Have you ever wondered how you can improve your marketing? In this episode, Camille welcomes Abby Combs, founder and CEO of E-Studios Marketing, which help entrepreneurs take back their time and scale their business. 

Abby shares how she created E-Studios Marketing after the loss of her son, Easton, and how she was able to grow her business by finding the right team members, attracting her ideal clients, and recognizing her own strengths and weaknesses as a CEO.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to grow your own business, tune into this episode to hear Abby’s advice on how you too can create a successful business that can also help others grow.

 

 

Resources:

 

Interested in becoming a virtual assistant? Join the 60 Days to VA Course:
www.camillewalker.co/VA

Access the 5-day email sequence to help you discover your purpose:
www.callmeceopodcast.com

Looking for one on one coaching to grow your team, reach your goals, and find the right life balance. Grab a free discovery call with Camille:

www.calendly.com/callmeceopodcast/discovery-call-with-camille

 Get 50% off Power Hour using the code callmeceo at: www.theestudios.com/products/power-hour

 

Connect with Abby:

Follow E-Studios on Instagram: www.instagram.com/e_studiosmarketing

Visit her website: www.theestudios.com

Connect with Camille Walker:

Follow Camille on Instagram: www.instagram.com/CamilleWalker.co

Follow Call Me CEO on Instagram: www.instagram.com/callmeceopodcast

ABBY COMBS [00:00]

I had friends and family ask me all the marketing questions. And I thought I've been doing this for Beddy's for the last four years, let me help you and I have some answers. And then, we accidentally fell into starting E-Studios.

[MUSIC]

CAMILLE WALKER [00:20]

So, you want to make an impact. You're thinking about starting a business sharing your voice. How do women do it that handle motherhood, family, and still chase after those dreams? We'll listen each week as we dive into the stories of women who know. This is Call Me CEO.

[MUSIC]

Hey, everyone. Thank you for coming to the channel today. My name is Camille Walker. And on my YouTube channel, you will find stories of mothers building businesses, their reasons why, and what they've been able to build because of it. And today is no exception.

We have Abby Combs who built a marketing company out of her home and is now employing 8+ people through her marketing strategies and growing a business that actually grew from a place of a really hard loss of losing her son. It's such a beautiful story.

Make sure that you are subscribing. And I would love to hear from you. Please reach out to me at callmeceopodcast@gmail.com if you know of someone who you'd love to hear their story, and we can have them on the show as well.

Welcome back everyone to Call Me CEO. This is a place where we celebrate women, especially mothers doing incredible, amazing, fantastical things, and also sharing with us how they do the things because let's face it, there's a lot to be done as a mother and a woman in this day and age.

And what I love about our guest today is that she helps you lift the burden of marketing. And I don't know if any of you listening are like me. But marketing for me is probably one of the things of my business I at times will dislike the most. I feel like it's one of those things where you can doubt yourself a lot. You're not quite sure if your approach is the right thing to do.

So, today, Abby Combs is actually the CEO and founder of E-Studios, which is a marketing company that she built. It's now four years old. And in this part one of this episode, we're going to be talking about how she built this marketing agency, the how and the why, and being a mother and all the things. Part two of this, we're going to be talking about how you can launch a successful email program for Q1 in year 2024, which, oh my gosh, I can't believe it is right around the corner. So, Abby, thank you so much for being on the show today.

ABBY [02:48]

Yes. Oh my gosh, thank you so much for having me. I am so excited.

CAMILLE [02:50]

Yeah, we've been wanting to do this for a while. Abby and I met at a networking event. I don't know, was it last year or the year before? It's all such a blur. But immediately, I was like this woman is amazing. And your story of how you built your business was so inspiring. This has been a long time in the works of having you on the show.

ABBY [03:12]

Yes, I know. I'm like we've known each other for a long, long time. I can't remember day one. But it's been a long time coming. I'm excited to have this happen.

CAMILLE [03:21]

Yeah, me too. So, introduce yourself to our audience, a little bit about you, your family, where you live, and then we'll get into what inspired you to build your company.

ABBY [03:31]

Yeah, sure. So, yeah, I live in Lehi, Utah and married. And Garron is my husband, we went out when we were 15. So, we've been together a long, long time. And then, we have three living children and one angel baby, which I mentioned because sure, he's a part of our family, but it's also such a part of our story that we'll get to. So currently, I have a daughter who's 14 and a son who's 13. And then, a little boy who will be six this month. So, we have teenagers and toddlers and all the in between.

