Hackernoon logoHow Elise built a thriving business as a Digital Nomad by@nisthatripathi

How Elise built a thriving business as a Digital Nomad

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@nisthatripathiNistha Tripathi

A journey from selling beard oils to helping clients make money on Amazon — all on road

People are racking up unbelievable profits selling on Amazon. Elise did just that and then started helping others to do it too. And, this is how — This is Unicorn — was born!

I’ve grown my most recent Amazon brand from Zero to 6-figures in just 6 months — Elise

Read this interview to find how Elise built her startup while traveling as a digital nomad!

Digital Nomadism may appear too casual to the onlookers but do not underestimate what Digital Nomads have been able to achieve.

When I did my first Digital Nomadic stint in Bali in 2016, it opened to me not only the frolics of globetrotting but the potential of setting up a serious business.

I met Elise Jackson in September, 2016 when she was rescuing few kittens in Ubud (Bali). The kittens survived and grew up into healthy cats that have 100K followers on Instagram now. No, let’s scratch that out. Bless the cats but this is not a kitty post (sorry, cats!). What Elise did marvelously well later on was to build her startup, This is Unicorn.

About Elise and the Business

Tell us more about what exactly you do

Elise: I help established brands launch and scale on Amazon. My consultancy, This is Unicorn, helps Amazon Vendors & Sellers with everything from PPC & AMS optimization & management, listing optimization, keyword ranking to account management, and more. I’m also an Amazon seller myself — I own brands and sell in the US & EU marketplaces. I’ve grown my most recent Amazon brand from Zero to 6-figures in just 6 months.

What is your academic background and how did you get into this field?

Elise: My academic background is in Economics & Social History — gender studies, cultural history, that kind of thing. I’ve always felt entrepreneurial and into marketing–I remember having big ideas for a one-of-a-kind joke book when I was about 9 that was going to be the Next Big Thing (the funny thing is that I can’t actually tell jokes myself so it wouldn’t have been very good) — but I always gravitated towards startups.

My most recent role before I made the jump for myself was for an amazing startup in London, ‘SoPost’ — I’d always wanted to work in a small startup and help shape the team from the start.

I had the chance to build up the account management team from scratch to four people, working with clients such as L’Oreal, Burberry, Benefit Cosmetics, P&G etc. It was a blast!

At the same time, I was closely watching what was going on in the ecommerce space — new independent brands were growing up and really challenging these existing, household names, and it was becoming easier with platforms such as Shopify and Amazon. I wanted to be a part of that movement too.

So I left London, moved to Bali, started my own, and here I am now!

How long have you been doing this? What are few ideas you tried before this?

Elise: I started my first e-commerce brand in Oct 2015. I’d read an article on the Shopify blog about how a team challenged themselves to create a brand & start selling within 72 hours. I loved this idea, so 2 friends and myself challenged ourselves to do the same, but in 48 hours!

We started a brand called The Shoreditch Beard, selling amazing blends of Beard Oil. Through this experience, I started to learn more about the Amazon platform, and all the strategies & tactics specific to it. It seemed like a good model, so I decided to launch another brand, solely on Amazon.

I’ve learned so much in the last 2 years and I’ve taken my most recent brand from zero to six figures in just 6 months. My partner Gianluca joined the team a few months ago as well — he’s a technical product manager who’s obsessed about processes and before helping me, he helped VC-backed tech startups in London.

I see very few brands with these resources, especially when they’re starting out. We’ve built scalable, repeatable processes & a reliable team that have helped my brands grow. Everything from keyword & listing optimisation to PPC management, to customer service templates and VA hiring, and more.

So I thought to myself, how can we help other brands & use the same structure and processes we’ve put in place for my own? It seemed logical to share our skills with other brands who are experiencing the same challenges on Amazon we had when we started out. Hence we started ‘This is Unicorn’.

Why is it interesting? What motivates you to keep doing it?

Elise: I love seeing a product come to life, whether it’s my own or it’s a client’s — from researching a market, talking to customers, to executing a design concept and seeing the product arrive in customers’ hands. When I see our clients excited about their business growth and we’ve helped them make that a reality, that’s the cherry on top.

Please share some impact you have created on your client’s life by doing this.

Elise: You know, a lot of problems businesses have can be solved by generating more revenue. And that’s the main thing we do for our clients.

