Member Profile: Elisabeth Kelso
March 29, 2017
Since entering the education system at the age of 6, Elisabeth Kelso had one expectation; to get into a great college. After accomplishing this goal, her next expectation was to graduate with a job that paid a consistent salary and had great benefits.
Throughout her time in school, Kelso never questioned the path she was on. Her parents are hardworking small business owners, and always taught the value of working a stable job. At first, this was something Kelso never thought she would compromise.
“I had this drive to climb a ladder just to climb a ladder.”
Finding a Purpose
During her time in college, Kelso began questioning her purpose. She continued on her default career path, working hard in academics, getting involved in multiple leadership positions, and pouring time into finding internships.
Kelso is a learner; all of this work was never out of empty drive. However, she couldn’t help but think her hard work was moving her towards this unquestioned goal of getting a stable job. “I had this drive to climb a ladder just to climb a ladder.” Eventually, she decided she needed to try something different. She left her job and began a brand new career.
A sit-down with Elisabeth Kelso
Did you grow up in Boise?
“Yes, I grew up in Boise. I attended Borah High School and graduated in 2009. After high school, I went straight to college in Austin, Texas, and studied writing and rhetoric. I also double minored in graphic design and Spanish.
I worked extremely hard in college, and even completed four internships throughout the process. After graduation, I accepted a job with a boutique PR firm in Austin. I worked there for almost two years, specializing in media relations, content creation, writing, and editing. I designed their rebrand, which included their logo, business cards, etc. It was a pretty small agency, so we all wore a lot of hats. This was a great opportunity for me to gain broad experience in multiple facets of a business.”
What did you do before working as a virtual assistant?
“Eventually, I came to a crossroads in my career. I decided that I wanted to try something new. I left my job and began working at Whole Foods in Austin. During this time, I also looked for some freelance work on the side, and began working as a transcription editor. I still work as a transcription editor from time to time. I transcribe and edit audio files in both Spanish and English. Once, I transcribed a Puerto Rican rap video. That was a ton of fun!
Going back to my transition to Whole Foods, through the process of changing my career path, I was trying to strike a balance between living a life that was structured, yet having the autonomy to explore a bigger purpose in my life beyond work. I hoped that having a diverse income, working on various projects, and not being handcuffed to a 9 to 5 job would help me find this balance.
I serendipitously came across an opportunity with my friend Amber McGinty, who I had been working with at a digital marketing firm during my days at Whole Foods. Amber founded Trusty Oak, a US-based virtual assistant company, and asked me to come work for her.
I was an early stage employee at Trusty Oak, and now work for the company full-time. The job ended up being exactly what I wanted. It answered my search for a work structure that would pay my bills, while also giving me the autonomy and time to explore other interests outside of work.”
Where did the idea for Trusty Oak come from?
“At the core of Trusty Oak, Amber developed a business that solved two major needs. In regard to talent, she realized there were a ton of capable, experienced, and skillful people that wanted an alternative work-life structure, and didn’t want to be tied down in a traditional 9 to 5 career. A lot of the people Amber spoke with were women who had families, missionaries who traveled a lot, or older people who were done with their careers, yet still wanted to do something on the side. These were perfect employees for the Trusty Oak model.
There was also a great need for US-based virtual assistants. A lot of our clients have had virtual assistants based outside the US in the past. They often say this was a bad experience due to cultural differences and time changes. Across the world, every culture has a different way of approaching business, and this can be a challenge to hiring virtual assistants. Trusty Oak set out to overcome this challenge.
In regard to the structure of the company, Trusty Oak gives employees a lot of responsibility in dealing with clients. While working for Trusty Oak, I get to set my own hours and am in power to grow my business. If I want to make more money, I can ramp up my sales, bring on new clients, earn a commission, etc. It gives me peace of mind knowing that I’m not completely dependent on the core company to succeed. I can do something to stay afloat if I need to.”
