Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I am a brand stylist, designer and speaker, and founder of ELVA LI Brand.Style.Design, a boutique branding house helping lady bosses feel confident online and land high-end clients through luxury branding and website design.
With a background in Business and Finance for 10 years, I have combined my creative flair with my business savviness to help female entrepreneurs bring their visions to life and turn their ideas to a premium brand. Everything I do exudes style, elegance and timelessness, because these are a necessity, not a luxury. I have been featured on LadyBoss Asia, This Women Can and have been seen on ABC, CBS, Fox, etc.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
There’s a song on repeat in my world and whenever I play it, it reminds me of the time I started my own business and finally left my corporate job.
“I spend too much time thinking about who I'm supposed to be I play by everybody's rules that don't seem right to me
Should I even care? They're all sitting there and everyone's staring at me If I step out in the spotlight maybe I'll be set free
What if I back down now 'cause I'm afraid of what might happen What if they turn away when I show them who I truly am
What if I lose my breath when I throw those big doors open What if I shine?
I was that girl playing by everybody’s rules, playing small at the corporate world and not daring to stand up as who I truly am.
Maybe you can relate too. If you are also a female entrepreneur, you’re someone who has chosen to take the risk of building a business that expresses who you are and allow you to live in your genius zone and do the things you love .... then somewhere along the line you felt like you didn’t fit in the 9-5... somewhere along the line, you felt like you were different from everyone else around you. If you’re like me, you know deep inside that there’s something more, there’s something different, there’s something better.
I grew up being a “good girl” for my parents, playing the good “successful” daughter, studying at a top university and then living in the “successful” corporate world. But that life was never meant for me. Every morning from my office window I would look up at the blue sky, wishing I could grow wings and fly. Every morning I longed for something else. A different world. A beautiful world. One where there was freedom, inside and out.
Eventually, in 2010 I packed my bags, left my hometown Shanghai, and moved to Australia by myself hoping the world would be different. It wasn’t … because I was the same. Every day in my office cubicle, I continued playing the good girl. I kept my head down and I worked hard. I played it safe, but deep down I still dreamt of something else.
My life was forever changed when I was introduced to the wonderful world of women entrepreneurs at a business networking event. I saw glimpses of confident beautiful women who were running their own business with a lifestyle to match. It was like getting a blue Tiffany box from the Universe. I saw the beauty I was looking for.
The beauty of choice. The beauty of another way. The beauty of a business as the path to truly living a life that has it all. I was enlightened. I had a choice. I was no longer willing to accept my desires as just a daydream. Dare to be different. Dare to be courageous.
I started building my side hustles, immersing myself with personal development, working with business coaches and mentors, connecting with inspiring people…
I’d be lying if I said building my business and brand was easy. The journey is “beautiful”, but it’s not always “pretty”. I have my doubts, fears, and insecurities popping up from time to time. When that happens and things get rough, I always remind myself why I started in the first place.
I started my personal branding business because I adore designing beautiful things and nothing brings me more joy than creating a beautiful brand for other female entrepreneurs and help them turn their dreams into reality, one brand at a time.
I quit my high-paying corporate job as a Chartered Accountant because I want to wake up every day with passion and excitement, do what lights me up and utilize my full potential and talents; have the flexibility and freedom to do it whenever and wherever I want; surround myself with like-minded talented and inspiring people.
I am so grateful that I am able to quit my full-time job and that my business gives me the freedom and fulfillment, makes me feel passionate, inflow and lights me up every day.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
I started building my side hustle while I was working full time in my corporate job. I tried several business ideas until I found my “Sweet Spot Business Idea”. Whether you realize it or not, you have your special “zone of genius”. It’s that gift, talent, skill or ability that sets you apart from everyone else. It’s the thing that no one else can do quite like you.
I found my sweet spot business idea, which is the perfect intersection of what I love (creating beautiful things and turning visions into visuals), what I am good at (chic design and luxury branding) and what the world needs (branding and design services for female entrepreneurs).
I always love beautiful designs. Even when I was working in business advisory services, I enjoyed designing beautiful spreadsheets and presentations. Although the first side hustle I tried was health coaching, I got all the compliments from other people for my chic beautiful branding, design, and website. And people started asking for my services in branding and design. They loved my branding and website and wanted it for themselves too. Once I find my sweet spot, I have a much clearer vision of my path and it becomes much easier for me to move from doubt and fear into confidence and action. And I started to invest in courses and education that helped me build my expertise in branding. I just came back from Paris, where I did a summer course in luxury business and branding.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Launching a side hustle is not a small project. So I break it down into bite-sized projects with timeframes. I also treat my side hustle as a “business”, not a “hobby”. I mapped out a proper business plan, including the finances and taxes part. As I was launching my side hustle while I am still at 9-5, I specifically planned how to make my day job work for me.
