Ellen Hielkema is the host of Power Women in Green, a podcast that highlights women that are making the world a better place through green business. In today’s episode, we discuss her previous career in marketing, what her goals are for her podcast and how van life in Portugal changed the way she looked at the world.
Marjorie Alexander (00:00):
This is a sustainable mind episode 37. Hey, they're sustainable minds. I would love to get to know you a bit better. Learn about your personal goals towards going green, your consumer habits, and your challenges. Please text the word survey to three to three, five, three, six, zero. This is the same phone number that I always give you, so program it into your phone. Again, that's three to three to zero and we can start a conversation and no, it's not going to be a fancy robot responding to you. It's going to be a one on one conversation with me. I look forward to hearing from you.
Ellen Hielkema (00:36):
My hope is that anyone listening has the courage to go after their dreams for a better world, and I truly believe that we don't have to sacrifice wealth to better the planet. I hope you will take the challenge and improve the world through your business and your life, that it's possible.
Marjorie Alexander (00:56):
welcome to a sustainable mind where we dove into the minds behind today's most impactful environmental campaigns, organizations and startups, inspiring the environmental change makers of tomorrow. I'm your host, Marjorie Alexander.
Marjorie Alexander (01:14):
Ellen is a marketing consultant, world traveler and the host of power women in Green, a podcast that highlights women that are making the world a better place, one business at a time. So Ellen, welcome to the show.
Ellen Hielkema (01:28):
Thank you very much for having me.
Marjorie Alexander (01:30):
Absolutely. So how did nature the environment and sustainability play a role in your home life growing up?
Ellen Hielkema (01:40):
I grew up on a farm. My father wasn't a farmer, but I'm in the house. I lived in, used to be a farm. And I think the only thing I can think about of me be relating to nature was when we had trees on the property that were being cut down, I would cry. But actually, um, I think my younger part of my youth, the earlier years were spent playing outside and all that and trees and all that and then lead to being a more materialistic person and into fashion and all that in my teenage years. So I think the only in the early years of my life, nature was a big part.
Marjorie Alexander (02:17):
Wonderful. So you talking about your teenage years in fashion and reminds me of, uh, your profession. So you used to be in marketing and advertisement, right? Toes a little bit about that.
Ellen Hielkema (02:28):
Yes. I, uh, worked in publishing in New York City at a fashion magazine and a travel magazine and yeah, I had so much interest in fashion during my teenage years that led to me to work there and it was like my dream job, all the excitement and I really liked it for the three years that I was there, but I quickly realized that I was missing a certain part of my job, something and I guess turned out to be nature and uh, a more simple way of living. So then I moved to Portugal and lived in my van for years and um, you know, volunteer to various projects, uh, revolving around permaculture and sustainability and retreat centers and all that. So yeah, I sort of balanced those three years out, three years in nature.
Marjorie Alexander (03:11):
Wow. Fan Life. OK. So I'm not going to totally geek out right now, but that's actually something that I'm going to be embarking on in the near future. So we're definitely going to have to talk about that. Oh, cool. Yeah, definitely. So in terms of your upbringing, being on the farm and kind of having this, this in between experience where you were in um, publishing, did you find that your ideals or your kind of ethics or the way that you viewed the world really bumped up against what you were doing professionally? Obviously you went to Portugal afterwards, so it did a little bit, but your experience at the time, did you find that you were rubbing up against the ideals of other people in a way that was kind of like, Eh, this is so uncomfortable?
Ellen Hielkema (03:56):
Yeah, it was so intense. It was a. I didn't really think it was a sustainable way to live to be honest, because like, your entire life revolves around working and I'm in the US as opposed to a, in another lens. You only get two weeks of a vacation and uh, it's just a very different way of living life that I wasn't used to being from Europe and I don't think I was as interested in the career aspect of it. That I was willing to sacrifice my life for the career. And Yeah, very much missing nature. And having so much satisfaction from bicycling from Brooklyn to Manhattan for an hour every day to work on our back that we give me the most joy of everything. And I realized I couldn't be doing that somewhere else too.
