#33: Hayley Nivelle, Founder of Ellie


ellie is an app to make the administrator’s job easier, and give parent group members what they deserve—a centralized place to connect and efficiently communicate with other parents, in a manner that gives them control over the content they consume. Hayley's moms groups have been an invaluable part of her journey as a mom, important for everything from birthday and holiday gift ideas to serious questions about baby development, sleep regressions, breastfeeding, weaning, illnesses, going back to work, and things to do.

UL: What do you consider your top 3 core values and how do they affect how you lead your business? 

HN: I highly value authenticity, collaboration and commitment. I’ve found that you’re better off being authentic with everyone you work with from day one—whether it’s your co-workers, potential business partners, or users. Authenticity cuts out the noise and allows all stakeholders to focus on what matters. I love collaborating, and getting other people’s viewpoint and opinions. The other day, my colleague said, “I hope I didn’t challenge you too much on that point” and I said—never say that to me again! I want to be forced to defend my position, or to be convinced that another way is better. And that’s also why the app is so crucial for parents—it’s so important to crowd source info and learn how other people are doing things. Doesn’t mean you’ll change your mind, but more info never hurts. As for inclusion, I am very open minded and expect the same of those around me. Everyone is trying to do their best and that’s one of the core values of the ellie app. Parents come to our app for advice, community and to be lifted up. Parenting is much easier when you don’t do it alone. We don’t tolerate hurtful or derogatory comments on the app.

UL: Can you share a time you either thought you failed, or actually did fail? How did you react and move past it, and what impact did it have on business decisions?

HN: I’m failing more now than I ever have before, but that’s because I’m taking more risks than ever before. Since founding the ellie app, I’m regularly failing, growing, failing, learning, failing, growing…but in the end, it’s always for the better. Learning how to run a development team, and an app has been full of challenges. I’ve rushed to release new features to our parents, only to discover we released bugs at the same time. It has forced me to slow down, take a step back and make better long-term decisions.

UL: What types of projects do you have coming up that we can look forward to seeing in the future?

HN: ellie is an app for parenting groups as an alternative to Facebook. Anyone can download the app and create a group on it, customize topic for their group or join a group and share advice. We went live a few months ago and we’re looking to grow rapidly in 2019. There will be new groups popping up in cities across the country—from NYC to Kansas City to LA. We can’t wait to see everyone on the app!

#32: Kiki Slaughter, Artist & Creative

Kiki's work is an experiment with the fundamental process of painting. She pours, scrapes, layers and otherwise manipulates paint on the canvas to create works that are rich in both color and texture. In addition to my abstract canvas', her aesthetic now covers jewelry, wallpaper and textiles.

UL: What do you consider your top 3 core values and how do they affect how you lead your business?

KS: Family is my foundation. They are a constant source of love and support. Since having a family of my own, my studio time is more precious but I am more inspired than ever to create. My wish is that my kids find something they are equally as passionate about.

Creativity fuels me. My hands ache when I am not creating something. I strive for creative flow in the studio because that is when the magic happens.

Intuition leads the way. I paint very much in the moment, a controlled freedom, and rely on my gut instincts to tell me what to do next whether it be on the canvas or with my business.

UL: Can you share a time you either thought you failed, or actually did fail? How did you react and move past it, and what impact did it have on business decisions? 

KS: I feel like I fail a little every day ... whether it be as a mom, artist, friend etc. I will never master the work or life juggling act, but I can learn and grow from the ups and downs and embrace the chaos. Like life, in the studio my best work happens when I paint in the moment and trust that mistakes are part of the process.

UL: What types of projects do you have coming up that we can look forward to seeing in the future?

KS: I always love collaborations. I developed some fabric with Quirk Hotel, a beautifully 'quirky" boutique hotel in Virginia, that will be used in their guest rooms. I'm also having fun creating painterly wallpaper with Feathr, a European based wallpaper company.

I am really passionate about a series of paintings dedicated to my healing journey. I have spent the last four years struggling with a number of health issues, from labor complications to epstein-barr virus to lyme disease. The methods and tools that have helped me heal, including acupuncture, reiki and kundalini, have become my muses and I want to express their essence through my art. I hope my paintings will speak to and inspire others in their own journey.

#31: Jacqueline Courtney, Founder of Nearly Newlywed

Jacqueline started Nearly Newlywed with the money she got from reselling her wedding dress. She launched NearlyNewlywed.com out of her living room with the support of her husband, family, and women all over the U.S. who sent their gowns to her apartment address and believed in what she wanted to build: A marketplace offering reused wedding dresses from the best designers at the best prices. A bridal revolution.

UL: What do you consider your top 3 core values and how do they affect how you lead your business?

JC: Grit, Gratitude and Bravery. Those are big words but they actually found me in a funny way. I was watching the show 30 Rock with my husband and in it, Alec Baldwin’s character is trying to psych himself up for a speech. Right before he goes on stage he screams in the mirror a series of slogans that are so well known it’s funny & silly, but it has always stuck with me.
He screamed:
"JUST DO IT (@nike)
IS IT IN YOU? (@gatorade)
IM LOVIN’ IT!!! (@mcdonalds)"
If you don’t know the show/clip, I recommend finding it on YouTube, it’s really funny and super short.
But anyway, the more I would say it to myself half joking, the more I realized that the slogans he hurled at his reflection embodied three of my central core values that I most appreciate and want to further develop. It is also probably a good lesson as to the universality of plugging your branding into deep-seated core values that we all aspire to in a larger regard, with or without fastfood and sports, but I digress :)
And so….

