'Undercover Billionaire' Entrepreneur Elaine Culotti Says the Show Is 'Do or Die'

Elaine Culotti
Q&A
Discovery Channel

Elaine Culotti is putting her entrepreneurial skills to the test on Season 2 of Discovery's Undercover Billionaire. The successful real estate developer, interior designer and builder headed to Fresno, California, under an alias (Elaine May Rindge, inspired by trailblazing businesswoman Rhoda May Rindge) to build a million-dollar company from the ground up in 90 days. To accomplish this feat she was armed with only $100, a car, phone and the acumen that made her a force in the often male-dominated business world. 

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This time around, 3 entrepreneurs give up everything to launch the Next Big Thing.

Mogul Glenn Stearns recruited Culotti, along with real estate mogul Grant Cardone and investment firm founder Monique Idlett-Mosley, to take the same challenge he attempted in season one. (Stearns’ Underdog BBQ was valued at $750,000.) And if the difficulty of the overall task wasn’t enough, these titans of industry also had to venture through unprecedented waters of COVID-19, which has crippled so many businesses. 

We sat down with Culotti to talk about her experience and keys to success. 

Did you watch the first season to see what you were getting yourself into? 

Elaine Culotti: At first I was opposed to watching the first season because I wanted to do something organic. But about four or five weeks into it I watched it because it was so hard. I wanted to know if it was as hard for Glenn as it was for me. It did re-inspire me when I was feeling very defeated. It’s not easy, even for someone like me who loves a good challenge. 

How much time did you have to prepare? 

The show had been greenlit prior to COVID, and it got shut down. One day I get a phone call saying, “We’re on. Are you on?” Of course, I was. What an opportunity and incredible time to do it. That was the end of July. It all happened so quickly.   

What struck you about the experience? 

When I showed up to Fresno, I had such a body of experience in terms of how to start a business that I was able to figure out quickly who was going to help me, who was not going to help me. I knew going in I had to invest time in people that I didn’t know and give it to God that they would stick around and be the right people. You can’t go through a lot of people. You don’t have time...It’s about trust. Even if they don’t have the full skill set you need, you have to give them strength and empowerment to be successful...It was a refresher course, but a boot camp refresher. You are in the trenches. The whole show is do or die. 

Did you have Grant or Monique to lean on for support? 

We are always on text and email together. Even though we have completely different ways of coming at everything we are incredibly tight. We did not know each other. Everything was literally undercover. It was a leap of faith for all three of us. 

What do you say to the business owners having a hard time right now? 

One of the most important things I say to anyone in a place that is in a downhill spiral is take 24 hours and take a deep breath. You have to stop falling. You have to take a minute to catch yourself. Don’t be reactionary...If you’re a small business owner, go next door to the businesses next door. I can assure you your neighbors are there wanting to work together to have a common business goal. You’re not alone. We’re all in this together and going to come out of this really strong. 

Would you do this again? 

Of course I would do this again. That being said, it would be selfish. It’s time to give the torch to someone else because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The whole point of the experience is to let people know they can do it and empower people. The goal now is to give this torch to another entrepreneur and have had success in her life and show people how they did it. It’s important we create teachers. 

What else can you tell us about the rest of season 2? 

If you empower people, they will rise up and surprise you. You will see people come to life here. It’s remarkable. 

Undercover Billionaire, Wednesdays, 8/7c, Discovery