Marjorie Alexander (04:43):
So your experience down in Portugal, what new things did you learn down there? What new experience did you have that kind of set you off on the path that you're currently on right now?
Ellen Hielkema (04:54):
Well, I learned so much about gardening and all of that and I'm running a retreat business and uh, about simple living about being very happy with very little and yeah, that really inspired me and it was also not enough for me. So that's why. That's what led me to power women, Ingrain the project that I'm working on right now. And that's because I merged the two. So the three emergency, like the business side of it with the sustainability side of it because I don't really believe that you need to have that. You have to give up one for the other to be either successful or green. Sustainable. So yeah, that was a big learning on both ends.
Marjorie Alexander (05:32):
So you mentioned your podcast power, women in Green, which is wonderful by the way, and for everyone listening I will be linking that up in the show notes page so you can go check out ellen's wonderful podcast. It's so awesome and a lot of really great women in the sustainability sector, business owners and environmental practitioners. That's really inspiring stories. So go check that out. So talk a bit about your transition from, you know, vanlife from learning about gardening, being in Portugal and you know, moving towards this. Well, let's be honest, you're spending a significant portion of your time inside creating this basically doing media content. How do you feel that that is getting more of the message out to the world and what are some of the differences that you experienced?
Ellen Hielkema (06:19):
Yeah, there's definitely a lot more time spent indoors, that's for sure. I didn't have to force myself to go side, whereas, um, before I was outside all the time in Portugal and yeah, it's very different and it's, it is satisfying and I do feel like the Internet is a very important medium to bring this message across and I really believe in it, but I do believe that a in moderation and that if you have a business from home on the computer online that you, uh, need to get your butt outside and uh, that's what I pushed myself to do.
Marjorie Alexander (06:54):
So why did you choose power? Women in green in terms of environmental topics? Why did you feel that that topic specifically was something that needed to be addressed?
Ellen Hielkema (07:05):
The women that are running these businesses have a amazing stories that need to be told and they are not the type of women that are tweeting and yelling and screaming on the top of their lungs that what they are doing, their, they, they don't really feel the need to, uh, talk about it as much, but they are silently in the back silently in the back working on this and making a difference. A huge difference in the world because the more products that are out there that are actually making a difference in the world, the easier it is for us, the consumer to buy products that are good for the environment. So yeah, I really felt it was important to have this platform for these women to voice their, um, their passion, their mission, their vision and help them succeed, which is also one thing I really feel passionately about about helping these women.
Marjorie Alexander (07:58):
After interviewing several of these women, these business owners, what do you see as some of the themes in terms of the challenges that they come up against?
Ellen Hielkema (08:10):
The challenges are very diverse and I think they were mostly related to like obstacles. Maybe if it's around sustainability, it's like ingredient sourcing or government issues that come across. But the one thing that I really see as a common theme with every single woman I've spoken to is that yes, I see obstacles on the way, but they don't see them as obstacles. They see them as just a thing to overcome. So they overcome it and move on to the next and they don't really see it as a huge, big deal that could be changing the course of their business at all. They either flow around it, change it, and they keep going. And that's what I really admire about these women.
Marjorie Alexander (08:47):
I want to backtrack here for a second because I think there are a lot of people that like you and myself both see this path towards an environmentally based or sustainability based profession and work, you know, a few years in, you know, this is like our second or third careers and you deciding to just pick up your entire life in New York and moved to a different country. Try something new.
Marjorie Alexander (09:20):
That's something that a lot of people can benefit from, but very few people have the courage or the money or other resources to actually do that. So what advice could you give people out there that are like, I need to change. I need to get out of this Rut that I can get out of this job that I'm in and get out of this, this location that I'm in. Go out and explore the world. How do you think that they can actually do that in a way that is, that makes sense where they can still make a little bit of money, they can travel and they can really discover that thing in themselves that they're passionate about.