Bravery. JUST DO IT. Literally. Do it. Act. Do the thing I’m scared of or putting off or pretending I don’t know how or can’t. Just do it. Take the risk. Make the play. Give it a shot. Break down the fear and perceived problems. It’s all there.

Grit. IS IT IN YOU? - mmmm grit. Is it? Reminding myself what I’m made of. That I know I have what it takes and it’s there even when I want to pretend it isn’t or hide or get scared. Looking in the mirror and reminding myself I can do it and I am great and it IS in me. All of it. And to get after it.
Gratitude. IM LOVIN’ IT! - perhaps the best one and silly because it’s a fast food slogan but it makes me smile, which is actually, sometimes, the point! Reminding myself to love it. All of it. To be present and grateful and to try to enjoy the ride and the texture of it all. Working to learn to love and embrace the hard stuff, the fun stuff, the stressful stuff. Because all that there is is my experience of it, it’s happening in real time. If I can celebrate and embrace it all as it happens, I am stronger, happier, more alive and more equipped to deal with things as they come at me.

Oh can I pick 4? Collaboration over competition. Always. There is literally room for all of us to grow and help each other get where we are going. It feels good, its effective, and we need more of it.

UL: Can you share a time you either thought you failed, or actually did fail? How did you react and move past it, and what impact did it have on business decisions?

JC: One that sticks with me, I can feel my tummy flutter when I think about it still 12 years later, is when I was a press assistant at my first job out of college. The founder of the international agency was in town for an event in the Hamptons and I wanted desperately to impress her. It was to be an intimate gathering and we were waiting for 50 or so vintage reissue dresses to come in from Italy to be gifts for the guests. They had been stuck in customs for over a week and I doggedly called hourly to check in and nudge. Luckily they were cleared just in the nick of time and scheduled for delivery the day of the event.

I was left at the office to wait for the delivery. Anxiously tracking it, the moment the UPS driver arrived I signed, put it into the trunk of the idling town car and went on my way to the Hamptons lickety-split. I arrived while guests were already mingling and ran in. A few people noticed me with the box and said ‘Oh good you made it!! The dresses are here!!’

It was not until that moment, a four hour, $700 car service ride later that I realized... the box was small. It didn’t weigh much. My stomach dropped and I felt like I was going to throw up.
It wasn’t the right box. It wasn’t the dresses I had ceremoniously hand-carried to the luncheon with pride. I opened the box to find just three pairs of sample shoes and a few handbags for the models to wear to showcase the gifted dresses. The dresses I would come to find out were actually transported in two very large and very heavy boxes, and were being delivered in Manhattan right about the time I was opening this mini shipment. I almost literally died and I remember running to the restroom and shutting the door and thinking, I can’t go out. I can’t go out. I can’t face it. I can’t. But then somehow I did. And then it was a blur. It was a big big mistake, and I was so, so embarrassed, but like all mistakes, it happened and it was happening and then it was over. It just, was. And it was totally my fault and that was all there was to it but the world kept spinning and I remained in one piece, mostly.

So from a material sense, that isn’t my biggest failure. There are other mistakes that have had much more meaningful implications on the revenue and results side of things, especially for my own company over the past seven years. But this one, it was so fresh and so, stunning, that it will never leave me. It taught me in a short moment that failure happens sometimes even to the best laid plans, that its painful when it does, that you can’t outrun that and that ultimately, it will pass and I will heal. Failure stays with you, big and small, like heartbreak does, but like heartbreak too, you become increasingly resilient only through time and experience.

I think you hear that advice on repeat. That failing is an inevitable occurrence on the path to success and to embrace it. But that is a lot harder than it sounds in a soundbite. Failing hurts and feels uncomfortable. I think it must always shock the system and be painful as it happens because no matter your age and experience, the visceral shock still lands when it swings and smarts you out of nowhere with a ‘WHACK!’ But I do believe that with time, experience & effort you can lessen the fear that feeds your aversion to it. We run so hard from failure on a deep, deep level but when it finds us, it is what makes us and mints us into our new, next best selves. And facing that is how you build an innovative business. Stepping through all those fears, big and small, and taking the shots. I think! :)

UL: What types of projects do you have coming up that we can look forward to seeing in the future?

JC: We are just launching (Tuesday March 19th) branded storefronts and designer collaborations, opening up our platform for stores and designers globally to market and sell to our audience of over one million women shopping annually. With that we expand our product mix beyond wedding dresses to include engagement rings, fine jewelry, accessories, gifts and other items for the bride & her bridal party. We intend to become the ‘amazon of weddings’ fusing convenience & value with the curation & brand experience that the bridal customer needs.

And in the coming months, we will be rolling out showrooms, a section for bespoke and made-to order dress designers to feature their collections and the shops that carry them, which I am particularly excited about as it allows us to feature a range of talent globally and create transparency around costs, production & service tiers. This will all funnel back into our promise of sustainability and an end-to-end approach to promote the repurposing & rewearing of high-end, quality dresses and items.

These have been a long time in the works and have come to pass with many a bump and bruise, so I am very proud to see them coming to fruition. It will be meaningful steps towards our goal of being the primary global destination for brides to discover & shop for their wedding, merging discovery, content and commerce in a unique way for an underdeveloped industry and underserved clientele, bridal.