She Found Burnout Recovery Through Styling

Reading: From Burned-Out Marketer to Fashion Maven 

Covey Podcast

From Burned-Out Marketer to Fashion Maven 

with Ellie Steinbrink

I’m not one to take big risks,” says Ellie Steinbrink, a Midwest marketer turned fashion maven, “but for me it was a no-brainer.”  When COVID hit, Steinbrink realized that her professional success didn’t create personal fulfillment.”What I’m doing in my business is helping women develop their style brand,” she says. “I’m taking that marketing expertise [into the fashion area] because we all know that clothes have power, not just because they change how you feel about yourself, but they change how others perceive you”. In this episode she shares the pivotal moments that led her to photograph and post her outfit everyday on Instagram until her destination became clear. You’ll learn her hard-won strategies for building a new business from the ground up and why it’s never too late to pursue what truly lights you up.

Don’t miss her free gift to listeners — a Closet Detox Guide to help you clear out the clutter and make room for a style that’s uniquely you. For more insights and to connect with a community of like-minded reinventors, visit Remember to give us a review on Apple podcasts and subscribe for more stories of reinvention.

LJS: Hi, Ellie. I’m so glad to have you here on the podcast.

ES:  Thank you so much, Lesley. It’s a joy to be here talking with you and meeting you for the first time.

LJS: Yeah. So let’s start with your background, because you have an unusual background that led you into the fashion area, not one that I’ve heard that often. Talk a little bit about where you grew up, what did you go to school for, and how did you start out in your career?

ES: Well, if we’re going way back. I grew up on a farm in Iowa, so I’m an Iowa farm girl. Shout out to all the midwestern folks listening.

LJS: I worked for Meredith. I know Iowa.

ES: Yeah, absolutely. So I was a creative little girl. I grew up with two parents who were both self-employed. A farmer. My dad’s a farmer. My mom is an artist. And so I’ve always kind of been around this – running your own thing, and having that experience my whole life – understanding the highs and the lows of running your business. But more specifically, as a little girl, I really remember being very into what I was wearing. My mom probably – as a parent now I understand – I probably drove her crazy because I would change outfits at least five times a day to suit whatever thing I was doing. If I was dancing to Michael Jackson – that ages me, I grew up in the 80s – playing secretary with my sister or my siblings, whatever it may be. 

So style and fashion was always a part of something that really lit me up. I found a lot of joy in what I was putting on my body, and that never really went away. That continued just to get stronger as I got older, as I started to define my own identity into the teenage years and into my college years. But never once did I think, oh, this is something I want to do. I think I always had that practical hat on that said, “You must go into a real industry, a real job.” And this is not downplaying anybody who should want to go into the fashion industry. I just, for some reason, had this idea in my head that why would I pursue that? I need to go into something practical that’s going to make me money.

LJS: It sounds fluffy. Yes, it does sound fluffy.

ES: Yeah, and it’s not that anyone ever told me that. Somehow I just adopted that belief along the way. So what I went to school for is…I ended up getting a business degree at a small college. I really wanted to be in marketing. That was what I had decided, what I wanted my goal to be, to go into marketing. Specifically, I wanted to work at an advertising agency. I knew creativity was something I wanted to continue to flex in whatever career I chose and whatever environments I chose to work in. 

I remember doing an internship in college where I worked at a law firm, and I was doing marketing as an intern for this law firm in the city. And I felt like a little bit of my creativity just died.

 In terms of when I went to work, there was an expectation that you [would] wear a suit. And by the way, the suit must be in a certain array of neutral colors: black, navy. And anybody that works in a law firm – it’s probably changed now in the present day, but back then, I just remember thinking to myself, “I think I might die if I had to wear this sort of ‘uniform’ every day,” so little impacts like that told me I need to be in a creative work environment. 

And so I went through school, got a business administration degree [at] my small college since I couldn’t get a marketing major. It actually worked to my benefit now, thinking back, that I got a business degree with specializations in communication and marketing; it gave me enough to then go work in ad agencies where I spent the next 15 years of my life specifically doing client service. So I worked my way up through the client service rank, starting all the way from an intern to becoming a director of client services. And I loved that industry. I loved the creativity that surrounded me. I loved that I got to express myself through my style. 

But something was still just really missing for me. I was completely burned out by then. I had been married, had two children. My husband, his job requires him to work three to four to five days a week. So it felt like I was running the show a lot on my own, and it was just too much for me. And so, outside of being kind of burned out from the work, I also discovered part of that burnout wasn’t just the amount of hours I was putting into my work. It was that I wasn’t as passionate about the work as I thought. And, boy, is that a hard realization to come to when you’ve climbed the ranks of your industry. I spent 15 years working.