Ellen Hielkema (09:52):
Yeah, I'm the type of person who just goes out and does it. I don't really think I just do it. So I wouldn't advise that because it does come with its own set of problems. So definitely also prepare a little bit thinking, think it through and have six months of, uh, thinking it through and not just pack up and leave. And I'm just also a let go of your attachment to things in slowly where you are right now. So for example, you have a house and you have to pay a monthly payments sort through those and start minimum minimizing every single thing that you have, what do you really need and what don't you need. And then you can start to see how little you actually really need. That will make you feel so much lighter and the decisions so much easier to do. And then maybe we'll even earn you some money if you sell things, for example.
Ellen Hielkema (10:43):
And then if you have a job, for example, then you need to think, am I willing to lead this job? What will I do for money? Like how long can I survive without my, this amount that I'm used to for how long you have to do a little, do a little bit of math and researching and um, and then, yeah, really just do it because if you're 90 years old and you look back on your life and you stayed in the hometown where you grew up, for example, and you've always been dreaming of a, this other amazing thing that you wanted to do and you never did it. Yeah. That's not a nice way to, to die. I don't think. So it sounds a little glimpse. Glue called gloomy to think about that is a really good way to look forward is by looking to the end and then looking back and really just do it.
Marjorie Alexander (11:35):
So what's the biggest or most unexpected gift or benefit that you believe you've received as a result of, of that experience?
Ellen Hielkema (11:45):
Yeah, probably I'm getting to know yourself a little bit more because I was always living my life or other people I feel like until I was maybe 25 or something and then realize, oh wait, I'm not really living the life I wanted to live and then I'm choosing yourself is very empowering and then seeing that even if you fail or even if you do come across strange things along the way, it doesn't really matter because you'll on the other and you'll come out stronger and that's really, um, yeah, that's a gift I cherish very much.
Marjorie Alexander (12:20):
Excellent. So I want to go back again back to your podcast, power limit in green when you started it, what really was your, you were objective and do you think now after several. Well, let's see. He launched in I think October.
Ellen Hielkema (12:39):
Marjorie Alexander (12:40):
August. OK. So after six months, do you feel like your objective has changed? So what was your initial objective and how do you believe that it's changed or maybe that you've redirected or, or corrected things, like what's your focus now?
Ellen Hielkema (12:57):
I don't think I've written record so much and yet I feel like I am. My objective was to merge these things and to do what I love most, which is promoting women who do amazing things and uh, having their stories being told and I think I was still basically, that's still really my objective, but I am sort of changing course and figuring out ways to monetize it actually to be honest. And I'm considering events, award events, uh, which I promote these women further and uh, other projects that I can offer these women. So there's a lot of the business side of it, but the real passion is speaking to these women and that is still unchanged.
Marjorie Alexander (13:38):
So speaking of, uh, expanding for the future and monetizing things like that, where do you see yourself in three years?
Ellen Hielkema (13:47):
Oh my gosh. Three years. In three years I think I will also delve a little deeper in the marketing experience that I have and help women would. Their strategy with online marketing and offline marketing definitely has some networking events maybe worldwide or in Europe, three years. And the awards event, the yearly recurring awards event. And yeah, I'll probably still be in another lens, but I'm not too sure.
Marjorie Alexander (14:24):
Well, you just said that you're. You're the type of person that just gets up and goes. Yeah, so who knows where it will be, but I think that that's really awesome that you're not only giving these women a platform to speak about their passions and this business that's come out of that passion that they can then share with the world, but also through your previous experience in publishing and advertising and marketing and giving that gift to other people, helping them expand their businesses. I one thing that I've noticed is that individuals that really care about the environment or other advocacy issues aren't necessarily the best at tooting their own horn. Like you mentioned, these women are out pounding the pavement, getting things done and not always shouting from the rooftops about all the great things that you're doing. So I think that that's amazing that you've made that part of your objective, which is helping these women that have these wonderful ideas spread that message to an even larger group of people. So that's awesome.