CAMILLE [04:06]

Yeah, it's crazy. My youngest is now seven. And now, I don't have kids at home anymore. And it is so weird. I feel like I'm cheating. When I look around and I think I can have time to just meet a friend for lunch if I want to. And it is. Having teenagers, it's one of those things where you have heard that it's hard, but you don't really know what that means.

And for me, I love having teenagers, but it's a different kind of hard that I never even knew what to expect. So, I don't know if that's been the same for you. But, man, these kids have to be so strong and lead through love because there's a lot going on for our teenagers these days.

ABBY [04:52]

Yes. No, I completely agree. I feel the cheating aspect where I'll have my big kids watch my little guy on the weekends or on date nights and it feels weird. I should have tried harder to arrange a babysitter, but this is so great that I don't have to. And I also feel like our big kids started full-day school before we had our little guy. So, I knew what that felt like for a minute. And then, I went back to having a baby and toddlers. And so I'm like, okay, now I'm back here again, where I have all day long, but it feels like such a blink of an eye. No time to get anything done. So, I get that for sure.

And then, I think when it comes to teenagers, I would hear a lot of my friends who are older who have teenagers or who have had teenager say like, "Buckle up. It gets really hard. Buckle up," or "Teenagers are so fun," with the eye roll, And I remember thinking I liked being a teenager, it was really fun to be a teenager. And I liked some of my friends' moms and parents. So, I want to be that.

And I committed a few years ago, maybe only two years ago, maybe not even that long. As we were entering preteen and teenage years, I committed, I said teenage years are going to be fun. Teenage years are going to be fun. And I'm just going to have that mentality and that mindset of that it's going to be fun. And I know that subconsciously, it's going to be a different kind of hard, but it was really hard to have newborns. It was really hard to have toddlers.

My first two are 11 months apart, which wasn't planned. And while it is such a blessing and they are amazing, while that is so amazing, it was really, really, really hard to have two babies. At my 1-year-old's birthday party, my daughter's 1-year-old birthday party, I had a three week old baby. So, it's just like a different level where you're supposed to be celebrating this one human you have, and, yeah, I have another human that I'm getting to know. So, that was hard.

And then, having two kids in school and the homework. And they're in the same grade because of their birthday. And so, we have usually two different classes. And having all that was hard. And so, I want to walk into this, I'm just barely at the start of teenage years, and want to walk in with it's going to be hard, but a different hard. And being a mother is hard, but I really want to have fun. I really want to enjoy it. And I hope that I'm parenting in a way that I would have wanted, but yet with my life experience and the experience of others around me, too.

So, I feel like I'm excited. I feel like when they hit 11, 12 years old. And I say "they," because the two big kids are so close in age, it feels like twins, but when they hit 11, 12 years old, I had this epiphany, that was, you no longer need me to teach you how to be a human, you are a human I'm doing life with. And I still have a stewardship over them. And I still have to teach them. I get that. But there was a major shift of, we get to be two humans doing life together. And that is so cool. It's so beautiful.

And I get to know them as humans and people and interests and what their soul is, instead of having a little child that I'm like, you didn't know how to tie your shoes, or you didn't know that by saying that, it hurt someone's feelings, all the little things. So, it's been really an amazing journey so far. But, again, my daughter's 14. So, we've only been a year into it.

CAMILLE [08:23]

Yeah, I agree with that. I think that mind frame and the way that we process the different phases of life that we're in, it's interesting, I shared on social media the other day. And it was a quote that said something like the moment that you're in, nothing lasts forever. I had someone respond back to me in the DM saying, "Thank goodness, thank you for this reminder," because she was going through a really hard time.

And I think it also applies to when times are beautiful and can feel maybe even easy. Knock on wood, those moments where you're like, but nothing lasts forever. There are moments in time where our kids go through different phases and struggles. And as a parent, sometimes it can feel like, oh my gosh, when are we going to get past this?

And then, you look back and I was talking to my 10-year-old about this when he was four and five. He was really difficult at that age. And I said, "Do you remember going through that phase of life?" And he had very explosive anger, he would kick and scream and punch. It was a really difficult time. And I asked him if he remembered that and he said, "I do. I do remember that." And he said, "And therapy helped me so much." That was when he was tiny, like a tiny, tiny human. Yeah. And it was just a short stint that we got through and learned how to express emotion and learn about how to express and share feelings we were feeling that are really big.

And I think that at that time, had you asked me, "How is parenting going?" I would be like, "Oh my gosh, I am drowning." It felt so insurmountable. And now, as a 10-year-old, I'm like, "Dude, you are so easy." He listens to what I say. He does things when I ask him to.

