Ellie Kime, the founder of The Enthusiast, is in the midst of leading a movement based around the conviction that enthusiasm is the key to having a better, fuller life and a kinder society as a whole. With shirts shouting that caring is cool, ‘happy to move for you’ pins designed to take the onus off the disabled on public transport, and a business in the wedding industry, Ellie is a true multi-hyphenate creative with tons of knowledge to share. If you’re thinking about taking the plunge of starting a business, creating change, or simply a millennial trying to find meaning, this interview is for you!
For people who don’t know what The Enthusiast is, how would you describe it to them?
I’d describe it as a movement. I’m not sure if you can self coin your own movement but that is what I’ve done, essentially. It’s a movement to encourage people to harness their enthusiasm as power for good. I think it’s one of the most underrated and reliable tools that we’ve got. Especially now, in a time of an absolute shit show. I think it’s really good to have something that keeps you going and enthusiasm has been that for me. I’ve noticed that we either get pigeonholed as totally apathetic and that we don’t care, or we get told we’re too extra, or we get told we’re snowflakes and we care too much – so I think we need to champion enthusiasm as a force for good rather than something to be deprecated.
Did moving to London have anything to do with starting this? There can be a lot of apathy in this city…
I grew up in Yorkshire, and people in Yorkshire like to think it’s a friendly place but I find it really isolating. People are supposed to be really friendly, and anyone will chat to you…it is true, but I often find interactions with strangers in Yorkshire to be uncomfortable. So when I moved to London it actually wasn’t that much of a change. But especially with the ‘happy to move for you’ tube badges I’ve done I’ve become more aware of the apathy here and the classic not talking to anyone on the tube thing. I’ve had comments leveled at me like “oh god she’s going to make everyone talk to each other on the tube.” And a) that wouldn’t be a bad thing, but b) that’s not what I’m asking you to do. I’m not enacting world wide change, I’m just asking you to move your seat. So it has impacted me in a way but not overtly.
Tell me more about the ‘happy to move for’ you badges.
I had seen they had the ‘baby on board’ badges and they’ve recently done the ‘please offer me a seat’ badges which I think came in last year or the year before, it’s for people with hidden disabilities. I became really aware of my privilege as a white, middle class, privately educated woman and so I was trying to think about how I could be more aware of what I’m doing. One of the things I realized is that people with hidden disabilities shouldn’t have to explain themselves. I also suffer from anxiety. Luckily I’ve never had an attack on the tube, but if I did, I would be absolutely shitting myself so I was thinking about how even if you don’t have a medical disability, or if you’ve just had a really bad day, in situations like that you might not feel like you can wear a please offer me a seat badge but there’s actually a very reasonable reason why you’re in the right to ask someone to move for you. Taking the onus off those in need was the main reason for these badges.
Standing up for ten minutes on your tube journey isn’t going to impact your day if you are in the position to be able to stand up, but it can make someone else’s day if they’re offered a seat. When my phone blew up after a giveaway with Gina Martin, I had to go sit outside and cry for a bit because I was so happy that people loved the idea. I had been to TFL, and they said they liked the idea but they also said that they had gotten feedback that adding more badges would be confusing, so I felt really disheartened. When people started loving it, it was a really good moment.
That’s so interesting that they weren’t interested in your badges…
The woman was nice, they did take time and I do take peace from the fact that they did think it was a great idea, but they have the resources to survey people and get told that that’s going to make things more confusing, so that’s what they think – but I don’t think they’re right.
So you decided to do your own thing.
Yes. So I covered the printing costs and I don’t really make any money off of them but I don’t begrudge that at all. And each one comes with a one pound donation to Scope. So the cost is really for posting and printing costs plus the donation. They come in a mini size now too!
Speaking of doing your own thing, what advice would you give to women who want to do something similar?
I would say to ask for help from people. I was lucky to have a lot of people who were there for me, not to give resources but who were just there when I needed to you know, fight the establishment. So getting a brigade of people around you to support you, not necessarily in a blind sided, everything you do is great kind of way, but will be there to help you whether that means constructive crticism or feedback. Having that good network you can rely on for when it does turn to absolute shit is really good. Even if that’s not in real life, it could be online, I’ve met so many amazing people online. Having those people can help make you feel like you really can make a difference.
So you don’t have to be alone because you’re a solo female founder?
One hundred percent. There are so many people going through the same thing. and also it doesn’t have to be strictly a group of women just because you are a part of the feminist struggle. If you do have great allies that are guys, get them on board as well.
Have you ever experienced any other pushback or trolls? And how have you dealt?
So my worst fear in life is becoming a viral meme. Genuinely, it inspires the fear of god in me every single day. I have such an expressive face that I just really panic I’m going to be in the back of a photo one day.