Ellen Hielkema (15:22):
Yeah, exactly. And I also feel like marketing is often perceived in a negative light by many people as if it's almost like a indoctrinating or like psychological, uh, things. But actually it's, uh, if, if you look at marketing and just just positioning your brand in such a way that it will be able, the message will actually be able to reach more people want to hear that message and who needs something that. So it's actually a beautiful thing, but it's not as negative as people often interpret it.
Marjorie Alexander (15:51):
I love that. I think that that's really awesome because, you know, I mean, speaking of monetization, you know, I've decided this year that a sustainable mind is going to be my business moving forward, period. I'm not working for anyone else anymore. But of course I'm like, you know, I, I have to rearrange my own thoughts about, you know, marketing on behalf of the environment, on behalf of something that I'm passionate about and that I think a lot of other people are passionate about or should be passionate about because this is the world that we live in. So why does the environment not deserve just as much money and attention and these huge marketing campaigns as you know, any other corporation that's trying to sell you a product that you don't actually need, right?
Ellen Hielkema (16:36):
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, that's exactly. So the environmental deserves way more money. Sometimes you spoke to someone this week was talking about a project he was doing and x amount of money was um, funding they had and about 75 percent will take it away from it again and they couldn't improve or help better the environment any longer because of it. And just. Yeah. So disappointing.
Marjorie Alexander (17:04):
I've got so many things going on in my head right now. So, so it's. So if someone's listening to this and they are creating a business that is his advocacy related or they're a non-profit, would you consult for them if someone approached you and said, I've got this amazing project. This is how much money I have. Will you help me? Is that something that you do?
Ellen Hielkema (17:28):
I think so. I don't know. I went up there.
Marjorie Alexander (17:31):
It's clearly something that you do. I mean, you, you did it professionally, but just not for, you know, the little guy necessarily. But
Ellen Hielkema (17:40):
yeah, yeah, I think so. I would have to look at the project, would have definitely looked at it. I would want to see if I could do it. You, I don't wanna I wanna yeah. I wanna see at the individual look at the individual project and see if it's something that I could do because it's so difficult to say like I would want to definitely. But yeah, I went to honestly know if, if I can, if it's something that I'm good at [inaudible], it's always good to also see if the people click because if a business owner and I don't click, then you know, it's going to be difficult to uh,
Marjorie Alexander (18:12):
right. That makes total sense. We need more people like you out in the business world. It's like I want to, I want to be helping, you know, I want to be helping the small business person, the person that's, that's, that wants to be an advocate for this or that issue, but also knows what they're doing in terms of business strategy, marketing, advertising. We need more people like that on the side of the good guys, you know?
Ellen Hielkema (18:39):
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And they're more and more coming. I found very many marketing firms actually in when doing research that are specifically for green businesses
Marjorie Alexander (18:49):
more and more coming into. Excellent. So speaking of getting to know people a little bit better, that brings us to our [inaudible] sustainable questions and the first of which is, can you share with us one long-standing habit that you believe has significantly improved your life?
Ellen Hielkema (19:07):
Uh, I would have to say meditation and movement because they're essential to me to be a conscious human being and they leave me to make better decisions in a business as well as in sustainability. So the more I take care of myself for that aspect and call my mind, the easier it is to sort of see ms stakes before they actually happen.
Marjorie Alexander (19:29):
Yes, I do know that Station has actually been the answer for several recent guests and I want to follow up and just ask, what if you don't mind telling us what is your method of, of meditation? I find that there are so many and people often feel like they're doing it wrong. So what do you find that works for you?
Ellen Hielkema (19:50):
Honestly, I do a lot of, do it a little bit differently every day. Depends on my state of mind to be honest. So if I'm, uh, I'm having a good meditation day and basically just being silent and doing nothing and if I'm having a difficult day, I might listen to a or a repeat, a mantra in my head or I'll just focus on my body and fuel the energy in my body or see myself with light. I'm coming out of me or I will do loving kindness meditation and I will, um, wish, love, health, happiness and a, a piece to all beings on earth. So it varies a little bit
Marjorie Alexander (20:30):
and of course you'd have a baby. So, you know, you have to be flexible.
