Changemakers: Elle Roberts & the Artful Business Conference


Elle Roberts of Artful Business Conference

Image via Elle Roberts

Have you ever attended a business conference and felt like it was an absolute gamechanger for you? For me, that’s been the Artful Business Conference that I attended at the beginning of September.

Over two days, we were met with an array of fabulous speakers – from the very practical and very useful to the gobsmackingly inspirational. They covered so many aspects – from branding, how to deal with social media and how to tell your business story in a compelling way, right through to finding that jewel of unwavering belief in yourself that will propel you to great heights.

It was awesome.

ArtfulBizCon - attendees speakers and presenters

And now I have had the absolute honour of interviewing the person who put it all together. I am so full of admiration for all that Elle Roberts has achieved; despite her setbacks, she has had the guts, utter determination and vision to push through to her goals AND she is a kind, generous and thoughtful soul.

Elle is a multipassionate creative and business coach working out of Townsville, Australia. She told me that many years ago when she first went to university to study Tourism and Human Resource Management, she had plans. So I asked her, where was she headed?

“Wow, what a question! I wanted to rule the world to be honest. I wanted to have a high flying career in Tourism, travel the world, work a lot and become the Richard Branson of the hotel industry. Then very accidentally and against all life plans I had a baby at 23. I was already 18 weeks when we found out so it was a whirlwind pregnancy in which my partner and I split up and I moved; my life plans changed so much I suddenly had no idea what I wanted to do.

I focused on figuring out just the next step, spending time with my beautiful baby and working out how to be a mum. Fast forward 12 months and I had started a small handmade business called Monkey and Me.”

Despite learning all the stuff about marketing, budgeting and business planning at uni, Elle says with her home-based business that not everything was applicable, those corporate ideas weren’t enough and she felt stuck. The bit that really stumped her was that thing of “self worth and the amount of emotion you feel when it is your own handiwork you are trying to sell.”

She persisted with it for the next 5 years. “I launched an online retail store because I didn’t love the other options available to me as a seller, but I soon found my passion was in helping people figure out the business stuff. It got to the point where I was spending more time helping my sellers with their line sheets and promo images than I was selling my own stuff.”

ArtfulBizCon - attendees

Frustration is a powerful thing – it can either kill you or push you to find a solution. It was at this point that the idea for the Artful Business Conference was sparked – the lack of events for people involved in the craft scene in Australia surfaced as a glaring gap. There were so many cool things happening in America and the UK and while Australia had the talent pool of incredible crafters there wasn’t an event that was designed just for them. The idea for the Artful Business Conference was actually the catalyst to launching into full time coaching. It made more sense to run that side by side with a coaching business than a retail store that I wasn’t loving anyway.”

The ABC has just finished its third year, it’s been so fabulous for getting many small businesses extending what they do and getting themselves happening, myself included. This year was an absolute stunner with incredible speakers (we’re all still buzzing!). I asked Elle what criteria she used when choosing speakers – does she start with a theme, or ideas that she wants to cover?

“I am on the look out all year for the next selection of speakers – I try to pick some big names sure, but only if they have quality information to share; and then I think it is important to level that out with people less famous but who can relate directly with the creative journey the attendees are on. All the speakers need to be inspiring and motivational but they also need to have the grassroots how-to information to share with the audience. At crunch time (about now for 2015) I spend a lot of time on Google, reading blogs and watching speaker’s videos but I usually have a few of the people in mind already just from watching what people are up to over the past year.”

THE single most powerful message that came out of the conference was to figure out your business “WHY”. Everything springs from that – your choice of business type, your motivation, your heady goal, I asked Elle what her WHY was.

“My burning WHY is just how heart-broken I feel when another creative closes the doors on their business because they love the work but can’t make the money work. I want to empower people to believe in the skills they have and see value in their art and the contribution it makes in the world.”

ArtfulBizCon - speakers

Australia is lucky indeed to have someone like Elle. She has been instrumental in propelling many businesses forward and helping so many people – especially women – to find that self-confidence and vision. So where does she see herself in 10 years’ time?

“Gosh I couldn’t say. Hopefully still running the ABC and still coaching – though I’d like to get a bit more family time in our life and spend more time gardening and crafting. Having just rebranded (again), it feels a bit cray at the moment but I am working towards less one-on-one work and more writing and speaking in the future – though I will never give away one-on-one for good, because I get so much out of getting to work more deeply with creatives on their business.”

Thank you so much for your insights Elle, and I cannot wait for the ABC next year!

Connect with Julie Gibbons of Tractorgirl 


Julie Gibbons blogs about the business of craft and surface design, offering a mix of inspiration and practical advice on all things visual business – everything from product design to branding as well as all the stuff in between. She’s on a mission to make the world a prettier place, and fully believes that with the right tools and practice, everyone is capable of good design. Truly! You can get her free guide, “Biz Style for Stylish Biz” here – and give your business a boost of visual oomph.


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