LJS: Probably making good money at that time.

ES: Yes, I was making wonderful money. I have a friend who’s a women’s leadership coach, and she often says it’s that experience of climbing a ladder to get to the top and [realizing] that your ladder is actually leaning against the wrong building.

LJS: That’s a great analogy. Very interesting.

ES: And that’s exactly how I felt. And I felt kind of panicked. I felt stuck. I felt like “I don’t know what I want to do. If I don’t want to do marketing, what else am I going to do?” And so I was feeling very confused, very stuck. I was having sort of, “Who am I?” conversations. “Who do I want to be?” It felt so weird to be having those conversations. 

By then, I was 35 years old. And, it just felt like I was in really unfamiliar territory. But from there, I kind of had this breakdown and was trying to figure out, “What are my next steps?” And so I was working with a coach at that time to help me sort through some of these questions I was having. And, while we couldn’t figure out all the pieces of the puzzle at one time, one step I knew I wanted to take was to move to what would be considered a part-time role.

My daughter was going into kindergarten at that time, and just given our family situation and the values I have for myself, I wanted to be there with the kids before and after school. So I was looking for a position that would allow me to work during those hours, which I found was – oh, my gosh – it’s very difficult to find! Someone who is at [as] high [a] level [as] I was in my career, looking for a part-time role that allows you still to flex your skills, flex your expertise. But luckily I happened to find an incredible position with a small family-run business, a woman who is a speaker and an author. I was continuing to do marketing. But the one positive step I had made was just to give me some more room in my schedule, to sort of breathe. Whereas before I was working nights and weekends, I was just burning all ends of the spectrum, and I had really no room for myself to just stop and think about, “What is it that I might like?” 

So this kind of baby step was a really important one for me, not only in the sense that it gave me some more of my own personal time back in my life, but this particular experience gave me some incredible new skills. It was a time when content marketing was really – it had been around for a while, but it was really blowing up. 

And I got access to some incredible experts in the field. I got exposure to running a podcast, running the entire content calendar, doing so many things I hadn’t yet done in the advertising agency. And I was doing this all [to help] one woman build her brand. The brand of the business was built around her. That was four years of my life where, again, if you remember, I was having this breakdown, wanting to leave the marketing industry. 

Not sure if this was still for me, but I think what kept me alive in those four years was that my schedule was much more palatable for what I needed. And I was learning some really interesting new things that I was legitimately excited about. So it gave me this infusion of energy, it gave me this infusion of creativity. 

But I have to say, in the back of my mind, I was still kind of asking that question, is this it? Is this my ultimate destination? And the answer, I knew, was no.

And if you’ve been in that situation, it can drive you almost mad because you just want the answer right now, and it doesn’t work that way, does it? The answer often doesn’t come right when you want it. But during [this] time, giving myself more space, in this four years working with this family-run business, doing marketing, it gave me some… time [of my own] to start to play around a little bit.

And this nagging thought, when I had been working with a coach before this job change, the idea of running some kind of a styling business came up. And boy, did that idea scare me at that time. I thought,”Oh, my gosh, yes. That’s what I really, really would love to do.” People during my career had always asked me, can you just come to my closet, come help me pick out stuff to wear or come shop with me? And I thought, wow, gosh, that would be a dream, wouldn’t it? But I just, again, passed it off as some unrealistic solution for myself.

LJS: Right.

ES: So…all of these experiences were in the back of my head, and I kept saying, “No, that’s not a reality for me. Even though, gosh, would that light me up. Boy, would that just be the thing that would set me on fire.” This idea just wouldn’t leave me alone. And I really remember this is a little bit of a woo woo story, I have to admit.

LJS: There’s a lot of woo woo in all of these things, yes. I know that.

ES: I had just learned how to do transcendental meditation, and so I had been practicing it for about a year. And the workplace that I was at, they actually allowed you to do your 20 minutes of meditation during the day if you so chose to do it. And I remember taking this 20-minute break at the workplace and [sitting] down to get calm and do my meditation. And I opened my eyes, and I don’t know what happened at that moment or what things collided in the universe, but I opened my eyes and I said, “I need to start doing something with this style thing. Whatever it is, I need to start following it. I need to listen to it and put it into practice.” It was so clear. And so, that next day, I woke up, and at that time, I decided, I’m going to take a photo of my outfit every day. I’m going to start creating a channel on my Instagram. I’m going to start sharing my outfits and talking about my outfits, talking about style in general. And I said, I’m going to start this and I’m going to commit to doing it every day until…

LJS: Wow! Are you that good at starting a habit like that? Can you just talk yourself into it?

