SME Magazine recently caught up with Stephanie Elswood, above, entrepreneur and influencer. Here, she tells us about her business life and starts by talking about her current ventures.
CAROUSE is a range of non-alcoholic spirits that I have been working on since 2021. There are two recipes in the range, DRIFT and UPLIFT and both can be savoured on the rocks, with a simple mixer, or as part of a cocktail. With a blend of botanicals, natural fruit extracts and adaptogen ingredients, we have developed delicious recipes, that not only taste wonderful, but can also have cognitive benefits to enhance your mood and your drinking occasion. When designing the branding, we wanted something that felt premium for those that no longer wanted alcohol, but still deserve a little luxury. Our tagline, “Drink to remember,” is more than just words; it’s the entire ethos of our brand. Sobriety is not about missing out; it’s about remembering every single magical moment life has to offer. We hope to encourage our customers to toast to unforgettable experiences whilst enjoying a glass of CAROUSE!
Dry Disco – Started in 2022, I joined forces with founder of Sober Girl Society – Millie Gooch, to create an an alcohol-free day festival and party for sober and sober curious women. Our aim was to create a positive atmosphere to show people that they can have fun, dance and socialise in a club environment, without alcohol. The first event was held last May at London’s iconic venue, Ministry of Sound, and was attended by over 300 people. We had activities like dance classes, breath workshops, panel talks, DJ’s and our entirely Boozeless Bar! We now look forward to hosting our second event in December and we are excited to welcome 500+ women to our Dry Disco Christmas Party!
Stay Sassy was started in 2017 as a one-off event combining my passion for dance and mental health awareness to raise money for St Christopher’s hospice, the hospice that cared for my Nan before she passed away. The event was a workshop for women to be seen, heard and celebrated and started with a walking in heels masterclass, followed by a dance workshop, then a talk lead by a mental health expert and finished with snacks and a hang out. Since then, the events have grown and I’ve been fortunate enough to take the event series around the country raising just shy of £100,000 for different charities, growing a community of women and creating a safe space for them to express themselves.
Sasstainable is an ethical e-commerce store that launched in 2019 with the mission to provide eye-catching products that are handy, ethically made, and environmentally friendly. We offer things from on-the-go bamboo cutlery sets to reusable bakeware. My vision was to help my audience embrace sustainable living at home and on-the-go whilst sharing education about simple swaps and recipe inspiration.
As a teenager, you were a keen and talented dancer but that didn’t work out. What happened and how did you move into the wellness space?
My performing journey began at a young age, and I pursued it professionally from the age of 14 until I turned 20. Like many in the industry, I faced various mental health and body image challenges during that time.
At the age of 19, after battling an eating disorder for five years, I made the pivotal decision to seek professional help. During this period, I created an Instagram page initially intended as a food diary for my therapist. Surprisingly, it evolved into a significant passion project for me, allowing me to rediscover my love for food and cooking, document my recovery journey, dip my toe into the fitness world and connect with a growing audience.
While I was still working as a professional dancer, I realised that the industry wasn’t conducive to my mental well-being. Then, the opportunity arose to collaborate with Nike and JD Women as the face of their brand. This chance was too good to pass up and became the turning point in my transition into the wellness space.
Since then, I have dedicated most of my working life to using my platform to share positive tips and guides on how to live a full life with a holistic approach to health and well-being. I have been lucky enough to launch different ventures, businesses and events that combine my passions for wellness and helping others struggling with their mental health.
How do you choose which ventures you want to pursue?
To be totally honest, all the ventures have happened organically. They are extensions of own passions and have authentically been born out of my personal journey.
Whenever I have an idea, I run it past those closest to me and friends/colleagues that I respect in business. Extensive industry research is a crucial step in my process, serving as the foundation upon which I build and develop these ventures. I also ask my already established audience. I have a target demographic that I have direct contact with that allows me to ask questions, share polls and speak directly to consumers.
How have you developed your social media strategy?
A huge amount of trial and error! I have been posting on social media now for almost eight years and grown/evolved my strategy to match the platform as it has developed. Instagram and YouTube has changed so much, especially since the rise of TikTok, so I am constantly trying new things to keep up with trends and new creators.
I do have core content pillars though. I like to create a well-rounded approach that offers key takeaways, education and entertainment to my audience whilst sharing my daily lifestyle. I share a mixture of mediums to engage with them and I think trying to be as authentic as I can has been a huge asset in being able to build rapport with those that follow me. Building trust is vital and I think being honest and vulnerable throughout my journey has definitely helped to do this.
Looking back, what have been your favourite moments?
That’s a tough question because I have been lucky throughout my social media career. There have been some fabulous experiences like press trips abroad with Nike or going to Australia or Malta with the tourism boards or working closely with Meta and Instagram as part of their #WellnessCollective – but for me, the most rewarding moments that stand out, are those that involve me meeting and sharing experiences with my community – in person. Whether that’s through established fitness festivals, or live cooking demos or through my Stay Sassy or Dry Disco events. I am just so grateful that I get to thank those that follow and support my journey in person, because I would not be where I am today without them.
You were recently involved with “MoFounders”, a panel discussion with four of the UK’s brightest start-up owners. How was that? What were the main takeaways?
The “MoFounders” panel event was fantastic. I felt privileged to be a part of it and deeply. It was admittedly a bit intimidating to be the sole female guest on the panel, but the diverse blend of ages, industries and experiences among us provided the audience with invaluable insights and focal points that, hopefully, they can apply to their own business journeys. Collaborating with such accomplished male business leaders was an enlightening experience, and I, too, walked away with new knowledge.
The key takeaways from the event were:
- Gain a comprehensive understanding of your business, from its inner workings to every single process. Familiarise yourself with the “less exciting” aspects like the financials. Regularly review these numbers on a monthly basis, as it’s far easier to address issues within 30 days than waiting until year-end.
- Embrace risk-taking. Trust in yourself and your vision and have faith in the path you’ve chosen.
- Remember that people aren’t just buying what you do; they’re buying why you do it. Be courageous, be bold, and let a strong “why” be the driving force behind everything you do.
Business-wise, what to you hope to be doing in, say, five or ten years’ time?
I have huge goals for expanding the businesses. Especially scaling CAROUSE and Dry Disco as I am witnessing a huge shift in drinking culture. We are in the process of building a team of young, vibrant minds, passionate about the movement toward sobriety and sober curiosity and I hope to continue to do that.
A huge passion for CAROUSE, beyond making it a household name, is education and community. I hope that we are able to create key events and activations over the next five years that allows those who feel alone in their sobriety to feel seen, celebrated and accepted.
On a personal note, I am determined to advance my journey as a businesswoman. My aspiration is to continue to learn and then pay it forward by mentoring other aspiring female entrepreneurs. Ultimately, my goal is to create a life where I am driven, challenged and stimulated while nurturing the businesses I’ve founded. All of this, while savouring life’s moments alongside my loved ones. This, to me, signifies the pinnacle of success.