This profile is presented by Squarespace. To us, our partnerships with brands are about so much more than business. We endeavor to carve out relationships with brands whose values reflect our own and those of our members, and work together to thoughtfully tell stories and create experiences that speak to moms’ real lives and real interests. HeyMama seeks to elevate the creative and professional momentum our members pull off every day, fueled by tools like Squarespace. We’re thrilled to work with them to bring stories like this to our community.

Elsa Elbert is a HeyMama member, professional organizer, and founder of Composed Living, a Los Angeles-based professional organizing company. When she left her corporate job to start a business that focuses on minimalism and sustainability, it felt more like fate intervening than a careful, calculated risk. And what’s one of the first steps an entrepreneur needs to take in order to get started? Set up a website. She turned to Squarespace and cites it as a “cornerstone” to building her business. “Most people use the internet to search for what they need, so having a professional looking website that is easily found with a quick Google search has been fundamental to the growth of my business.”

As a mom to three sons, ages 20, 11, and 9, Elbert deliberately aimed to attain a more sustainable work-life balance when she founded her company. Of course, Elbert isn’t alone: a reported 67% of Americans who start their own business say the ability to “be their own boss” was the main reason they decided to pursue their entrepreneurial endeavors, according to a 2006 worldwide poll. The same poll found that 64% of entrepreneurs cited the desire to have more control over their future as the primary reason they started their own business.

Although more moms are working outside the home than ever before, and 42% of all working women with children are the primary breadwinners for their families, moms are also handling the majority of the child-rearing and household responsibilities. Being an entrepreneur is one thing, but being an entrepreneur and a mom is an exponentially bigger task. 

So we’re always dying to know how the women who seem to have the juggle all figured out do what they do. HeyMama asked Elbert how she managed to start a thriving business while simultaneously parenting, how she successfully got that business off the ground and what tools aided her along the way, how her business model is helping moms parenting in a pandemic, and what she wants her children to learn from their mothers entrepreneurship. 

HeyMama: What drove you to start Composed Living?

Elbert: “Organization feels like it’s a part of my DNA,” Elbert told HeyMama. “I’m always looking for new ways to improve efficiency, repurposing items throughout home, experimenting with new uses for spaces. After 15 years of working tirelessly to make other businesses more profitable — and burning myself out in the process — I decided that I deserved to curate a life that I love, and a big part of that is being passionate about my career.” 

HM: Your business model centers sustainability. How do you practice sustainability as a mom, and why is it important for moms to teach this practice to their kids? 

E: We are a paper-free and mostly plastic-free household, and we talk about it often. We recently switched to Public Goods for a lot of our household needs, and they think it’s so cool that their shampoo and conditioner bottles are made out of sugar cane, and our toilet paper is made from bamboo. I’ve taught them about textile recycling (no more throwing lone socks in the garbage!), and we collect old towels and sheets to take to animal shelters. I’ve always tried to find ways to teach them important lessons in ways that capture their interest. They love knowing that little animals will be sleeping on their old blankets, and I love knowing that they’ll keep these habits for a lifetime! 

HM: What tools did you use that helped you get your business off the ground? 

E: Google. I mean, really. Google. I Googled how to build a website, how to do graphic design, SEO, social media — you name it, I scoured the internet to learn it. And I did it all by myself. I love Squarespace for our website, blog, and newsletters. My team and I use Asana to coordinate all of our client projects and manage our marketing calendar. Canva is awesome for simple graphic design. We use Later for scheduling and posting to all social media platforms, and Gusto is a simple way to manage payroll, HR, and benefits.

HM: Had you ever used Squarespace before? 

E: I had never used Squarespace or ever done anything at all with designing a website, a blog, or even an Instagram post! I was an absolute novice, but I was determined to do everything myself in the beginning to keep my startup costs low. Squarespace was so easy to learn that I didn’t even feel the need to go through all their online tutorials. I chose a template, decided on my brand colors and fonts (thank you, Pinterest!) and began playing around with all the options until I had created exactly what I wanted. 

HM: How did you go about picking a Squarespace template and how does yours speak best to your brand? 

E: I didn’t spend a lot of time choosing a template on Squarespace. I wanted something very simple yet functional, as simplicity is one of our core values. For the first three years we had a different template than the one I use today – it worked great, but I was determined to have the logo in a certain position and I wasn’t able to do that without creating actual code to move it. So I chose a new template (the one that’s live today) and I’m loving all the functionality so far! It’s remarkable how easy it is to switch over your entire website to a new template any time you change your mind or realize you need something different!

