How Ellen Yin Turned $300 into $3 Million in Revenue

Ellen Yin left her corporate job at an insurance company in late 2017 without a backup plan.

Shortly after, a friend needed help with their Instagram marketing, and she stepped in to help for $300.

Since then, Ellen has gone on to turn that $300 into around $3 million in revenue with her business Cubicle to CEO.

She showcases the stories of successful small business owners and shares her own wins and losses along the way in her quarterly income reports.

How Ellen Makes Money

Ellen has pivoted her business a number of times now, with the most recent transitiong from course creator into a full-blown media company.

This means she’s made money in a number of different ways over the years.

Brand Partnerships

At this point, Cubicle to CEO is focused on being a media business first, so sponsorships and brand partnerships are a big part of the revenue.

After making this change in business structure in early 2023, Ellen went silent for a few weeks and was pitching brands to be sponsors. She said she closed $205k in revenue from brand partnerships alone during that time across 22 campaigns.

So the average brand partnership she is selling is around $10,000. I’m not sure what that includes, but that’s an interesting stat to consider.

Products & Courses

Ellen has a long history of selling digital products and courses, including her Paid to Create challenge, Perfect Podcast pitch template, and more.

But her main focus these days is on her membership community called The C-Suite.

The C-Suite

Ellen charges $195 per quarter for this membership community. I’m not sure how many members are in there but I know she pre-launched it to 100 founding members at $100/year.

I’d venture to guess at least another 100 have joined since then at $195 per quarter, which would be around $88k in recurring revenue per year.

Co-Working Space

In January 2022, Ellen opened a co-working space in Salem, Oregon. She had recently moved to the area and wanted a place to meet other business owners in real life and build a more in-person community.

Sadly, she shut down the co-working space in March 2023. She opened up about the decision in this episode and said she was overextending herself trying to essentially run a second business.

Affiliate Marketing

Cubicle to CEO also brings in money from affiliate marketing when they recommend tools or other products. As a media business, this is likely something Ellen is focused on growing a lot as well.

Angel Investing

Ellen has been investing in small business companies on the side too. One of her investments was in Cherub, a deal flow discovery platform which is a marketplace matching investors with small businesses.

The Growth Timeline

Ellen started out with her service business, helping clients with Instagram and social media strategy.

In June 2019, she launched the Cubicle To CEO podcast, sharing stories of women who were seeing business success. And since then, the brand has taken off.

Later that year, she went “all in” on her digital products and courses side of the business and stopped working with done-for-you clients.

Then in 2023, she pivoted again into turning Cubicle to CEO into a media brand vs digital products brand.

This is the first deep dive where I don’t have concrete email subscriber numbers, but I backed into them from her talking about her total audience numbers and subtracting out her social following.

But since making the change to dropping the 50k subscriber requirement, even if these are a little off, it’s all good. Ellen is making a good living from her business and the strategies she’s used to grow it are really interesting.

The Growth Levers of Ellen Yin

Ellen has tried a lot of things in her business, some worked and some don’t. But these are the growth levers that stood out to me during this research.

🧪 1. Experimentation. Ellen is not afraid to push the boundaries and try new things. She is a big believer in getting the data to figure out if something is failing or succeeding, and she doesn’t hesitate to kill projects if they aren’t working – no matter how much she hoped they would.

2. The Quiz that drove 5,000 email subscribers in 2 weeks. This quiz has led to thousands of email subscribers, but it also plays another overlooked, yet significant job for Ellen’s business.

🍋 3. Borrowed Traffic. When you have a small audience, how can you get in front of the right people early on? This strategy is really interesting.

🪟 4. Transparency. Ellen shares her income and profits with her listeners, and it’s led to people talking about her brand quite a bit.

🔦 5. Give your community the spotlight. People love seeing their name in lights – and the way Ellen showcases their stories is really interesting.

1. Experimentation 🧪

There are countless experiments Ellen has run through the years since she started.

She takes this lens when testing new projects or business ideas. It always comes back to the data and what you found out during that process.

Failure is an opportunity to gather information to collect new data that you didn’t have before and then to look at the data and say, okay, objectively, what is this telling me? And how do I how do I make changes in order to do better the next time?”

Ellen Yin

Business Pivots

Ellen has made a few major pivots in the business.

First, she stopped helping working with her service clients in 2019 and went all in on the courses and digital products side of her business.

Luckily, 2020 turned out to be an incredible year for the course space as everyone was at home looking to learn new skills.

That move ended up bringing in lots of customers and revenue for the business. It was a great move, and the data showed her to keep going that direction.

But she’s since pivoted her business again. In 2023, Ellen decided to shut down her main course offering and build Cubicle to CEO into a more traditional media brand.

