Successful entrepreneur Elaine Culotti is starting from scratch and putting her skills to the test on Season 2 of Undercover Billionaire. The real estate developer, interior designer, and avid farmer is going undercover as Elaine May Rindge, and headed to Fresno with just $100, a cell phone (that doesn't have WiFi), and the determination to make one business hit the million-dollar margin in just 90 days.
With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic (also known as COVID-19) impacting so many businesses, this entrepreneur certainly had her work cut out for her.
Distractify spoke exclusively with Elaine about the difficulties she faced while filming, redeveloping certain skills, and more.
Check out our Q&A below. (Editor's note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Elaine Culotti talks the "rusty" skill set she had to "redevelop" on 'Undercover Billionaire.'
Distractify: Opening a business is hard enough, but how difficult was it to open a successful business during this COVID-19 pandemic?
Elaine Culotti: I think that the whole preface was to try to find something that was essential and sustainable. Once I arrived to Fresno, which they don’t tell you where you’re going ... there’s no heads up ... I immediately got on my phone that was given to me, which doesn’t have Wi-Fi … for me I felt like in this particular series in this particular moment of time when everything is shut down, we have to find a way to work anyway.
The only thing that seems to be paved to work is essential businesses, hospitals, food, any kind of transportation, shipping. So, I sort of narrowed it down to that to start. That’s how I operate. Everyone has a different approach.
You opened up several businesses in this one space. Were you influenced by the pandemic to help bring in more revenue, the city, or maybe this is just a modern and more profitable business model?
EC: It is not new news in the entrepreneurial mind that you’re constantly coming up with ideas … If you combine someone with my mind and a great space, I’m going to think of every tranche possible to rain money. I sit and visualize money raining … how’s it going to fall down? How am I going to get wet with money? Where is it coming from? What is the catalyst for that? The catalyst for me is that sustainability and that essential need to not worry about anything. That’s called existential wealth, which is what you have to rely on when you don’t have money. You have to rely on your skill set and assets.
Can you talk about some of the issues you run into this season of Undercover Billionaire?
EC: COVID being the first big hurtle ... the fear of people coming in contact with you, that was challenging. The sideline of that was the lack of intimacy, having conversations across the table where you can really see the whole dimension of the person. It was hard to navigate business on Zoom.
The second thing that was really challenging was being away from everything that was familiar to me. I’ve become very spoiled so getting things immediately because I snap my fingers is a different type of on-command. Without your name and without your resources, you have to find a different way to empower people to follow you, to coax them ... in a way they want to be on your team. That was a skill set that I had to redevelop. I obviously had it at some point in my life, it just got rusty.
After participating in the show, was there anything new you learned about yourself and your entrepreneurial skills that you maybe didn’t?
EC: I don’t need all the things that I have, I know that. That’s a big lesson. It’s actually quite cumbersome to have a lot. I also think I can say with complete clarity that how much money you have in the bank is not as relevant as how much money you have in your personal bank, your heart, your head, your skill set. That existential bank is far more valuable than wherever you bank.
Would you come back for a Season 3 of Undercover Billionaire?
EC: Do I think that I should go back for Season 3? Absolutely not! This is not a show to do over and over again as the individual entrepreneur. My next journey is to help people start businesses and teach people about their values and what they can do with their values. This is a journey for someone who can get on the ground and do this without being found out.
Anyone who has an incredible ability to earn money, starting something from nothing, should give back this way. It’s something we should teach. It should be a class in school as much as English is … a fundamental should be how to start a business. It’s the American dream.
Watch Season 2 of Undercover Billionaire on Discovery+.