Today we are excited to share with you our recent interview with Ellen Yin, the founder of “Cubicle to CEO” who just recently held one of her first larger-scale retreats here with us at The Independence. Read on to learn all about her amazing company, as well as the epic “Let’s Get Visible” event we were so pleased to host. Let’s Get visible was a conversation on brand and business visibility for women in business striving to have their work and their message seen! The event featured the “Traveling Blazers”, a panel of five industry leaders sharing wisdom about how to stand out online and truly shine! These women have a combined audience of over 250,000, decades of experience in business, and MILLIONS of dollars in revenue generated between them!
It’s the Traveling Blazers, these women have over 250,000 followers, decades of business experience, and millions of dollars in revenue among them and they are willing to share their lessons learned! Here they make time for a power walk on the river path in front of The Independence!
Interview with Ellen Yin: Founder of Cubicle to CEO:
Independence Hotel (IH): Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how that led you to creating “Cubicle to CEO”?
Ellen: Of course! I call myself ‘an accidental entrepreneur,’ because when I quit my corporate job, I was only 23 at the time. It was a couple days before Christmas in 2017, I didn’t have anything lined up, and I wasn’t expecting to go into business by myself. But as I was searching for new marketing jobs to apply for, I actually connected with a colleague of mine whom I had met through my most recent job, and he and his wife owned a family business– a local coffee stand –and they heard that I was skilled at Instagram marketing so they asked if I could help them launch their presence on Instagram. They became my first freelance client. It was a $300 project, and it just gave me the belief in myself that, ‘OK, I have a skill of value that I can go out and secure more clients for outside of a normal day job.’ And that’s what I decided to do! That was almost 5 years ago and our business has just grown and evolved dramatically.
In our first couple years we were focused on done-for-you marketing services, so we operated more as a boutique-marketing agency. Then Cubicle to CEO– that brand –came around in 2019, and it really described my own journey to becoming the CEO of my business. The last few years we have been primarily an online education company, helping other women entrepreneurs and business owners through our products and programs, and we have served over 10,000 students at this point. Then most recently, we have really pivoted into being a media platform first and foremost, so nowadays we create content for our podcast, hold live events, and create education products that serve female entrepreneurs all over the world.
Ellen quit her corporate job with no backup plan, knowing if you wait for the perfect moment to make a change it will never come. She knew she didn’t want to live like in a state of “just okay”, so she took the plunge!
Ellen became an entrepreneur at age 23 and her company just crossed over $1.5 million in lifetime revenue this month! Starting with a $300 client project and bootstrapping without investors, loans or debt, she is proud to be self-funded and to employ three local, full-time employees here in Oregon!
IH: Who do you think would benefit the most from the podcast?
Ellen: I would say any woman with an entrepenruial spirit. Whether you’re starting or growing your own business, or whether you are someone who works within an organization but you have a leadership role and want to innovate from within a company/ existing organization. I think our podcast can really help you think outside the box and borrow the best revenue growth strategies from top CEOs and entrepreneurs who are actually doing it themselves. Our tagline for the podcast is, “We ask top entrepreneurs the business questions you can’t Google.” If you’re someone who wants to learn outside of a textbook, what it’s like working in the real world in business, our podcast is the place to come for that financially transparent information that you can’t readily access anywhere else.
IH: What would you say is your favorite part of the podcast?
Ellen: Definitely meeting people from all walks of life, all backgrounds, all over the world. I always tell people podcasting has really opened a door to so many incredible relationships for me. Especially with people whom I’d normally have no reason to be connected with, and perhaps at the beginning wouldn’t have given me the time of day. Podcasting has been the best networking tool I’ve ever had, and it’s just incredible to be able to share that connection and time with so many amazing people.
IH: What is the #1 question you get asked by listeners of the Podcast?
Ellen: The heart of most questions we get asked boils down to how do I grow my business and get more clients and customers. And as a byproduct, how do I grow my audience. Those are the two most common types of questions.
Ellen Yin hosts the podcast CEO Cubicle where she brings weekly case-study interviews with leading entrepreneurs and CEOs who share a SPECIFIC revenue growth strategy that has already been successfully tested in their own business.
She asks founders the questions you can’t Google and gets real world tips!
IH: What is the 10k a month road map?