And who knows, maybe she will decide that this media business thing isn’t actually the right path for the business and go in another direction.

Launching the Clubhouse

In 2022, Ellen wanted even more local community in her life. She ended up opening a co-working space in Salem, Oregon to bring that to life.

This is a big move because it was essentially an entirely separate business she was starting. And, it’s completely outside the industry and typical products she sold.

But she dove in with both feet anyway and made it happen.


However, this was one of those experiments that didn’t quite work out the way she wanted it to. As I said before, it was a second business, and she was being spread way too thin.

A little more than a year later, she closed the co-working space for good.

Ellen is always ready to experiment, but she isn’t afraid to pull the plug on things that aren’t working either.

When asked what the biggest differentiator is between the businesses that succeed and the ones that fail, Ellen said: “it is an affinity for failure.”

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and fail, at the end of the day all you’ve done is capture more data.

2. The 5,000 Email Subscriber Quiz ⌛

One of the ways Ellen has been able to grow her email list is through her CEO Style quiz.

In the first 24 hours of it going live, over 200 people completed the quiz.

Within 2 weeks it had generated over 5,000 leads, none of which she paid for.

She says this does two things:

  1. Give them a custom list of podcast episodes to listen to
  2. Helps her learn about her audience and their unique challenges as a CEO

Of course, I went ahead and took the quiz, and I got the Magnetic Connector.

Who knows what the means, but I want to circle back to those two things Ellen said this quiz does for her business because that second one is super important.

Learn About Your Audience

Ellen uses this quiz to learn more about her audience and what their needs are.

The questions within the quiz include things like:

  • How would you describe your business?
  • What’s keeping you from taking your business to the next level?
  • What’s your biggest strength/weakness?

Questions like this give Ellen a bunch of data she can use to segment her audience and provide them with awesome solutions.

She uses TryInteract for this quiz, but you can also use something like RightMessage as well (which is what I use).

But not only that, when she reaches out to brands for partnerships, she can say “52% of my audience sells courses” or “43% of my audience is struggling with X.”

Do you see how valuable that can be?

You’re building your audience while gathering more data about them.

3. Borrowed Traffic 🍋

One of the ways Ellen has grown her audience and network so quickly is through a concept she calls “borrowed traffic.”

Borrowed traffic is essentially getting in front of other people’s audiences. When you don’t have a large audience to start with, it can be hard to get going. It can take a long time to build that flywheel of growth.

But by getting in front of other audiences, you’re short-circuiting the process a bit.

The Best Place for Your Lemonade Stand

Ellen has explained borrowed traffic with a lemonade stand analogy that I love.

Let’s say, you’re selling lemonade. If you set up your lemonade stand in front of your house, you’ll get some sales from people you know who want to support you.

But after a while, those customers are going to dry up (or have a sugar rush) and your sales are going to dry up as well.

So maybe it’s not the best place to have a lemonade stand all the time.

But there is a summer festival happening across town, and it’s a hot sunny day.

What if you instead move your lemonade stand to the parking lot outside that event so that people coming into and leaving the festival can get a cold drink?

Do you think you’d get more sales than your 3 neighbors and your spouse? Probably.

Putting your lemonade stand where the thirsty customers are is a much better strategy, and that’s essentially what borrowed traffic is.

You are finding the people who have audiences that would be interested in your content/products, and getting in front of them.


Types of Borrowed Traffic

You do need to be consistent and build your own audience, but that takes time, so you shouldn’t be just hanging around waiting for that to happen.

Ellen used this strategy in the early days when she was getting started. She didn’t have a big audience, so she went where the people who she wanted in her audience were.

Here are some types of borrowed traffic:

  • Guest podcasting
  • Guest posting
  • Public speaking
  • Going live on someone’s Instagram with them
  • Influencer marketing
  • Twitter spaces

These are all essentially come down to finding someone who has an audience of people who would benefit from your knowledge, and then reaching out to make a connection with them.

Ellen also talks about doing this with brands whose products you use. For example, she is a big user of Kajabi and they brought her on their podcast. That’s one simple example of borrowed traffic.

She’s not competing with Kajabi, and they want to showcase her story because she’s a power user and has seen success with their platform.

Another Borrowed Traffic Example

Here’s a more concrete example of how this works.

Let’s say you are a CPA and help creators manage their finances. You have a specific method you teach people to help them save on their taxes.

And there is a bigger creator named Jay who helps creators grow their businesses and become professional creators.

You can reach out to Jay and say something like:

(I cringed at just writing that fake signoff, taxes make my eyes glaze over.)

Anyway, so then you wait for Jay to respond.

You then can offer him an affiliate commission if someone from his audience buys your product.