How would you describe your business to a stranger on the street?
“I am a virtual assistant. I offer an alternative to hiring administrative employees. Trusty Oak handles typical administrative tasks, while also adding value to higher level tasks that require more thinking, such as marketing. Customers do not have to pay benefits, there are no contracts, and there is almost no risk involved in a Trusty Oak hire. If you want a break from Trusty Oak service, you can simply ask for one.”
Who are Trusty Oak’s customers?
“Most of our clients are small businesses and entrepreneurs, although one of my clients is beyond the startup phase and is growing very quickly. It’s a software development firm in Austin. Trusty Oak is headquartered in Austin, so a lot of our clients are based there.
I personally act as the Boise branch, and we are working to grow the business here. We have actually been partnering with Trailhead, giving a discount to Trailhead members who want to use the Trusty Oak service.”
What are some of your goals for Trusty Oak?
“In regard to my own personal goals with the company, I am looking to reach 120 billable hours a month. In my first month at Trusty Oak, I billed 68 hours. I am now reaching 80-100 billable hours a month.
I want to strengthen the Trusty Oak presence in Boise, and get to the point where there are ongoing referrals coming in.”
What has been your greatest success with Trusty Oak thus far?
“My personal successes directly correlate to my client’s successes; a client win is always a win for me. I started out doing inbox management, scheduling, and travel booking for a software development client. Eventually, I started doing some marketing, and evolved into a marketing coordinator for the company. I helped the CEO get his podcast up and running, and secured some key interviews for that. It’s been really cool to see that business grow as much as it has; the opportunity to play a part in it is awesome.”
What are some of the greatest challenges you’ve faced in your career?
“This is funny, but it is real. I am not a morning person, at all. If I have a day free to myself, I will spend three hours in the morning reading and drinking coffee just trying to wake up. It is hard starting work early in the morning, but I am getting used to it. Getting things done in the morning is a must in my job, so I am having to adapt to that.”
What are some of your hobbies outside of work?
“I enjoy hiking, coffee, and food. The journey I started in college, searching for a greater purpose in my life, has really blossomed over the past few years. I found this purpose in my faith and my belief in prayer. A huge part of this came from me wanting to see positive change in the world. I spend a great deal of time in the community meeting with people and having conversations about faith.”
What interests you about entrepreneurship?
“I love having the autonomy and freedom to work my own hours. There is a peace of mind in knowing I am not completely dependent on a company for making my living. I like knowing I can make it happen myself, and knowing this makes me feel secure. For the same reason, I really like having a diversified income as an entrepreneur.”
When did you first begin considering a career in entrepreneurship?
“I first started thinking about entrepreneurship when I was living in Ecuador during high school. I realized it was impossible to buy homemade cookies at the store. Even if you could find cookies in a store, they were hard cracker cookies, and it simply wasn’t the same. I identified this niche, began baking homemade cookies, and sold them at school.”
How did you hear about Trailhead and what made you decide to become a member?
“I was looking for a co-working space here in Boise. I simply Googled “Co-working space in Boise,” and found Trailhead. After doing some research, Trailhead had the best atmosphere, people, and opportunities available. Trailhead members have even become clients of mine. It’s a startup hub, but it’s a hub of innovation and progress for the city.
Trailhead has helped me get a pulse on the heart of the city. You get a feel for where Boise is heading at Trailhead, and I love that.”
What are some of your favorite aspects of Trailhead?
“The people here are great. I also love the startup hub’s energy.”
What has been your favorite Trailhead program or event?
“I really enjoy going to the Member Mixers at Trailhead.”
What advice to you have for entrepreneurs starting a company in Boise?
“I think relationship building is key here. Finding a place like Trailhead that provides a platform for networking is important. Networking in a friendly and laid back environment without having to hear constant sales pitches is available here. It can take time to find your niche in Boise, because communities tend to be tightly knit and segmented. You can find that niche here at Trailhead.”