Everyone’s situation is different. I was working full time as a Chartered Accountant while building my side hustle for several years before I finally left my full-time job. I decided to do that because this way, I have a steady income to support myself while building my side hustle and I don’t have to spend all the time and energy to find a new job and fitting into the new environment.
When I start stepping into my new entrepreneur identity and building my dream business, I realized how vital it is to stay in action. Doubt and fear are a normal part of the process. But I can’t let these emotions paralyze me; I need to get into action anyway. I worked with mentors and coaches to follow the proven success strategies to keep myself moving forward no matter what -- and begin building a habit of massive daily action.
Some of the actions I took at my initial stages include:
- Work on my mindset and personal development daily
- Determine my business name and structure
- Register for an Australian Business Number
- Identify my top 3 core values of my business
- Get crystal clear of my ideal client
- Create my offers and pricing
- Know my unique selling point (IPS) and create my elevator pitch
- Create a Moodboard for my visual brand identity
- Create a main logo, alternative log and submark
- Choose my brand fonts and colors
- Create your own website using my visual brand identity
- Update my existing social media profiles
- Set up a professional email with a branded signature
- Define my brand message
- Let people know I am in the business
- Work with mentors or coaches
- Create my brand content to add value to my audience and connect with my community
After I identified my sweet spot business idea, I started the business with the offer of branding and website design. I offered some free sessions and low-priced services in the beginning in order to build my portfolio. I got great testimonials from all my clients and gained more confidence in my side hustle. I started to increase the price of my services and plan my corporate exit date. Once I decided to give myself 6 months before quitting my job, I was committed to it and spread the word among my friends to ask for support to make it happen. Below is the email I sent to them. From that email, I get several clients and the business started to get more momentum and referrals coming, which helped me successfully quit my job 6 months later.
I hope that this finds you super well.
As you may know that it’s been a while working both my full-time job and nurturing my new side-hustle of branding and design. And I’m beyond excited to let you know that I will to leave my current job within the next 6 months and pursue this full time!
Crazy? Maybe. But as you know, I just love creating beautiful things and it lights me up!
I’d love and appreciate your help in making this happen by spreading the word!
So if you or anyone you know is looking for branding or website design, please reach out, and I’ll be happy to help!
Being in the early stages I’m offering super affordable packages for brand styling, branding design, and website design, which my clients have loved so far. You can check my Instagram story highlights for some of my client testimonials and the design work I have done. :)
Thank you so much in advance ***, wish me luck – I know it’ll be an incredible journey! And thank you for your support along the way!!
From my heart to yours,
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
I focused on creating a customer experience from on-boarding to completion of the project, and even after the projects are ended (e.g sending launch gifts and birthday surprises, etc). And then creating and practicing an effective referral system.
80% of my clients come from client referrals and word of mouth. 20% of sales come from my website and social media, where potential clients are attracted by my branding and design style when they land on my online presence.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
The business is growing and I have contractors, interns and VA in my team and I am currently expanding my team. The services we are offering expanded from branding and website design services when I first launched to now include personal styling and social media management and content creation as well.
I am currently building an online course “Your Signature Brand”, which will be launched by the end of this year so that I can help more female entrepreneurs building their brand and also generate passive income.
The long term vision for my business is a one-stop creative agency for female entrepreneurs, providing services from brand strategy and consultation, helping female social entrepreneurs access capital from investors and philanthropists, personal branding, content creation, and design, and digital marketing services. I see it to become a community for female entrepreneurs and together we give back and make a positive social impact.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I’d be lying if I said building the business was easy. You will have your doubts, fears, and insecurities pop up from time to time. But if your why is strong, the how won’t seem as daunting; the technology won’t seem as overwhelming; and the naysayers won’t get you down. I have my three why statements that keep me going:
- The big why statement reminding me of the value I can provide to other people through what I do and the big vision I have for my business
- The desire statement reminding me what’s in there for myself and my family if I build my business
- The pain statement reminding me of what it means if I don’t make this work? What does it mean if I can’t leave from my 9-5? What does it mean if I don’t get to live a life I love?
First, the pain pushes you, then the vision pulls you. - Dr. Michael Beckwith
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
- Google G suite: professional email.
- Acuity Scheduling: scheduling my appointments.
- Asana: project and team management.
- Screenflow: Make videos, record my screen.
- Wave: Billing and accounting.
- Squarespace: website.
- Adobe Creative Cloud: design software.
- Wistia: Video Hosting for Business: video hosting.
- Planoly: Instagram scheduling and posting.
- Zoom: online meetings.