Then you give them a ton of value on that call, you may have a freebie they can sign up for with their email, and bang – you’re getting email subscribers.

Jay wins.
His audience wins.
You win.

Complementary Audiences

The key to this strategy is to make sure you’re reaching out to people who have complementary audiences.

They shouldn’t be completely unrelated, like art and finance. While there is an angle where it could work, if it’s too much of a stretch this won’t be as effective.

On the same token, make sure you’re not reaching out to people who sell the exact same thing as you.

4. Transparency & Building in Public 🪟

Ellen and her team shares quarterly updates on their income and profits for the previous 90 days. This is really different from the “norm” of the industry.

In the online space, there is a lot of “build a 7-figure business” advice without lots of transparency into the how or what that looks like.

“I believe that transparency is key to leading the way for others to succeed and elevating women to continue smashing the glass ceiling.

When women candidly discuss their finances with one another, we all become more empowered to negotiate confidently, ask for higher rates, and make better informed decisions to invest in ourselves and our businesses.”

Ellen Yin, Canvas Rebel

Income Reports

Every quarter, Ellen shares an income report sharing how much her business made, as well as her expenses and total profit.

This is vastly different from a lot of people who are just sharing the top numbers without the context on the back end. Sadly, there are people who make 7-figures but don’t take home more than $50k a year.

But you don’t hear those kinds of stories. You only hear the good side of it.

Ellen wanted to change that, and so she’s been sharing these income reports since 2019. Even if she had a really bad quarter, she’ll dig into what happened and why it turned out that way.

She’s created a Spotify playlist of all the podcast episodes where she does an income report as well.

Note: this year, she’s switched these to being annual instead of quarterly, but she’s still sharing the data.

Because she’s sharing this information that most others won’t share, it gets people talking. She’s asked about this one almost every podcast interview she does (and I listened to a lot of them).


When you share numbers other people aren’t willing to, you can end up creating a whole culture of openness and transparency.

Asking for the Numbers

Ellen isn’t just pushing for transparency in her own business, she asks her podcast guests to bring receipts.

And it’s a reason her podcast has grown so quickly in the industry. People love hearing the nitty gritty details of different business strategies.

The beauty of this is that some of these people were in her membership community, so it doubled as a way to showcase her students.

She even does this with big names that come on her podcast. She had Amy Porterfield on and told her to come to the recording with numbers she hadn’t shared elsewhere. That episode is quite good if you’re interested.

5. Give Your Community the Spotlight 🔦

Building off the back of the previous strategy, Ellen does a fantastic job of highlighting community members and students of her membership.

She’s had successful students on her podcast, and she’ll share their case study, along with asking for the detailed numbers, of course.

And one of the more recent examples of this is her newer membership. One of the benefits of joining The C-Suite is that you can do an Instagram takeover on the Cubicle to CEO account:

You get to schedule a day where you take over the account and post all the stories for the day. Not only is this amazing for her students and makes them feel important, but her team can also not worry about posting that day.

Really interesting way to showcase your community members and promote your own membership at the same time.

We saw something similar to this in the deep dive on Daphne Gomez too.

How You Can Replicate Some of Ellen’s Success 🗺️

Let’s be real, Ellen is a serious action taker and someone who just jumps in with both feet to new projects. It’s hard to “replicate” that kind of mentality.

However, some of the ways she’s approached her business and its growth are replicable.

Go Where the People Are Thirsty

When you start a new venture, it’s important to put the slow and steady building blocks in place and be consistent.

But, that doesn’t mean that while you’re waiting for those to work for you, you can’t be getting in front of audiences who would benefit from your work.

Where can you go where there will be thirsty people who want what you’re selling (i.e. lemonade)?

Getting in front of the right people with the right solution, that’s the concept of borrowed traffic. And if you use it correctly, it can help speed up the slow and steady processes you have running as well.

Focus on the Context

Ellen shares numbers that most business owners would cringe at sharing. But she doesn’t care because she knows that having that by being transparent, she’s showing the people one step behind her how she’s thinking about business, or what’s caused such a big increase/drop in her revenue.

One of her favorite sayings is “context is everything.”

You don’t want to follow the advice of a course creator if you’re a service provider. They have vastly different goals from one another.

At the same time, you as a personal brand creator wouldn’t want to follow what the Morning Brew is doing, as they are building around a completely different business model than you.

You have to pay attention to the context, otherwise you might be consistently heading in the wrong direction.

chenell basilio

Chenell Basilio

Chenell is the head writer and reverse engineer at Growth In Reverse. She spends her days researching newsletters, audience growth, and generally figuring out how to help others create better content.

She has an almost useless Bachelor's Degree in Geography, enjoys running, listening to podcasts, and eating guacamole. 🥑

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