So, with any parent listening, I'm sure you've gone through different phases like this. And just to remember, nothing lasts forever. And it's even embracing those teen years, they are fleeting. They hit junior high, they're off to the race. I feel like it just flies by so quickly. And my oldest will be driving soon, and in two more years, be out of the house. It's mind numbing to think about.

Anyway, this went way off. We usually don't get this off the rails, but that's okay. This is motherhood. That's important. So, speaking of motherhood and all of its gifts and its hardships, you had a really hard time that you went through that was actually the birth of your business. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

ABBY [11:01]

Yeah, for sure. And it's not hard to talk about, I actually love talking about this because it's a blessing of my business. And I'll explain more in a minute. But I get to talk about this part of my life that there is a lot of beauty because of my business. But what's hard is to know where to start and how much to say and all the details because I don't talk about it as often as I would maybe my other kids. And so, you want to say all the things.

So I'll try and have it make sense. So, eight years ago, we had a baby named Easton and he lived and then passed away two hours later. And we knew that he would die going into his birth, but we didn't know when we first got pregnant. So, like I said, my first two are super close together. And then, we thought, we've had one of each. We've replenished the earth. We've done our duty. We're done.

And then, my sister had a baby. And I felt like I imprinted in a sense on the baby because I was like we're supposed to have another baby. I could do this again. And my husband was like, "No, we are done." And I'm like, "No, no, we're not done." And then, I got pregnant. And this was the pregnancy with Easton. And at 20 weeks, we went to go find out if it was a boy or girl. And I remember feeling uneasy during the appointment that there was something wrong.

But I said, "What is that?" I felt like a really big black space on the ultrasound. And I was like, "What is that?" And she was like, "That's just his stomach." And I was like, "Okay." What do I know? Anyway, my husband traveled for work for our whole married life until the last four years. But at that time, he was traveling, and he had to leave for a flight. And so, we found out it was a boy. And I was actually really upset about that. I wanted another girl. And so, I was crying already that it was a boy.

And then, my husband left and the doctor wanted to keep us or keep me talk to him for a minute. And I walked in and he said, "So, we have a problem with the baby." And instantly, I had the feelings of like, why am I mad that it's a boy? Now I actually don't care what sex it is. I just want it to be healthy. And I want to protect my baby. And he said, "Your baby has a diaphragmatic hernia," which is a hole in his diaphragm. And this is where the story gets long.

So, basically, he had a hole in his diaphragm. And the doctor said like, "I know enough to know that I'm not the best person to treat you and you need to go see a specialist." And so, he says he sees this about twice a year in all his patients. Two times a year, he sees this come up. And then, there are very few documented cases. But it's not common, but common enough they know that they need a specialist.

So, we met with a specialist. We had to do a bunch of genetic testing, an amniocentesis, just all the things to see what was going on. And the specialist was saying that most of the time, there's a big chunk of time that this is a fluke and a big chunk that this is something else is causing this. And so from further testing, we found out that he had a rare genetic abnormality called Pallister-Killian syndrome.

And there's at the time 3000 or less documented cases in the world about this rare genetic issue. And we learned a lot about the human anatomy, more than I knew. And from about week 22-ish to 31, we spent every week with specialists on specialists on specialists with hour-long ultrasounds, trying to figure out the extent of his ailments.

Pallister-Killian syndrome is basically an issue that affects a human body that makes him extremely handicapped. So, Easton, he would have never walked or talked or crawled on his own most likely. He would have probably been confined to a wheelchair. They have extreme seizures and low muscle tone. So, that's why they can't walk, they don't have enough strength. And so, that coupled with the diaphragmatic hernia made this case really not fit for life.

The problem is that there's kids or babies that have Pallister-Killian syndrome that survive and live a full life, but a handicapped life. And then, there are babies that have diaphragmatic hernias that live and get surgery, and then have to have multiple surgeries through their whole life, but they live. And so, the combination is so unpredictable that we didn't know if we should induce labor because we knew he would die. We didn't know if he would live. And so, we had to spend all this time really figuring out the extent of really how bad it was.

And that brought on its own challenges, but we finally met with a specialist that said that Easton needed a huge long list of life-saving procedures and those procedures are saved for babies who would most likely make it. And these are babies who are fighters, who can survive a surgery. He would have had to have open heart surgery as well because he had three holes in his heart. He would have had to have the surgery to fix the hole. The list goes on and on.