- Dropbox: sharing files.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Light is the new black by Rebecca Cambell: The book inspired me to answer my soul’s highest calling, keep my creations potent, align my business to my soul and
scale it in a way that is sustainable, so I can create a life’s work, not a season.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
I know lots of people want to start a side hustle but don’t know how to choose the business idea that can turn their unique gifts, talents, and personality into their dream business. Having been through the process of building my side hustle and eventually left my corporate job, I would like to share the steps I took to find out my sweet spot business idea, which I have now built into a full-time business supporting the lifestyle I desire.
Step 1. Authenticity and Alignment
In order to find out the business idea that reflects who you are and fuels your desires and make your heart sing, you need to have a solid foundation of authenticity and alignment. Really take a moment to connect with your emotions around why you want to start a side hustle and go into business because it’s this emotional juice that’s going to fuel your actions, energize your message and allow you to step forward as the face and voice of your business and brand.
Now fill in the blank:
My business exist to help __________________________________________________;
My business allows me to __________________________________________________;
What will happen if I build my business?
What will happen if I don’t DON’T build my business?
For example, here are my answers:
My business exists to help female entrepreneurs turn their dreams into reality - one brand at a time and create soul-stirring beauty in their brand and life.
My business allows me to wake up every day with passion and excitement, do what lights me up and utilize my full potential and talents; have the flexibility and freedom to do it whenever and wherever I want; surround myself with like-minded talented and successful beautiful people.
If I build up my dream business, I’ll be working for myself with complete freedom, loving my work, and helping others create a brand and lifestyle they love. I’ll have combined all the things I love and believe in my business and brand.
If I don’t DON’T start my business, I will have to stay at a 9-5 job and work for someone else. I’ll be working hard to build someone else’s dream, instead of creating it for myself.
Step 2. The Hidden Treasure
Put on your detective hat and start looking for clues that will lead you to your sweet spot business idea. Everything in your life has prepared you perfectly to create the business you most want. Once you start mining the treasure, you’ll discover how the design of your life has led you to the specific industry and audience you’re most inspired to serve, and you’ll tap into a deep well of inspiration and purpose that motivates you to move forward.
In case you don’t know or haven’t heard about the discovery of African Diamonds, here is the story as retold by the author and speaker named “Phil Callaway”.
"During the years when diamonds were first being discovered in Africa, a farmer was intrigued by the promise of great wealth. Only one thing stood in his way. His farm had to be sold before he could set off in search of the diamonds that would make him a wealthy man. At last, the deal was done and he was free. Free to pursue his dream.
The search was long and painful. Trekking mile after weary mile across deserts and plains, through jungles and mountain passes, the farmer searched for the elusive diamonds. But none could be found.
Finally, penniless, sick, and utterly depressed, he took his own life by throwing himself into a raging river.
Back home, the man who had bought the farm carefully tilled the land. One day as he was planting a crop, he came across a strange-looking stone. Carrying it to the farmhouse, he placed it on the mantel.
A visitor to the farmer’s home saw the unusual stone over the fireplace, examined it, then turned to the new owner of the farm and said, “You have found one of the largest diamonds ever known to man.” Further investigation revealed that the entire farm was literally covered with similar magnificent stones. The farm sold by the first farmer turned out to be one of the richest, most productive diamond mines in the world.
One hundred years ago, Dr. Russell Herman Conwell traveled the United States telling and retelling this story. One hundred years later, we still need to hear it. You see, just like that farmer, too few of us take the time to investigate and polish what we already have. In our disappointment with the way things are, in our quest to get ahead, we fail to recognize the wealth in our own backyard. And we end up walking over untold riches every day."
Step 3. Strengths and Passions
Your strengths and passions are what will guide you to your sweet spot business idea. There are lots of exercises that can help you uncover your zone of genius or the hidden strengths and skills you may not realize you have and explore how to turn them into a profitable business idea. You can also ask the people in your life what they see in you as sometimes it’s just impossible to see yourself clearly. Another way to get insight is through a thorough personality test. Here are some tests I recommend:
- Fascination Advantage Assessment
- Wealth Dynamics
- StrengthsFinder 2.0
Step 4. The Sweet Spot
Your sweet spot business idea is the perfect intersection of what you love, what you are good at and what the world needs. Your business idea must solve a very specific and acknowledged market need and your target clients are willing to pay to have their problem solved. You can use your strengths to help them solve the problem and you enjoy doing that.
Step 5. Test Test Test
You now have a great idea, and you’re ready to dive into the side hustle. But, are you sure your idea is viable? Before investing and building your brand assets, you need to test your idea’s true potential and get feedback from the market.
Good luck, hustler.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I am looking for talented brand designers to join my team to assist with the design and production of branding, website and social media projects.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Elva Li has provided an update on their business!
11 months ago, we followed up with Elva Li to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
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