HEC Paris Leaders of Tomorrow Series

From Paris to Nashville: How an EMBA Helped Julie Sellers to “Ellevate” Her Career as an Entrepreneur

Julie Sellers

After successful career ventures in Boston and London, three years ago Julie Sellers decided to pack up her family and open her own business in Nashville, Tennessee. She’s never been happier; in fact, she said creating her own business is the best decision she has ever made.
“It is so clear I’m doing what I was meant to be doing,” Sellers said. “My EMBA pushed me along to do this. There has not been one moment when I’ve been like, ‘What if I stayed at a corporation?’ or ‘Did I do the right thing?’”

Why HEC Paris?

Sellers was living and working in London when she decided to apply to HEC Paris and earn her Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA).

“The business I was building in London was successful, and I thought, ‘If I don’t do this now, I’m never going to be brave enough to do this,’” she said. “London is a finance-minded place, and the HEC Paris curriculum and mindset is a bit a more of an entrepreneurial point of view.”

HEC Paris prides itself on building leadership and soft skills to motivate, empower and inspire entrepreneurial teams. They believe leadership training requires a rigorous combination of academic theory and learning by doing, often in small-group settings.

“Biggest benefit for me, the thing that allowed me to break away and start my own business, was the space the program afforded me,” Sellers said. “If I had stayed in London grinding down day to day without the interruption to go to school, I don’t think I ever would have been brave enough to think in fact ‘this is what I want, here are some other people who are doing it, and if they can do it, I can do it.”

A transformative experience

Sellers was excited to start at HEC Paris, and had an incredibly forming moment in the first week of school. Students were asked to write a letter to their future selves to open at graduation. Sellers completed the assignment, and promptly forgot about it.

“They gave it back to us when we were graduating and I had no idea what I had written at all,” she said. “I wrote, ‘I hope you are brave enough to actually create the work and have the life you know Writing a letter to selfis right for you. You have an opportunity here, do not waste these 18 months, you’d better not be in the same place. I hope that you have done what you’re meant to do.’ I believe that that exercise, and then the work we did in that 18 months, changed the trajectory of my life.”

After she graduated from HEC Paris, Sellers packed up her family and moved them from London to Nashville, where she started her own business, Ellevated Outcomes. Her company works with 1-10 employee businesses: mostly those in design, wellness, and professional services. Most business owners in these industries trade their time for money.  They find that two to five years in, they often arrive at a plateau where they’re out of time, have capped out their income, and the business is entirely dependent on their work and time. Ellevated Outcomes gets these businesses over that hurdle and takes things to the next level.  Their year-long process gives the owner back time and control, makes the business more money, and starts walking it down the path to be sellable.

But she isn’t the only entrepreneur to come out of HEC Paris: in fact, 25 percent of students go on to start their own businesses and faculty supports the creation of nearly 400 school-wide entrepreneurial projects each year.

The perks of being an entrepreneur

Being an entrepreneur affords Sellers a sense of control she appreciates.

“I have built a company that has really clear values that I’m in charge of,” she said. “I’m allowed to make decisions about where to invest, which clients we take on, and who we hire based on values and integrity. What a privilege it is to choose who we are working with, helping very small business owners do the same thing: practice their craft, do what they love, produce a great product/service and make money doing it. To have the choice and the decision making power and control to select the human beings we want to be around, to make value-based decisions and still turn a profit and provide a living for people, is the best thing about being an entrepreneur to me.”

Networking differently

Sellers said the thing that stood out most to her as an HEC Paris student was the networking opportunities.

“French people think about networking differently,” she said. “It continues to blow my mind. I remember being there the first week and thinking I’d probably never be in a room this diverse again. It remains to this day one of the richest periods of my life.”

The HEC Paris MBAs are specifically designed to meet the needs and challenges of managers and executives coming from highly diverse professional and cultural backgrounds, boasting students of 111 nationalities in its rosters.

Sellers continues to take advantage of networking opportunities through the HEC Paris alumni network in the US.

“It’s a fascinating and cool learning experience for me,” she said. “it’s the practice of reinvesting into it that continued to lead to more and more opportunity.”

HEC Paris has graduated more CEOs of Fortune Global 500 companies than any other university in Europe, according to the 2017 Times Higher Education Alma Mater Index. Nearly 4,000 of graduates are currently CEOs, CFOs or have founded their own companies.

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About the Author

HEC Paris specializes in education and research in management sciences. As a leading academic institution in Europe and worldwide, HEC Paris offers a complete and unique range of education programs for students and executive education programs for leaders.