And so, once we found out that he would most likely not survive, there was actually quite a bit of peace that came. I think all along, I subconsciously knew that he would die. And so, you go into fight or flight mode where we're like, okay, let's plan a funeral. And it feels really insensitive. But it became a moment of like, here's what we have to do next. You're like a ticking time bomb almost where he's going to be born at some point. So, we have to make these preparations.

And honestly, it was a blessing to know going into it. We were able to make arrangements in a decently sound mind where we could decide where we wanted him buried, that we wanted to have a photographer. We were able to pick out what he would wear and get family prepared. Obviously, we didn't know when he would be born, but that we were able to make some arrangements. So, that was all of 2015.

And then, he was born six weeks early and still weighed five pounds, four ounces. So, he was still a good size baby because he also wasn't swallowing. So, I didn't know this about babies, that while they're in utero, that's the right term, they're swallowing the amniotic fluid. And that helps to get everything working. And so, he wasn't, which actually made my fluid three times the size it was supposed to be. But, yeah, he was still a large baby.

And so, my water broke and we had Easton. And that's a whole podcast on its own. The delivery was the most beautiful, spiritual, angelic experience. And it was the most awful, most painful four days of my life. Just everything from an emergency C-section to not being able to intubate him to have him breathing for me to meet him. A lot of serendipitous moments like my husband's grandfather passed away two days before. So, all of that side of the family who lives outside of Utah were here, so my in-laws were here to see Easton.

So, there were so many beautiful things that all synced up correctly. But ultimately walking out of the hospital without a baby was gut wrenching. So, that's Easton's story basically. And there was a lot of growth that came through Easton. And we go through the motions to get back to normal life.

I remember driving home from the hospital and saying, I will never yell at my children because it could be their last day here. And I never want them to think that I'm mad at them. But then eventually, I yell at my children. And the humanness comes back. And it was definitely a really hard recovery. But we had a beautiful graveside service. And I think we were definitely held up by our family and our friends and the Spirit just held us over. So, that was in October of 2015.

And this is when both of the big kids were now in kindergarten, half-day kindergarten. And so, I was experiencing them being on half-day and also being at a house that there was supposed to be a crib and there was supposed to be a baby and a corner of toys. And there wasn't anymore and I knew I was grieving. And I know that that's allowed, but there was also this depression that was setting in that I'm just sitting at home all day. I know I wasn't just sitting at home all day, but looking back, it felt that way.

And I had a friend at the time who was working for Beddy's which is a company here that does zipper bedding. And so, it's all your bedding in one and you just zip to make it. Most of you guys have heard about it, but she was there. And this was probably their first year or maybe they were entering their second year of business. So, they were just brand new. And my friend was doing a little bit of everything that she could, and she was helping with photoshoots and pinners, all the trade shows.

And so, she asked if I would come and help work a Pinners Expo, just a shift, a couple of hours. And I remember being so excited to have something new, something different to do. I bought a whole new outfit like a blouse and slacks, I swear. And for me to find out it was a Hunting Expo. And I do not hunt. I don't know anything about that world. But anyone who attends a Hunting Expo is not wearing a blouse and slacks, but I was. And I wanted to dress the part, I researched the whole website. And I was just eating up and reading all things Beddy's. And I loved working in that trade show. And it was the first time that I felt some happiness again and some purpose and some drive. And it started healing that part of my life.

And then, she would ask if I would help with a photoshoot and come and steam the bedding. And I know this much, a tiny, tiny bit about photography. And so, there were some times that I took the photos. And, again, all of us who own businesses know that the very first few years you get scrappy. And so, I was helping Beddy's be as scrappy as they could. And it was all hands on deck and eventually helping them a little bit on the side here and there turned into like, "We want to hire you. Can you work part time?" And I was like, "Yeah, that would be great."

So I shuffled the kids around and would go work while they're in school. And then, when they entered first grade, so they were in school all day, so I would work a couple days a week, I would drop them off, go into the office. And I love that. And I started thinking like, I'm a working mom, which I now love to hate that term because we're just moms who have a job and/or own companies. But at the time, I was like I'm a working mom, this is my calling. This is the next step. This is so fun. It was so fulfilling.

I quickly turned into their marketing manager. Betsy and Angie are the owners, and Betty heads up all the marketing side. And so, she'd have these grand ideas. And I would say, "I know how to do all that or let me do that for you or teach me how and I'll do it for you." And so, I quickly became her right-hand woman and there was just rapid, rapid growth there. And I learned so much and all the while I knew that it was healing my heart, that I felt like I had lost purpose because up until then, I was mom.

