Startup co-founder sees opportunity to serve as role model for women in business


Morph’s executive team comprises community and culture VP Andrew Alford, vice president of employee relations Carla Ellis, COO Dustin Poisson, CEO LJ Abrams, and CTO David Jones.

Carla Ellis | Morph

Carla Ellis was fortunate enough to figure out early in her life what motivates her: people. "I thrive when interacting with people," she says, "and I realized after I got my undergraduate degree in event planning/hospitality that finding a way to impact people’s lives is what I wanted to do for a living."

That passion brought her to The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), where she’s not only pursuing a master’s degree in human resource management but also serving as the vice president of employee relations for Huntsville startup Morph. "Our objective is to help businesses retain their employees by acclimating new residents to a city – we focus on what happens beyond the cubicle so your HR department can focus on what happens at work," says Ellis, who co-founded the company with COO Dustin Poisson, CEO LJ Abrams, community and culture VP Andrew Alford, and CTO David Jones.

I want women to feel comfortable being themselves.

Carla Ellis

The process starts with a personal assessment of the company’s employees, and the results are used to create a curated "package" based on the individual’s interests and preferences. Ellis’ job is to put that package into action, whether its finding organizations and fun events or connecting them to a local real estate agent. The assumption is that these efforts to familiarize employees with the Huntsville/Madison area and root individuals into their new community will lead to both an increase in the company’s retention rate and an improvement in its productivity and organizational culture.

"Our slogan is ‘Shape Your Reality,’ because we understand that moving to a new city is hard, and we want to help redefine your perception of the city you live in," says Ellis. "We want people to feel like they belong. The personalized aspect of our company allows us to understand the outside interests that influence your employees’ identities in ways that HR doesn’t have the time to do." For example, say you have June and Tim who work for the same company but in different departments where normally they’d never get the chance to interact. "If we learn they both like golfing, we can connect them," says Ellis. "The idea isn’t to let organizational culture form, it’s to create it. And as employees create roots in the organization and in the community, they will want to stay longer."

Carla Ellis

UAH master’s student Carla Ellis is the co-founder of Morph, a Huntsville-based startup that provides concierge services to area businesses to help them recruit and retain employees and improve their productivity and organizational culture.

Carla Ellis | Morph

Though less than a year old, Morph has already signed its first major contract with a world-recognized aerospace and defense leader. "It’s exciting," says Ellis, "but it’s also a learning process." Fortunately, she’s continuing to amass a strong foundation of skills thanks to both her graduate coursework and the support of professors like Dr. William MacKenzie, an associate professor of management in the College of Business. "Everyone in the College has been super encouraging, and my coursework has fit like a perfect puzzle piece throughout this whole process," she says. "In classes growing up we’d always ask, ‘When am I ever going to use this?’ I’ve never had that experience of ‘Wow, this is going to be super useful in life.’ That is, until now."

As the only woman in the company, however, Ellis is aware that she needs to make sure her voice is heard as Morph goes from being a startup to an established business. "While I’m opinionated, I usually leave decisions to the people who are more business-minded," she says. "I’ve realized as a co-founder that giving my input, when business is concerned, is something I need to learn how to do better." She also knows that her position makes her something of a role model for other women – and she welcomes the opportunity. "I’ve always seen myself as confident, and I want other women to feel the same way," she says. "I want them to feel comfortable being themselves."

After all, that’s how she feels as a co-founder of Morph, where the positive organizational culture they seek to inspire in others is already well established. "One of the best parts about our team is that we’re all super comfortable and honest with each other, and we’re definitely not afraid to call each other out if it’s necessary," says Ellis. "I’m not treated any different – I feel like I have an equal say and an equal part. Morph is truly a team effort."


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