I think that what I’m doing can be misinterpreted as just another white girl pedaling mental health on Instagram and I really don’t want people to think that The Enthusiast is just blind positivity in the face of adversity. I don’t think that’s a helpful way of dealing with things. So I’ve been quite keen to stress that. I haven’t had a lot of trolls on The Enthusiast yet, but I did have some on the Wedding Enthusiast. The reason I started The Enthusiast was actually because, just before I graduated uni, I started a wedding planning business and loads of people were lovely about it but loads of people thought it was weird that I was interested in weddings when I was only 21. But I felt that it wasn’t weird because it was just what I liked to do and a good combination of my skills. That was the catalyst of me thinking about how enthusiasm has shaped my life. So that’s how I started The Enthusiast – to kind of combat that ridiculous droll, dry, we shouldn’t care about anything attitude. So, touch wood, I’ve not had many trolls on The Enthusiast. I’m sure they’re coming. I think if you’re not naturally enthusiastic it’s a hard concept to grasp. I’m not saying to just smile more and then you’ll be happy, but I know it can sometimes be misconstrued as that.
At risk of pissing off the wellness industry, what you were saying earlier about blind positivity was interesting. What do you think about the concept of manifestation? If you have positive thoughts then good things will happen to you…
So I do think that you can get yourself into a bit of a hole with it, if you have a constantly reinforcing negative cycle that’s obviously going to have a negative impact on your thoughts. I do get trying to stay positive, optimistic, and upbeat – that’s helpful. But I also think it’s been taken too far by a lot of people in the wellness industry who say “Oh you’re homeless? Just think your way out of it.” It was really interesting when, for the podcast, there was an episode with a manifestation coach. Before it started I said, “Look I really like you but I don’t understand how manifestation works, it doesn’t make sense to me.” She was talking a lot about money manifestation, and some of the things I really got. You know, instead of spending money, it’s about using money so it’s less of a transaction and there’s more emphasis on thinking about what you’re going to get from what you’re buying.
Things like keeping your receipts in order in your wallet to show money that you respect it and also to help you think about money in a positive way… that is really useful and interesting. But manifestation in the way that if you just think a certain way it will happen? I don’t buy into that. I don’t think a ton of people are pedalling that but a lot of people with big followings don’t go deep enough. To a certain extent enthusiasm can improve your outlook on life, but it runs the risk of people thinking I advocate for you to just throw yourself into everything and you’ll be fine and you’ll never get burned out. And actually that’s not true at all.
What would you say is your biggest piece of advice for young women starting a business?
Just do it. There are so many potential set backs if you’re a woman setting up a business and you’ve not got very much capital. There’s a whole host of reasons why you wouldn’t do what you want to do, but I think just taking the first step and doing it is the most important thing. One of the things I tell people all the time is instead of calling yourself an aspiring actor or a writer to be, just take away that quantifier and say that you are a writer or an actor. That will present you better to people because you’re not about to do it, you’re doing it now. And also it will make you feel better. Just because you haven’t had anything published yet doesn’t mean you’re not a writer. So that’s the second most important thing, to trust that you are what you want to get to. Staying enthusiastic too. You don’t have to be enthusiastic about your work, but if you are enthusiastic about something, following that with everything you can give is important to be successful and to keep that fire alive.
So you would say that enthusiasm is the key to finding your version of success?
I think so, yes. It’s however you define it too, that’s the thing. Enthusiasm can help your mental health, your physical health, your work satisfaction, your friendships, family life… I really think it can help a lot if you can make room for it. It’s a pretty powerful tool. It doesn’t have to be overarching enthusiasm for everything. For example, I really hate pigeons! Just be enthusiastic about what really makes you happy.
So what brings you enthusiasm outside of The Enthusiast and the Wedding Enthusiast?
Baking. I love baking so much. Watching people do what they love really brings me joy, making shit – not very well, but making shit all the same. London too, I absolutely love London. When I’m walking around London I often don’t have headphones on because I love London so much and I still feel so excited about being here. I went to Greenwitch a couple of weeks ago and the tour guide was like, “and Henry The Eighth came here” and I was like, don’t you think that’s mad that Henry The Eighth, who you’ve learnt about since you were four years old, stood here?
You made a move to more eco conscious packaging. A lot of small business owners assume that its more expensive, so they save that for later. Have you found that to be a misconception?
Yes and no. If you’re buying it in small quantities and you are really hellbent in having the perfect looking packaging, something that gives me enthusiasm as well, it can be difficult. But I think it comes down to being creative with it. I started with paper packaging and I thought that it was good enough, but then I realized that actually it’s still being made for that purpose. So now what I do is send products in recycled packaging, things that I’ve received from wherever.
I was really worried about launching it, I was terrified people were going to think it was a weird idea – there is an option to opt out, if you’re buying someone a present you don’t want it to arrive in an amazon bag – but no one batted an eyelid, and in fact, I heard from a lot of people about how much they liked it. So it is doable, but creativity is important.
