Alana Stelly | Founder of Espresso Yourself | Inspiring Interviews

Alana Stelly | Founder of Espresso Yourself | Inspiring Interviews

 Tell us a little bit about yourself… 

My name is Alana and I’m a 28-year-old subscription box entrepreneur and licensed mental health therapist in Los Angeles. Personally, I spent most of my life being a people pleaser. Always putting others before myself was taking its toll and something had to change. Once I entered graduate school, I was at a low in my life due to overwhelming stress, but I made the conscious decision to focus on myself for the first time. I learned how to pay attention to my thoughts, emotions and my body and really listen to what I needed. Each day, I practiced starting the day for myself and I saw incredible results! Based on my personal and professional experiences, I want to share what I’ve learned to empower other women to start putting themselves first each and every day! 

 

How did your journey initially begin with Espresso Yourself? Was it a clear decision in creating your company or did it evolve far more organically?

Espresso Yourself was born from a desire to provide a service for women who have difficulty prioritizing themselves and their self-care needs. I started my business during the pandemic as I saw many women struggling with self-care and also many small businesses struggling to survive. So I thought about a way to connect both together! I never thought I’d start a business, but the idea just came to me one day and it was such a motivating spark. I always had the passion for women’s empowerment and Espresso Yourself became the driving force! I love that Espresso Yourself empowers women on both ends—the subscriber who receives coffee and self-care each month, and then the women-owned businesses who provide the products each month!

 

What was your initial idea for Espresso Yourself and what did you want to offer? Has this changed from then until now?

Initially, I wanted Espresso Yourself to be a monthly subscription box to enhance a woman’s self-care routine with products from women-owned businesses. I love the idea of women supporting women, especially in a world that is so dominated by men. I truly believe we can be intentional with our spending and how we invest in businesses and also in ourselves!

I’m still continuing the monthly coffee & wellness boxes for women with a curated experience in every box, but I also have so many ideas for how I want to expand the brand! Currently, I’m interested in creating more of a community of Caffeine Queens who inspire and empower each other through their use of the products in the boxes. I’m considering creating a Facebook Community Group for my subscribers to provide them with even more value! I’m also in the process of creating a Women’s Empowerment course that connects my personal and professional experience into a guided course for women to grow their authentic selves and learn things like creating a healthy routine, setting healthy boundaries and exploring values. 

So, you had the idea, what steps did you take to turn it into a reality?

When I first started, I had zero business experience, so I had to do A LOT of research. I watched YouTube videos, listened to podcasts, joined Facebook groups and asked friends/family for networking opportunities to learn more about what it takes to start a business, and more specifically, a subscription business. I had to learn how to find an online selling platform, set up a website, and all of the behind-the-scenes steps that go into getting a business off the ground. 

Planning monthly themes and researching potential vendors was one of my favorite things to start with! I started brainstorming self-care themes to curate monthly boxes and began to search for women-owned businesses to feature. I created Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint documents and many lists in order to organize all of my ideas and plan months in advance.

Once I had these plans in place, I started reaching out to women vendors and receiving products for my boxes! 

What were the hardest parts of setting up Espresso Yourself?

Not having a business background was difficult for me in setting up Espresso Yourself. I encountered a steep learning curve with various aspects of my business such as how to design a website, how to set up data analytics and how to create successful email marketing campaigns. It is a good thing that I love learning new things and I’m passionate about what Espresso Yourself offers to women, because my values helped me to stay motivated and on track, even when things were tough.

 Another thing that was difficult at the beginning was having so many ideas and not being able to execute them all at once. I really had to narrow down my focus and dedicate my energy to one thing at a time. Now that I’ve learned how to do the fundamentals of business, I’m slowly starting to expand my ideas! 

Why do you love coffee?

Coffee is like a hug in a mug for me 😊 Throughout my adult life, I’ve always had a busy schedule and coffee has been something that I indulge in daily to help me stay focused and motivated to achieve my goals. I love how coffee can be used in so many ways! For example, I used to go to different coffee shops to study during college and graduate school. I loved that every coffee shop had a different story and feel to it. In addition, I love meeting up with my girlfriends for some quality time at a coffee shop. Coffee is a great way to connect with others! I also love that coffee has many health benefits and can be so versatile!

 
You say that coffee became a huge part of your wellbeing and self-care ritual. What does coffee add to your life?

Once I learned to get into a routine of prioritizing myself each day, coffee became a perfect addition to my self-care routine. Each day, I wake up and brew a delicious cup of coffee and take some time for myself. Making coffee in the morning feels relaxing to me and also creative. Recently, I’ve learned how to try so many different brewing methods and I’ve loved making homemade lattes!

For me, coffee helps me to get up in the morning and get on track for the day. It is my daily reminder to start my day for me. Sometimes I practice grounding myself through my senses as I enjoy my coffee, such as the smell, taste and feel of the delicious drink. I also love visiting and supporting local coffee shops so this helps me to get excited about visiting new places which makes me happy. I’m very fortunate to live in Los Angeles where there are so many amazing coffee shops to try! 

