Heidi Elnora: Top 40 Under 40

Publication: Birmingham Business Journal

Baker, 33, has built a wedding gown empire with a national reach over the past seven years and taken the lead in growing the Magic City’s place in the fashion industry by starting Birmingham Fashion Week.

Who’s your favorite sports hero?
My aunt Rebecca. She was my high school softball coach. Her leadership and encouragement helped me to go to college by receiving a full-paid softball scholarship.

What lesson did you learn from that hero that helped you in your career?
She taught me about hard work, dedication and what it means to be on a team. She preached Philippians 4:13. These lessons have been a reminder to me over the years as I grow as a person and as a business leader.

What’s been the biggest “home run” of your career?
Being selected as a contestant on Project Runway really helped to give me the confidence and courage that I needed to make my dream of owning a couture design house in Alabama a reality.

What’s your ultimate career goal?
My goals change every day. As I reach one goal, I am onto the next. I don’t really have an “ultimate” career goal as I feel that my dreams are truly unfolding right before my eyes. I am just excited to see what tomorrow may bring.

In 10 years you’ll be:
In 10 years, I will be going to baseball games to cheer on my sons Jack and Bo, relaxing at my lake house with my husband and parents, all the while working on ways to expand my current companies and create future companies.

What’s one interesting fact about you that most people don’t know?
I love skulls and the month of October.

What was your first job?
I was an assistant design manager at Carters Inc. where I designed children’s clothing.

What’s been you career track?
May 2002, graduated from SCAD; September 2002, began work at Carter’s Inc.; 2005, was a contestant on Project Runway; 2006, founded heidi elnora; 2010, opened my doors to wholesale accounts; 2012, Nordstrom picked up my collection.

Why did you choose your profession?
Fashion is a part of who I am and who I was meant to be. It is a part of my heritage. I am truly living out a dream that my grandmothers and great grandmothers had. I sense their presence all the time.

What’s your guiding business principle?
Success doesn’t come easy. It takes hard work and discipline.

What’s your philosophy on success in 10 words or less?
Pray for guidance and never give up.

What one word would you use to describe yourself?

What’s the most influential book you’ve read and how did it influence your career?
I don’t really read books, there is just not enough time and I am just not that patient. However, I do read a lot of magazines for market research and to seek out industry trends.

What’s a hot topic in your industry?
Garment manufacturing.

No. 1 item on your bucket list?
For life: To take my kids to Disney World. For business: To own a building downtown where all of my companies can grow and flourish under one gigantic roof.

What keeps you up at night?
Thinking on ways to better improve and grow my companies. Whether it is through marketing and branding strategies or being more disciplined in day-to-day activities.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
It was from my parents. My dad never let me say the word “can’t.” It was not a part of my vocabulary. My mom never let me quit ballet (I took for 15 years).

What’s the worst advice you’ve ever received?
Not to start my own business.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?
It’s extremely important to have a good accountant/book keeper and a TEAM of people who have your back.

Your quirkiest habit?
I have random dance parties in the office when we get good news or if we just need to all take a breather from the huge amount of work.

What’s the first website you check in the morning?
It just depends on what my brain is pondering over that particular morning. I may go to Pinterest for inspiration or to the visual thesaurus for play on words. I do listen to NPR each and every morning on the way to work.

What’s the first thing you do when you get to the office?
Go through my emails.

What’s your guilty pleasure?
I love cheese.

What’s your favorite thing about living in Birmingham?
My favorite thing about living in Birmingham is the diversity of our people and the talents that they have to offer. I feel like Birmingham is a hidden gem when it comes to the arts. We have amazing food, fashion and a thriving art scene.

What’s your least favorite thing about living in Birmingham?
The traffic on 280.

What’s your favorite place in Birmingham (other than your home or the office)?
The Birmingham Zoo

What’s your favorite local restaurant?

What’s your favorite sports team?
I don’t really have one, but I do enjoy football in the fall.

If you had to choose another career, what would it be?
I honestly can’t imagine doing anything else. I love my job!

Education: Savannah College of Art and Design, Bachelor of Fine Arts; Central Alabama Community College, Associate of Science

City: Morris
Family: Husband, Jeff; children, Jack, 3, and Bo, 1
Twitter handle: @heidielnora