ES: I thought so.

LJS: That’s hard. I teach Tiny Habits and that getting a new habit started is not easy.

ES: No, it was ambitious. It was ambitious. But here’s the promise I made to myself. If this ever feels like too much, if I get tired of it, if it feels like a burden, if it feels like a hassle, any of those things, I’m just going to stop. I put no pressure on myself. There was no goal. It was just start taking an action.

LJS: Yes. Now that I can relate to. We teach that a lot. Even if it’s a five-minute action each day, it creates momentum. That’s the big problem, I think, is that you have no momentum to get started, and the mountain looks too big, so you have no way to even get moving toward it. You’re just looking at this mountain and you’re sort of paralyzed. Right?

ES: Yeah. And I think if I, at that moment – you’re so right, Lesley, because I think if I had said, okay, tomorrow I’m going to start figuring out how to create a styling business, create the marketing plan, I would have been totally overwhelmed.

LJS: That’s right.

ES: So, this felt fun. It felt playful. Actually, I kind of was like, I just want to start doing this on the side. It was almost like a hobby. A hobby that infused my creativity, I guess. And I wanted more of that in my life and so that was…the level of commitment that I had. It was just kind of like, play around and have fun, which, ironically, is not really how I operate in most areas of my life. I usually am like, okay, there’s got to be a reason. There’s got to be a plan. But for some reason, I just let this be the kind of small, playful thing that it was. So, I mean, long story short, I never stopped. I was having so much fun.

LJS: So you got into it okay.

ES: Yeah, I was having a ton of fun. sort of the floodgates of ideas just kept opening up. There was more – there were endless topics that I wanted to talk about. I had never felt more in my element in my entire life. But remember, I was still working at my current workplace.

LJS: Now, were you just posting this online? Social media?

ES: Yeah.

LJS: You just started a social media channel.

ES: Yeah, I mean, I guess you would have called, put me in the category of maybe, like, an influencer.

LJS: So you just started that. Did you have to ask or worry about the people at work, or were you free to do that?

ES: Yeah, that felt weird, because they all were following me on social. I think they kind of knew I had this passion. And so at some point, I did talk about it with my boss, who was the owner of the company, and I said, “This is just something I want to do for fun, and you’re going to be seeing me talking about this and posting things, and I just want you to know, like, I’m still committed to being here. This is just a fun, creative outlet for me.”

LJS: They were cool with that?

ES: They were cool with it, and they supported it. They really supported it, and I think they saw me come alive as a result of that. But within a year of me starting that – this was 2019 when I started. So here comes 2020, and we all know what happened in 2020. So, the pandemic hits, and the company I’d been working for is a very small run company based on coaching and training, and it’s hard to even think about this right now, Lesley, but at that time, they hadn’t really developed anything online. Everything was in person. They were coaching, they were doing keynotes, they were training all in person. And so when the pandemic hit, it was very scary for the business. There was talk that things may not come back to normal for two years. Yeah, I remember the year, two years being thrown out and thinking, “Oh, there’s just no way.” And actually, that ended up becoming a real thing. So during that kind of chaotic time for that business, there [were] a few months that they were…trying to sort things out, and they made a decision to cut back on the staff, and I happened to be one of the people that lost their position.

LJS: Oh, wow. So thank god you had this – we often talk about this – and it came out of nowhere, right?

ES: Came out of nowhere. And you would think, gosh, that’s a really scary thing to have happen at that time in a pandemic when everything is so uncertain. But…I remember thinking, “There’s only one thing I want to do, and that thing is to start my styling business.” This is the time it was like my shove off the cliff. I’m not one to take big risks in my life. I would say I’m kind of more risk averse. I’m much more calculated. It’s not normal for me to just like, “Oh, let’s do this.” But, everything in me, like when I had the choice between, “Oh, let’s go start interviewing and looking for new positions at a new workplace,” or put all of my time and energy into building this thing that I love so much, it was a no-brainer for me.

LJS: And then the universe gave you the option to do that full-time.

