Faces of Entrepreneurship: Chelsea Elliott, Somocom Lab

Chelsea Elliott, MSW, is the Founder & CEO of Sōmōcom Lab and creator of the EQ Kids Crew! ® The Social-Emotional Card Game for Kids. Her mission is to help adults create emotionally healthy and safe environments for kids while building kids’ confidence, resilience, and communication skills through emotional wellness.

She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati in Psychology, her master’s degree from Boston College in Macro Social Work, a Women in Entrepreneurship certificate from Cornell University, is a graduate of the Central Ohio Parent Leadership Training Institute, and Goldman Sachs One Million Black Women’s Black in Business Program.

What does “entrepreneurship” mean to you?
Chelsea Elliott: Entrepreneurship means a lot of different things to me. It means freedom, flexibility, unlimited earning potential, and creativity and innovation while at the same time working harder than ever, being adaptable in an ever-evolving economy, and managing unpredictability. Entrepreneurship is also a mindset. It’s a way of seeing opportunity and potential in everything.

The beauty of entrepreneurship is the ability to use your passion to enhance the lives of others while making money and providing a livelihood for others doing what you love.

Tell us about your first experience with entrepreneurship.
CE: My first experience with entrepreneurship was watching my mother work as a realtor and run other businesses. She is still a serial entrepreneur, and I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of working with her since I was 11 years old. I saw how hard she worked to put my sisters and me through private school and live in great neighborhoods.

Now that I’m a mother and entrepreneur, I have a greater understanding and appreciation for what it took for her to provide for us. I continue to learn so much from her about perseverance, resilience, rejection, and how to move forward toward your goals.

My first experience as an entrepreneur was with my administrative consulting firm. I provided services to help entrepreneurs streamline their business processes and integrate technology to make their businesses run smoothly. I learned a lot about the need to set boundaries, create contracts, prevent scope creep, and establish accounts receivable policies. There were so many valuable lessons learned in that business that I have used in my current ventures.

What is your company’s origin story? What is the biggest reason you started your business? What did those early days look like and teach you?
CE: People typically assume I started my business because of my children, but I really started it to honor my younger self. As a child, I experienced life-changing traumatic events. I ended up struggling with a host of mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, cutting behaviors, and suicidal ideation as a result of not receiving the support I desperately needed. If I could have had one person in my life—in my family or at school—who talked to me about my feelings, validated my emotions, and helped me find healthy ways to self-regulate and cope with what I went through, I know I would not have suffered as much as I did.

Through my company, I’m giving children a voice. I’m speaking up on their behalf to help parents, educators, and anyone else who interacts with children know that kids have feelings that deserve to be respected and treated with compassion and empathy, no matter how small their problems seem from our perspective. Through conversation-enhancing resources, play, and workshops, I’m teaching kids and adults how to look beyond behavior to discover the root issues and address those issues head-on together.

Starting this company was not always my intention. I thought I would work directly with children, which is why I went to school for psychology and social work. After writing my first children’s book, I wanted to create worksheets and other fun resources to accompany the books, but my vision has taken on a life of its own, turning into Somocom Lab. My company now combines all of my life experiences, educational background, and passion for mental health advocacy in one.

What do you wish you knew when you started? Is there anything you would do differently?
CE: I wish I had laid out a business plan when I started. I did not intend to start this business, so when the idea came to me, I went for it one step at a time without looking too far ahead in the future. I also wish I had learned more about business financials and planned my pricing more strategically.

What does “success” look like for you? We’d love to hear your biggest, boldest dream? What do you think will help you achieve it?
CE: Personally, success looks like having the freedom and finances to travel with my family. Professionally, success looks like a universal change in how mental health and children’s behavior are discussed, treated, and managed worldwide because of my work.

My boldest goal is to have the EQ Kids Crew as part of every school district in the United States. At the end of the school year, we will host activities focused on courage, resilience, and collaboration as a fun way to end the year.

What is your superpower as an entrepreneur? What is your proudest and darkest moment so far? Share a key high and a key low from your journey if you can.
CE: My superpower as an entrepreneur is having Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). While some people consider it a hindrance, especially in children, I use it to be more innovative, creative, and productive than most people.

My proudest moment so far is having my product featured on a Today Show segment. It was so amazing to see the hosts rally around something I made and talk about how great and necessary it is for kids and adults.

My darkest moment has been running my business alone and my oldest daughter telling me she wants to break my computer because I work too much. This has been a challenging journey, from the distribution center taking over my living room to managing every aspect of my business alone. It has been exhausting, scary, and hard to handle at times. My kids don’t always get my best because I’m working to provide a life for them while changing the lives of millions of families. Doing that requires a work/life balance and harmony that I am slowly working to achieve.

What are your personal driving principles, your top values?
CE: My driving principles are courage, living in and on purpose, continuing education, and having meaningful connections.

These principles impact how I interact with the world and my family. I want to teach my kids to be courageous, so I model that by letting them see me do new things even when I am afraid. I want to show people they can use what they’ve been through to create the life they want while helping others. Being a lifelong learner is of utmost importance to me. I never want to stop learning and sharing what I’ve learned to help others grow and develop in new ways. Having a meaningful connection with my children is my most important value. Nothing I do in life will matter more than having a positive relationship with my family.

