Episode 81 – Amy Hancock

Amy’s on both sides of the camera


Amy Hancock first started modeling as a baby and never looked back. She’s now traveled all over the world for photo shoots, both as a model and as a photographer. She feels that her modeling has given her confidence and, as a naturally shy person, it pushed her out of her comfort zone. All of this has been a huge benefit now that she is the owner of her own company.

In this episode, Amy and I talk about how she was almost living two separate lives, hiding her modeling because she worked in a male-dominated industry. She didn’t want to be judged or give them a reason to doubt her technical skills. What she realized after the fact is that most of this was in her own head and once it’s out there, “the right people will think it’s cool.”



Amy Hancock is the Founder and Owner at ElevenLabs in Adelaide, Australia. ElevenLabs placed first in the 2016 Australian Entrepreneurial Challenge in the Agriculture Food and Wine segment. Prior to starting this company, she was a Project Engineer for an energy company.

She graduated from the University of Adelaide with a dual-degree in Pharmaceutical Engineering and Chemical Engineering, graduating with First Class Honors.

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Amy winning the Australian Entrepreneurial Challenge with ElevenLabs

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    Today, it’s all about Amy Hancock, the founder and owner of ‎ElevenLabs in Adelaide, Australia and she graduated from the University of Adelaide with a dual degree in both Pharmaceutical Engineering and Chemical Engineering and now she’s with me here today. So Amy, I’m so excited. Thank you so much for being with me today on the Green Apple Podcast.

    Amy: Yeah, sure, so I am Chemical and Pharmaceutical Engineer. I spent many years working in defense and oil and gas and decided that I was sick of all the shit food that they were giving me up on site so I decided to create my own healthy products and yeah, that’s just taken off and I took out the Australian Entrepreneurial prize in food and wine last year and quit my job in November and have since been doing that as well as some research and development facts as well.

    John: Wow! Yeah, I mean you just don’t accidentally start making health foods. I mean that had be a long time in the making.

    Amy: Oh, yeah definitely. It probably been like four or five years in the making, but it’s something that I was doing on the side for a long time, doing a lot of research, developing. I think just healthy eating is a big passion of mine. I grew up on a farm. My mom was a chef. I was very lucky to learn about food, what’s good for you and why and that’s what I carried throughout my life.

    John: Right. As I’m sitting here eating an ice cream sundae is that healthy? I don’t know?

    Amy: There might be some better options.

    John: It’s dairy. Come on!

    Amy: We can talk about that.

    John: Right. What kind of health foods do you — I’m obviously completely clueless on this. What do you make?

    Amy: It’s a blend of vegetables, superfoods and protein in a powder. So where my idea came from was I used to travel up to an oil and gas plant and I’d be there for two weeks at a time and they would provide all your food. I wouldn’t even call it food, I think it was absolutely disgusting and the nutritional value non-existent but I would pack all my own food and a blender and we were only allowed 12 kilos for two weeks. I’m not sure what that is in pounds but it’s not a lot, and I thought this is ridiculous, there has to be a better way. If I can just dry everything that I’m bringing up here then just add it to water in a protein shaker, it’s going to be much more convenient.

    And so then that took me down the path of having to look at what are the products were on the market and how I could make my different and a lot of what I found on the market, it said it was healthy, but then really when you actually look at it, a lot of marketing and you look the ingredients, there was a lot of sugar or artificial things, just things that I didn’t really want to put in my body.

    John: Yeah. Well, I mean congratulations in winning that award. I mean that had to just like really just launch everything. All of a sudden, it’s like, “Woah! All right. Here we go. This is the real deal.”

    Amy: Well, it was funny how it happened. I decided to quit my full-time engineering job one day and then and I mean it didn’t just happen one day. I didn’t wake up and I’m like, “I’m going to quit today.” I put a lot of thought into it. However, the day I quit, three days later, I won the challenge and that was just like a confirmation in my mind that yes, you’re doing the right thing, so that was really cool, I think.

    John: Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s so cool, so cool. One question that I have to ask you is how did you get into Chemical Engineering? I mean you really got to want to do engineering for that one. How do you get into that?