And for the most part, just mom, not just mom, but fully mom. And then, my baby died. And while I know I had two kids that I was mom still, I think there's a small part of me that was like, but I failed as a mom. I think you take some ownership of what did I do to make this happen, which I know that it wasn't my fault. But I think I needed a purpose outside of motherhood that helped me feel like a human that could heal and be whole again. And Beddy's did that for me. And that's why they will always be a part of my story. And that's why they meant more to me than any old job.

I always felt like I was an owner with no equity, no stake in it, and didn't donate $1 to it. I just wanted to give my whole heart because it had my whole heart. So, yeah, so my experience, there was about four years. And like I said, it quickly became the marketing manager. And then, I helped with all things social media. I helped with either email marketing efforts, some of their Facebook ads or Meta ads, which wasn't Meta at the time, but now known as Meta, all the photoshoots and our processes and just building a business and helping as much as I could with my limited background and experience. But I knew enough to I want to get in and get my hands dirty and help where I could.

And then, I got pregnant. And I was like, wait a second. I was good with this. I was okay with having big kids in school and me being a working mom and I'm going to have a career. This is so life giving. And then, I got pregnant and I was like, what does this mean? And I remember when we found out we were pregnant, I bawled and said, "I'm not quitting my job. I'm not quitting my job." My husband's like, "No one told you you had to." And I was like, "Okay, I'm not quitting." and we made it work.

So, we had our little guy now. His name is Grey and that was equally terrifying and healing to have an experience of having a baby after loss. And I was able to work around working with Beddy's. They worked around me having a baby. And as Beddy's was growing again in a rapid rapid pace, they needed my position to be full-time. And we came to a place where my baby was now almost one. Yeah, eight, nine months. And it had been working fine. But they wanted me to be full-time.

And I just thought, with my babies so young, as much as I love this, I don't want to give up motherhood from 9 to 5 for this job. And so, not that they were asking me to do that by any means, but it's what it felt like. And I knew that we were being led to close that chapter and to stay home. And so, I ended up deciding to leave and stay home with Grey. Obviously, with my big kids, but he was home, now a little guy.

And I tell people that I held still for about five minutes. And the fast forward part here is that I had friends and family ask me all the marketing questions. And I thought I've been doing this for Beddy's for the last four years. Let me help you and I have some answers. And then, we accidentally fell into starting E-Studios.

And when it came time to name our company, I thought, really the whole reason why I am in marketing or this entrepreneurial world is because after Easton, I needed to grieve and heal. And I found Beddy's and that's how it all started. Easton is such a big part of the next phase of my life that it has to be named after Easton. And so, the E in E-Studios is for Easton. But I have found that it has a lot of meetings that resonate with my clients and the work that we do here. Email marketing is a huge part of what we do. So, we can tie the E in there, too. But, yeah, that's the whole story. The whole story is ongoing. But Eason was awful and terrible, but beautiful and angelic and guided, and then it led us to be here.

CAMILLE [27:03]

That's incredible. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. And what a rollercoaster that must have been for you to know that you're anticipating this loss and this grief, but also feeling so much love and hope. And I think that that is very relatable, that there are times in each of our lives where something so devastating can be that rich soil that something beautiful can grow from.

I'm curious with building your marketing business, you're in a physical space now and tell everyone how many people on your team, what is it exactly that you're doing? Just so that people who don't know you as well as I do, paint a picture. You're sitting in your office right now. This is your work office. Tell us the story of what you've built.

ABBY [27:56]

Okay, yeah. So, currently, we have a team of eight. A good majority are here in the office with me. And then, we have a couple of remote, hybrid, all the different situations because they fill a really great role. So, all in all, our team is 8, then plus me, and we are a marketing management firm.

So, we take small business owners, mostly female, but we have some male clients. And we help be their chief marketing officer and their marketing team. So, they don't have to hire in-house, you don't have to worry about employment, taxes, all of that. You get to hire us, and then we are your team. And I have the team for you. And so, we come and we help create marketing strategy and game plans. We create marketing calendars. We try and provide you as much brain space as you can possibly free up under the marketing umbrella.

Obviously, I'm not going to worry about fulfillment or I'm not worried about it with you, but I don't know how to fulfill I don't know any that side of it or product creation. But the marketing umbrella, we help. So, we do everything from email marketing is one of our main specialties. And then, we do social media management. And we do SMS texting. We do mainly Shopify website. We build from the ground up and we manage them day to day. And then, overall marketing calendars and strategy, like I said.

