Elena Ledoux never planned on becoming an entrepreneur, let alone a serial one. Growing up in the Soviet Union, she led what she calls a sheltered, snow-globe childhood. She immigrated to the United States, became an attorney and practiced law in Hawaii for 11 years before leaving the profession to raise her family.
But with her American dream fulfilled, she turned toward helping a childhood friend and more recent immigrant, Nargi, achieve success as well. The two founded Superb Maids, and launched Ledoux on a path that would eventually lead to her being named Entrepreneur of the Year by the National Association of Women Business Owners this year. “I was still in denial and had to admit onstage that I didn’t even have an acceptance speech,” Ledoux said.
In addition to Superb Maids, Ledoux partnered with another friend to launch MommyGo energy shots.
Tell us about your businesses.
Nargi and I realized she wouldn’t be able to easily get a job because of the language barrier and lack of employment history. So, we started a cleaning company to cover her bills. After two years, we employed a team of 40 and purchased our own office building. After the third year, we won the SBA’s Small Business Persons of the Year in Nevada.
Last year, I also co-founded MommyGo with my friend Dina Patel, making natural energy shots from the ceremonial grade Japanese matcha.
Do you have any recent news you’d like to share?
We are in the process of rolling out a national franchise for Superb Maids. This company was built on helping our employees achieve their American dream. For example, we offer home-buying assistance and retirement benefits. Our hope is to give the same opportunity to franchisees, especially women and minorities who are traditionally overlooked.
For MommyGo, we’ve had a successful launch on Amazon and are gaining a foothold in local coffee shops and medical offices. We are now rolling out keto-friendly MatchaGo.
How did the idea for your businesses come about?
Both companies were started out of necessity. For Superb Maids, it was to give a new immigrant a chance for a decent life. The cleaning business does not require a huge capital investment or language fluency.
For MommyGo, it was to address an unmet need that most moms have: How can we have enough energy to have it all? How can we not be forced to choose between having a thriving career or a happy family? I have personally searched for years for a product that would be an effective energy booster but also very healthy and jitters-free. When I didn’t find any, I decided to create it.
Coincidentally, I became involved with the Healthy Sunrise Foundation, a Las Vegas-based nonprofit that provides life-saving health care for pregnant women so their babies are born healthy. My idea was to support their work with the profits from MommyGo. Recently, we were able to sponsor testing and treatment for a 200-woman clinic in Nigeria for five years.
Has your law background played an integral part in your business ventures?
Because I practiced insurance defense, I witnessed firsthand what happens when businesses cut corners — for example, classifying their employees as contractors or failing to get workers’ compensation insurance. I’ve seen the high price that their clients have to pay, as well as their workers. So, from the outset, we made sure that everything was done by the book and everyone followed strict safety rules, even if it cost us money — and we’ve never deviated from that.
How do you balance your career and family time?
My husband and I made a pact: Whenever he feels like we need to spend more time together, he would schedule some vacation time. And I would go without complaining and regardless of any work commitments or cost. We’ve been alternating between locations in the U.S. and Europe, and we tend to spend a lot more quality time together. I’ve always considered travel as a luxury, but now I view it as a necessity. Certainly it is less expensive than family therapy or a divorce.
What is the best business advice you’ve received?
I don’t recall the source for the best business advice I’ve ever received, but I have been applying it consistently to my businesses: “Identify company values at the outset.” Running a business entails making myriad decisions daily. It’s tremendously helpful to have a fundamental structure on which to base them. Also, they help in creating a strong reputation and in many other ways.
As an immigrant, what life lessons would you share with those seeking the American dream?
One, make sure your mental thermostat is always on “I can do this” setting. If a nine-month pregnant, broken-English-speaking, newly immigrated, world’s-worst waitress can survive law school and graduate cum laude, anything is possible.
Two, move your paws. Building the American dream is definitely not easy. But as long as you keep moving your paws, you can get there.
What’s the biggest issue facing Southern Nevada?
This area has been a fantastic place for me and my family. The business community has embraced us and I’ve made a number of amazing friends. The one issue that I noticed during the interviewing and hiring process is that there seems to be insufficient support for working parents. Many parents struggle with childcare. We could do better in this area.
How do you give back to the community?
I support the Healthy Sunrise Foundation, an amazing local nonprofit. I love that by caring for a pregnant woman, they really save two people: her and her baby.
Where’s your local spot for a power lunch?
I love Sunrise Coffee and its sister Mothership Coffee Roasters. It’s important for me to support locally owned businesses.
How do you decompress after a long week?
I have a wellness membership at the Salt Room in Summerlin. I usually get a hot-stone massage with lavender oil, followed by sitting by myself, without work or talking to anyone in their beautiful salt cave. I feel like a brand new person afterwards.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
Ardent divisions across political, religious, ethnic and other lines. The “us vs. them” mentality drives me crazy.
What is something that people might not know about you?
I’m one of the top writers worldwide on Quora (an international question-and-answer platform), with over 61 million views.
Anything else you want to tell us?
People get impressed with the shiny accomplishments of my life, but they don’t realize how much help I got along the way. If you are out there and working on a challenging issue, be sure to ask for help. I always do. As one of my mentors says: “If you don’t ask, the answer is no.”