One of our UK clients has seen a monthly revenue increase of 37% while maintaining the same advertising cost on sales margins.

We did this by working on their AMS (sponsored ads) campaigns and listing optimization. These are effective tools that clients often don’t have the knowledge nor the time to use at their full potential.

What’s important though is that we’re focussed on knowing Amazon inside out. Our clients love that they don’t need to learn all the expertise necessary to scale & grow Amazon, instead they can focus on creating new products and growing their ranges.

The Digital Nomad aspect of it

Tell us about your last one year — how has it been in terms of living, traveling, working etc!

Elise: I dreamed of the Digital Nomad lifestyle, working and traveling at the same time, 1 month here, 1 month there. My partner and I left London to do exactly that, and ended up in Bali for a year! We realized that we like having somewhere we can call home — it gives us some kind of stability.

Now I would say I’m a location-independent entrepreneur — I just need my laptop and my brain to work on my business, and I’m not tied to a desk in any particular city.

We’ve decided to call Barcelona our home for the next couple of years while we build up the agency. We still travel a lot, but now the travel is more relaxing, because we take time off.

How has being a digital nomad helped you in your journey?

Elise: Digital nomadism has influenced my journey & business in a few ways, both good & bad.

Here’s the good: it’s opened up a new way of working for me, of building a team, being able to learn from & collaborate with amazing, talented people from around the world. Half of the Unicorn team are based remotely, half here in Barcelona, and our internal processes & tools mean that each member of the team can be location-independent. That’s super cool!

And the bad: Leaving London meant I left a lot of my support network behind: friends, colleagues, mentors. When you’re traveling a lot, you’re constantly starting friendships, and it can be hard deepen those friendships and build a strong nomadic support network. It takes time to find your feet in a new place and personally, that impacts my productivity.

Where do you work from when you are traveling?

Elise: I usually work from our office in Barcelona. Either I travel to take a break, get out of the day to day tasks & think more clearly — and I try not to take my laptop. Or, if I’m traveling for work, I prefer to work in a cafe or from a hotel lounge.

How do you maintain the discipline to be your own boss? How do you take care of time management, accountability for example.

Elise: It’s hard sometimes! Of course, working with a team and clients helps as it keeps me on my toes and accountable to them. I’ve learned that I need routine to enable me to be more consistent and time-effective.

I do 30 mins of yoga every morning when I wake up — it helps me bring focus to the start of my day. I rely on project management software — we’re currently using Asana in the team. I also have a Mastermind group that I check in with twice a month, and I’ve recently started checking in with an accountability partner regularly for goal setting.

I suggest that everyone should find out what feels right for them specifically. Learn about the way you naturally do things — I really recommend the Kolbe test. For a while I was being very rigid, forcing myself to exactly copy the routines of other people, without realising they actually ran counter to my natural skills. Now I allow myself a more flexibility — I’m much more productive & happier this way.

What is your best and worst moment as an entrepreneur?

Elise: Best moment — everyday I learn something new, and that’s empowering. lt is a constant challenge to become better at what I do, and I love that feeling.

Worst — when you’re working on your own, it can get lonely. Too much time spent behind a laptop screen isn’t healthy, and certainly not what I’m built for!

As a woman, what is your experience of being an entrepreneur and digital nomad. What do you think stops women from reaching their true potential?

Elise: I remember someone once telling me that a man will apply for a role if he fits 60% of the requirements, but a woman will only apply if she fits 100% — that really stuck with me. I often think we have an expectation to be amazing at something before we jump into it.

But how can we already be amazing if we’ve never done it before?

What is your advice (can share 2–3 advices) to other entrepreneurs?

Elise: 1. Learn more everyday — learning new skills, keeping up with trends, that’s what will keep our minds young in the long run

2. Stay healthy — you can only change the world if you’re alive & kicking

3. Move precisely — don’t try to create a business in a day. This is like the hare & the tortoise: don’t rush, think too short-term & burn out (I have to remind myself of this a lot!).

What drives you every morning?

Elise: The fact that I am responsible for creating my own happiness, every day.

Oh, and what happened to those kittens you rescued? :)

Elise: Aska & Luigi made it all the way to Barcelona with me! A logistical nightmare but all worth it in the end — they make me smile so much everyday 😻🐾


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