Samantha Ellis and Hannah Bernard are the amazing boss ladies behind Roots + Ardor, a digital media marketing company that helps businesses with everything from videography to brand strategy. The duo are also recipients of the BC Business 30 Under 30! In addition to Roots + Ardor, they’re also passionate about giving back.
Each quarter, Roots + Ardor holds MentHerShip community events to help men and women support and connect with one another (the proceeds go to One Girl Can, which helps build schools in developing countries). In this interview, Samantha shares how Roots + Ardor came to be, how she and co-founder Hannah first met and how to deal with self-doubt as an entrepreneur.
What is Roots + Ardor?
Roots + Ardor at an aerial view is a digital media marketing company. What that really means is that we create kickass social media content for small to medium businesses across Canada. We offer a range of services from videography, photography, to copywriting and brand strategy for businesses looking to launch or re-brand.
At our heart, we are driven by female entrepreneurship and mentorship, which is why we so often support charity and have spearheaded causes of our own like MentHerShip.
How did you both meet?
We met, ironically, volunteering! We were creating content and writing for RAW Beauty Talks when our eyes met across the crowd and the connect was instantaneous. Hannah asked me out for a drink, we brainstormed their future, and took the leap into our own start-up less than 3 months later.
Where and when did you first get the idea to open Roots + Ardor?
We both saw the runway for content-driven digital strategies. Having worked in more traditional media sectors, we knew that content was king. Social media was developing more rapidly than ever and we both had a knack for it. Hannah first introduced the idea to me over a few glasses of wine. By January 2016 we were both fully in.
Did you both know early on that you wanted to be entrepreneurs?
I think we both have the entrepreneurial spirit. You can’t sign on for the incredible highs and challenges without that. Hannah and I were definitely the stubborn ones in our families, driven by ambition and maybe a little bit of blind confidence. Our courage has gotten us to where we are today, and a lot of humility too. We make mistakes, but we have each other’ backs and always rebound to fight another day.
What were the first few steps you took to get Roots + Ardor off the ground?
I believe the first step was actually naming it! The name originated from our “roots” being somewhere else, in the prairies, and always feeling a bit outside of the Vancouver circle. We wanted for ourselves and for our clients to feel grounded, a part of the ecosystem that’s working for a better future. “Ardor” is latin for, “to burn.” This, to us, means simply to have passion for whatever it is you’re doing.
After the name the next best thing to do is to get an accountant. Mark our words: get an accountant. The more people you have on your side who know how to manage numbers, the better. Bookkeepers are essential too. By the way, a debit slip is not a receipt.
We incorporated and hit the ground running pitching clients we wanted to work with. We did everything ourselves at first. That’s part of the pain and the beauty, you have to do a lot of things you don’t necessarily want to do to get to the place you need to go.
Surround yourself with talent too. We were lucky to know incredibly gifted photographers and videographers who have stuck with us since the beginning. *Cough Hayley Hudson Cough*. She’s the best.
What were some of the roadblocks and obstacles you faced in the earlier days of the business and how did you overcome them?
We face burn out a lot. At the beginning, you’re motivated by survival. But you hit a plateau where you wonder, “Can I really do this for another year?” And the answer is yes. With help. Reach out and delegate. If you can afford it, pay for contractors and for people to do the things you’re not adept at.
Another challenge is learning how to say “no.” This is a lesson we’re still in the midst of learning. But if you keep saying yes to everything, you’re going to have nothing left to give.
At what point did you realize the business was doing well enough to support you both full time?
I honestly think we just got there in December of last year. It was three years of really grinding, sacrificing, and redefining what success and balance looks like. Now we are both fully on and in and it feels good.
At least, I call my mother crying less often.
In terms of timeline, how long was that after your initial idea?
We launched about thirty seconds after our initial idea. Just kidding. It was two months of Hannah convincing me to jump. Then it was a year of a hard grind. One year after that to feel the groove. One year after that when we felt the grace.
What is MentHerShip and how can people get involved?
So glad you asked! MentHerShip is a community for women and men looking for real connections, insight, and inspiration in their career and lives. It was originally catered to young women making the huge transition from college or serving into the business world, but now it’s much more open and fluid.
We’re all making transitions all the time at every age, our goal is to support those transitions by bringing thought leaders into the conversation and within contact of the group of people who need them the most. We hope that if we can connect even one pair of people who help one another elevate their professional path or their personal wellbeing, MentHerShip is working.
All of the proceeds for our quarterly events go toward sponsoring a woman’s university education in Africa. Her name is Anne. This type of echo effect is what we work for.
What advice do you have for someone starting out as an entrepreneur?
Take a deep breath. The journey will be long, and hard, and it will hurt. You’ll never be ready for it. But you are worthy of it. Embrace all of the joy and turbulence coming your way. These rocky, rewarding seas are meant for you. They’ve got your name on it. Just like the life you’re meant to live. The path you’re meant to set on fire.
What would you tell aspiring entrepreneurs who have lots of ideas but don’t know where to start?
Start with this: Why? If you are able to answer that question, so will your customers, your clients, your audience, your subscribers. With a little education, a lot of encouragement, and a little luck.
What advice do you have for tackling self-doubt as an entrepreneur?
Self-doubt is like a tax return. Every year, there it is again! As steady as age itself. Don’t try to fight it if you can. It exists without your permission, but you can certainly learn how to manage in it in a way that works for you. Conversation, exercise, meditation, Pinot Noir. Who said that?
Try not to be afraid of it. It can be a huge self-motivator. At the end of the day, we go home to ourselves. Make your bed comfy. Make room for your friend failure. You’ll thank it and look upon it fondly when you’re flying.
What’s next for your business? Do you have any exciting projects coming up?
We have a lot on the horizon who where we want to take MentHerShip and how we envision it growing. We hope it becomes bigger than us, that people can embody it and carry it with them into their interactions with the world so that they can be kinder and help the next person in line.
On the business front, we never sleep. Stay tuned and keep your ears (and airwaves) open. Our ardor for creation is just beginning.