ES: Yeah. And luckily, my husband’s job was fairly secure at that time, and so we had the ability for me to kind of take a step back and start to work to build the business, because we know it doesn’t happen in day one or even year one or year two. It takes time to build that business. But, yeah. I really haven’t ever looked back. It’s been the hardest, but also the most fun thing I have ever done. And, I just crossed my three year mark. And so now I’m in my fourth year, and it’s a blast. It’s a blast. I would never have it any other way. But I think when I talk about, “Oh, I went from 20 years in marketing to now becoming a personal stylist and a style brand expert” it seems like such a weird jump. But to me, the more time goes on, the more I can see that all of those little puzzle pieces were coming together for my good. I honestly don’t think I could have started this styling business in my 20s, even if I had the passion for it. I think I needed all of those experiences, the good and the bad experiences, the skills I was learning in client service, the skills I was learning to market a business, market a personal brand. And now what I’m doing in my business is helping women develop their style brand. I’m taking that marketing expertise, because we all know that how you show up, how you look…Clothes have power, not just because they change how you feel about yourself, but they change how others perceive you. So I consider it to be a part of your personal brand.

LJS: Right, good. Yes. And that, we know, is important. And so you’re making money and you have a business going. Can you talk a little bit about the business part of it? Because that’s what scares so many people. They’re like, yes, that’s what I would like to do, but can I replace my salary? And I have a family to support, or I have these various obligations. And that’s the scary thing. Are there any tricks of the trade to actually turning it into a business? Because I do have some people in the CoveyClub I’m thinking of who haven’t yet figured that part out.

ES: Yeah, well, I think everyone’s situation is going to be different. I’ve heard women say that for them, the best scenario was to keep working a job while doing this on the side.

LJS: Yes, that’s a good starting point.

ES: Yeah. And because of my particular situation where I’ll just say I got shoved off the cliff and put into this scenario, I could have made the choice to go and pursue a steady income. But after talking with my husband about it and knowing that he was in a steady place with his job, his work, we made the decision, “Okay, we can do this, we can cut back, we can look at our expenses, we can take a look at our whole financial situation and make some smart choices that will allow.” Because realistically, one of the most important things, one tip I’ll share with anybody considering… s[stepping] out on their own and [starting] their own business, is it was imperative for me to surround myself with other women who were also at different stages of running their own business. Connecting with those who were just starting it, because there’s sort of a different emotional state and things you’re worried about when you’re just starting, connecting with women who are maybe a couple of years ahead of me so I can learn from them what were some key things that they did that I can take and apply in my business. But one, I remember, of these women that I was starting to connect with – and now I consider to be kind of like my business besties, some of them I talk with every day. That support was so important, but I remember one of the ones, a woman who was a few years ahead of me, she said, “I just want you to know that it is very normal for a business to take three to five years to really get established.” That felt very comforting and very scary.

LJS: It’s scary. Yes. Yeah, I didn’t know that either. It really took CoveyClub six years to establish itself and also become clear as to what the heck I was doing.

ES: Yeah! I know!

LJS: No one tells you that. Yeah, we should write a book about that because there’s so many things no one tells you when you start your own business.

ES: Well, and that’s where the support of the other women is so key. Because…you have the days where, “Oh my gosh, this is awesome. And I want to keep going. And I’m so energized!” And the days where you really question and doubt yourself and think, “Maybe I should just throw this whole idea out the window” and to normalize that you’re going to be on this roller coaster ride, you were talking about, thinking about the business. And so my ultimate goal from day one, I always said to myself, I want to be able to know I will have succeeded. I mean, I have now defined multiple ways of what success looks like to me. But if we’re just talking about revenue, I thought to myself, if I can replace the income that I had had when I was at the top of my career in the marketing industry, I will feel like I’ve won now.

LJS: Oh god, yes.

ES: I’ve celebrated many of the milestones in between. And honestly, I’m in year three and I’m still working to get to that goal. But what I think are good indicators to me is that I’m seeing good, significant growth every year. And so that’s kind of what keeps you going like, is there a desire for this in the market? Am I seeing traction? Are there continual opportunities for growth? And I’ve continued to see that as I’ve [gone] along this path. And so that’s really what fuels me.

LJS: It’s a long, slow path. And if you’re doing it yourself and you’re a solopreneur, it’s hard. I’m not going to say it’s not hard. And it’s frustrating. And I do know what you’re talking about, which is, one day you’re like, “Wow, I just figured this thing out. I’m going to implement this. This is so exciting. I’m really excited.” And then the next day you get some weird thing from somebody, or somebody quits what you’re doing and you can’t figure out why. And you’re like, “Oh my god, I’m a failure. I’m going to have to quit this. It’s not going anywhere.” And then literally somebody else will send you a note and [go], “Gee, Elli, that thing you said to me…” And you’re like, “Oh, I’m back on.” The roller coaster can even be throughout the day, just depending on what’s happening. And you don’t know, what we used to do in the magazine business is like, you were having a rotten day, your boss said something horrible to you, or a customer wrote a terrible note or something, you just go to the next office, sit down and vent. But you don’t have that.

