever wrote an article – it’s embarrassing to read. But what I would do was — keep putting myself out there, keep getting better, and every single time it would just get a little bit better. So, I think that’s all you can do.
Instead of worrying about it and studying and reading the best strategies for becoming a better speaker, or a better writer — just go out there and do it. Nobody expects you to be perfect, I think the best way to get better at things is to just go do them and not wait for being perfect. So just go do it and you will see that you naturally get better. And of course, also surround yourself with people who have the same goals. So join the Facebook groups of people who are also trying to become better communicators. Read the right books on becoming a better writer. There’s so much you can do on your own by definitely just getting out there and start executing.
Q: Are there any books, blogs, or podcasts you recommend?
A:Sure. In terms of getting in the right mindset and really understanding the basic principles of wealth consciousness and how to manifest wealth and success in real life, I’m a big fan of Jen’s and Cheryl’s work. So to look for books — “You are a Badass” and “You are a Badass at Making Money” — are two of my holy grails that I just read over and over and over again. “Rich 20 Something” by Daniel di Piazza is one of my all-time favorites. Let me think. Anything by Seth Godin. Reading things like “The Purple Cow” and “Tribes” by Seth Godin are great books.
In terms of podcasts that I listen to? I obviously, listen to “Entrepreneur on Fire” — basically every day, and I’ll actually be interviewed on his podcast in the next two months. So that’s fun.
Recently, I’ve been listening to the Hardcore Closer. For those of you guys who are trying to get really good at selling, that’s an interesting podcast. Also, I’ve been listening to The Foundr podcast. So Foundr magazine run by Nathan Chan is a really great podcast.
Q: Do you have any daily habits, tools or business hacks you find useful to share with the Shalomoji readers?
A: Everybody functions with different kinds of habits. I know some people who need to wake-up at 5AM and go to the gym in the morning and do all of these things to be more successful. I know that there are other people who swear by sleeping until noon, and then watching Netflix all day, and only starting work at 10PM. So, habits I don’t really know.
But tools — there are plenty of tools that I use that really, really help me. First of all, Shalomoji, I know that it sounds so cheesy that I’m saying that, but it has actually become so useful in communicating with my friends, family, and my clients — just people who think it’s so fun to get a little Shalomoji every day. It’s actually really been really helpful for me and just has made my days a little brighter using this tool. So, that’s the first thing.
In terms of organization, I use Asana for all of my task management.
Email marketing, I’m obsessed with ConvertKit. If you’re looking for a good email marketing software, ConvertKit is the way to go. I am addicted to it.
SamCart is what I use for all my payment processing; that’s been the latest addiction for me; I’ve really been loving it.
I don’t really have business hacks honestly. In your marketing, I think that everybody’s marketing needs to come down to the same thing, which is — be real, be valuable, bring value, do the things that you would do to be a good friend. If you can do that in your marketing, you’re not going to need any hacks. It just comes down to consistency, and being cool and being real and bringing value, and that’s all that you can do consistently.
Q: We here at Shalomoji would like to leave our readers with a nugget of inspiration. What has been your greatest inspiration? Is there a particular quote, life motto or mentor you look up to that has given you unforgettable advice that you’d like to share?
A:Well, there are two phrases or affirmations, that I really like to keep in mind whenever I feel stuck or I don’t know the next steps.
One of them is: “You cannot achieve anything great alone.”
I just learned that from my entrepreneurial journey, I couldn’t have done anything without the help of coaches, consultants, influencers, just people who helped me along the way. So whenever I feel stuck, I know that I don’t have to solve it by myself. I could always hire a new coach, or I could always outsource something in my business just to take the load off and make things a little bit easier. Just remembering that I’m not alone, that I cannot achieve anything remarkable alone, has a been a big one for me.
And another one is, “Not focusing on studying, but instead focusing on execution.”
Things don’t have to be perfect. All you have to do is get started and go. Too many people get stuck in finding the need to make things perfect. But just go. Go, go, go, go, go. “Move faster” — is something else that I would like to share.