Elaine Rau is an international blogger. She accrued an organic following of 20,000+ followers in just under a year after she started LadyBossBlogger.com. She blogs about female entrepreneurs from all over the world, documenting their journeys in order to inspire and encourage other ladypreneurs. Her desire is to fill the media with stories about powerful women and change women’s mindsets about themselves. The media plays a powerful part in how we see ourselves, what we think we can achieve, and what limitations we put on ourselves as well. The more women are properly portrayed, the more women will rise up in leadership and push past their self-limiting beliefs.
1. What is your background?
My background is in sales in the wedding industry. I have sold everything from bridal dresses to tuxedos to venues to photo/video to wedding planning packages. Basically if anyone needed help selling anything wedding related - I was the one to do it. I could sell in my sleep, but I craved a creative outlet. So I started researching how to break into the world of online magazines, and that is how I got introduced to blogging.
2. How has your life experience shaped you as a leader and business owner today?
I was in a verbally abusive and degrading job situation… and I didn’t even realize it. I was hired pretty fresh out of college and didn’t know what to expect in a job and let it go on for two whole years before realizing the kind of situation I was in. I had worked my way up to being the National Wedding Sales Manager in two short years and was in charge of the entire Midwest and West Coast territories. My work was my life, but I didn’t mind because I loved what I did, plus it was 100% commission - so I couldn't stop. I always had my phone on me and took calls at all hours… and was completely oblivious to how my work environment was slowly changing how I viewed myself and my capabilities.
I have always considered myself a strong and independent woman, however the longer I was with the company, the less I felt I had to offer to the world and thought that this job was it for me. It got so bad that I was scared to leave because I didn’t think I would find anything better. I didn’t realize that this was due to being talked down to every day and having my suggestions devalued at every turn. I am a very creative person so to be locked in a box without flexibility was very hard and what made it worse was that I didn’t even realize it so I couldn’t even call it out for what it was.
I had asked my boss if I could go see my fiancé for Christmas, who lived in Honduras at the time, and he gave me four days (including flight time) to go see him. One month after I got back, my fiancé’s brother was brutally murdered. I asked my boss if I could go be with him during this time and his answer was, “No. It will affect your work and it is busy season.” That was the exact moment that I realized - my boss didn’t care about me one bit. I was a working machine to him and he owned my life.
A few days later I tried to quit. Once again he denied my request. It came to a point where I had to hire a lawyer to help me quit because my boss wouldn’t let me go and I couldn’t stand up to him by myself. My boss then confiscated my personal laptop because he said it contained proprietary information that needed to be cleaned out and started blaming me for ruining the reputation of the company. He then went on to say that I should watch my back since I was no longer a part of the company and he could no longer ‘protect me’ if some ‘legal charges’ were to pop up against me. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I was terrified.
After I was finally freed from my ordeal, I cried for a good week. I was so relieved and at the same time so shocked at myself for letting something like that happen to me! If it were anyone else I would have called it out a long time ago, but I was blinded by my obsession with my job. My job had become my identity and letting it go wasn’t easy. I felt like I had just gone through a messy breakup and my emotions were everywhere. But I needed to collect myself so I could be there for my fiancé. So I bought my ticket, packed my life into two suitcases and moved to Central America.
After I moved, things started getting hard again. I was in a completely foreign environment and didn’t speak the language either. I felt lonely and purposeless and not being able to find a job that I enjoyed didn’t help either. Once again I was fully reliant on a man, my fiancé, and I hated it. Luckily he is the most patient, kindhearted, and compassionate man in the world and was able to see past my hurtful words and angry episodes and walk beside me towards healing my hardened heart. He spoke highly of me and encouraged me every single day to not worry about anything else except finding my own path. Ironically, I thought I moved down there to help him, but he ended up helping me more!
I decided to figure out what my biggest motivations in life were so I could get my life back on track. By looking deep into the core of my being, I realized that I really wanted to elevate and encourage women in business so that they wouldn't end up like me. I also wanted to learn from other ladies to see how they made it in their careers and glean knowledge from their insight. I couldn’t afford a mentor, so I decided to create an interview platform where I could ask them hard questions and learn from their answers. That was the first step I took towards healing my shattered confidence.
I bought the domain, www.ladybossblogger.com, because I figured I wanted to blog about lady bosses on a blog! So I started learning about WordPress and setting my site up. A week later however, I started to loose steam and wanted to quit and go back to what I knew and potentially blog about the wedding industry. But I forced myself to focus and took a chance instead to see if I could monetize it, knowing that would be the driving factor I needed to keep going… and it worked! A few days later I made my first entrepreneurial dollars and was ELATED and from that day on my entrepreneurial journey began.
I decided to interview myself on my own blog since I had become an entrepreneur and how I learned how to make money from nothing, you can read it here. Now a year later, I look back at all I have accomplished in business and in life, and cannot be more thankful. If I hadn’t pulled myself out of my comfort zone and gone into the great unknown, I would not be where I am today. Through this experience, I discovered how much strength I had within and once I started piecing myself back together again, I became a better and stronger version of who I was and I hope to inspire others to do the same.
3. What is the most important lesson you've learned as an entrepreneur?
There will always be people who don’t value the work you do or don’t believe in your services, but never let their comments affect you. Always respond in kindness. There is actually a strategy to being nice. I always respond to potential clients who are hostile to me online with exceeding kindness and show support for their business, then figure out a way to come up with a win-win solution. More often than not, I have not only been able to retain them as a client, but they then become my biggest fans and bring in the best referrals. People like to do business with people they like and I like to win people over.
4. What do you think is the biggest challenge female entrepreneurs face today?
What I have discovered from editing interviews daily is that women struggle with selling and promoting themselves. Oftentimes people don’t want to come across as “salesy” and that is understandable, but I think it is deeper than that. Women in general lack confidence and this starts at a really young age due to how women are depicted in the media. By depicting more powerful women in the media, hopefully we can start to change this pattern.
5. What advice can you offer to aspiring female entrepreneurs?
I want to encourage you today and let you know that there is strength inside of you that you may not have discovered yet, but is something you need to uncover.
Entrepreneurship is hard and you need to give it everything you’ve got… the good news is that you have what it takes if you believe in yourself. The first step is simply to take the first step. Stop talking about what you want to do, stop thinking about how your life can be different and do something about it. Nothing changes by itself, if you want something to change, be the change. If you want to start a blog, buy a domain. If you want to start an online store, start researching! Do something every single day towards your goals and I promise that you will start to see progress.
I had no idea what I was doing when I bought my domain, all I knew was that I needed to do something. Now only a year later, I have featured 400+ female entrepreneurs, been featured on 30+ websites and just got published on the Huffington Post! Also my first book feature arrived on my doorstep today! I am on page 94-97 of “Unforgettable Faces and Stories: Stories Of New Beginnings”. All this couldn’t have happened if I simply wished for and dreamed about and did nothing. Invest in your future today.
6. Which female leaders do you admire and why?
Helena Rubinstein – she founded an eponymous cosmetics company in an age when women didn’t found companies at all, and managed to become one of the world’s richest women due to its overwhelming success.
Margaret Hamilton – she worked for MIT, and coded much of the software required for the Apollo missions of the 1960’s and 70’s. She even coined the term “software engineering”. Given that technology was – and still is – such a male-dominated sphere, Hamilton’s achievements are all the more impressive.
Both of these women broke the rules and helped pave the way for women today. We need more rule breakers and street pavers, and I hope my work in filling the media with powerful women can serve as an inspiration for more ladies to rise up and do the same.