Erika Brechtel is a successful entrepreneur who found herself in business accidentally. She never intended for it to be. She is also the founder of Elamoura, an initiative that seeks to provide solutions to problems facing women. In this interview, we ask Erika about her life, family, entrepreneurial journey, reasons for starting Elanoura, and future plans.
Beverly Hills Magazine: Tell us your full name and your personal history, where were you born, where you grew up, family, currently living where? A little background about yourself.
My name is Erika Brechtel, Founder, Élanoura
“I was so fortunate to grow up in the warmth of Hawaii on the North Shore of the island of Oahu, as a great-granddaughter of two picture brides from Japan – meaning, their marriages were arranged through photographs and village elders, and they didn’t meet their husbands until they landed at the docks! In my grandmother’s early years, she left home with her sister to work as a maid and help her family of 11; in her later years, she started a garden to feed the hungry in her community. Meanwhile, my grandfather went off to fight in WWII and eventually was honored as the first Japanese-American two-star general. Through these two prominent role models in my life, it comes as no surprise that I should also want to serve in my own way. And that’s why I feel called to inspire others to do the same.
I ended up in Los Angeles and attended UCLA. After 20 years of helping women leaders build their brands and now as founder of Élanoura helping women around the world build their own legacies of impact, I still feel so fortunate that I get to live this best life here in Pacific Palisades with my 13-year-old daughter. I hope that I can model for her the same compassion and commitment that infused my own upbringing.”
Beverly Hills Magazine: What does it mean to be an entrepreneur?
“Entrepreneurs are such a special breed! Full of energy and ideas, and if that can be harnessed through good intentionality, they have a unique ability like no other to bring about innovation, inspiration, and pivotal change in the world. But it also takes a certain commitment to yourself, your vision, and most importantly, to those you want to help. There’s resilience and belief that has to be constantly sustained, and a willingness to try, fall, get back up, try again, adapt, evolve, and expand. It’s quite a journey for those who are meant to take it.”
Beverly Hills Magazine: When did you start your business?
“I am an accidental entrepreneur; I never intended to be one! It was after the international corporation I was working for was bought out and they closed all the U.S. offices that I found myself taking on clients on my own, getting referred, and gaining more and more business. 20 years later, I created Élanoura as another solution to a problem I saw in the audience I had been serving for two decades: a lack of support, purpose, connection, and sense of impact for women founders.”
Beverly Hills Magazine: What is the most challenging thing about being an entrepreneur? The most rewarding?
“Your work is your life and your life is your work. There is little separation. But that also means it has the potential to be the most rewarding. When you can find your purpose, align with what really matters to you, and see the real-life difference you can make through what you do, there’s little else more fulfilling.”
Beverly Hills Magazine: What is your business mission?
“Throughout my entire career it has always been about providing a variety of solutions to elevate women globally. It’s full circle for me – through giving women leaders clarity around their unique value and the confidence to put it out in the world, I get to light all these fires within all these women that ignites their own sense of purpose. Collectively, we get to create massive positive change.”
Beverly Hills Magazine: What have been major obstacles/stepping stones that you overcame to achieve your success?
“Like all founders, I have experienced many setbacks in my career. Whether that’s a recession, a business partnership betrayal, or personal life challenges, it all comes back to the essential question: who are you doing this for and why? What’s the impact you want to have? What do you want to leave behind? What will be your legacy? This is the most important perspective to remind yourself in those temporary moments of reassessment and realignment because that is a foundation you can always return to that will keep you moving throughout.”
Beverly Hills Magazine: Who or what have been your inspirations?
“When I do foundational strategy work with founders, I ask them to come up with a few of their own ‘Brand Muses.’ It provides a map and a compass in terms of the direction that you currently want to move toward. For myself, I look to women such as Amal Clooney, Angeline Jolie, Christy Turlington, Oprah – women who are walking the walk, doing the good work, with grace and empathy. And I am excited to see what path Serena Williams takes in this next phase of her life as she gets to determine what her legacy can continue to be.”
Beverly Hills Magazine: What makes your business, product or service different from others of its kind?
