Ellie Burrows is one half of the spiritual duo behind acclaimed meditation studio, MNDFL. After following in her family’s footsteps and heading into the movie business, she soon discovered her passion lay with spirituality and consciousness, and so, delved into the journey of becoming a committed spiritual tourist travelling the world. After returning to her roots in New York, she met business partner and renowned Bhuddist author and meditation teacher Lodro Rinzler and they got to work on creating the dreamy studio that is; MNDFL.
We sat down with Ellie to hear how it all started and her transition from movies to meditation.
ITN: You first started out in the film business, tell us more about how that began?
EB: I always wanted to run a studio, but I thought it was going to be the movie kind. I grew up in LA with parents who worked in entertainment so it seemed natural to go into the family business. I graduated from high school unsure of what I wanted to do, but assumed I would eventually want to live in LA so I went to film school at Northwestern. When I think about it now, I was definitely on autopilot. Hello, hindsight! Turns out I got my M’s very confused. I ended up running a studio, but it’s the meditation kind.
ITN: You transitioned from film exec to CEO of a meditation studio, how did that come about? Had you always been interested in starting your own business?
EB: I remember sitting around the conference table listening to the way my colleagues talked about film and feeling envious – the only thing I was that passionate about was spirituality and consciousness. I didn’t think those two things could ever be the pillars of my profession. Eventually that envy was intolerable so I decided to take a risk and quit my job. I needed to start over. I went around the world as a spiritual tourist, came back, got my personal coaching certificate at NYU and started writing. During that time of rebuilding I met Lodro, my co-founder, and started volunteering for his non-profit. I was struggling with my meditation practice and needed help. I asked him why there wasn’t a non-denominational drop in meditation studio. I had zero plans to start my own business, but I had a need that really needed fulfillment.
ITN: From finding the studio space to approaching meditation teachers, how did you find the process in establishing the studio?
EB: It all happened very quickly and I was grateful to have a partner along for the ride. It took about 16 months from the time we decided we were going to open a meditation studio to the day we actually opened the doors. Given that our model is so unique, it took a fair amount of discussion to get our teachers to understand what we were doing, but most of them were Lodro’s colleagues and friends so they were willing to take a chance on us and the idea.
ITN: Who has been your biggest influence in business?
EB: I’m a devoted client of Body by Simone, and Simone is a very dear friend. Just going to her studio daily, and being a part of that community, made me feel like the studio model was achievable. Paula Perlis, who is like an auntie to me, owns a company called Taste it Presents, which mass produces desserts for all the all the Darden restaurants – she’s a force. And two of my friends own their own businesses, Sarah Perlis and Yifat Oren – I’ve learned a ton from them. Lastly, I have to shout out my boyfriend. He’s been a wonderful sounding board.
ITN: What was some of the best advice you received early on in business?
EB: This might surprise you, but “true control comes from doing nothing.” I repeat this like a mantra when my emotions are heightened in my personal or professional life. From an evolutionary perspective, our body doesn’t know the difference between a bear that’s attacking us and an angry email from a boss or client. When our bodies fill with adrenaline, we want to act out in various ways by fighting or flying. We do whatever we can to try and get a handle on our emotions and gain control of the situation. But in states like that, we end up making decisions with a total lack of clarity. Sometimes if we just sit with ourselves in the discomfort and let it move through us instead of acting out or responding right away, we start to feel empowered instead of powerless.
ITN: What has been the biggest learning curve since starting MNDFL?
EB: Two words: time management.
ITN: Your biggest career highlight so far?
EB: When community members stop us in the studio and thank us for opening the doors to MNDFL.
ITN: How has your life changed since launching the studio?
EB: On the logistical level, it’s changed dramatically. I went from being a freelancer for a year and a half to being tied to a brick and mortar space every day. Also, before you own your own business, it’s hard to imagine how much work there really is. The buck stops with you – every decision that needs to be made must pass through you. You definitely forfeit some of your freedom. I’m so grateful for my meditation practice which has made the adjustment as smooth as possible. On an emotional and spiritual level, MNDFL continues to be one of the most satisfying, inspiring and fulfilling things I’ve ever experienced. The amount of joy the studio and its community brings me is immeasurable.
ITN: What’s next? What’s in the pipeline for you and MNDFL?
EB: We’re really laser focused on our current studio and making sure our community members continue to have a positive experience in the space.
ITN: And finally, what advice would you give other women wanting to start their own business?
- I believe that the best businesses come from deep personal needs. Start with what you need in your own life, and go from there. What need are you fulfilling in yourself? What need are you fulfilling on the planet?
- Know your own limitations – that way you can build a complimentary team to offer you support.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions or for help. Sometimes we can feel embarrassed if we don’t know something. MNDFL happened because Lodro and I asked a million questions along the way.
When I wake up in the morning the first thing I do is… Resist the urge to look at my cell phone. Then meditate.
Three things I can’t live without are… My health, meditation and eggs.
The best book I’ve ever read is… I could never choose just one.
My favourite quote of all time is…”True control comes from doing nothing.”
The most important thing to remember in business is… Your own limitations.
Image: Ellie Burrows