    Amy: I guess from a young age, I’ve always been very curious about how things work. I’ve always loved Chemistry. I had a great Chemistry teacher at school which I think helps a lot. I’ve always been very good at Math as well. I’ve been at least a year or two ahead in Math and my parents would give me extra Math homework, just stop me from getting bored and making mischief.

    John: Oh, wow! You’re like in church, here’s some extra Math to do so you’re not getting in trouble.

    Amy: Yes. I put a thought about it, I thought about becoming a doctor, or a lawyer, but then I thought, oh, that seems a little bit interesting, but a little bit too predictable as well. I wanted to be designing thing, creating new things. Chemical and Pharmaceutical Engineering appealed to me because it was the specialization in an area that you’re engineering about drugs essentially, but you learn a lot about the body at the same time so you’re doing like biochemistry, biotechnology, pharmacology, as well as biochemical engineering subjects and Math because I love Math and that tied in with that.

    John: Wow! My brain hurts right now just like listening to this. I’m like, “Oh, my gosh!” The amount of homework that you’ve done has got to be —

    Amy: Oh, really? Try doing the tutorials.

    John: I mean gosh! I started Engineering major in college in a university, but I made it the first semester and then politely bowed out. Like, “Okay, I will see you guys later. I’m done.” So good for you. That’s so impressive like really, really impressive. When you’re not creating a super food business like you are, I mean it’s so awesome, what kind of hobbies and passions keep you busy and occupy a little bit of free time that you do have?

    Amy: Sure. Well, I love photography and I think I’ve always been a photographer in part, but I only got a real camera, like a DSLR maybe 18 months nearly two years ago and so I’ve been doing that, but I think what sort of drew me to that is that I’ve spent a lot of time in front of the camera like doing modeling, and acting kind of work and picking up photography skills just by observing and talking to photographers. I was like yeah, I really want to do that.

    John: Oh, yeah. That’s really interesting, because I mean being on the other side of the camera, so did the photography start first or did the modeling happen, and then you were like, “Hey, I could probably take the pictures too?”

    Amy: Yeah. The modeling started first and I actually never thought I would ever be a photographer or do photography because I was like, yeah, I just like doing the stuff in front of the camera, but then because I love food, I started photographing food and I started creating a lot of content for my own business. I guess I just fell in love with it there and it just carried on from that.

    John: Yeah. I also love food but I usually ate it instead before I could take its picture.

    Amy: My friends hate me. I don’t do this anymore, but I used to be like, “Okay, guys, stop, we have to take a photo.”

    John: Yeah. It’s like, “Aww, I already took a big bite on my burger. Sorry. Is that the picture you want?” That’s so fascinating.

    Amy: Right. Now, we got to get another one.

    John: Right, exactly. “Everybody wait. We got to wait more. Oh, great. Let me guess, Amy’s here.” That’s so funny. So the modeling, was that something from where you were very young or when did that come about?

    Amy: My mom entered me in this baby competition when I was young and I won it and then following on from that I joined like a child modeling agency and I was involved in like drama and theatre sports and did a few acting things on the side like during school and I moved cities for university and I joined up to another modeling agency here and it sort of just been a thing throughout my life that carry through.

    John: Yeah, that’s really neat. That’s really, really cool. Certainly, something that I’m sure most people don’t equate with most engineers that they come across anyway, especially Chemical Engineers working on oil and gas, it’s like, “Wait, what?”

    Amy: I think the mind boggles that they don’t really understand that.

    John: Right, exactly. You know, cannot compute, not having it. What would you say some of the coolest or most rewarding experiences you’ve had for me either the modeling or your photography or both?

    Amy: Well, I guess I’d have to say probably the most interesting places that I’ve been and seen in the world have been on a photoshoot because when you’re doing a photoshoot either as a model or a photographer, you get that extra effort to wake up at 3:00 in the morning just so you can catch the sunrise and track two hours into the middle of the jungle and get eaten by mosquitoes and nearly fall off the side of a cliff just for a photo.

    John: Right, yeah. That’s funny.

    Amy: I’d have to say that I’ve just been able to explore and see amazing things. I worked on some really cool jobs as well and been published in a number of magazines which has been awesome. I just loved the whole experience of it and also creating is the right image.

