Secrets of Success: Ellen Thayer

There are some “rules” of business success most entrepreneurs abide by. But many also have their own “secrets”—things they do or believe that helped them achieve success. In “Secrets of Success,” a weekly interview series here at’s Small Business Forum, I ask some of today’s smartest, most innovative, most successful business owners to share their insights and success secrets with you.

Meet: Ellen Thayer, an artist, beachcomber, “rockaholic” and the entrepreneur behind Love Rocks Me®. After a 20+ year career in TV-meteorology ran its course, Ellen started creating and photographing artwork with the hundreds of heart-shaped rocks she had collected over the years.

She started Love Rocks Me® as a tribute to the state of Maine in 2010 when she created the shape of the state with “love rocks” and photographed it for print. There are now 165 designs in the series (they’re really clever), which are sold as cards and prints online and at nearly 200 retailers in 16 states. Ellen’s meteorology training still comes in handy as all of the designs are photographed outdoors at her home in Maine.

You can find her on Twitter @loverocksmaine (LoveRocksMe). What did you want to be when you grew up?

Ellen Thayer: A meteorologist. And I [became one]! I had a 23-year on-air career at TV stations in Portland, Maine, Minneapolis and Boston. Why did you start your own business?

Thayer: I’ve always been creative and had exhibited my oil paintings, driftwood sculptures, shell art and photograph of the state of Maine in “love rocks” in several galleries and retail shows, but there was no promise of a steady, reliable income. After my TV meteorology career ran its course, I learned about an amazing resource for entrepreneurs in Maine and enrolled in two free classes offered by New Ventures Maine: Business Basics and New Ventures Entrepreneurship Training. Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?

Thayer: Taking the New Ventures Maine courses were most definitely a pivotal moment as they were instrumental in demystifying all aspects of business planning and helped me to think about a way to create a niche as an artist. Also, the networking and mentoring that resulted provided more opportunities to learn business fundamentals and to “test market” new design ideas through Maine’s Top Gun Prep and Scale Up programs and the Women Standing Together organization. What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?

Thayer: The best advice I’ve received and have also given is to have an expert set up QuickBooks and provide training in maintaining it. It can be overwhelming to set it up without help. Do you have a prediction for small business?

Thayer: Online sales for product-based small businesses will continue to climb. Consumers prefer to support local and American-made products and enjoy the personal experience of purchasing directly from the creator. What’s your favorite book?

Thayer: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?

Thayer: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”—Goethe’s Faust