Company Website: www.SwannSchool.com
Elaine Swann is the Founder and CEO of The Swann School of Protocol, an institution committed to enriching the lives of individuals through the instruction of etiquette and social courtesies. She delivers in-depth coaching in the areas of business, self-Improvement, lifestyle, and social engagement for organizations, universities, businesses and individuals throughout the U.S. The company also provides etiquette certification, training, and licensing for women, allowing them to launch and operate their own etiquette consulting business. We talked with Elaine to find out how her business was doing since she participated in the Founders accelerator, and we got the scoop on her recent interview with O, The Oprah Magazine.
What was your inspiration to start the business?
The inspiration for me to start my business really started from deep within. As a single mom, I was looking for some way to be able to have flexibility to work from home and not have a traditional nine-to-five job. I had one daughter. She was in school and, at a very young age, I was really just trying to figure out how to continue to, of course, be part of her life, be involved with all of her extracurricular activities and, at the same time, be able to earn money and make money on my own. So I initially was volunteering and teaching in this area, and I began to research and study.
“I was hired to do etiquette training for girls for a debutante ball and that volunteer aspect of it really caught on to one of our local junior high school teachers and she asked me to do an after school program.”
So I did the after school program and it worked out really well, and then they invited me back again and again and again. So, I thought, okay, this is it, this is a great idea for a business. And so, everything really came together for me. I started my business, and I really, really was so grateful because I was able to earn a living for my daughter, and our household, and at the same time be flexible and be able to be there for her during those important times of her life.
You’ve participated in several Founders First accelerator programs. How has that impacted you as a founder and business owner?
Oh my gosh, as a business owner, being involved with Founders First has revolutionized everything in the way I did business. I started my business in 2003 and I really feel as though I was just kind of dredging along. Although I had all of this energy and excitement, and it was very rewarding for me, I had reached kind of a ceiling.
“[Founders First] opened up my mindset, my goals—everything has completely been opened up. I didn’t even realize that I had so much potential in earning and growing as a business owner.”
So, it’s really, really revolutionized my life. I went from being a single, solo entrepreneur to eventually figuring out how to scale my business. I came to Founders with this bear at the very early onset of starting to scale my business when I still really hadn’t figured out what to do to make this thing work. So coming and getting involved and going through all of the courses and classes and connecting with my cohorts and all the research and so forth, has really helped me take everything and turn it into an actual company. There were so many things I was not doing right, but I learned.
For example, for me, when I went through the first bootcamp program I didn’t even know the difference between a bookkeeper and an accountant. I didn’t realize that there was this higher level of accountability as far as our finances were concerned, and so that’s one of the biggest things that I took away. I already had a bookkeeper but I hired an accountant, and that has really helped my business tremendously—just being able to understand our money, where we were, where we are, and where we’re going. So I cannot say enough about Founders First. I’ll keep going on and on and on. I’ve learned so much.
Is there anything you’d like to highlight about what’s been going on with your business these days?
We’ve been doing, really, really well. One of the things that I learned through Founders is when it comes time to try to figure out how you’re going to make more money, one of the things you can do is to create more products for your existing customers. And that has been wonderful for us, especially during COVID.
“We really had to think about what we can do instead of always trying to acquire new customers. Instead, it really helped us to say okay, how can we better serve the people that we have and generate revenue in that particular space?”
So, one of the things that we’re working on right now is really doing a huge push for expansion. We figured out how we can really serve folks who are looking to launch their own business. We’re focusing on serving people who have left their jobs because of COVID and creating an opportunity for new markets of individuals. The challenge for our nation right now is that over 24 million people have left their jobs and they’re looking for something different. But we’re seeing an opportunity in that space right now. Of course, our product is etiquette consulting, we’re sticking with that product, but we recognize that there are a lot of other individuals who are looking to work from home. They’re looking to have flexibility, they’re looking to have control over their life, and maybe have another stream of revenue, but not have to go and punch a nine to five.
So, we’re recognizing that. We’re changing our messaging to help the folks who have been impacted by COVID. There’s great promise there for us, so we’re really super excited about that right now. Recently, we have been getting new inquiries on our website on a daily basis, and so we’re very confident that, as we start to launch our new marketing plan, that we’ll see a lot more inquiries and then we’ll convert those into sales, so I’m really excited about what the new year’s going to be bringing us.
We hear you were recently interviewed in O, The Oprah Magazine. Tell us about that!
Yes, I was just recently featured in the winter issue of Oprah Magazine, and that was just an absolute honor.
“It’s so great, I had the honor of being interviewed by multiple media outlets, but to be able to get the call from the big O was great.”
So, I shared my advice on Thank You cards, how to write a proper Thank You card. I definitely can write miles and miles and miles of Thank You cards to Founders, because you all have been so fantastic with helping me really structure my business. I’m definitely on track to becoming a zebra company.
Do you have any advice that you would want to pass on to other entrepreneurs?
For my fellow up-and-coming entrepreneurs, my recommendation is to always be in a state of learning. Don’t feel as though you have made it. Always recognize that there’s more that you can learn.
“Surround yourself with people who know a lot more than you, and listen to what they have to say. And don’t be afraid to shift or to pivot or to take advice or to step back and do things differently.”
It will always work out for the good, so always keep learning and moving forward and take that great advice, most especially from the folks who have been brought together by Founders to help you with your business, because these are folks who’ve been there, done that, and I’d rather listen to their advice than try and figure it out on my own.