    John: There’s a lot more to it just pulling out your smartphone and hitting auto adjust, right?

    Amy: Oh, yeah.

    John: And also too, I guess I just realized that when you look at those pictures, I’m sure you can imagine, you just recall the story of how this picture happened and if only people knew what we went through to get this stupid picture.

    Amy: It’s all about the story and I think capturing the feelings and emotions that are behind that. I mean there are so many great photographers and great models out there, but I think what really sets someone apart is being able to express or capture that moment.

    John: Yeah, I mean that’s certainly not as easy it seems and unfortunately, most people think that they’re also photographers, because they have an Instagram account and not always the case, right? That’s really, really neat and something I never really thought about before, but would you say that the modeling and the photography helps you at work whether it was your engineering career that you had or the new business that you’re starting now?

    Amy: Yeah, definitely. I started modeling from a very young age and I’ve always been naturally a shy, introverted person and so uncomfortable around groups of people that I don’t know, and I found with the modeling, it really pushed me out of my comfort zone. You basically need to promote yourself to other people and present yourself in an energetic and positive light. I sort of didn’t really see the value of it for many years. I sort of thought to myself, I was like, I’m really enjoying this, but really, what’s the point? Why am I doing this? How is this going to help me in engineering? Or at that time, I didn’t have my business and I also got a lot of negative feedback from other people. Like, “Oh, why do you waste your time doing that kind of stuff?”

    However, now I see the benefits of it especially in my business and I’ve got the ability to have a conversation with people of all levels and I think, had I not had done all the modeling and built up a lot of my confidence and self-esteem it could’ve been a different story.

    John: Right, absolutely. That’s such a perfect example of what I talk about a lot, when I’m at firms and conferences and what have you is how these hobbies and these passions aren’t throwaways. How people are saying to you, “Why waste your time with this?” It’s like this is continuing education. This is a part of my degree. This is what makes me a better professional. You don’t realize it at that time, but that’s cool that you do now.

    Amy: I think it’s about developing your soft skills like they don’t really teach you soft skills in engineering and if you think about the typical engineer, I’ll just leave that to you to ponder upon.

    John: Right. Yup, exactly. It’s almost yeah, it’s the black hole of fun. Absolutely. I think that’s really, really cool and really neat how now, I mean that’s really paying dividends and all things happen for a reason sort of a thing.

    Amy: Definitely.

    John: Yeah. Is the modeling and photography something that you talk about at work or not so much?

    Amy: Well, I mean now I don’t really care as in like I will talk about it but when I was working as an engineer in the industry, I didn’t talk about my modeling at all. In fact, I really wanted to hide it from people because I work in a male dominated industry and that’s that nature of being an engineer and also typically working with men that double my age. I didn’t want them to sort of judge me on that or think that she can’t make a decision or we can’t rely on her or she’s not smart enough or she can’t be project manager and sort of give them a reason to doubt my ability as an engineer.

    John: Right. Do any of them know now do you think or is it still probably –?

    Amy: Yeah, they do. Actually, it’s funny because once I was up on site at the gas plant and I was the process engineer there and have operators that were basically reporting to me and I walked into one of the operator’s offices and I saw on his computer screen that he had been googling me and my page or my modeling agency website was up on the screen.

    John: Oh, my Lord. Oh, my goodness! Yeah. So it’s like, “Yeah, that’s me. All right.”

    Amy: So yeah, people know but it’s just one of those things where everyone knows but they don’t talk about it.

    John: Sure. Do you feel like the people that did know did judge you or was it maybe something that was just more in your own head sort of a thing?

    Amy: I don’t know. I think possibly a combination of both. I think the people that know me and worked with me knew what kind of work ethic and what kind of person I am. They didn’t sort of judge me badly for that but of course you’ve got people that sort of think they know who you are and they don’t’ really take the time to get to know you and then I’ve had some pretty horrible things said about me because of it but I know that those people don’t know me as a person.

    John: Right. I guess that is the scary thing to opening yourself up and letting these hobbies and passions out is that people might — you feel vulnerable or you feel like people are going to judge you for the wrong things and so that is the hard part, but it’s just having that confidence to know that, “Well, they don’t really know who I am for real.”