HM: How do the majority of your clients or prospective clients contact you?

E: Around 70% of our customers come through organic and direct search, which is thanks to the awesome SEO on our website (another very easy to use feature of Squarespace!), as well as word of mouth referrals. The remaining 30% is a combination of social media platforms, with Pinterest bringing in almost double the amount of customers as Facebook + Instagram combined.

HM: With the rise of the Instagram Mom and so many of us only seeing the perfectly curated part of parents’ lives, how important is it for moms to also give themselves a break when it comes to the state of their homes? 

E: Ah! A lot of people think about organization in terms of “Pinterest-perfect spaces,” but really it’s about what works for you and your family. Over the years I’ve implemented easy-to-maintain systems in our home so that everyone can do a minimal amount of work and our home stays mostly organized. It is important to me that, as a family, we are spending our time together, not constantly picking up the house. Every few months we do a deep clean/decluttering session to get things back in great shape.

HM: Can you describe a particularly difficult time when you were growing your business? What happened? What roadblocks did you experience? And, most importantly, how did you overcome these challenges? 

E: Honestly, I was my biggest roadblock. I tried so hard to do everything myself and find the least expensive ways of doing things so that I wouldn’t feel like following my passion was a financial burden on my family. It was really difficult for me to go from an executive’s salary to making just enough to pay the cost of staying in business. I wasn’t aware of my long-held and outdated beliefs about money and personal value, and I was treating our finances as though it was my husband versus me. I joined fellow HeyMama Heidi Stevens’ Feminine Collective mastermind and uncovered so much about the root of my beliefs and how to reframe them. Since then I’ve learned to invest in myself and my business, and to trust more fully and be more vulnerable in my marriage. The results of doing the inner work are extraordinary both personally and professionally, and the journey has taught me so much. 

HM: How has growing this business made you a better mom? How has being a mom made you successful at growing this business? 

E: Being a mom gives you a level of patience, perseverance, and multi-tasking ability that is so important when starting your own business. It also helps me to relate to our mama clients, who are trying to find ways to juggle their household and careers and keep their homes relatively organized. 

I am so much more available for our family now than I ever have been (hooray for setting your own schedule!) and I engage the kids in the business. They love being in our Instagram stories, helping with projects, trying to teach me TikTok. I love that I get to spend more time with them and they feel connected to the business. I’ve been teaching my middle son to do some basic graphic design, and he taught me how to edit videos. 

HM: It’s a common question asked of almost all working moms, but for those looking to start a business it’s usually in the forefront of their minds, so: how do you establish and uphold a work/life balance that doesn’t lead to burnout? 

E: My daily to-do list has three categories: work, health, and fun. I do at least one thing for each category, every day. It took many years for me to understand that life was more than how much I could accomplish on a daily basis, and that I needed to prioritize my mental and physical health and consciously curate moments of joy. I’ve finally found a routine that works really well for me and allows me to focus on each of these aspects of my life every day. 

Figure out what times you’re most productive, the best time to be with your family, and then schedule everything else around that. 

HM: As an expert, what do you hope moms today are learning about home decor and how they can create a more calming environment for themselves and their kids? 

E: I hope that families are realizing that memories are made through shared experiences, and not by accumulating more stuff. It is especially important during this stressful time that our homes are a sanctuary. I think about home decor much the same way I do meditation. When we remove some of the clutter, we begin to feel our minds and our bodies relax. 

In kids’ spaces, try leaving just a few toys and books out at a time (hide the rest out of sight) and rotate them every week or so. Not only will they feel less overwhelmed by the volume of things to choose from, they’ll also have the excitement of enjoying something “new.” 

HM: What do you want your kids to take away from you starting this business?

E: I want my kids to see that you can change your life anytime you want, and it’s OK to take risks. I want them to try new things and be able to laugh if they fail and try again. I want them to know that work is only one part of life, and that it can and should be fun. I want them to really understand that if you spend your life being of service to others, you’ll be successful. 

HM: What advice do you have for moms who are thinking of choosing to start a business? 

E: If you have an idea for a business that fills your soul with energy and joy, and you can’t stop thinking about it, go for it! My advice would be to find the simplest way to get started — we often give up on ideas because we overcomplicate them from the beginning. Also, make sure you have an awesome support system in place — like HeyMama!

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