You offer a range of goods on your site, from hair ties to coffee, to notepads and beauty travel kits. Tell us about the process of buying your goods? 

Curating the monthly boxes is one of my favorite parts of Espresso Yourself! I usually start with a monthly self-care theme idea. For example, our September 2020 box was our very first box and the theme was “Gold” which not only identified the start of the business, but also to encouraged women to put themselves first. Once I come up with a theme, I curate coffee and wellness items around that theme. So for September, we featured Mama Vibes Coffee which came in gold packaging and also had an extra kick of caffeine for our Queens!

 
I like to choose a variety of products each month to offer our subscribers a holistic and sustainable self-care routine that can last them the entire month. Also, all of our products are from women-owned businesses! Once I do the research for products that would fit best with a monthly theme, I try to get samples of the products to test them for quality and compatibility with other items. If it is a good fit, then I go ahead and place my order! 

You offer clever subscription services for coffee lovers, a box received monthly full of coffee is sure to make many people happy! What made you decide to become a subscription service? Was there a demand from your customer or did you foresee a trend emerging? 

 Originally, I thought about what women need to enhance their self-care. For me, coffee has always been a part of my self-care routine and also other products that I use such as notepads, journals, lotions, etc. One part of Espresso Yourself is the products, but the other part is the self-care routine which must be consistent and sustainable over time. I chose to create a subscription model so that women could practice prioritizing themselves each day over time while using our products. 

There are SO many self-care boxes for women and also numerous coffee subscriptions, but there aren’t any subscription that offer BOTH. I noticed a need for women to have coffee delivered each month and also complementary self-care items, especially during the pandemic. Espresso Yourself is the perfect combination of items to help empower women to engage in caffeinated self-care while also supporting women-owned businesses!

What’s the best customer feedback you’ve received so far?

 I love getting an Espresso Yourself Box every month! It’s an exciting way to try new coffee during a pandemic and supporting women-owned businesses is really important to me. I’ve tried other subscription boxes in the past but I’ve never lasted long because they can be so expensive for products I didn’t always like. With Espresso Yourself I have yet to get a product I didn’t genuinely love and use all the time.” (Kasey, subscriber)

 The best customer feedback is from women who feel empowered by the products and also feel like they are making a difference by supporting women-owned businesses! One of my favorite things is when women send gift boxes to their friends because it connects a whole community of amazing women together. My hope is to create a movement of women supporting women! 

Trust is an integral piece in any business. What is your best advice to gain this with your clients and community? 

Trust is definitely and important part of my business. I find that the best way to gain trust is from being my authentic self! Since I come from a background in mental health therapy and not business, I find that I come across more from a genuine place of wanting to help others instead of just trying to make sales. I’ve learned a lot about how to provide more values to my clients and community through Instagram posts in addition to my products. I make an effort to post motivational quotes, self-care tips and how-to videos to help my customers gain more of an experience with Espresso Yourself.

More recently, I began doing Instagram Lives as an additional way to connect with my audience and provide them with valuable information! For example, I’ve discussed topics related to general self-care, how to create a consistent self-care routine and how to create healthy boundaries as a way to promote women’s wellness. I’ve found that providing value and discussing benefits are ways that potential customers can connect with our brand and build trust.


Every business has its ups and downs, highs and lows and many challenges along the way! What have been your greatest challenges and what did you learn from these?

My greatest challenge so far has been getting the word out about my business and learning about different business techniques. In one way, the pandemic has helped to boost publicity for online businesses and also people purchasing based on values (i.e. small businesses, woman-owned businesses, and minority-owned businesses). On the other hand, the online market became even more saturated due to the pandemic because everyone is shopping online, so it is difficult to get my business in front of the right people.

Throughout these challenges, I had to learn how to ask for help. I met people through Instagram who are also business owners or who have special skillsets and they have been such a big support throughout all of this! I realized that I needed mentors and people who could advise me in the areas that I had little knowledge. Initially, I was trying to do everything by myself, but that was very frustrating, and by asking for help, I was able to learn more quickly. 

What have been the positives from the coronavirus pandemic for you personally? 

Personally, the pandemic has allowed me more time to focus on myself, which has been a great benefit. Previously, I was spending so much time on my work commute and long work hours and found it difficult to make time for myself. Now that I’m working full-time from home, I’ve saved a lot of time to be able to engage more in my self-care routine such as doing meditation and exercising. I’ve also learned how to cook different things and organize my space better which has been great!

In a sentence, what’s the best piece of advice you could give to another who needs some encouragement on pursuing their dreams, whether it be a business, a life change or forming a new company?

 Your life is uniquely yours to create, so make it something meaningful, and take the LEAP!

Shop: www.espressoypurselfbox.com 
Follow: @espressoyourselfbox