Hattie Elliot on Growing Your Business by Making it Less About You

In Chapter 5 of 19 in her 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, female entrepreneur Hattie Grace Elliot answers "What Obstacles are You Trying to Overcome as You Grow Your Business?"  Elliot learns to make her business less about her and her personal brand and more about The Grace List events, and progressively the destination trips, that allow her business to grow.  This helps her create a more manageable business model that can scale and benefit from her business network relationships. 

Hattie Grace Elliot is the founder and CEO of The Grace List, a social networking company that creates destination events and experiences to forge lasting personal and professional connections across its young professional members. Elliot graduated from the University of Cape Town in South Africa, where she studied economics, philosophy, and politics.


Erik Michielsen: What obstacles are you trying to overcome to grow your business?

Hattie Elliot: This has actually been a really, really challenging but incredible year for The Grace List. There’s always gonna be evolution, it’s always gonna be a work in progress. But I got to the point where I realized that I was beginning to get just—I was really kind of worn out, and I was starting to lose what I think made me so great at what I do which was this genuine, unadulterated love for bringing people together, for people themselves, for creating this wonderful—these amazing environments to connect them within. And I think that when I really had to reflect back and look at what are the issues that I’m having, why am I feeling this way, which was a tough process, and I realized that it’s because for the amount of effort I’m putting in, you know?

I feel like the business needs to be more profitable, so then I had to reevaluate the profitability, what makes money, what doesn’t. Then I realized it needs to be more scalable because it’s so Hattie-centric, you know, after I had this huge lawsuit, this intellectual property suit over the name of the company, I really stepped forward myself as kind of the pillar of the company, you know, and I did a lot of TV and I did this reality show, and—I really did that to keep the company afloat during a tough time, but in order for the company now to go to the next level, I needed to really make it less Hattie-centric and more scalable by kind of stepping back again, and making sure that the business would work and could grow if I wasn’t there. 

So those were two like really big things--profitability and scalability, so there was, you know, some major restructuring that happened. I realized that doing these events every single week, as much as I used to love them, was just exhausting. And I started losing my love for it, because it just felt between kind of hustling—making sure that, you know, we got people there, and actually setting up the event, the prep and then the cleanup and then actually putting together—all these like little thoughtful things that made the events wonderful, you know, when you’re doing it every single week in all these cities, it was exhausting. However what did make money was we started doing these big trips. 

So I decided I was gonna focus more on doing destination houses, and doing these big trips, and less on the weekly events. So that kind of solved the profitability factor, ‘cause we really make money off of membership fees, and ideally events, so now, hello, like, it’s going much more profitable, it’s also scalable because once you’ve kind of come up with a formula for these destination houses, like certain special thoughtful touches, and what people expectations they can have, you can really turn it over, you know, that formula, these special things that I do, and have other people running these different houses and trips part-time. 

And also in terms of scalability, I decided that it would be a really good idea to bring on a board of advisers and to help continue to just—to really do justice to our demographic by growing it organically through friends, and friends of friends, but doing it so through their networks. And these are people who I felt were representative of the Grace List, you know, accomplished, fun, adventurous, dynamic, just really wonderful people from different—a really diverse group of people from all over the States and all over the world, who really had great networks of their own. And that they could really take ownership in the business and get involved, and that they could be faces for the business. Because it’s all about just great people and that we could grow the membership with—through their networks, and their contacts, and it really also meant that because the destination—the offering now—the Grace List offering is much more destination based and travel based that we can open up membership worldwide. 

So it really means the business is incredibly scalable because we’re getting houses in the most, you know, exquisite and exclusive locations in the world, Aspen, you know, London, Saint Barts, The Hamptons, you know, Cape Town South Africa, so they’re places that, you know, for people of a certain age, who travel a lot, and want to mix business with pleasure, and go to these extraordinary destinations. It doesn’t matter whether you live in London or Montreal or New York, you can, you know, really reap the benefits of membership.