So, yeah, we're in an office space now. And we have a few offices and we call it the bullpen out front with all the girls sitting out there together. And we have about 20, 22 clients right now, and it ebbs and flows. Our clients do a six-month agreement and some wrap up at that time. We've trained them as much as we can, and then they run on their own. And then, some stay on and have been here for years.

But it all started out of my house and the very typical on the couch, in bed, brought my computer to cheer competitions and was working out in the hall at all hours in all scenarios. And we just kept growing clients through referrals and networking, word of mouth, friends of friends of friends, and helping to answer and fulfill a need that they had. And then, COVID hit.

CAMILLE [30:23]

How did you get your team members in? When you first decided like, okay, I'm doing this and I'm helping friends, how did you first find team members? And how did you figure out HR and doing all the benefits and time off? Walk us through that a little bit. What did that look like?

ABBY [30:45]

Yeah. I'm still trying to figure it out. If there is a manual somewhere, I will spend lots of money to buy it. But we just got a notice from the Utah Labor Commission, it feels like a very scary notice. I have it here on my desk. That's like you don't have workers' comp, and you're supposed to have workers' compensation insurance. And I'm like nobody told me actually. Whose job was to tell me? Because I don't know about this.

And so, I think we're still figuring it out. But back to the very beginning and your initial question of how did I find all my team members? I'll tell you that every single one of them has a really unique special story. It's not traditional, like I posted on Indeed. And then, I interviewed 12. And I picked one.

One of the funnest parts of the team is that they've all been led to us. So, that's the short answer is they've been led to us and they have found it. But I started in November of 2019, June of 2020. And I was like I can't grow any more. And I don't want to say no to anyone. So, I'm going to hire help. And they'll just be behind the scenes. Nobody will know that I have a team. And it will still be me. But they'll be here to execute. And so, I was in a little mastermind group that I found, I think from a Facebook group that I was in, and we were on some weekly calls. And I was talking about how I needed help. And they were like, "If you write up a job description, we'll post for you."

And so, they posted for me and a neighbor of one of the girls in the mastermind had a sister who was looking for an internship. And she reached out to me, and that was my first hire. I'll tell you that my business wasn't even incorporated yet. We were still sending Venmos and paying. We didn't have QuickBooks that clients were paying under the table basically. And we thought we probably should pay taxes on this. I just don't know how. And we'll figure it out. And we're just going to keep growing to make money.

So, we hired our first employee, I'm saying like 15 bucks an hour, is that a good deal? You need the internship anyway. And it's like 10 hours a week. And I remember thinking that's so much money. But 10 hours, I think I can give her 10 hours. She came twice a week in between our work schedule. And we just Venmoed paid her, figure that out. And then, it was the next April. So, about seven, eight months later, we were growing again, and I needed to hire again.

And so, actually one of my clients, and I don't have to go through every single story, but one of my clients got an email from somebody that said, "Hey, I'm in the marketing department at UVU or program. And I would love to help you with your social media, you're an account I love following." So this client emailed it to me, she was like, "Hey, are you looking to hire?" which was such a blessing, because then this person came on, and she was a perfect fit.

So, every one of my team members have come in random places. I spoke last year at UVU in their content marketing class, I was asked to speak from a networking connection I had. I was asked to speak and a girl in that class met me and we hit it off and chatted after. And I DMed her and I said, "Name your price. What do you want? I will hire you." And she wasn't even looking for a job. And I was like, "No, I actually have to hire you. You're supposed to be here."

And so, it's just the most random connections. But I had to get to a place that I knew that I had to understand my goals first. And I didn't want to just have three clients and do it on the side. I want to play big. And I changed my goals along the way, but overall E-Studios is going to be big. I want it to be large. I don't want it to be ginormous. I don't want more than 40 employees at most, at least right now. But I knew that I wanted to scale and in a service-based industry, I only have so much time.

And in order to be a CEO and the accounting department and the HR and actually do the stuff that I like doing like consulting and marketing and all of that, I have to have team members to do the things that either I'm not good at or I don't have time for. And so, knowing where I was headed helped me understand when it was time to pull off the side of the road and hire somebody right and have a pit stop. And it has let us scale.

Now, a lot of my first few employees aren't here anymore. And they have moved on to other opportunities. And it's all happened when my business was ready to level up, those that are not wanting to join that or want a different opportunity or something different in their life drop off. And then, somebody new, not better, but more suited to the current level comes in. And so, we've had this same team for about a year, maybe a little over a year. And it's been fabulous, for sure. But we're getting ready to hire again next year. And it needs to be a strategic hire and thinking through all the things and what we want, where we're going, who's going to be on that bus with us.

