Women in Business: Ellis Sisto of Ellis Wilson Designs

I'm so excited to begin a new blog series! I enjoyed getting to know and share the stories of some of my favorite mommas in business (I hope you did too!), and now we're expanding to showcase more fantastic WOMEN in business! Get to know their stories, how they got started, what keeps them up at night, and how they're constantly working to improve. It's my hope that by sharing their journeys that you'll feel inspired in your work, too!

M E E T   E L L I S


Name: Ellis Sisto

Ellis Wilson Designs

How long have you been doing what you're doing?

We started the company July of 2018 and had our first product launch April 2019. 

What does your typical day look like?
Everyday is different when you own your business. Some days are so crazy that you look up at 3pm and realize you haven't moved from your desk since 9. Others I work in the morning and take the afternoon for myself then get back to it after dinner. The consistent aspects of our work day is responding to emails, communicating with our manufacturing team, and working on future designs.

What's your favorite part of your day?
My favorite part of the day is around 7pm. I am usually on my back porch watching the Florida sunset. I always take a moment to reflect on what I accomplished that day and be thankful. It is my moment to be mindful and grateful for all of the wonderful people in my life and the opportunity to start my own business.

Morning person or night owl?
Neither! But if I had to pick, I'd go with night owl. I am slow moving in the morning and like to take my time starting my day but also love an early bed time.

Do you work out of your home or an office/studio?
We work out of our home. We have an office area and storage room in our home. When deciding to run our business from our home, it was important to me to establish areas that were strictly business to prevent having hundreds of handbags living on every surface in our home.

Are you a solopreneur or do you have a team with you?
My husband, Matt, is my business partner. We both work on different aspects of the business but there is a lot of overlap. We are really lucky to have complementing skill sets: a lot of the things I enjoy doing are not fun for him, and he can do a lot of things that I'd rather pull my hair out than do every day. We enjoy working together too.

When, how, and why did you know this was the business you wanted to start?
After leaving a career in the jewelry industry in NYC and moving to Florida, I knew I wanted to work in some aspect of the luxury industry. The more I thought about what I wanted my life to look to like, I knew I wanted to have my own company. I enjoy working but also love freedom and flexibility. I also knew it would be extremely rewarding building a company and directly benefiting from every ounce of work you put in to it.

What's the scariest part of starting your own business?
The scariest part is definitely "will people like my product"? In the past, I have always represented someone else's designs so I wasn't offended if someone didn't like it. Now I have to remind myself that everyone has different taste and not everyone will like what I design and that is OK! You definitely have to have a thick skin. Another scary aspect: finances. You are responsible for paying the bills and budgeting... which has never been a strength of mind but I am learning!

What's the most rewarding?
I love when people receive one of my handbags and I get a phone call or text hearing how much they love it. Quality and craftsmanship were the most important to me and it is extremely rewarding when our clients recognize that in the product.

What's one thing you've done so far in 2019 that you're proud of?
Of the million things we did leading up to now, launching the website is the one that sticks out. From getting into the code to map the email servers (thank you youtube for the tutorials), to making sure all the stock images were consistent with both the background of the site and the actual products, we worked tirelessly to prepare for the April launch of our line and it has definitely paid off.

What is something you struggle with and how do you work to improve?
I get anxious easily over things that really shouldn't bother me. It is a constant battle to keep cool and realize that everything always works out. I have to remind myself that I spent nine months building a solid foundation for this business and that I am prepared for and capable of whatever is thrown at me.

Something you know now that you wish you knew when you started?
When I started this business, I wish that I would have had a mindset of "(most) everything is fixable". I was so worried about making decisions that I would do mental gymnastics for weeks over simple things. I have gotten a lot better about being at peace with myself when making decisions about our business. My new mantra is "make the best decision with the information you have".

Advice for anyone thinking of starting a business?
Set aside money in your budget to hire people who can complement and erase your weaknesses. For instance, I hired a lawyer and accounting team to help create a solid foundation for my business. That isn't to say that you can't do most things yourself... but it is important to recognize where you might need some help. I think one of my strengths has always been hiring people with skill sets that I don't have and it has always made a huge difference in my level of success.

What's your definition of success?
This is a hard one to answer because it's always evolving. At first "success" was selling a few bags, then it became "are we making enough to keep expanding and adding new lines," and now success to me is feeling secure in what we're doing but still being right at that edge of finding that next move that I'm excited about. As long as we're growing I'm happy.

What are you currently listening to or reading?
I always listen to the podcast "How I Built This". It inspires me as well as makes me realize what I could be doing differently with my business. It also reminds me that some business have overnight success while others take years to build. I just finished reading "The Circle". I believe that it is a must read - it will give you a frightening view of how our world could operate if social media takes over all government processes. I'm a sucker for all country music but my guilty pleasure: I love to jam to rap - it pumps me up! Matt calls it "Ellis Ratchet Music"

Where have you travelled lately that you haven't stopped thinking about?
Last September I went on an amazing trip to Italy with my dear friend, Courtney. We spent time at Lake Garda which is about an hour from Milan and then headed south to Capri. Both places are truly magical. Capri is now my favorite spot that I've ever visited.

Who do you look up to? Who gives you inspiration?
My mom. Not only for the role she played as a parent and all the values she instilled in me, but also as another businesswoman. She opened a pie shop a few years ago and watching her hustle, watching her carry her team and ride the ups and downs of a new business was truly inspiring. What she does is much more physically demanding than what we do too, so I'm amazed at her grit being able to manage the mental and physical and still keep her happy disposition.Truly an inspiration.

Why is it important to shop with small, independent designers and shops?
Supporting small businesses strengthens communities from the inside out. We create jobs locally and the money tends to stay within the community which is super important. In a lot of cases with American made products, there's also a significant positive effect on the environment. You also can't beat the level of customer service you will receive from a small business compared to a big box store. We take care of our customers!

What is your most treasured accessory? Why?
My most treasured accessory is a Loro Piana scarf that my husband gave me when we first started dating. I wear it all of the time and it goes with everything. It is beautiful but also sentimental.

The Mary Frances Flowers piece(s) you love or are dying to have?
I purchased the MFF Web Cuff about five years ago and I am still as in love with it now as I was the day I purchased it. I love bigger statement pieces and the web cuff is just that! I would love to add the wide birch ring to my collection. It is a feminine take on a cigar band and I am obsessed with it!
Thanks so much for sharing, Ellis! Shop Ellis Wilson Designs on their website HERE and follow along on Instagram HERE.
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