Welcome to the Story Therapy Podcast, so I wanted an excuse to have conversations with and do a deep dive look into the stories of entrepreneurs I respect. And that’s exactly what the story therapy podcast is going to be. It’s time spent discovering and learning about the unique, complex and inspiring stories of many different types of creative and ambitious entrepreneurs, business owners, content creators, and more all focused on making an impact and changing the world in small and big ways. So on the story therapy podcast today we have Elise Dharma. Elise is an Instagram expert, a marketer, a business owner, and just all around really cool person. So we met through a mastermind that we’re both in and very quickly I realized that her story was just something that was really interesting, unique and something I just, story one of them to hear more about and really what led her to be where she’s at today with being an influencer of sorts on Instagram and coaching people, running retreats and events and providing services and other support for other entrepreneurs and business owners online. So I’m very excited to share this story from Elise as to what led her to where she is today. And without further ado, let’s get into the story.
Dallin Nead : So let’s step back in time to learn more about your story. Let’s step back in time to little Elise. Um, tell me a little bit about growing up and at what point, you know, was there a point when you’re young or maybe older that you begin to identify that one you were kind of entrepreneurial and two, you love to travel?
Elise Darma : I like that you’re getting deep right off the bat. This is, this is–
Dallin Nead : I just want to jump right into it and then–
Elise Darma : This is a sign of–
Dallin Nead : Like all these things that are going to guide you directly to where you are now. Right? And that’s kinda what I want to get at. So–
Elise Darma : Totally, it’s so relevant and something that a lot of people don’t ask about and it’s not something that I fully understood. I didn’t connect the dots until a couple years into my business where I could see things that happened in my childhood that did lead me to where I’m at right now. So the bird’s eye view of who I was as a kid was, I was the only girl in a family of four and I grew up in on the west coast of Canada and I grew up in a fairly conservative Christian environment. So I was a really good daughter, a really good girl. I was always looking to be, pretty perfect whether it was in school or at Church or becoming a piano teacher or going on to be a straight-A student in high school. So I was really driven by that perfectionism and I also grew up in an environment that, had me live a certain way based on the beliefs of the church that I was raised in. And when you’re a kid you just kind of follow what you’re taught because that’s all you know. And so I’ll start with the– I’ll start with the business aspect first before I get to the travel aspect. I come from a family that does have entrepreneurial roots. Both of my parents are now in real estate and there’s just a long history of women in business in my family. So I was always drawn to it. My mom was a piano teacher for my entire childhood. I became a piano teacher at 13 years old. I was super motivated–
Dallin Nead : Wow.
Elise Darma : –super motivated to have my own job and start making money. Like I was just raring to grow up. I just was dying to become an adult and I think it was because I perceived adults as having a lot of freedom. Freedom was really what I was going after.
Dallin Nead : Did you feel like at that age that you lacked freedom or was it more just the dependence on someone else?
Elise Darma : I did feel like I lacked freedom because so much of my life was determined for me in what I was supposed to believe and what I was supposed to do to be successful or to be happy in life. And so I didn’t know it then, I didn’t call it freedom then, but what I was looking for was freedom to explore and, freedom of self-expression and growing up in the environment I did, you don’t get that, you don’t have that ultimate freedom to explore. And so I think that’s why I was just itching to become an adult so that I could– not stress about school. I did well in school, but it just, oh my gosh, some of the days felt so long and I just didn’t want to be doing it. The other thing was my dad’s not Canadian, he was born in Europe and he grew up in Australia. So when I was about 12 years old, I got a taste of travel. My mom worked for an airline at that time and that was so that we could travel across the world and meet the other side of my family. So I was able to do that at 12, 13 years old, meet my Australian relatives. And that really was when my eyes started to open to things outside of my bubble, things that I had always known and just the world beyond my bubble. So when it came to the business aspects, I was super motivated to earn money so that I could feel that sense of freedom. I taught piano for about seven years after that and it was an awesome job as a high school student.I saved, I think I remember I’d saved like maybe $8,000 by the end of high school and I had no expenses then. I don’t know what to spend it on, but I’m travel came up, my parents actually met on a Contiki tour in Europe in the eighties and a year later they were married. And if you’re not familiar with Contiki, it’s like a tour company for 18 to 35-year-olds. So yeah, so I always knew about Contiki and I just had worked so hard in high school to get the straight A’s, to be a piano teacher at the same time I was, I’m a community leader for my grade 12 year traveling around the province, like representing my city. I mean, I seriously had time management nailed that year looking back. I’m working to get back to that point now. But my parents, my dad really pushed, like “Take a break, go travel.” And it was not an easy decision to spend the majority of what I’d saved as a piano teacher on that trip to Europe. But my dad really was a driver of that and I ended up booking a 30 day trip to Europe right after I graduated high school. And that then became the second huge catalyst for travel in my life and my eyes just being opened to the freeing feeling of travel. I didn’t know that’s what it was then, but when I was on a trip and when I was traveling, that’s when that feeling that I had been searching for came to me. And I just felt for those 30 days in Europe, I just felt like I was floating on a cloud like I just felt unlike I had ever felt before.
