- Maya Elious is a 29-year-old business consultant and personal branding strategist for women.
- She never thought she would become an entrepreneur, but after turning her college side gig into a full-time job building online brands for celebrities and nonprofit organizations, she realized she had a knack for consulting.
- “I’ve launched many offerings over the years: courses, masterclasses, live events, group coaching programs, monthly memberships, one-on-one coaching, and an agency model,” Elious said. She eventually settled on two high-end program offerings.
- She advised aspiring consultants not to be afraid to narrow down their niche.
- The proof of Elious’ approach is in the numbers. In August of 2018, she had earned $13,607; in August 2019, she brought in $45,503. That kind of explosive growth has catapulted her from $89,000 in annual earnings in 2017 to more than $250,000 this year.
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Maya Elious didn’t set out to become an entrepreneur. She didn’t even intend to go into business. But over the last three years, the 29-year-old has become the go-to business consultant and personal branding strategist for women who want to monetize their message and package their skill sets into premium educational training programs, masterclasses, and online courses, and she’s set to clear a quarter of a million in revenue by the end of 2019.
She shared with Business Insider her success story.
Elious pursued a communications degree to please her parents in 2008, but it was the time she spent building and updating her Myspace page between classes that kick-started her career. An observant classmate offered her $50 to design a custom Myspace page for them, and it was then that Elious discovered that the hobbies and skills she practiced for fun could be profitable.
“I thought, ‘If one person pays me for something, then I can get more people to pay me for it,” she told Business Insider. That year, she started her first business — a web and graphic design firm — at just 18 years old and while still in school. By 23, she had dropped out of college to pursue her business full time.
Elious kept her overhead low by sharpening her design skills through YouTube videos and hours of practice at the family computer. Her first projects included creating Myspace pages for reality TV stars of shows like “For The Love of Ray J” and “Real Chance of Love,” whose managers reached out to Elious after she promoted her services on the platform. As her business grew, she began to work with female entrepreneurs and nonprofits to help build their online brands through web and graphic design and photography.
But in the six years she spent creating beautiful visuals for these clients, she realized many business owners were struggling with the meat and potatoes of their brands.
“People were investing in pretty design but didn’t know how to communicate the value of their business. When they would hire me for their website, it was always a struggle to get copy and photos from them. They would ask me for advice on writing their bio, blog, and social content, and I realized I had a gift for messaging,” Elious explained.
Clients recognized Elious’ knack for branding and started asking to pick her brain, so she began offering paid business consultation calls in addition to web and graphic design help. After she booked her first consulting client, she ran with it.
“I said, ‘Okay, I’m really going to make this a thing.’ And then as I did it more, I learned how I should package and frame my calls so that my clients could get the best results,” she explained.
Today, Elious is backed by a small but mighty team that includes an assistant, a graphic designer, and an accountant, and she’s got a bulletproof strategy that has allowed her to generate a steadily growing bottom line and create hundreds of success stories for women in a broad range of industries — including fertility counseling, finance coaching, therapy, life coaching, natural hair products, and cannabis — all around the world.
Specifically, Elious teaches her clients how to identify their skill set and niche down to stand out in saturated markets; determine the audiences they’re best qualified to help; choose the services they can sell to those audiences; and create content that fosters organic relationships and trust with their target markets.
While it might seem like Elious’ business blew up overnight, she attributed most of her success to trial and error. She also noted that starting young gave her a distinct advantage in being able to experiment with her business model because, outside of her student loans, she was able to keep her personal expenses low by either living at home or with a roommate. The money she saved, she funneled back into her business, investing in a new desktop and laptop, courses, software, and conferences.
It took her several attempts to find the best way to package and deliver her branding and messaging expertise.
“I’ve launched many offerings over the years: courses, masterclasses, live events, group coaching programs, monthly memberships, one-on-one coaching, and an agency model,” Elious said.
While having that many products and services did pull in decent revenue, Elious noted that the wide range of offerings made people uncertain of what services and products they should purchase from her. The amount of work she had to do to keep up with the demand her broad service list created also left her overworked and burnt out. That entrepreneurial fatigue, paired with ongoing health issues, made it challenging for Elious to consistently give her clients her best work.