Ellen Hielkema (20:36):
Yeah, definitely. Something I've learned since over the last two years being in my life yet.
Marjorie Alexander (20:45):
So what is one new habit that cultivating in your life right now?
Ellen Hielkema (20:49):
I think it would have to say conscious consumerism because um, even though it's something I try to actively be aware of, I know I can do much better at it, so that's also why I decided to not buy anything new this year because I want to see if that makes me feel lighter and yeah, so that's when I'm working on right now. Nice.
Marjorie Alexander (21:11):
And that is, yeah, that's very can be very difficult for some people. I think when you're coming from a background of like the second that you need something just running out to the store, getting it and not thinking about where it was made, the materials that went into making it. I'm not going to consignment shops or a thrift stores that are selling used goods, things like that. It can be a little difficult for some people to, to practice conscious consumerism, but I think once you get educated a little bit about where your materials come from, it just becomes ingrained in who you are in, you know, it just sort of happens on its own.
Ellen Hielkema (21:50):
Exactly. Yeah. And the less things you are, the better. Absolutely. I totally agree. In Portugal actually live there for three years. I barely anything new because I didn't have an historically was a much easier there. So I thought maybe if I just say no buy in, that it would be easier to read
Marjorie Alexander (22:11):
only after that totally makes sense. What is one item you've acquired in the last year that has helped you, that has helped you live a more earth conscious lifestyle?
Ellen Hielkema (22:23):
I think I'd have to say my bicycle and the seat for my two year old daughter because a, it's the best means of transportation and uh, doesn't harm the environment. Like a car for example. And The Netherlands is flat so we can get her around everywhere by bicycle plus we love college so we go and put the cows all the time and I'll also have to say my metal straws and the sports and things that I carry around with me everywhere. Nice and ball bottle. Water bottle.
Marjorie Alexander (22:57):
Yeah, I mean bicycle. I got a bike recently. I had a bike. It was the wrong size. And so I never, I never used it and I have a new one now and it fits me, um, but I'll be honest, I don't write it that much in terms of getting places that I want to go. I use it just to get outside to exercise a little bit because I'm, I'm, I'm scared Los Angeles is a car city
Marjorie Alexander (23:23):
and there are more people coming here all the time and honestly I know a lot of people that have been hit over the years and it just scares the bejesus out of me. So I kind of stick to the neighborhoods, you know, where the speed limit is low, where there's not a lot of traffic where I can ride on the sidewalk even though I don't technically think that that's legal, but they don't really enforce it. Yeah, it's, it scares in terms of getting places I wish it were. So it was something that didn't. And maybe if I lived in a different location I'd probably ride a lot more often. But here it's. And also people get their bike stolen all the time here in la. Oh my gosh. It's such a booming business in New York. I was the same. Yeah, it was insane. Scary and they don't even care about the bicycles. And in the Netherlands, the bicycles are king anxieties of the row in, in several cities in Europe. I hear that that's the case. So that's really exciting and I wish more US cities kind of would follow that example. I think they're trying, but it is difficult, you know, to put on the bike, all the bike lanes around and stuff. So it takes time, I think. Absolutely. In the making of power women in Green, what is one misstep that you've made that taught you a valuable lesson and how did you overcome that challenge?
Ellen Hielkema (24:37):
A misstep that I had to overcome that challenge.
Marjorie Alexander (24:43):
Of course there are a lot in podcasting, aren't there? So many things.