“With Élanoura, we are creating solutions for women founders to step into the bigger power of what they can do with their businesses. Our Global Founder’s Retreats are curated business retreats for women founders that provide rich cultural experiences, professional development, new global ‘sisterhood’ connections, and a volunteer opportunity with a local non-profit that brings them into direct contact with young women facing much bigger problems than we in this first world can imagine. We also leave behind a large donation to the non-profit for enduring support long after we get home. And when home: we have been transformed and reinvigorated with a new perspective and energy to create new solutions. Together, we are a global collective of women founders creating a powerful impact.”
Beverly Hills Magazine: Greatest lesson you’ve learned on your success journey?
“I think the greatest lesson is that there are always going to be lessons to learn. You will never have it all figured out, never know it all, and never have it done. Your legacy is ever-evolving – and that means it has the potential to continue to grow as you do, and expand beyond what you thought possible. How thrilling is that?”
Beverly Hills Magazine: Three words that best describe you and why?
“Intentional: I believe you cannot create irresponsibly. Business is personal and it affects real people. Therefore I am clear about what I am doing, who it’s for and why.
Evolving: I value learning more about myself every day to help me gain the clarity I need to take the next step, and the next and the next. I understand that this is a winding path, and to enjoy the journey.
Light: Through shining my light, I try to be a light for others to help them shine in the way they are meant to. There’s a certain peace that can emanate when you are genuinely connected to your own integrity, authenticity, and gratitude in the here and now that spreads to others and lights them up.”
Beverly Hills Magazine: How do you balance your professional and personal life?
“By loving what I do, every day. It’s a question that we should all ask ourselves: what do you want to do – and feel – every day? Are you doing that now? What steps can you take to get there? I have made my work my life, my life my work, and am fulfilled and refreshed daily.”
Beverly Hills Magazine: How do you take care of your spiritual self?
“In order to sustain my creative energy, it is imperative that I schedule in alone time. I fortunately live in a beautiful location here by the ocean where I can go for walks, work out my thoughts, journal, meditate, get grounded, and be still. This is my secret, that anyone can do: l am able to fuel my engine through my own mental, emotional, physical, and internal regeneration.”
Beverly Hills Magazine: If you had to give a piece of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs out there, what would it be?
“You have to know what I call your 4 P’s: your People, Purpose, Positioning, and Personality. Who are you doing this for and why? Get emotionally connected to it. It has to spark something within you because that is what is going to keep you going, and what will deeply connect and resonate with your audience to drive action and loyalty. Then figure out how you are unique in providing this, both in terms of fulfilling your audience’s emotional needs as well as maintaining your authentic self throughout. By figuring out your 4 P’s, you will have a foundation to build out solutions again and again.”
Beverly Hills Magazine: What is “success” to you? DEFINE success.
“As most overachievers, I used to believe ‘success’ meant a certain checklist of accomplishments. But once I attained those, I realized that success for me expands much more than what I do for myself. It’s really about service to others: how can I bring what’s special about what I do and love to help others around the world? When I see women I have worked with doing big things, creating new relationships with each other, living their best lives, AND simultaneously seeing how we are all helping others beyond ourselves… wow, what a gift. What a successful life!”
Beverly Hills Magazine: Have you discovered a personal purpose in what you do?
“It is the driving force behind everything I do: how can I enlighten, engage, and empower other women founders to create positive change in their own lives and businesses, for their families, their teams, their communities, and the world?”
Beverly Hills Magazine: Where can readers go to find more information about you and/or your Company?
“Pass it on! If you know of women founders who might want to join our global collective and one of our future Global Founder’s Retreats to Morocco, Spain, Jordan, Egypt, South Africa, Hawaii, and more, they can sign up at elanoura.com. And if you are not a founder yourself, we are just getting started and would love your support on our social channels to continue the conversation: @elanouraglobal on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.”
Beverly Hills Magazine: If you had one wish that would be granted, what would you wish for?
“How big can we get with this wish? I see much suffering around us based on fear, judgment, lack, separation, limiting beliefs, and misuse of power. I would wish to remove these low, small energies so that people could gain a much bigger perspective and feel at peace, at ease, in the knowing that there’s enough for everyone and we’re all in this together. And how lucky are we.”
Our conversation with Erika Brechtel gave us a glimpse into her family, passion, entrepreneurial journey, and life experiences. However, the key takeaway message is that “what you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” The choice is yours!