So, she made a commitment to be clear and specific about what she does and who she does it for, and honored that commitment by assessing her offerings to determine which ones got her clients the best results and, on the advice of her accountant, she examined the financial metrics to see which offerings had the best ROI.
Elious settled on two primary offers: a signature event called “Impact Weekend,” an intimate two-day mastermind event for female entrepreneurs who want to package their message and personal brand into a successful business, and an accelerator program called “Built to Impact” that offers clients a six-week curriculum to design and launch a signature offer. “Impact Weekend” tickets cost $2,500, while “Built to Impact” registrants pay $5,000 for the program. Each year, Elious also offers five one-on-one VIP Days where, for $5,000, clients get to spend a full day with her in Atlanta to map out their brand and business.
While this sort of minimalism might seem counterintuitive, Elious said that it was the ticket to her earning growth. “Approximately 97% of my revenue in 2019 has been from my signature live event and accelerator program,” Elious explained. “Doing less and charging more made me more money, attracted better clients, and resulted in better outcomes for my clients.”
Elious raised her rates steadily over time, earning those high-ticket prices based on the excellent results she had created for her clients, her growing visibility online and offline as a trusted business consultant, and the endorsement of long-time clients, colleagues, and notable publications like Forbes, Huffington Post, and Black Enterprise.
Today, her clients consist of women who come to the table with proven expertise and the motivation to use her advice and apply it to grow their knowledge and message into successful businesses. For Elious, this is a matter of protecting one of her core values: integrity. “The internet is full of frauds and I want to make sure I only help honest people put out their best work,” Elious clarified.
That kind of specificity was key to Elious’ marketing strategy when she made the shift from a broad range of products to her high-earning services. “In 2019, I invited clients privately to work with me and had people apply to come to the mastermind. My marketing was very ‘exclusive and intimate.’ There was a vetting process to work with me,” she said.
The proof of Elious’ approach is in the numbers. In August of 2018, she had earned $13,607; in August 2019, she brought in $45,503 — a whopping 234% increase. That kind of explosive growth has been consistent over the last three years as she catapulted from $89,000 in annual earnings in 2017 to more than $250,000 this year.
Elious is brimming with advice for other entrepreneurs eager for similar results. Before anything else, she encouraged business owners to get clarity on their brand and goals. Winging it, she warned, just isn’t good enough.
“If we were clearer and more confident about what we wanted at the end of the week, month, or quarter, and who we’re supposed to be talking to, it would create that consistency and momentum to actually hit our goals,” she suggested.
She also recommended that entrepreneurs be unafraid to narrow their niche. Elious has been very careful to consistently create content around her expertise. While she understands that some people fear leaving money on the table or seeming less smart and capable, she’s found that narrowing your niche has the opposite effect.
“I’ve been talking about personal branding, impact messaging, and storytelling for years, and I’m consistently paid and interviewed for those topics. [Narrowing your niche] isn’t limiting yourself. It’s just targeting the opportunities you want,” she explained.
But it’s not enough to just target the opportunities, Elious cautioned. She said entrepreneurs must be brave enough to ask for them.
“A lot of the opportunities I have are because I invited myself,” she recalled. This includes her recent keynote for ConvertKit’s Craft + Commerce conference, which she landed after emailing the organization last year to let them know she wanted to speak. While their speakers for the 2018 conference were already booked, Elious was top of mind for the 2019 event. “So, I’m not only talking about the same things consistently. I’m letting people know that I’m available to be used in these areas of expertise.”
Of course, Elious recognized that none of that hard work pays off if entrepreneurs are afraid to charge their worth, and it’s especially challenging for women in business. She recommended that women ditch the taboo around discussing finances and have candid conversations around money with other entrepreneurs in their circle.
“I think if we just had more open conversations and safe spaces about how much we make, how much we want to charge, what that looks like, and how to ask for it, then it would be easier for us to actually envision ourselves doing that,” she said.