A millennial in the modern business world
While still in her 20s, L.A. native Elana Joelle Hendler had already fulfilled one of her dreams: She created a successful luxury lifestyle business, EJH Brands, based on her artwork. Hendler produces candles, home décor accessories and wildlife-themed art prints that have drawn accolades from Forbes (“10 Companies Crushing it in Art and Fashion”), Los Angeles Business Journal (“20 in their 20s”), FOX News and other media outlets.
The starting point for Hendler, now 30, was her longstanding passion for making art. The Milken Community Schools alumna creates her images in striking black and white. “My art has never been about color. … [A]rt started for me as a child doodling shapes in my notebook with pencil or pen,” she said. “I think I was subconsciously exploring how shapes relate to each other [on] a two-dimensional surface and finding a sense of movement between those shapes. Art was always a personal exploration for me.”
Although some of the animals depicted on her canvases are not native to Southern California, Hendler said they are nonetheless inspired by her “experience of growing up in Southern California.” From her many visits to the San Diego Zoo to family trips to the beach, Palm Springs and Arrowhead, she was inspired by the variety of landscapes and wildlife she encountered, as well as learning about culture at local institutions such as LACMA and The Getty.
“There’s something eternally fresh and inspiring about learning to appreciate art and nature in Southern California,” Hendler said. “I try to reflect that in my work, which extends to the eco-friendly materials used in my products. … I like to think there is a natural flow of the artwork into the texture of the materials. My collection is an extension of my exploring what it means to be a Californian.”
Chimp Decorative Throw Pillow
Hendler said her family and Jewish upbringing helped her find her path from among her many interests, which included acting, music and, later, art history, in which she earned her degree.
“All of my upbringing has influenced my identity as an artist as well as my identity as a woman, a Jew and a Californian,” she said. “My mother’s parents — who are of European descent and immigrated first to Mexico and then to Los Angeles in the 1950s — brought their cultural heritage with them. My [maternal] grandmother, a concert pianist in the 1940s, brought music. My [maternal] grandfather, an engineer, entrepreneur and religious Jew, brought education and a love for learning. These roots, emphasizing bettering yourself through knowledge and asking many questions, [were] bolstered by the nurturing influence of my mother, who studied design at UCLA.”
Hendler’s family encouraged her natural curiosity; she described her younger self as a creative, expressive person who could do many things. But, she said, it was difficult for her to “pick one specific thing, in fear of isolating or losing track of the other skills.” At 24, like many other millennials, she asked herself, “Now what?”
“I come from a very entrepreneurial family. Following my grandfather’s lead, I asked myself … if I could pull together my interests and talent to create something that is mine. I then realized I still very much love to draw and write, and those interests transitioned into creating my own brand.”
Signature Collection Eucalyptus & Mint Sage Candle.
Hendler knew that building her own business would not be easy. “It was a moment when I had to be brave, and I just went for it,” she said. “This meant allowing myself to be vulnerable, learn, try and make lots of mistakes. One of my biggest challenges was learning how to work with manufacturers. It’s not always easy for a friendly, eager 24-year-old to work with older, more experienced manufacturers, especially men. I am sure I was taken advantage of in areas like pricing, but I was sort of expecting that to happen.”