Ellen: That was a free guide and workshop we offered when we were enrolling students in our year long mentorship program to help them make that first 10k a month. We actually retired it this year, but the worksheet is still available! It helps you reverse engineer any income goal you have, whether that means your first 10k month, or 1k month, or first 50k month. It takes that big income goal and breaks it down into doable steps.
IH: Can you tell us about the clubhouse in Salem?
Ellen: Yes! It’s a boutique co-working space that I opened in Salem at the beginning of 2022. It started as a passion project for me, really filling a need personally that I felt coming out of the pandemic: that people crave and need in-person community, even if you’re working for yourself or working from home. We love the freedom of working from home, but there’s something as humans that can’t be replicated outside of in-person connections. For me, I had recently moved to Salem, and so I was craving a reason to get outside of my house and meet like-minded individuals, especially other women in business, and I couldn’t really find any space locally that was catered to serving that specific population. And I thought, “Hey if this doesn’t exist, why don’t I just create it for myself and invite others to be a part of it?” So that’s how it started.
CEO Cubicle’s clubhouse is a boutique co-working space for women to connect, collaborate, and create, located just minutes away from downtown Salem!
They are committed to cultivating a community of diverse, uplifting, and ambitious women in business together to share their beautiful space with a mix of solo desks, shared table work spaces, and cozy, non-desk set-ups for those of who prefer not to sit at a table.
IH: There are two quotes on the Cubicle to CEO website that stood out to us, and we were hoping to pick your brain about. The first being the importance of, “showing up for the things you’re not the obvious choice for, don’t have enough experience in, and don’t feel ready to do…. over and over again.” Can you elaborate on that a little?
Ellen: Absolutely! I really feel like that’s a core philosophy that I operate under as an entrepreneur: that if you’re waiting to feel ready for something, you will be waiting for the rest of your life. The beginning of anything new is going to feel hard. And it feels that way because it’s new, not necessarily because it’s hard and not necessarily because you’re not capable of doing it. A lot of people hesitate to take action until they have every step mapped out, but the truth is it’s in the act of actually doing that a lot of our crucial decisions are formed. Because a lot of the data we collect is through the experiences we have; that’s what informs us to go right or left, forward or backwards. And you can’t really predict or anticipate those things unless you’re actually in the midst of them. The poet Antonio Machado wrote a line that’s one of my favorite quotes: “Traveler, there is no path. The path is made by walking.” Sometimes we want there to be a path ahead of time. But it’s the act of walking and taking the steps that forms the path. We have to take that first step.
IH: The second statement that stood out to us goes… “Growing your own business isn’t easy but it should be simple.” Could you go a little more into that as well?
Ellen: Of course. Running your own business is not something for the light-hearted. It takes a lot of resilience and patience and ability to take on risk. It’s not easy. But in my opinion, there’s a difference between something being easy and something being simple. Your business may be hard, but it doesn’t have to be complex. You don’t have to add in all these unnecessary obstacles, or over complicate your approach or strategy for anything. My goal is to help entrepreneurs simplify their businesses and approach their businesses with more ease, and with the understanding of course that nothing worthy in life is ever going to be completely pain free or easy, but that simplicity is something we can build on as a value.
As women we are taught to filter ourselves out for a lot of opportunities. We self-disqualify by saying we need this or that in order to move forward or throw our ring in the hat. Simplicity is one of the most underrated strategies, and we can acquire so much more momentum if we simplify in all aspects of business. From the offers that we produce, to our sales and marketing strategies, to the simplification of our messaging and who we’re talking to being clear and specific. All that can help us grow better businesses.
Ellen and CEO Cubicle were featured in Salem’s Statesman Journal! Ellen is proud to represent the Mid-Willamette Valley and call the Salem community home!
Ellen is a big believer in generating press. It can help spread your message to the masses when you have a small audience, it can give you credibility, open doors and connect you with the right people, and allow you to more easily charge premium rates and attract people who value working with you.
IH: Why do you think it’s important to create space for female entrepreneurs, and specifically diverse female entrepreneurs?
Ellen: Historically, women, and especially women of color have been the most marginalized in business. If you look at leadership positions throughout the world, within the biggest companies, the higher up you go the less diversity you see. For so long, women have been sidelined, and it’s crazy but when you look at the history of women in the United States, women couldn’t receive their own credit cards until the 1970s. We think stuff like that happened a long time ago but it didn’t, it’s very recent. And so, anytime we can cultivate safe spaces and prioritize resources for women to have success… to collaborate, connect, and access mentorship, I think that we all win. Women are so community oriented, so I think when women win, the entire community wins because they pour so much of that back into their neighborhoods and the organizations they’re a part of
IH: Can you tell us about the event you hosted at The Independence Hotel?