Dallin Nead : What about it? Like the experience of travel. What are the emotions or what about it kind of brings that feeling or that freeing experience?
Elise Darma : At that time it was just the exposure to so many different ways of life. So many different cultures, so many different languages, foods, I just loved it all. I just loved the variety of it all. Especially just because it was so different from what I had known in my slice of the world growing up until that point when I was 17 years old. So just the variety of it all energized me so much. And that trip was also my first taste of adulthood. Right. Like I was in Europe on my own with people who are in their thirties and I was 18 at the time. I guess I would have been 18. Yeah. Um, that was my first taste of like for a month, making all the decisions I wanted for myself on my own and there were no like, consequences for my parents or the church community that I grew up in. And so that was also very freeing for me too. I was responsible, I was still like, you know, goody two shoes to a certain extent, but I really loved the power and being able to make my own decisions and explore the paths that I wanted to explore.
So yeah, that’s what led me– that trip to Europe was my huge catalysts for travel and the business aspects. Like I said, I was just always searching for that sense of freedom and I started working at a young age and just my twenties was like twenties or a whole other story. It’s a lot of experiences of trying many things and finding out what I didn’t like, what I didn’t want to do. But that’s ultimately led me to where I’m at now in my thirties and feeling pretty much that I’m where I am supposed to be and I’m where– I’m at this point where I feel like this combination of what’s going on in my life is giving me a huge amount and level of happiness that, that I had been searching for so long in my life.
Dallin Nead : I love that. And you mentioned your twenties too and knowing a bit of your background, I mean, you definitely– you had that trip when you’re 18, you went into college and you got a corporate job and all those things– you dropped out of college, right?
Elise Darma : I didn’t. I went to three universities until I graduated.
Dallin Nead : Oh nice.
Elise Darma : Yap.
Dallin Nead : And then you realized it wasn’t for you. So then what was it about your corporate experience that caused you to– I mean, I guess it’s kind of self-explanatory, right? You’re aching for more of that travel bug and the entrepreneurial bug. But, at what point did you realize you could step away and you could devote all your time?
Elise Darma : Yeah. So when I did finish my travels at 18, I just became obsessed, like so obsessed school was so not interesting to me. I went from being a straight-A student in high school to barely passing my classes in university and that’s when I realized I was wasting my time and my money. I was probably burned out too to a certain extent, but I just was obsessed with chasing feeling I felt when I was traveling. So I ended up working on a cruise ship. I then– I changed schools to see the different school would be better for me. That didn’t help. I ended up quitting school. I ended up getting my real estate license so that I can work with my parents and start making money again because I didn’t like being a broke students and then change my mind after that and ended up moving across the country to Toronto to study a totally different program that I never really considered because it wasn’t like the quote-unquote smart thing to do. I was used to making all the decisions that were smart but moving across the country to study a program called radio and television arts wasn’t a decision that I’d ever qualified as being smart, it wasn’t going to lead me to take an MBA one day, which was what I thought my goal was. So I did get to my third school. I studied a program that– I basically wanted to become a broadcast journalist. I’d always been interested in storytelling and media and this was the program that I wanted to take to get there. And while I was– while I was a student in that program, I got a part-time job as, as a student and I started working social media at a tech incubator. So I was surrounded by startups in this incubator and that reminded me of my drive and my desire to be my own boss.
I was really motivated by that. So I ended up finishing school. I didn’t go the traditional media route because I could see it was dying very quickly and I, and I actually chose the digital media route. So I stayed working with the tech incubator in the social media field. I wasn’t taking social media seriously at all. This was like 20, 10, maybe 2012. When I graduated. It was just a means to an end. It was a way to have a job basically. But it was there that the startups around me said, “Hey, you know, social media, can you help me with twitter? Can you help me with Instagram?” And that’s how I got my first client as a freelancer was just by being in that environment. So I did work for the incubator full time, but at the same time started taking on client work on the side and that’s what’s led me to having an agency business today and even teaching Instagram marketing like I am today. So I did work as a full-time employee for about– t was a couple of years in that role and it became very clear to me as I had one foot in entrepreneurship and the other in as an employee, came very clear to me that my personality and my previous experiences just– it all led me to being, to wanting to be my own boss ultimately.
