Elle Palmer is some kind of hero. Seemingly gifted with comic book powers, her personality isn’t so much observed through social interaction as it is sensed, like a presence, or high voltage electricity. Dressed in knee high boots, a sea foam green dress adorned with lace detailing, and with a shock of red hair, her attire and demeanor scream “energy.” She seems like someone who stays busy.
Busy, as it turns out, is an understatement.
After getting to know her, one thing is made certain: Elle Palmer does more work in a week than most people do in a month.
While some struggle to find a job, or take a second one to get by, Palmer has not one, but three professions. If you asked her though, she wouldn’t consider it all “work.” At least, not in the traditional sense.
A master of self-motivation, with a rare enthusiasm for people, animals and well being, Elle is in the midst of developing an arsenal of small businesses all centered around her true passions; in essence, she’s living the dream of every desk jockey in America.
Elle was one of these types, once. “I was really good at it, but I was like a flower, wilting” she says of her former job, selling light bulbs. Bursting with enthusiasm and contagious exuberance, it’s easy to see why she quit to start her first entrepreneurial endeavor, Dogs In Motion. “I love animals,” she says, sitting in her adorably furnished screened in porch, referring to her pet sitting business.
Born of a year off from the corporate world, Dogs in Motion is a straightforward set up, with low overhead, and an ideal schedule. "It’s totally awesome, there’s no stress,” Palmer says of the gig, which she has been doing for local Charlotte clients, consisting mostly of bankers, for about seven years. For the first few years, she enjoyed the steady flow of referrals and the ability to make her own hours.
After awhile though, despite the success of the business, it wasn’t enough. “It’s not really rewarding enough for me,” says Elle. Cue the entrance of the Urban Gypsy, Palmer’s aptly named “Traveling Trunk Show.”
You may have even heard of it; Palmer’s passion for fashion has garnered attention from a local TV station, and arose from humble beginnings in her attic and the homes of friends to become a scheduled event not only in Charlotte, but has reached as far as Nashville and Atlanta.
The concept is simple: Elle takes a portion of a wardrobe she has collected over the years, and brings it to the people. She began small, bringing a few racks of items to small gatherings, and has since turned it into a large production, using vans to schlep the clothes and knick knacks she’s amassed from vintage clothing stores and garage sales. Judging from the turnout at a recent exhibition, the demand hasn’t let up. “It’s all whimsical and magical…people just love it,” she says.
When asked about how she got into sharing her wardrobe with others, it is revealed that it simply came down to an excess in supply—with her attic overflowing and her husband losing patience, Elle became inspired when her friends began asking if they could purchase pieces from her collection. “From there it just took off,” she says, noting that when she’s out looking for cheap deals at flea markets and local thrift stores she’s able to have all the fun of shopping, but can now consider her purchases “investments.”
These investments are an outlet for Elle’s creative side—one look at the fashionable Palmer and her tastefully appointed home, and it is obvious she has a talent for style, and an eye for color.
Amazingly though, with everything on her plate between pet sitting and bargain hunting, she still was not satisfied. “I just want to tell people the truth,” she says of what has become her third business, and her true passion. An epiphany for Elle came in 2008, when she attended a ten-day live-in dietary cleanse program in California, at the urging of her mother, who converted to veganism while Elle was young. “She offered this to me,” says Elle of the program. “It’s like $5,000, which isn't cheap by any means. I knew it was a big deal, so I went.” From the first day, something clicked in Elle. “I knew what it was. Someone finally told me the truth. Milk does not do your body good!”
The rest of the trip would prove to be a life-changing event for Palmer, as she began to firsthand see the benefits of an alternative, plant-based diet, her preferred nomenclature for a lifestyle alternatively referred to as dairy-free, or veganism. “A couple of people had rheumatoid arthritis, and by day four, it was gone, ” she says with an obvious enthusiasm. Others experienced similarly disbelieving results. “Another person’s diabetes just went away,” recalls Elle. This health makeover was not limited to others though, as Elle tells of her own account. “For me, my cholesterol dropped forty points, and arthritis in my hip was gone.”
Upon returning from her revealing pilgrimage, Elle continued her dietary revolution. She picked up Kathy Freston’s “21 Day Quantum Wellness Cleanse,” and added herself and a few friends to a long list of people who swear by the book. One of whom, Palmer is quick to add, is Oprah Winfrey, notable for her booklist. Encouraged by her anecdotal evidence, and out of sheer excitement, Elle attempted to share the knowledge garnered in her studies, going as far as making copies of a food documentary, and mailing it to relatives.
She quickly realized though that it was not as simple as telling people about what she had learned. With her relatives convinced that she had a few screws loose, Elle came to an important conclusion. “People don’t want to know,” she says, flatly. “I’ve learned that people need to come to me.” Thus, Three Weeks to Wellness, Elle’s third company, came to be.
Realizing that there were people who were asking her to show them how to undergo a health transformation similar to her own, it dawned on Elle that her true passion in life, dietary wellness, could become a source of not only income, but true self fulfillment. “I get so excited just talking about it,” says Elle.
“Cheese rehab” as she jokingly calls it, takes elements of her own experience with the wellness education she received in California, and combines it with her own research. Three Weeks to Wellness consists of “cleanse programs” that Elle coordinates, supervises, and provides support for. “Someone can come in, and the plan is laid out for them. They learn that this diet is very accessible,” she says of the endeavor, from which she has received very positive feedback. “I have people who have taken the cleanse who just want to return the favor and help me with it. It’s crazy.”
The community response includes talk of franchising, though the idea of expansion is a bit overwhelming to Palmer at the present. “It’s a bit ahead of me right now,” she says of the possibility of franchises, but she doesn’t rule it out. Regardless, it’s a good sign for the measure of encouraging success for the business. Other testaments to Three Weeks to Wellness include a former client’s soon to be opened vegan restaurant, and the conversion of many staunchly rooted meat-eaters to a plant based diet. All of these are at once amazing and yet unsurprising, when one considers Elle Palmer’s approach to life. Accurately described as a wearer of many hats, Elle’s extroversion and enthusiasm for her work are qualities shared by few, and her juggernaut-like abilities not only impress, but also pose the question: can she also leap tall buildings in a single bound?
Written by Chris Barcelo
Photos by Graham Morrison