Canadian entrepreneur Courtney Chilton founded Speechlust with the belief that words have the power to motivate and inspire. In her last semester of university, Courtney fell in love with the word Aristotle used to summarize his theories, “eudaimonia”—to live well and do well. In fact, she almost tattooed it on her wrist but something held her back. Months later, while backpacking in Southeast Asia, she came across a jewelry market and realized what she had wanted all along. She engraved “eudaimonia” on a beautiful piece of jewelry. It immediately became her favourite possession.
Later in her travels, Courtney engraved a second piece with the word “fernweh.” It was shared with her by a German traveler and means a homesickness for far-off lands. Soon, she began to receive many compliments and questions about her necklaces . It was clear she was on to something and she recognized that jewelry could be used to share the power of a well-chosen word. With that, Speechlust was born.
What did you eat for breakfast?
A banana with sunbutter and coffee. Lots of coffee.
What’s your workout?
I love Physique classes that mix in a bit of dance, although that makes me sound much more graceful than I really am.
What picture is on your phone’s home screen? Share it with us.
My home screen is currently a photo that I styled for a Speechlust post. I love how the quote on the poster matches perfectly with the definition of our word “erlebnis” (to live fully, experiencing life deeply and intensely in the here and the now).
Tell us about your work. What inspired you to start your business? Where did you start and where are you now?
I created a jewelry company called Speechlust Inc. We use the incredible power of unique words with beautiful meanings to remind others of their core beliefs, aspirations and best memories. I was inspired by the word “eudaimonia” after coming across it in a university course. Its definition, “the state of being healthy, happy and prosperous through living a virtuous life,” had such an effect on me that I knew I wanted to keep it as a personal mantra. Instead of tattooing it on my wrist, I decided to engrave it on a piece of jewelry during my travels in Southeast Asia. My friends loved the piece and enjoyed learning the word’s meaning and I quickly realized that I was onto something. So, with absolutely no formal background in business, I set out to launch Speechlust.
What do you see for your future?
I truly love my company. I’ve always wanted a career that allows me to help others but, luckily, Speechlust also lets me use my passion for design. For my future, I simply see more Speechlust!
How large is your business? How many employees do you have?
I started Speechlust on my own, and while I’ve grown to include a bi-coastal public relations team, all other aspects of my business are still a one-woman show. I do everything from building the site to social media marketing to product design. It has been an insane amount of work but I truly believe that if you want your business to flourish, you have to start out by learning every moving part.
Tell us a success story about funding your business.
Thankfully, Speechlust didn’t start off needing a major investment, so instead of seeking an enormous amount of funding, I moved back into my parents’ and cleared out their unfinished basement with dreams much bigger than the office space around me. Fortunately, business has gone very well and I’ve moved into my own space.
What do you see as challenges for you and your business? What are some opportunities?
Educating our customers on the unique words can be a challenge, but it’s what makes us who we are. I could have gone the route of choosing well-known words like “hope,” “love” and “dream,” but I’m proud that our words are from all different languages and that it is up to the wearer if they want to keep the definition to themselves or share it with others. Our words also offer such great opportunities for people to find the perfect definition for an emotion they don’t always know how to put into words themselves.
Tell us a story about a success in your business or a mistake you overcame?
The biggest success of my business has been the customer feedback. I tear up every time I open my email and read about how our words push people to focus on the areas they are hoping to change or make more time for. Learning customers’ stories about the strength they found just by holding their jewelry piece close to them during a health scare creates an amazing feeling that even Speechlust can’t find a word for!
What do you love about being an entrepreneur?
I love having the freedom to create. I feel my most authentic self during days where I just get to design, photograph and think of creative marketing strategies. I don’t know if you get that kind of flow when you have someone looking over your shoulder all the time and handing you a list of guidelines.
What about your business matters most deeply to you? How does it engage your values?
Our Empowerment Line is the most important part of Speechlust for me. It has four words that touch on struggles that I feel a lot of women around me are having a hard time with—including me. I wanted to create reminders to breathe, to let life play out and to push yourself forward. Having struggled with anxiety for a lot of my life, I know that people need a daily positive reminder to always have close. I believe that your words reflect your thoughts which turn into your actions. We really are what we speak!
What would you say is your “entrepreneurial superpower?”
My creativity, especially visually. I am happiest when I get a day without tasks and can truly just let the right side of my brain take over.
Who is the entrepreneur you admire most right now? Why does s/he inspire you?
I am without a doubt Kelly Wearstler’s biggest fan. Her eye for design and glamorous interiors always inspires us to use color and texture to bring life and energy to everything we touch.
What’s the best and the worst thing about being an entrepreneur, as a woman?
I get asked this question a lot and I can honestly say that I LOVE being a female entrepreneur. I think this has been an amazing year for women. With the protests, the age of the girl boss and the communities of women supporting each other, I really feel like we are all starting to be part of the same team. Women are strong, resilient and they’re amazing at creating brands that have meaningful missions. I’m blown away everyday by the females around me and know that we’ll all keep moving forward in empowering one another.
Do you think male entrepreneurs are “different” from female entrepreneurs, and if so, how? If not, why not?
I really can’t say because in my entire career, I’ve never been a male entrepreneur!
What the best advice you ever got, and from whom?
A friend sent me the Charles Bukowski quote: “Go all the way.” I constantly reference it when making decisions about growing my business.