Ellen Hielkema (24:50):
I mean, everything went wrong basically. But uh, you just figure it out. I think stupid answer, but
Marjorie Alexander (24:59):
it's really true for what people are really good about. Finding Solutions, like just, just figuring it out as they go in. But me, I'm like a planner. I'm like, OK, well what's the problem? Let me try to troubleshoot Islam. Very methodical about it, which can take forever. Yeah. I usually. Something's really wrong. I'll ask somebody then it'll just be fixed really quickly and to answer ever. No, that's fine. It was. Hey, if that works for you then. Good. That's a good thing. Do you have an internet resource that you find helpful on a regular basis that you think would be beneficial to share with our listeners?
Ellen Hielkema (25:42):
I would honestly say listened to podcast such as yours and mine and things like books on audible and Youtube and all these types of online listening platforms and do that instead of watching tv for example, or like I listened to books all the time and podcasts when I'm cooking and exercising and cleaning the house and all that. So you're learning while you're doing household chores. So I would say that it's like a double whammy there and uh, educate yourself while you're doing the mundane things of life.
Marjorie Alexander (26:16):
Excellent. Yes. I love podcasts for that because sometimes you know, you're doing chores. It's not always the most enjoyable thing and it can actually distract you and go really fast. So it's really nice to know you're making your tour fun. What book would you recommend for sustainable mines out there that wants to shift their mindset specifically to become the change that they want to see in the world?
Ellen Hielkema (26:41):
So I could recommend a book about sustainability, but I think the important thing is to take action and I think a lot of people in sustainability know all about sustainability, but I want them to a big action. So would recommend the seven habits of highly effective people because it really teaches you a lot about being an effective person. So if you want to take your own personal development to the next level, I would really recommend that book.
Marjorie Alexander (27:08):
Excellent. And I will admit that's a book that I started and I did not finish. Oh my God. OK. I need to go. Yeah. I need to go back and finish reading that one.
Ellen Hielkema (27:20):
Yeah. I need to reread that because it's so powerful. Really,
Marjorie Alexander (27:23):
my, my, my list of books to read is, is, is increasing. It's getting global list is getting longer all the time, so I got to get on that. So it's been a long journey for you from your publishing job in New York to your van life and farm work down in Portugal to creating this awesome podcast, power women in Green. What are some of the tools or resources, connections, what would you put in place right away to ensure the amount of success that you have right now, but faster?
Ellen Hielkema (27:56):
I would have gotten out of my comfort zone much sooner. So it really took all these adventures and stuff to finally learn that, uh, I don't really care about what other people think of me. Be Brave so you have to go through all these uncomfortable things and I'm going to the next level and next level, the next level. And just realizing that it doesn't really. Every nothing really matters and that, uh, is a very powerful lesson to learn and it takes a lot of stumbling and falling and all that. But um, yeah, I would have allowed myself to stumble much sooner.
Marjorie Alexander (28:28):
Yeah. Getting out of your comfort zone is very, very important. So I want to give everyone the details for how they can listen to power women in Green. Of course you can listen to it on itunes or wherever you find your podcasts. Also link up with Ellen on social media, so there's a facebook page and an instagram for power women in green and I'll be linking those up in the show notes and also visit power women in Green. So if you know of a woman that's doing amazing work in sustainability or for the environment sent ellen and email, tell her about this person's amazing story. Pitch them as someone to be on her show. We need more women in the environmental and sustainability sector to get their voice out there about all the amazing things that they're doing, their projects, their books, their companies, their campaigns. We need to be spreading the word about these women and the wonderful things that they're doing for our planet. So please do get in touch with ellen at Elon at power women in green dot. So Ellen, do you any parting
Ellen Hielkema (29:42):
pieces of guidance
Marjorie Alexander (29:43):
that you would like to give sustainable minds out there?
Ellen Hielkema (29:46):
My hope is that anyone listening has the courage to go after their dreams for a better world, and I truly believe that we don't have to sacrifice wealth to better the planet. I hope you will take the challenge and prove the world through your business and your life that it's possible.
Marjorie Alexander (30:02):
Thanks for listening to today's episode of a sustainable mind. If you're interested in that survey that I talked about earlier, texts the word survey to three to three, five, three, six to zero, and we'll catch you next time on a sustainable mind.