    I mean I remember there was a manager of a different department at the last place that I worked, he said to me in a meeting once, “All you want to do is comedy so why don’t just go do that.” I’m like well, it sounds like you’re angry because I’m doing really good work that your people should be doing like that’s what it sounds like it’s going on right now. It could hurt but it was also like well, you get to realize who it’s coming from and then be like well, I give it no value whatsoever but that certainly is hard and certainly something that a lot of people hesitate with. I think the number one thing that holds people back is that not wanting to be judged.

    Amy: Definitely. I felt like I was living two separate lives and I had to keep these things secret and when people would ask me, “Oh, what are you doing on the weekend?” Or, “What did you do on the weekend?” I’d just be like, “Oh, you know, nothing much. The usual.” When I’m planning or working on this massive photo shoot and this really cool exciting thing that I want to talk about, but I just wasn’t really sure how people would take that.

    John: Yeah, plus you didn’t want to come across as braggy or, “I’ve got this really awesome thing going on” and it’s like, “Who the hell do you think you are?”

    Amy: That’s right.

    John: I mean I can relate totally. Are there any words of encouragement to people because that sounds exhausting having believe that double life where, who did I tell, who haven’t I told.

    Amy: It’s so exhausting. I think I learned to just relax and accept that role. Why does it matter what other people think? The right people are not going to think anything badly of me. In fact, they’re probably going to think it’s kind of cool. Then when I did open up when I was just like, you know what? I’m done. I can’t hide this anymore. If someone asks me about it, I’m not going to deny it which I didn’t deny it anyway. It was just, I would never initiate any conversation about it. I think for me, it was just like a big weight off my shoulders.

    John: Sure.

    Amy: Definitely, yes.

    John: I mean you establish that you’re good at your job first which we all want to do because that’s why we’re here, that’s why we’re getting paid. But I love how you said that. I mean the right people are going to think it’s cool and those are the people that matter and that’s really, really great.

    How much do you think it’s on an organization to create this culture where, “Hey, everybody, share your passions. Let’s celebrate everyone’s unique thing that they have going on” versus it’s on the individual to maybe make that change themselves?

    Amy: I think that over time, workplaces have changed and once upon a time it would — and this is probably back where I’ve come from because of the nature of the industry that I’ve worked in. I worked in an industry that’s a very old industry, very male-dominated, a lot of older men where the thinking is well, unless you’re doing your job and focus 24/7, if you’re doing anything else outside your job that could be seen to be a little bit more than a hobby or that you’re excelling at or potentially making a bit of extra money on the side, then you’re not a 100% dedicated. Whereas now, I think workplaces are a little bit different. However, people are too hesitant to share because they’re not sure what their response is going to be.

    John: Sure. Yeah, absolutely. Do you think that maybe the tone at the top helps with that?

    Amy: Oh, definitely. Everything comes from the top. I think you need to lead by example so the CEO or managing director of the company or whoever that might be, I think they need to lead by example and show the people that, “Hey, we love that you have these other things that you do on the side that makes you who you are and that’s why we want you in our organization.”

    John: I mean exactly, that’s why we hired you is because you’re well rounded and you got these other things going. Then it’s always perplexing to me that firms or companies bring you in, and you start class and then they hammer you all out flat and it’s like well, you hired us all because we were different and then now, you want us all to be the same.

    Amy: Yeah, all the time.

    John: I mean it’s easier to manage but it certainly isn’t a fun place to be, that’s for sure.

    Amy: No.

    John: One word that when we had talked, you said that a friend of yours had brought up the multipotentialite TED Talk that you saw and something that applies to you I believe as well. Do you want to share a little bit of that with the listeners?

    Amy: Yeah, sure. I do a lot of different things. I’ve had people say to me, “Oh, you need to focus on one thing. You need to cut some stuff out of your life and just do one thing.” I find that even when I try to cut one thing out like it’s slowly creeps back in and actually probably function, and I’m more productive when I’m managing a lot of different things. And I was talking to a friend about this and he was like, “No. I know what you are. You’re a multipotentialite.” I was like what? What is that? And then he sent me a link to TED Talk and I watched it and I was like, “Oh, my God. Who is this girl, I identify a 100% with her” and it was just a fantastic TED Talk. I think everyone should watch so that if they want to know more about it

    John: Yeah and it’s also something that I think is great too, and this is something that when I talk to Jerry Folly-Kossi on a prior episode of the Green Apple Podcast and he brought up, “Hey, not everyone can do what we do. Not everyone can have a hobby or a passion outside of work that’s revenue generating to that level.”

