We had the good fortune of connecting with Melanie Ellison and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Melanie, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
As a lifelong self-employed entrepreneur, I have learned the secret of multiple income streams and stacking them. Over the last 10 years I have gradually worked towards (and now arrived at) living the work life of my dreams. I’ve always loved babies, so that is the hub of my work, and stemming out from there I am a Certified Birth Doula, a lactation counselor, a baby nanny (for some of the babies who I helped bring into the world), and a birth and newborn photographer (and I teach cello lessons on the side — the one thing that doesn’t fit the hub).
Stacking income streams is an excellent way to achieve success as an entrepreneur. When one income stream temporarily pulls back, others can take the place. Businesses are able to fluctuate in a healthy way without the business owner experiencing stress. Also, finding a way to layer businesses maximizes one’s time. Time is a constant. There’s a limited amount of it. So layering work within that constraint is a way to break outside the limits of time. For instance, if I’m going to be at a birth for 20 hours, I might as well offer a full birth photography package in addition to coaching my clients. This doubles value for them and increases my return on time investment as well. And another double up: while I’m nannying, I can edit pictures during naptime (occasionally even while babywearing!). Using small moments wisely pays off when one is juggling different roles.
Sometimes there is a place for working outside one’s passion, if the goal is to move on from that. Before working entirely in the baby world, I had a sewing business. There came a time when I had to decide which business to grow, and at that point I chose to work within my passion with moms and babies. Even though it paid less, my quality of life improved, because I switched to work for which I was created.
My advice? While transitioning to work within one’s passion, don’t jump ship too soon. Build the new business on the side while relying on the old one to pay the bills. Then when the new venture is big enough, one can safely step over with a fully open heart and close the door on the menial work chapter that built the foundation for the heart work.
Work is what you do to fulfill your destiny of impact. If you’re not living the life you’d live if money were no object, change it! Otherwise, you risk “the most dangerous risk of all, the risk of spending your life not doing what you want, on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later” (Randy Komisar).
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
In my work, I get to watch people transform. It’s rare in life to see people change, but that is an integral part of my work. As a birth doula, I coach my clients through pregnancy and then birth and through that get the incredible privilege of watching them move from a place of fear to being equipped and excited for the rite of passage to come. I witness the birth of mothers and fathers, not just babies. My focus is on the psychological side of the process, while the midwives and doctors focus on the medical side. There is incredible altruism in that kind of work.
Then in the baby-raising side of my work, I treasure the transformation moments as the babies I nanny reach developmental milestones. To witness the first time they use sign language to communicate, their discoveries of the world around us, the unique personality of each that is evident at only a few weeks old, it is all rich to me. I see each little one as a full human being, and unwrapping the depths of that unique person is my treasured work. As a single woman who hasn’t found Mr. Right yet, I have made a conscious decision to live the kind of life I want to live now and not wait for motherhood to bring babies for me to invest in deeply.
I’ve been self-taught all the way, whether it is mastering manual photography for low-light births, or learning how to import 1,000 yards of linen fabric at a time from Mongolia for my (previous) sewing business, learning Search Engine Optimization, or catching a baby in an emergency birth when the midwives hadn’t made it in time. Where there’s a will, there’s a way! I recommend becoming a lifetime lover of learning — it serves one well.
As far as figuring out how to start a successful business in the first place, my motto has been “find a need in the market, and meet that need with better quality for a better price than the competition and you have yourself a business by nightfall.”
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live in the Rocky Mountains of SW Colorado so we don’t have to go far for adventure or breathtaking beauty. There is a rim hike around my town where the city looks like it is in a teacup. It’s fun to see street grids from a bird’s eye view there. As a photographer, wanderlust often hits, but I remind myself that people travel around the world to come here (which is true of where others live as well), so I should photograph my own “back yard.” I make summer bucket lists to go on adventures that tourists come here for. Surprisingly, one thing I’ve never done in a lifetime of living here is go skiing!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
God has always opened doors for me into new chapters, and managed my schedule in existing ones, so I don’t even worry (much 😉 ) about juggling it all any more. I know that if a baby who I usually nanny cancels for the next day (for instance), one of my clients is likely to go into labor. Proverbs 16:3 says “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” I involve Him in my day-to-day work life. It’s not that He makes all my “pet” plans succeed, it’s that by taking that pause and seeking His direction He gives me wisdom as to what is best for my life.
Also, my parents have given me so much space to find my way to work within my passion. They planted the seeds of daily discipline in me through homeschooling that I have used as a bouncing off point for goal setting in my adult life.
Melanie Ellison Photography