The In-Between: Ellie Richardson

The In-Between: Ellie Richardson

Ellie is the Founder and Owner of cute clean fun LLC and launched Bling Wipes in 2012. Before launching Bling Wipes, Ellie worked in sales for an online billing and financial management company. She attended USC and resides in Pasadena with her husband and son. Author's Note: Ellie and I first met at age four, and she had killer birthday parties. We went to different high schools and lost touch until Facebook discovered our shared passion for entrepreneurship.




What did you want to be when you were a little girl? 

When I was very young I always wanted to work with animals. I thought I would make a good vet one day. Later on I dreamt of being Katie Couric. I even went to college to study Broadcast Journalism but eventually had a change of heart and went a different direction.

What was your very first job? 

Babysitter, tennis instructor and restaurant hostess: all jobs I held before going to college. I started working as soon as I could start working. I don’t know what it was; I just wanted to work. Like the young kid who starts with a lemonade stand and ends up an entrepreneur. Teaching tennis, between 14-17, was my first job where I received a paycheck, which felt pretty great. And I loved the responsibility- I had to be on time, I had to be a good role model, people were depending on me. I was always looking for some way to be useful, and always felt the need to be contributing.

Hostessing was much more serious. It was the first time I had an interview and filled out an application. I was super nervous. But I loved it. I loved being at the front of the restaurant, loved talking to customers and getting to know the business. You had to learn the little details that go into making the restaurant run smoothly. It was a really great way to see what it takes to keep the whole operation humming.

What was your major in college? 

I did a double major in Art History and Public Relations.

Did you want to pursue a career in that field? 

I did. I interned at the LA County Museum of Art as well as an art gallery in Pasadena (CA). I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do but I considered a lot of different options.

When you got out of school, what did you do?

The week after I graduated from college I met my first employer, who also became an early mentor and friend of mine. He is an entrepreneur and had started a financial management company for fraternities and sororities. He started it based on his own experience as a college treasurer. He saw potential in me, offered me an interview and hired me shortly after. He is a total, flesh and blood entrepreneur. You can’t work with an entrepreneur and not catch that bug to start something of your own. I learned so much working under him.

For how long? 

Seven years. I started as a sales rep and worked my way up to Director of Sales and Marketing. My boss believed in me and with that gave me creative control and decision-making power, which gave me self-confidence and self-motivation. Helping grow the company gave me the ability to see that you can make something entrepreneurial happen if you work at it.

Did you find it fulfilling? What did you take from it? 

Absolutely; I’m incredibly grateful for my experience there. I learned so much and was able to see first hand what it meant to start and run your own company. I loved working for a product I believed in and I knew made people’s lives easier. I met so many great people during my travels and trade shows. I look back very fondly on my time there and know how lucky I was to have such an incredible opportunity right out of college that ended up being a long time career.

How did you plan your next move? Did you plan your next move?

There was not much planning for me. My husband proposed to me in November of 2009 and I soon had the idea for a jewelry cleaning towelette. I was traveling for work and I noticed my ring could use some cleaning up but I couldn’t find the solution I was looking for on Amazon. I could not get the idea out of my head and would talk about it all the time. I worked on the idea for a few years and once I had something I talked to my boss and explained what I was hoping to do. Being the entrepreneur he was, he completely supported me and my decision to take this great leap, and I went off to start this journey.

How did you start? 

I wrote a business plan on to lay out the process and make sure that what I was envisioning would be a viable business. I talked to a lot of people about my idea, and, along the way, I received a lot of feedback, both positive and negative. But we kept at it, knocking things out bit by bit. I spent a lot of energy on branding and design. There was a time when I had an entire wall in our apartment covered with potential Bling Wipes logos. We would invite people over for dinner and then get their feedback on graphic design. And then I turned to product development. I had to secure all of my vendors. And then set up payment processing, get insurance… all that fun stuff.

What was the scariest thing about it? 

Everything! I had a great job and felt secure and I was going to leave it to see if this idea of mine would work, most people would think I was crazy. People have ideas all the time but they don’t always turn them into something. The financial risk is obviously frightening and not to mention the questions of, “will anyone like my product?” Do other people want to clean their rings as much as I do? Will they like our colors and branding? I had millions of questions like these running through my mind. The entire process is terrifying and invigorating all at once.

What is been the most rewarding part of what you’re doing now?

I love seeing, reading and hearing feedback from people who use and love our product. I love talking to my retailers who have customers that love our product. I love the relationships I have built along the way and the fact that all this work my husband and I put into something became something. It is just a really amazing feeling.

What is the most challenging thing about growing and scaling? 

As you grow, the challenges never go away. Just when you think you are smooth sailing there is a bump in the road or a new challenge that presents itself. This is all part of growing and every challenge is a learning opportunity.

I have learned that it can help to hire your weaknesses so that you can use your strengths to optimize efficiency but I also believe in understanding all parts of your business so you know exactly what it takes to run your company. I could work our warehouse, handle our books, oversee customer service, and more, if I needed to. I’m not saying I am the best at all of these things, just that I know what it takes to handle each area if necessary. I think it is important as an entrepreneur to understand each area of your business even if you are not in charge of it on a daily basis. It’s such a balancing act: It’s so important to be deeply connected to your product, but it’s also important to be able to take a step back.

What is your biggest weakness? 

Trying to do it all.

What is your biggest strength? 

Maybe my weakness is also my strength. The fact that I attempt everything and at least give it a try.

Are there any goal setting, organizational or other tools you must have?

My Google calendar. I'm not sure what I would do without it but it would probably mean missed meetings, skipped doctors appointments and I would be late to everything! It might seem obvious but that is my must have organizational too. I probably should look into getting a few more though! I have never considered myself super organized.

What do you see in your future (work, life, everything)? 

This question has come up a lot lately and my answer might not be very exciting. I am starting to really focus on spending time in the present as opposed to the past or the future. I have a 2 year-old son and he has made me so aware of how precious the “right now” is in life that I don’t want to miss it.

I try not to look too far ahead these days and get caught up into what is to come because really, truly all we have is right now. Being a business owner you obviously need to look down the road but it also is so important to focus on your company today and by doing so you can build a strong company for the future.

There are exciting things to come fore Bling Wipes and if I had to look into the future I would hope to see growth for both my family and our company.

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