    We shouldn’t judge others in the same way that they shouldn’t judge us and so sometimes, the hard thing is people look at you and they’re like, “You’re not very dedicated to your job because you’ve got this other thing.” No, I’m actually I’m more dedicated because I’m laser focus when I’m there.

    Amy: Yeah, exactly.

    John: And we’ll put a link to that TED Talk at greenapplepodcast.com so people can check it out as well as pictures of you and social media links to all your stuff for sure.

    Amy: Cool.

    John: So yeah, this has been so much fun, but before I sign myself up for this, I have my 17 rapid fire questions that I like to run you through, so let me fire this thing up and then here we go. Super easy start. Really easy for you. Diamonds or Pearls?

    Amy: Diamonds.

    John: Diamonds, all right. What’s a typical breakfast?

    Amy: My superfoods maybe.

    John: There you go. That was a slam dunk right there. Maybe I should’ve started with that one. How about, do you have a favorite band or singer?

    Amy: I don’t really have a favorite like I like a lot of different music so no.

    John: Okay, all over the board. How about you have a favorite color?

    Amy: Red.

    John: Red and least favorite color?

    Amy: There are no least favorite because I’m a photographer so all the colors are good.

    John: Good all the colors. There you go. Good answer. How about pens or pencils?

    Amy: Pens.

    John: Pens, yeah it doesn’t matter. When it comes to puzzles like Sudoku or crossword puzzle?

    Amy: Sudoku.

    John: Sudoku, all right there you go. Do you have a favorite number?

    Amy: 11.

    John: 11 and why is that?

    Amy: If you actually look at what it means in numerology, it’s a very powerful number and it’s a mass number and that’s part of the reason why I named my brand ElevenLabs and also because there’s 11 ingredients in my product.

    John: Wow! That’s fantastic. Is one of them chocolate? No, I’m just kidding. I’m just joking.

    Amy: Nom actually it has cacao in it which is the raw form of chocolate.

    John: Right, very cool. Do you have a favorite Disney character?

    Amy: Yes. Simba.

    John: Simba, okay. Absolutely, Lion King. How about when it comes to computers more of PC or Mac?

    Amy: I use PC.

    John: PC and when it comes to a mouse are you more left click or right click?

    Amy: Left.

    John: Left click, making decisions. How about more early bird or night owl?

    Amy: I’m both, unfortunately.

    John: Both. Yeah, I guess being in Australia, I don’t know when you guys sleep, I really don’t. More Star Wars or Star Trek?

    Amy: I have to say Star Trek because I watched it with my dad when I was a kid.

    John: Oh, that’s neat. Very cool. How about more cats or dogs?

    Amy: Dogs.

    John: Dogs, yeah. Do you have a favorite actor or actress?

    Amy: I really like Emma Stone.

    John: Oh, okay. Yeah, definitely she’s in a lot of stuff. Really versatile.

    Amy: Yeah. She’s very funny too.

    John: All right. Since you’re a Chemical Engineer, I’m going to use my Chemistry analogy here. Are you more proton or electron?

    Amy: I’ll go with electrons.

    John: Electrons. All right. The last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?

    Amy: My camera.

    John: Oh, your camera. There you go. Solid answer.

    Well, thank you so much, Amy. This was really, really fun. I really appreciate being with me today on the Green Apple Podcast.

    Amy: Thank you, John. Thank you for having me.

    John: That was really, really fun. I particularly loved how Amy said to just relax because once you share your passion, well, the right people will think it’s cool. If you like to see some pictures Amy has taken or ones where she’s modeling or check out ElevenLabs and connect with her on social media, go to greenapplepodcast.com. If you’re listening on iTunes or Stitcher, please take just a minute and give us a five-star rating there and leave a comment so others can learn about the show.

    Thank you for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread which is to go out and be a green apple.

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