Dallin Nead : Oh yeah. Well, you were doing that in such a young age. I mean, you, you felt, you felt that I was blown away and you said you’re a piano teacher at 13 because I did. I did a bit of piano when I was young. That was just kind of– your parents kind of coax you into it. But I was like, I can’t imagine me taught by a 13-year-old. That’d be insane. I hear you’re great. And you made some good money at it at that age.
Elise Darma : Yeah, I taught beginner students is mostly kids at that time, so it wasn’t–
Dallin Nead : Really. Oh that’s so cool.
Elise Darma : Hold on for one second. Sorry deliveries always come while I’m recording.
Dallin Nead : Really? Don’t worry about it.
Elise Darma : I just could hear them banging out the door. So I wanted to double check.
Dallin Nead : Totally. Cool. Well, let’s kinda of, I think we can kind of wrap this up a little bit. You’ve been through, you’ve gone through everything super, super well and it’s been really cool to learn about it. I think a few more things I would love to pull is definitely talk more about what you’re up to now, what you’re looking to, where you looking to guide us in the future. So yeah. With that being said, I know you, you mentioned the agency and I’m coaching work or on Instagram marketing. Tell me more about that and tell me where you’re looking to take all these things.
Elise Darma : Yeah, the agency is basically the evolution of when I started off as a freelancer, it turned into an agency a year later and that’s where I offer content marketing services for e-commerce brands and because e-commerce brands are so visual, Instagram is a huge focus for them. So that was the business I started years ago, which allowed me to travel. That’s one question I get quite often is how do you get paid to travel? And I’m like no one’s paying me to get on a plane and travel, but I’ve created my own business that allows me to work from anywhere and that’s how I bring travel into my life as well as business. So the–
Dallin Nead : While you travel.
Elise Darma : Pardon?
Dallin Nead : Yeah, I said you’re getting paid while you travel.
Elise Darma : Exactly, exactly. Some people get paid to travel, but that’s not me. Well, yeah, perhaps perhaps as I actually, as I build my personal brand and this is something that I didn’t see coming when I started my agency, but as I build my personal brand, especially on Instagram, that’s where I’m seeing more and more actual brand opportunities and partnerships with people in the space that I’m in and other companies, so anyone who’s supporting the digital nomad or remote work lifestyle, they’re really inclined to partner with me as an influencer, so that’s like a totally unexpected offshoot of building up a personal brand. The intention of building my personal brand on Instagram was basically to make my Instagram profile a portfolio piece for potential clients. I wanted to get more clients who wanted their Instagram to be grown for them. So I grew up my personal brand as an example, but then unexpectedly what happened was, yeah, I grew my personal brand, but I had all these people following me who did not have an e-commerce business and they weren’t looking for my services, but what they ultimately were looking for was answers to how I was able to travel so much or how I was growing my Instagram and this was all about two years ago and that’s what led to essentially my second business, which is elisedarma.com. And it’s all built on my personal brand which started on Instagram. And that’s really where I focus on teaching people the house of how I created this lifestyle for myself. So yeah, so I teach Instagram marketing for people who want to grow and monetize that following. I offer coaching to those who want to start and run their own freelance business and there’s gonna be some new cool things coming up to as well that I’m excited for. So it’s an interesting time because I have my agency. I also have, I’m, I’m focusing more on being an educator in this space and it’s hard to say where things are going to be a year from now, but I’m just, I’m just excited where things are at right now.
Dallin Nead : Yeah, riding that train for sure. Well, and I wanted to step back really quick when you’re talking about travel and how– I mean when you first started traveling, right? You went to Australia with, with your family and then when you’re 18, it just got me thinking because a lot of my recent experiences with work, I’ve worked for the cruise lines you mentioned you worked for on a cruise ship for a little bit. And I have loved, so with Holland America line, one of the brands I worked for– I’ve loved the message of the president he’s been sharing lately and he talks about how travel changes the world and I mean very big, very general, but how he breaks it down is it changes the world because when you travel you to experience other cultures, other people, other ways of life that opens up your mind, you become more open-minded, right? Accepting, respectful of all cultures, types of life, ways to live your life. And so I have, I feel that is kind of a constant theme within what you’ve experienced is that it really opened up your mind to so many other possibilities. And I think that’s, I mean that’s a testament to not only you, but just the whole idea of exploration and travel in general as well and that more people need to travel for that experience and follow you of course, because you’re living that lifestyle, you’re promising, you know, what those results can look like for those people as well.