How have your personal principles and values shaped your company’s values and principles? Give us some examples.
CE: I use my personal values and principles to guide the mission and vision of my business. I have to be courageous in my business as I create products and content that reaches a broader audience. My work is my purpose, so I’m creating the lifestyle I want by building my business and helping as many people as possible. I am constantly learning and looking for ways to apply what I’m learning in my business and on my business. I am committed to building meaningful relationships with my customers and partners to give them what they need and stay top of mind when they’re looking for support.

What’s it like to work alone or with your partners?
CE: Working alone has been challenging because there is so much that I am doing and that still needs to be done. I am slowly learning that my to-do list will only continue growing, so I need to plan, prepare, and focus on what’s most important. I am so grateful to have networks of support through the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center, ParentPreneur Foundation, the alumni network for the Women’s Entrepreneurship Program at Cornell University, the Parent Leadership Training Institute, and Goldman Sachs One Million Black Women: Black In Business Program.

I don’t have to do it alone with access to these phenomenal organizations and programs. They all have given me the tools I need to achieve my goals, and I’m forever grateful for the lasting relationships I have built within each one.

Do you have a mentor? Tell us about what makes them valuable to you and your business?
CE: I have mentors I can consult whenever I have a new idea or need to talk through a challenge. They have been with me since the inception of the idea for my business and helped me overcome every challenge I’ve faced.

I have mentorship in different aspects of my business and personal life. Whether I’m struggling with a product design, having issues with my website, or need to prepare for a speaking engagement, I know I have someone that can help.

I highly recommend that everyone finds a mentor for important areas of their lives. The Mentor Makers program is a great way to find a verified, high-value mentor with expertise in every aspect of running a business.

What role does mentorship play in your world (as a mentor or mentee)?
CE: As a mentee, my mentors are significant to my business success. They play a prominent role in my decisions and how I operate as a solopreneur. I feel more comfortable making decisions knowing I can talk to someone who’s been where I am and can help me through my roadblocks.

Many entrepreneurs continue to perfect their daily routines to support their work and greater vision; would you mind sharing your morning routine or a regular ritual that grounds your work each day?
CE: My daily routine is still being refined and perfected. I am a morning person with two young daughters, who are five and one, and a night-owl husband who all have their own routines and schedules. I am trying to get back to my routine of waking up at 5 AM to pray, write in my gratitude journal, and set my intentions for the day. I then exercise and prepare for the day while listening to recorded affirmations. When I’m able to start my day like this, I can feel the difference in my energy level and mindset throughout the day.

What are you reading or have read?
CE: I am currently reading “Redeeming Your Time” by Jordan Raynor. It’s a great faith-based approach to time management. My business advisor in the Black in Business program recommended the book to me, and it has helped me organize my ADHD mind in a new way.

I continue re-reading two books: “Permission to Feel” by Dr. Marc Brackett and “The Conscious Parent” by Dr. Shefali Tsabary. Both of these books are about giving children space to be themselves and have their own feelings. They have helped me in my personal life and in building programs and resources through my company.

Where do you go for inspiration?
CE: Children inspire me, so going to my family room and watching my kids be themselves is where I get a lot of my inspiration.

I also volunteer with a statewide maternal mental health organization, POEM (Perinatal Outreach and Encouragement for Moms). Having conversations with mothers and birthing persons who are learning to take care of themselves and be their own person after having a baby is so rewarding. It gives me a lot of inspiration for the work I do and the content I create.

Do you have a favorite quote, mantra, or words of wisdom to get through the tough days?
CE: The fabulous Melissa Bradley of 1863 Ventures shared this saying, “All is well, and all will be well.” It is a quick mantra that reminds me that no matter what I’m going through in life, it will work out.

I also recite a mantra that I wrote in one of my children’s books, “I can do it, I can do it. I am brave and strong!” My oldest daughter says this when she’s afraid, and it helps me to continue doing things that scare me but are necessary to achieve my goals.

My favorite scripture is Philippians 4:6 (NIV): Do not be anxious about anything… Growing up, I suffered from debilitating anxiety, and it took me a long time to learn how to manage it. This scripture helped me a lot during my worst times throughout life. Knowing that I don’t have to live an anxious life because my higher power Is with me means everything.

What is a problem that keeps you up at night?
CE: A problem that keeps me up at night is the rise in mental illness and suicidality in children. I want to eliminate the stigma around mental illness and help people understand early signs in their children, which starts with allowing them to be expressive and helping them understand and accept their emotions.

How do you think about helping others through your work?
CE: My work is completely focused on helping others. Helping children is a way to honor my younger self, who needed help from someone like me. It’s a privilege I am honored to have and do not take lightly. I also want to help the people I employ by creating a business that allows flexibility and purpose for everyone. That is the ultimate goal for me.

What advice do you have for fellow (and aspiring) entrepreneurs building and leading teams?
CE: My advice is to listen to “your people.” Your people are the people on your team. Hire people who are experts in their industries and help them work with their strengths, so you aren’t the only intelligent voice in the room. Make sure you are present in your business as you hire and delegate, so you can establish the right culture and expectations that will lead to you having the flexibility you desire.

What kind of an entrepreneur do you want to be known as – as in, what do you want your legacy to be?
CE: I want my legacy to be that my social enterprise was all about service. I want to be known and remembered as someone who genuinely wants to see the world become a better place, and I did all that I could to do my part while my company lives on to continue that vision.

Do you have someone you’d like to nominate to be profiled in our Faces of Entrepreneurship series? Please let us know by emailing media@thecenter.nasdaq.org or submit your nomination using this form.

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