Alumni Spotlight – Swann School of Protocol (NC18-EMBC)

When Student Becomes the Expert

Swann School of Protocol (Swann School) is one of the leading institutions designed to enrich the lives of individuals through the instruction of etiquette and social courtesies. Founder Elaine Swann is one of the top nationally-recognized lifestyle and etiquette expert. Elaine won second prize at the North County Elevate My Business Challenge (EMB Challenge) where she was able to show off her rapid success in her venture as a successful graduate. Her background as a longtime student of etiquette, a participant in pageant training, and a former flight attendant has helped transform her into a highly sought after etiquette instructor.  Initially, Elaine was asked to coach young ladies for cotillions and similar occasions. However, she began providing services to a wider clientele such as after-school programs to improve students on their social skills necessary to achieve success. In 2003, Elaine started her own business because she realized two apparent issues within her serving communities: (1) A household with two working parents were unable to teach their children the necessary social skills due to busy schedules; and (2) Single parent provider who is not able to share core social values with their children. This absence in the market motivated Elaine to write a book to teach readers about such values. From the curriculum she developed over the 20-year period of teaching classes, she was able to create a franchise-like program where she could teach people with one-on-one engagements and make a strong impact in communities at a much larger scale.  This unique business format has certainly set apart Swann School from its competitors.


Be Cognizant of Your Business Financial Health 

Elaine participated in the EMB Challenge because although she had a solid business model, she was seeking mentorship and additional business growth training because Swann School instructors would successfully complete the training, but decrease in productivity shortly after.  After working with the EMB Challenge mentors, experts and fellow entrepreneurs, Elaine has learned new strategies and perspectives on how to properly on-board, retain talent, and increase productivity of instructors by implementing opportunities to receive awards, reach milestones, and spotlighting team members whenever they have accomplished a program training stage. When Elaine first heard about the EMB Challenge, she thought it’d be perfect program for her to gain a new perspective on marketing, financials and raising capital.  An important insight she gained was to complete a financial checkup on a frequent basis to help her understand her company’s financial health standing at any point in time.  At that moment, Elaine realized she needed an accountant to join her team to handle tasks that her bookkeeper and tax-preparer did not have the capacity to do.   Another insight Elaine recently implemented was how to generate more revenue by offering more products to her existing customers. Since she was always focused on expanding her customer base, she had set aside the importance of offering more solutions to current and past customers.  Now, she is creating more online classes on various topics to generate more recurring revenue.


How to Scale Your Business the Right Way

After completion of the EMB Challenge, Elaine expects to expand her business to 300 individually-owned Swann Schools nationwide, 50 Swann Schools internationally, and create 600 job opportunities by 2021.  Elaine is looking to hire two new instructors by the end of October 2018.  Beyond receiving recognition from the EMB Challenge, Swann School recently participated in the Hera Lab Fast Pitch event and went home with “The Most Shark Tank Ready”.  Elaine’s advice for other small business owners is the following:

“Look for business accelerator programs like EMB Challenge that offers formal education with business leaders, professionals and other business owners with like-minded goals.”

-Elaine Swann

Be sure to check out Swann School’s continued journey for business growth at