Ellen: Yes! I was so thrilled to get to partner with The Independence Hotel for our “Let’s Get Visible” event. It was our first larger scale in-person ‘Cubicle to CEO’ event, and I got to bring in a panel of speakers who are some of my closest business friends (we call ourselves “The Traveling Blazers”) and they were able to fly in from all over the country to be part of the event. And it was such a great example of the power of collaboration and the importance of relationships in business. This never would have happened had the team at The Independence Hotel not taken a chance on us earlier in the spring, and because of our amazing experience there, we knew we wanted to partner again in the summer when we hosted “Let’s Get Visible,” and we wanted it to be something that was a win-win. We could introduce people to your amazing hotel and bring new patrons to your restaurant, and we also got to have this beautiful space and bootstrap this event to help more women in person.
IH: Would you recommend The Independence Hotel to other businesses?
Ellen: Oh my gosh, 100%. Especially in the mid-Willamette Valley region, there is no other hotel that has such a unique setting for theses types of events. The outdoor atrium with all the glass windows… so beautiful, and the riverfront view, you just can’t beat that. But beyond the beauty of the space itself, your staff has always gone above and beyond in their service and communication. And you can tell everyone really cares about the quality and care around the stays and experiences they provide. I feel like that’s something every business owner should experience with you guys!
It’s paddle time!
Ellen partnered with the hotel to host the “Let’s Get Visible” event. It was CEO Cubicle’s first larger scale in-person event and featured a panel of speakers (some of Ellen’s closest business friends and business pros! It was a great example of the power of collaboration and the importance of relationships in business.
IH: How often do you have live events?
Ellen: We’ve had 4 or 5 events in 2022, and this was the first year we’ve had live events. Most have been intimate. Twenty guests or less that we host at the Clubhouse. So that’s why “Lets Get Visible” was such an exciting new thing to try out. Having 50 women from all over is exactly the type of opportunity that I want to bring to underserved communities. When people think about business or opportunity, everybody thinks bigger cities, Portland or Seattle, for example, but even in the PNW we are often overlooked for places like Dallas, NY, or LA. We’re already not receiving as many opportunities as other states and cities, so the more we can show that there’s so much talent and potential in small towns all across America, the better. And if you’re willing to put in the time and bring world-class speakers, great-resources, and experiences to small towns, then small towns like Independence can be a destination for businesses across the country. So that’s the goal that I’m moving forward with. Brining more large-scale live events to the area.
IH: Time for some fun! What is something most people don’t know about you?
Ellen: Hmm. Depends on when they met me. Most people who meet me nowadays don’t know that I grew up playing classical music (that I’m a classically trained musician) or that my degree is in exercise science, totally random. Another fun fact, in high school I was on a reality show for an MTV series where they would do make overs for students at various high schools!
IH: You mention your degree in exercise science is totally random, but the more running your own business becomes accessible, the more stories you hear like that. Because people are interested in different things, and we never know how a skillset required in one field will feed other fields.
Ellen: Oh 100%. Good point. As long as you remain curious. Allow yourself to take the leap and explore something or lean into it. Even if you can’t logically explain why you’re doing it. If you just allow yourself to lean into it, to experience without any agendas or reservations, that’s where the true magic happens. And when I look back, everything I’ve done to this point I can find the origin point of how my degree did make this all possible.
Prior to CEO Cubicle hosting the “Let’s Get Visible” Event, Ellen hosted several colleagues and friends for a work retreat, combining business and leisure (bleisure) staying in our “Squad Room”(perfect for power meetings and slumber parties), exploring the area, and hanging on the rooftop! Check out their rooftop dance below!
*Check out Ellen’s website and podcast, “Cubicle to CEO,” to learn all about how to create, develop, or expand your own business by hearing from the top entrepreneurs out there today! And if you’re looking to book The Independence Hotel for your own event, contact Mercy Cole at MercyC@theindependencehotel.com. We can’t wait to see you and provide the ultimate stay for your retreat!
* Photos from this post taken from Cubical CEO’s Instagram