Facebook swapping groups are also really helpful, you can get loads of stuff like tissue paper that would otherwise go in the trash. But you do take a hit on the aesthetics. A lot of the time manufacturers are quite coy about how they make things but it is important to dig into. All of my T-Shirts are organic sustainable cotton, they’re vegan inks, in a year my printers had 500 millileters of excess water, which they then used to make pens out of. And they give you a discount if you’re a marginalized group or a start up. I adore them. It does mean that they don’t have certain colors that I would have liked, but I think it’s worth it.
Social media seems to have been a big factor with your success and your business, but with that comes the question of authenticity that’s on everyone’s minds right now. What does authenticity mean to you as a business woman and also as a person who has a personal life?
I don’t actually have much of a personal life outside of my business! Which I’m fine with. If you ask me what my hobbies are I don’t have any apart from baking. That comes with being 23 and owning your own business. I think I’m definitely learning boundaries. I’m a very obsessive personality, I find it very hard to switch off. Not in a cool #girlboss, working 24 hours a day sort of way, to my own detriment I find it really hard to take a break and leave things where they are until the next day.
So I started trying to be more aware of my online presence, but it’s hard because a lot of what I do for my other business is copywriting, and so my businesses are me. It’s not like I’m separated from it. When people get in touch with The Enthusiast it’s not one of five people, its always me. So it’s hard to draw those boundaries between Ellie at work and Ellie at play. But I think being intentional about it is important. I shared something ages ago about Instagram and using it to inspire you and connect with people, instead of hating people, and that is super important because it helps you be authentic in what you’re doing and why you’re showing up there. It’s hard to show up there and write good shit if you’re just doing it because you have to, not because you actually believe in what you’re doing.
On that note, what advice would you give to another woman that has to self promote for her business or her job but feels uncomfortable doing it?
I would say, think about how a man would feel. He wouldn’t give one fuck. He’d invite all 3,000 of his Facebook friends and say look at my stupid little page, and he wouldn’t care. No shade to them, that’s how it should be, but they’re able to do that because they’ve never been told they can’t. It’s weird because doing stuff that scares you is a great way to push your boundaries but also doing things just because Instagram advice pages tell you to – front camera stories for example are a great way of getting people interested in your brand but if you are so terrified of your own face that you’re not going to enjoy that, just don’t do it. It won’t turn out great.
Asking people to help, again Facebook groups are great. When I started The Enthusiast, a women’s business Facebook group was really helpful. If you’re around a lot of small businesses they’ll want to support each other, so that’s a good way of getting people on board. A lot of people also forget that Instagram is a two way street so you can’t just post your own stuff and then go away – you need to engage with other people as well. Putting yourself out there online in a way that you can’t in real life is an amazing tool.
Enthusiasm seems to go hand in hand with confidence. Do you ever have trouble staying enthusiastic if your confidence wavers?
That’s so interesting, I’ve never actually thought about that before, how closely they’re tied and how if one wanes perhaps the other would wane. I am not a very confident person generally. A lot of people have the misconception that I am because I’m very loud and outgoing, but I’m an extroverted introvert. Actually I’m not either one, and I’m not very confident a lot of the time, but I am enthusiastic. So that’s really interesting to think about. But in answer to your question, sometimes I find it quite hard to be enthusiastic. Especially as I absorb bad news like it’s my own bad news, I cannot watch awkward things because I can’t deal with it. I think it’s about remembering why you’re enthusiastic, remembering why you’re trying to make a difference can help you to get out there and do what you need to do. There’s two different ways you can think about enthusiasm, you can think about it generally or as having an enthusiasm. Having an enthusiasm is a good way to figure out what you want to do in life, and that can help your confidence too.
So is enthusiasm the key to confidence?
I think so yes, or enthusiasm is also key to just looking like you’re confident, even if you’re not. I generally do think confidence can grow, but there are some people for whom it’s just never going to be a part of their personality. That’s fine, but as long as you can fake it in the situations you need to then that will be helpful. If you’re enthusiastic about something naturally you’ll start talking more about it and it lights you up from the inside, which is a great way of getting confident, or having it look like you are. So it can help for that confidence to grow from within.
So you are the definition of the millenial multi-hyphenate. How do you deal with burn out?
It’s something I’m trying to be better on because I’m just such a go hard or go home personality. I know that at some point it’s just going to bite me in the ass… but I think having people around who ground me is really important. My mum is always on the other side of the phone asking if I have rest days coming up. And also, this is something I’m trying to learn, nothing has to be done immediately. Putting processes in place that will help you stay on track, if you just throw shit at a wall and see what sticks to see what works, six months down the line you won’t be able to remember what your own name is never mind what you agreed with person X. I love a list, something that works for you to keep you self aware.
What makes you feel powerful?
Finishing my to do list for the day makes me feel on top of the world, it never happens, but when it does, it’s euphoric. And when my house is clean, I’ve realized how much home means to me. Especially because it’s where I work, having a house that’s not littered with things makes me feel like I can achieve anything because I’ve done the bit that I hate (which is tidying).