From Corporate to Creative Entrepreneur: How Ellen Jenny Watkins Rekindled Her Artistic Flame

From Corporate to Creative Entrepreneur: How Ellen Jenny Watkins Rekindled Her Artistic Flame
Credit: Brooke Genn. Provided courtesy of Ellen Jenny Watkins.

Ellen Jenny Watkins is a heart-healing abstract artist, author and certified coach who uses art and creativity for transformation and personal growth. Although being an artist entrepreneur was always in Ellen’s heart, she pursued a corporate career and stayed on the path for over two decades. Despite achieving success and stability, her deep-seated yearning for creative expression remained unfulfilled. One night, a breakdown at the dinner table led Ellen to rethink her path. Uncover how Ellen got unstuck by pursuing an artistic career that helps others.

How did you get started creating your art or creative product?

Do you know what it’s like to have a spiritual download and get a calling from a power greater than you? That’s what happened to me. It started in college as I went through an architecture major and had to take an art class. It was during an afternoon of painting that semester that I had a spiritual download and knew from that moment that my purpose was to create art. So, I changed my major, and the rest is history—until I thought I had cancer and ended up joining the corporate world so I could have insurance. 

It turned out fine; I didn’t have cancer (thank god!), but I stopped creating and spent the next 25 years in the corporate world. I found a niche in global technology training and coaching top Fortune 100 sales and marketing teams.

Credit William Geoffery. Provided courtesy of Ellen Jenny Watkins.

It was during that time, after I’d checked all the right boxes and did all the right things that society tells us to do, that I had a messy crying breakdown one night at the dinner table when my kind husband simply asked, ‘How was your day?’ I looked at him and my 4-year-old son and thought, ‘How is this possible?’ I made such strategic, conscious decisions, and now I’m sitting here crying at the dinner table! I looked at my son and realized I was telling him he could do anything, and yet I was showing him that he’d end up miserable and crying at the table. 

That was not OK, and it sent me on a deeply personal journey to find out how to find my joy and fulfillment. This is when I realized it was because I stopped creating. That’s when the second part of the story takes place and leads me to where I am today.

When did you realize that you could turn your artwork into a business?

I knew it instinctively while in college and took a business minor. I’ve always been aware there are two parts: creating art and the business of selling art.

After I returned to creating, it was a natural evolution to combine my years of corporate training and coaching with art to help other people connect to their creativity and back to their soul. 

I know what it’s like to be a hidden creative in the corporate world and not feel inspired or that you are being true to yourself. Now, I help women connect back to themselves and have their own personal transformation through art.

Credit: Ellen Jenny Watkins.

How do you define success for your business?

Consistently showing up is number one. Just by doing that, it’s a success. Then there are other markers that are more personal for everyone—paintings completed, revenue, sales numbers, collectors, etc.

And for me personally, it’s about connection. If I can make a connection—to myself and for others to themselves—that’s the best success of all. 

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

So many places, and I like to play in the space where modern science is proving ancient wisdom. Life, nature, quantum physics, chakras, neuroscience, astrology and spiritual connection.

What’s one piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you first started your business?

Be willing to get help sooner and move beyond the idea that you have to be able to do all the things because you’re the boss, and you should know these things. This is one of the lessons from corporate—be willing to build a team and let everyone play their area of expertise.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start selling their art or creative product?

Start—generate sales and energy around it and raise prices as you go.

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

I recently completed a certification as an Akashic Records Consultant.

Credit: Ellen Jenny Watkins.

As creatives, we can be continuously creating and refining our art. How do you handle perfectionism?

That’s a big one for me because I get stuck by it a lot. I have such a vision in my mind that I get analysis paralysis and hesitate to start. I have a life lesson that I teach, which is ‘Just One Mark.’  It’s a lesson I learned from my husband—he takes one action on all the projects he has. So the next day, he’s one step closer on everything than he was the day before.

I often use this to help overcome starting—make just one mark every day, over and over again. Some days you do more, but at least there’s consistent action every day.

What’s something that surprised you about running a creative business?

How much work it really is. Prioritizing time and having some sort of personal time-management system is helpful.

What’s your advice for handling the highs and lows of running a business?

Keep going. Even when it’s hard, and you’re walking through the mud, keep making one step after another. You may lose a shoe, but eventually, you’ll get to the other side and figure out the next steps.

Has someone ever criticized your work? How did you handle it?

I’ve learned through the years that feedback is important, and I’ve always thought that every human has a right to their own opinion. But it’s hard for me. Rejection sensitivity is a real thing. Compartmentalizing it helps. And other times, it just takes some time to get over it.

What’s a cause you are passionate about?

Cancer research and autism education are two causes I am passionate about.

Can you share the name of a supplier or vendor that you use for your business that you just loveone that makes running your business a bit easier? 

My business and marketing virtual assistants make my life so much easier! Megan Winkler, The Good Business Witch, and Melanie Baseden, The Impact Strategist

What brings you joy?

Being in nature. Hanging with my family and friends.

Thanks, Ellen! You can learn more about her work at

Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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