CAMILLE [35:43]

That is so fascinating. I love hearing that grassroots, we didn't know what we needed until it was coming along. And I feel like that's the bumpy road of building a business that a lot of people don't always hear. And I think that what would be really interesting for our audience to hear is how you're able to manage people because you're in a new place now where it's not so much. Yes, you're still doing the consulting and marketing and the strategy. Of course, you're doing those things.

But now, your team is big enough that you are managing people. What kind of skill sets have you had to develop? And how have you kept communication and team camaraderie going well in an office full of women? Tell me how you've done that.

ABBY [36:30]

Okay. So, I remember somebody a little while ago, maybe even a year or two ago from where I am now. They said, "I realized that I hate managing people. It's really, really hard. I don't want to have to micromanage or tell people what to do."

And at the time, I was like, "That's not that hard. It's fun to be with your people." And then, I started moving away from the day-to-day stuff that we do to actually fulfill in our clients and the way the business didn't need me to move into full CEO role. And then, I understood what they were saying, it really is hard to manage people because everyone has humaneness. Obviously, everyone has their own individual life, but this business is my life.

It is so much of my life. My husband is involved in a little bit. My kids come here and clean the office. They want the business to grow. There's opportunities here. We are all in it. It's all consuming. And so, it's really weird to check myself and say, these are employees, they don't have the same draw connection to the business that I do.

That being said, I want team members who love it here and want to feel like they're a part of it. And I love that I had that opportunity with Beddy's that I felt like, yeah, I'm an owner, except that I'm not an owner at all. I want them to have that same commitment and desire. And I want it to come from them. I don't want it to come from, you have to be uber committed and crack the whip, so to speak.

And so, there's been a few things that I've learned. I've learned that I want to create an environment that I like showing up to, and that I will attract people to work with me that want that same environment. It's like we talked about with our business that you have to understand your ideal customer, create that ideal customer, and then you will attract them because they want the same things you do. It's true I think in the office setting as well.

So, for example, I buy them lunch every Monday. And I know as a 22-year-old kid, having somebody buy your lunch is a big deal. And it's not that big of a deal for me, we financially can afford it. And it's a small thing that I can say, hey, it's part of our culture that you don't have to worry about providing yourself food on Mondays. And so, after our staff meeting, we all order lunch. One of the offices in here is our break room. Something that may feel really standard, but we have drinks and we have snacks like cheese and apples and beef jerky. And then, we have crackers and candy and all the things that I thought I want to be able to have a snack here if I want it. So, I'm sure my team does as well.

So, making sure that staying full and also having my team members do the ordering. So, I used to do it all, and then I would pick things that I like and they were like, "We never eat that." And so, letting them be in charge of like, no, we actually want these yogurts instead of that. It's little things like that. And a lot of the things that I do, I learned a little bit at Beddy's. They did a really great job there creating an awesome culture. And it was such a small group at the beginning that we were able to create that together.

And I don't know what they do now, but I love what they did there. And we have a big Christmas party coming up. And every year, I try to keep it a secret. And so, the suspense is rising and rising and that's always fun. And so, I want it to be a fun environment that they say, I get to go to work, instead I have to go to work, but also knowing that sometimes you have to go to work, sometimes you just have to get the job done. And you're employed to do that. And so, we have days like that.

I think it's very parallel to being a mother, where the more that I can work on myself and understanding my big feelings and my emotions and my trauma and my experiences, the more that I can help my kids understand, I do the same thing with my employees. The more that I can understand how I ebb and flow and my tired days and when I need a mental health day and to stay home or sleep in or come late or leave early, the more that I can understand why and how I need that, the more than I can provide that to my team.

And the other element, too, is we've gotten to a point just this September, so it's been two months where what I thought was I needed a me for me. I do this for my clients all the time, where I come in, provide strategy to tell them what they want, what they need. But I have a hard time getting out of the weeds to see what I need.

And so, I had worked with somebody on a project last year, and we've remained friends. And she reached back out and was like, "I am still drawn to E-Studios. And I think I need to be involved in some way that I don't know how." And I was like, "Yeah, and your skill set doesn't necessarily fill a need right now. But I feel like we're supposed to work together." And so, we went to dinners and lunches and kept the conversations going for a little while. And just in September, I brought her on as what we're calling like operations director.