But that’s what CoveyClub is. That’s what we do. We do that for each other. That is why you need some kind of, you need a group, you need a posse, you need a sounding board area because it’s too hard to do alone. It’s tough, right? 

ES:  Yeah, it’s very tough. You need those cheerleaders. And I think the other thing I’ve really learned is…just keep showing up even when you really don’t feel like it. I mean, there’s another conversation to be [had] when you need a break. You need to give yourself the grace and the space to have a break. But in general, I’ve learned that even on the days when you’re like, “I don’t know if this is going anywhere, I’m not sure, I’m not seeing traction.” Just at least do one thing that’s going to keep moving the needle forward. And I would say whether that’s showing up on social [media] consistently or just continuing to reach out to new people, new business leads, just keep taking those steps and keep connecting with people. The consistency has really been important for me and the growth that I’ve had.

LJS: So what would you say, as we come to a close here, if you were going to give someone like me sort of your insider best advice, your best how-to, say three of them, what would they be?

ES: So I think one would be addressing the fear of making very big switches in your life. My suggestion would be…don’t assume that if you’re thinking about making a very big career change – my example would be going from marketing to personal styling. Seems completely unrelated, seems like a very weird switch. But what I would say is don’t discount that the things you’ve learned up to that point are not somehow related and will infuse and propel whatever new thing you’re doing, it will propel it forward. And the reason I bring this up is because when you completely switch careers and you start something, you can start to feel like you’re at the bottom of the ladder again. And you are, and it feels very demotivating. But don’t discount that you’ve learned a lot of skills that are setting you a few rungs up. And so in those moments where you’re like, “This makes no sense, I’m starting completely over.” Just remember to kind of track back to the facts and connect the dots of – oh yeah, for me it was, I’ve had almost 20 years of client service. Hello. That’s something you need when you’re in a personal styling business. I’ve had years of learning how to market and propel a brand forward. Create that excitement around a brand. So connect the dots. Don’t be afraid to make the switch, especially if you feel a lot of energy and passion towards what you’re doing.

Another thing I would say is, you mentioned it feeling very lonely, and it can feel like you’re doing all the things when you start a business, and in the first year or so, year to year and a half, I didn’t feel like I had the money to hire help or hire assistants. Although that’s what all of the coaching systems and programs I was joining at the time were saying. Hire someone, even if it’s 5 hours a week, to do some of your managerial tasks as soon as you can do it. And that is something I did as soon as I was able to. I hired various different people. I’m still a solopreneur. So hiring partners, for example.

LJS: You’re talking about freelance people. That’s what I do.

ES: They always say, as soon as you’re able to do that, then it’s amazing how that frees you up to do other things. And it’s a scary leap at first to start to pay somebody else to take care of parts of your business because it feels like you’re losing money. But remember that time is in exchange for you to then put more attention into growing the business.

LJS: Thank you for making that point. Yes, I had somebody who does the Million Women group, and she pushed us really hard at the beginning to hire an assistant. And I was like, I can’t afford an assistant. Are you kidding me? I’ve got to do all this myself. And she really pushed us very hard, and she was right. And you feel, you know, I’m not making any money. How can I hire somebody? That’s ridiculous. But it really is one of the keys to getting up and rolling. I agree with you, and thank you for addressing that. Well, Ellie, thank you so much. How can people reach you if they want to get in touch with you?

ES: Well, in terms of social channels, the two I’m predominantly on are LinkedIn, under my name, Ellie Steinbrink, and then on Instagram at style.decoded. You can also find me on my website, And I do have a little freebie for the crowd if they’d like it. I find one of the things that can really hold you back is what’s in your closet. And I always say that there’s a lot of emotion in your closet. So one of the things I’ve created is a closet detox guide. So it’s my favorite questions that I ask. I like to call it a detox because when you clean out your closet, it truly feels like a cleanse.

LJS: It does. No, I’m with you. You’re right.

ES: So, I’ve created a guide that includes all my favorite questions to ask, that really help you be judicious about what’s in there and to start to let go of maybe those things that don’t represent you or don’t fit your body or just don’t reflect who you want to be, as well as tips for how to get organized as you’re doing it and how to stay motivated while you’re doing it. So you can find that at

LJS: Yes. So we’ll put it in the show notes. That’s fantastic. Ellie, thank you so much. It was so nice to meet you and wonderful to hear your story and congratulations.

ES: Thank you so much.



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