Name: Elena Emma
Business: Purple Sun House
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Industry: Professional Services
Reason for starting? In the beginning, I only registered the company to reserve the name: Purple Sun. I knew I was going to do some freelance work, but didn’t know what and when. The purple sun phenomenon reminded me of me. The sun can only be seen in vivid purple color through the lens of a camera at a certain light and angle. It’s a man-made effect, but it’s so beautiful that, once you see it, you never forget it. A year later, a daunting combination of lack of money after business bankruptcy and a newborn child led me to a tax season job. My chauvinistic boss insisted that my financial ceiling was $70,000 per year, that my professional advancement needed to come from seniority, not experience, and that I needed to slow down my production because my coworkers, who couldn’t keep up, were embarrassed. I drove a convertible at the time and didn’t like ceilings. I also wanted to function and grow at my speed. That’s when I knew that it was time to create my own business world. Thus, Purple Sun House was born.
How do you define success? Success is a result of the process by which I manage to grow mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. In my world, success comes equally from cooking a rabbit for the first time, drowning a business, flunking a GRE test, or breaking my heart. When I cooked a rabbit, I challenged myself to try new spices or products, to follow instructions (which I am usually bad at), and to expand my palette of things that I said before that I’d never eat. By drowning a business with a partner, I’ve learned, hands on, all the signs and tricks of a business decline, which I can help aspiring entrepreneurs recognize and avoid today. Preparation for my third round of failed GRE tests led me to the creation of a business concept, which I am using as a basis for my dissertation today. My broken heart taught me the depth and layers of my love for people, which knows no limits. Some successes are just more painful than others.
Biggest success: Firstly, a $1.2 million investment for a company that I co-founded with my partner. It’s the same partner with whom we drowned another business earlier, which makes this achievement extra special. Secondly, acceptance to Stanford Graduate School of Business for its executive education program. It took me 4 years, three failed rounds of applications and an additional graduate degree in between to get there. Third, I have published four books and one personal essay. And finally, my individuality. I am what I am, and I like myself every day in the mirror. It wasn’t always that way.
What is your top challenge and how you have addressed it? My top challenge today is to find or design a sales and marketing strategy, techniques and training that would work for our products specifically. Not what everyone in every possible article says works, but what really works. We are still in a trial-and-error mode. My sales ambassadors have the freedom to suggest and try the strategies they think might lead to a sale closing. I lead by example and do the same. Then, we sit down once a week for a discussion and share what worked, what didn’t, what results did it bring, what are we going to do differently this week. But we don’t have enough statistics or growth results to say that we have a success yet.
When I decided to move to Barcelona (purely intuitive decision), I had to practically close down my consulting operations in the U.S., except for two clients, because everyone was afraid that if I lived far away, they wouldn’t get the service they needed. Moreover, I was in the middle of the seed funding search for a special coaching division of our business, but everyone in the U.S. who I approached (both seasoned investors and personal network) were hesitant to give money, probably afraid that I will run away with it. I had to take a major leap of blind faith to believe that I can rebuild my business in Spain. Barcelona, however, has welcomed me with an entrepreneurship ecosystem, infrastructure and entirely different level of business options, which I couldn’t even imagine in the U.S. Sometimes, the land of opportunity is not where everyone says it is, but where your hunch says it is, as illogical as it may sound to others.
Who is your most important role model? It may sound cocky, but I am my own role model. At some point, after a trip to Jerusalem, I have made a commitment to myself that I will dedicate my life to the exploration of my full potential. I sealed it with a tattoo on my solar plexus. And that’s what I am doing. Yes, there are many people who have inspired me along the way — my dad in his work ethics and adaptation, my mom in her desire to fight for her freedom, my girlfriends in their softness and femininity, my clients in their ability to take risks and think globally, King David in his faith, Leonardo da Vinci in his multi-faceted geniuses, my employees in their ability to follow the structure and produce uninterruptedly, my own 24-to-33-year-old self in her inner strength and ability to push forward for better future… The list can go on forever. I borrowed a technique or two from these and other great living and departed souls. But I never wanted to be like any one of them. I always wanted to be just me.
Edited by The Story Exchange