And what I thought I needed was people to just do all the things I didn't have time for. Back up. What I realized was I am a really emotional person, and that is my superpower. And it's also my kryptonite. So, sometimes when it comes to my people, I'm so emotional about it that I either respond in a different way, or I don't give them critiques and feedback, because I'm afraid to hurt their feelings, or I don't want them to be sad, or I'm so frustrated at something, and then it comes out wrong. And I need to take a minute to calm down.

So, I want to use my superpower side of being emotional and be they're like rah rah cheerleaders, and I want to support them and see their work-life balance, and I want to do that part. But I also need someone to be like, "Why haven't you hit this deliverable? Where are you at with this? Here's your deadline." And to do that in a tactical way, that's non-emotional.

And so, my operations director came in to fulfill a big part of operations that we need. But she's also checking in with our team every week. So, I can keep doing networking and sales and CEO stuff. But the team is being managed on a more tactical level that A) I don't have time for and B) have too much emotion to do it well. So, not even so much strategic, it's been a really big move for us, but it's been uber, uber helpful with our team and me.

CAMILLE [43:00]

That's amazing. I love that you speak to that of recognizing your strength and your weakness. And I think that that is pretty common that our strength can go hand in hand with our weakness and that you were able to recognize that and think, okay, I need to bring someone in that's a yin to my yang, or the opposite that that can help.

Because really, if you look at any successful business, that is an element that is there is that that visionary or that CEO has a support system that allows them to continue to do the things that they're good at. And so, congratulations. That's really exciting.

We're just wrapping up this first section of this part. If you were to look back and tell yourself something that you learned along the way that was a big lesson for you, what is that advice that you would give to someone just starting or to yourself four years ago, when you were first starting out?

ABBY [43:55]

Good question. Something that I would tell myself four years ago, I think maybe my surface answer is very much what people say, it will all get figured out and there will be highs and lows. And it will all get figured out. Just keep pushing forward.

And, in fact, I'll say my husband actually taught me four years ago, from the very beginning, I thought that we had to have a legit website and the service menu and the pricing and what that all means and what's included. And I needed to have that first before I went and sold someone. And he said, "Just go try and make money. Just go see if this is going to work." And I was like, "No, this is not right." And he's like "No, just go grind."

And I have used that over and over and over and I'm telling myself that again right now during Q4, busiest time of year, Black Friday, all that madness, just grind because there's a ton that you learn in the grind. And so, while I did tell myself that four years ago and I keep telling myself, I would tell anyone else that. Just put one foot in front of the other, you'll learn so much more than sitting and waiting.

CAMILLE [45:05]

Yes. Oh my gosh, I love that advice so much. I think that there is so much beauty in forward action and that it doesn't have to be perfect to be productive and to find that progress. So awesome. Abby, you are incredible. Thank you for sharing your heart and also those very personal details about your business and how you've been able to have so much success.

Please, everyone who's listening right now, we're going to wrap up this part one and don't forget to come into episode or part two of this, but, Abby, please tell us and our audience where we can find you and get resources from you.

ABBY [45:41]

Yes. So, please visit me on Instagram and I love chatting in my DM, so ask me all the questions. Anytime that we need to build you anything specific, I'll charge you. But other than that, I will answer any and all questions. So on Instagram, I am @e_studiosmarketing. And then, my website is theestudios.com.

CAMILLE [46:01]

Perfect. Awesome. Thank you so much.

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Thank you so much for listening to this episode. If you are not subscribed, please do so. Any subscription, share, or review of this podcast helps us immensely. And if you'd like to subscribe, that would help me out as well to share stories of amazing mothers and women building businesses.

Now, there are some specials that are available through Abby Combs that she was so graciously offering to our audience. If you use the code, callmeceo, you can get 50% off of power hour with her for her to look at your email marketing and what is working well and things you might want to tweak and change, which is super helpful. She also has packages for managing email and strategy for your marketing so that you can hit the ground running in 2024.

Thank you so much for tuning into this episode. And remember, if you are a busy CEO looking for help with strategy, hiring a virtual assistant, or learning how you can create systems in your business to have more time and more life back, please reach out to me at callmeceopodcast@gmail.com or you can reach me on Instagram at @camillewalker.co. Thanks for tuning in.

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Hey, CEOs. Thank you so much for spending your time with me. If you found this episode inspiring or helpful, please let me know in a comment in a 5-star review. You could have the chance of being a featured review on an upcoming episode. Continue the conversation on Instagram @callmeceopodcast. And remember, you are the boss!

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