Elise Darma : Exactly. For travel, for a lot of people,travel is a great way for them to feel that freedom, for them to feel that newness of being in an experience they’ve never had before. I mean, that’s not something you can repeat in life, right? You have one time to experience something for the first time and I think that’s where the addiction of travel comes into play because it’s just so cool. You can’t replicate that and it, it changes you. It’s exactly like what you said. It changes you in ways that you can’t predict. You can’t force, it can change the course of your life by being exposed to a new city and new culture, new people. I mean, I see myself moving to Europe, I have my European citizenship through my dad and that’s just something that’s like, it’s a no-brainer. It’s going to happen for me because I now feel like a citizen of the world. I am not just a Canadian, but I feel like the world is my oyster and I have so much to learn by living in new places and living around new people and living in new cultures and I’m super excited to see how that will affect me as an individual as I continue to live my life and grow.
Dallin Nead : That’s awesome. I love that. Well, and I do want to kind of ask one other unique question, I guess. So when you go to experience a new place or maybe place you’ve been before, how is it that you plan to have new experiences there? What is- do you go just Airbnb it, do you google search something? Do you know? Like what, what is your general quick process of how you experience new things?
Elise Darma : That’s a great question because I’m so not a planner when it comes to travel. I take of the basics. I booked my flight and I typically book my accommodation. I know some people who will just book like their first two nights and then they’ll figure it out when they’re there. I need a little bit more security and predictability than that. I mean, I’m human. I still get some anxiety before I go to a new place and I start to worry about things like, “Oh, how am I going to catch the train to get to my Airbnb? “Am I going to be okay if I only speak English? “Am I going to have fun? Like all these things always stressed me out the night before a trip. So I’m not a– it still happens to me just like it happens to most people. So yeah, I’m not a huge planner. It’s more so getting the basic set up and then typically these days my trips do have a– source of some sort of business or personal connection. It’s rare that I’ll just go to a place and like see what happens. But typically I’ll be there to meet with a certain company or have a certain experience or I’m going to someone’s wedding or I’m taking a trip with friends. So usually there’s some sort of angle that will be the main driver of the trip and then whatever else happens while I’m. There is just all part of the adventure for me.
Dallin Nead : Awesome. Well, are there anything, is there anything else you want to share about what’s going on with your business right now for those listening or just in general? Like kind of parting thoughts?
Elise Darma : Yeah, I’m super excited about where things are going to my business because there’s so much momentum around the educational aspect and teaching people about the opportunity that is Instagram. I know that it’s, especially for online business owners, it’s an app that is like the last priority at the end of the day because it just seems like it’s for fun, but this year in 2018, I think online business owners are really seeing the opportunity that is Instagram to grow their personal brand and to grow their business, to literally grow their bottom line. So I feel like I’ve been kind of in the shadows for years, like not really putting myself out there. I’m telling people what I know about Instagram marketing. I’ve just been doing it in the background and travel as the main, you know, the main show. But I’m super excited this year to be bringing my Instagram knowledge and experience much more to the forefront. It’s super weird to me when people refer to me as an Instagram expert or any, any sort of term like that. But I’m getting comfortable owning that. I’ve been doing this for five years. I do have value to share with people. So I have been running a free masterclass that’s been getting some amazing results and feedback for people. It’s totally free and I think what it’s doing is allowing people to see the opportunity that Instagram and that’s my main goal. And then if they want to know everything about Instagram, like how to grow it, how to monetize it. I have a whole course for that. But right now I’m just happy to partner with big names, big brands that are in this same Instagram space. And work with them to get that message out to people it.
Dallin Nead : Love it. Elise I’m super happy you did this. This is super fun.
Elise Darma : Thank you so much for having me. I I love the story angle too. It’s like my favorite, so love it.
Dallin Nead : Good. Well, you talked about broadcast journalism, storytelling. I mean it’s, it’s inevitable part of your travels too. I mean, you’re telling stories all the time with what you’re up to, so–
Elise Darma : Totally.
Dallin Nead : It’s really fun. Well, cool. Anyways, we’ll chat later I’m sure, but thank you so much for doing this.
Elise Darma : Yeah, thanks for having me.
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