This handmade biz was born from personal tragedy, but now this inspiring mother-daughter duo are spreading happiness selling beautiful gift hampers online. Ellen from Annie Bella’s Gifts is without a doubt, one of the most inspiring biz mums I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing to date!
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I grew up in country Victoria heavily immersed in the world of handmade. My grandmother and mother were both incredibly gifted crocheters. My mum would crochet everything from tiny doilies to elaborate christening gowns and she tried her hand at pretty much everything from doll and bear making to sewing and quilting.
I was always in awe of how my Mum could pretty much pick up anything and was instantly good at it. I envied her, because whenever I tried my hand at anything handmade it was mediocre to say the least! I started helping my Mum at craft markets from a very young age and absolutely loved immersing myself in the craft world.
How did you get started with your biz?
I worked insane hours for over 15 years building a career as Project Manager in Technology and was flying by the seat of my pants living a crazy busy life when suddenly it all came tumbling down on me when I was in a horrific accident 2 years ago. I was in hospital for many months and in a wheelchair for 8 months after almost losing my leg. I’ve spent 2 years in rehabilitation learning how to walk again and life as I knew it will never be the same again.
So I needed to find myself a new life, a new business and lifestyle to immerse myself and make myself feel useful again. And my heart was drawn towards handmade and hampers and the happiness that it created when I was little girl helping out my Mum at the markets. So I recruited my 77-year-old Mum to make the handmade items and started selling hampers online. It’s just kind of evolved from there.
What (or who) are your biggest influences?
Most definitely my Mum. She has 7 children, 20 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren. She has been through so, so much and is the strongest most determined person I know. She is the hero of this business, not me. Without her and her amazing talent and drive and enthusiasm I would probably still be sitting at home in between rehab appointments, feeling depressed and totally worthless.
She is my foundation, my compass, my strength.
Do you experience mum guilt and how do you tackle that?
Oh my goodness YES! All the time!! I unfortunately was never able to have children of my own, but I am grateful to be a step mum to my partner’s 3 beautiful children. I am blessed to have them come into my life, and I love them dearly, but being a step mum is hard! It’s so hard to parent when you’re not their ‘real’ parent. So I frequently mess up and make mistakes and I frequently carry mum guilt.
But you know what? I’m learning, and I’m growing, and I’ll be the first to admit that I have no clue what I’m doing most of the time. But I do the best I can with what I have at the time.
If you could sum up your day in three words what would those words be?
Well the last two years of my life have been consumed by rehabilitation, doctors appointments and working on Annie Bella’s Gifts. And thanks to Annie Bella’s Gifts I still have half a brain and feel like I have some normality in my life. I still do physio 3 times a week and I regularly see a health psychologist to help me come to terms with my new reality as a disabled person. I still have to walk with crutches and when I’m at the beach people stare at my horrific scars, but I’m just grateful to still have two legs, even if one of them is a bit of a dud. 🙂
What does your workstation look like? (share a photo if you’re brave enough!)
My workstation is our coffee table, and it is always a complete shambles which is a complete polar opposite to what my desk used to look like as a Program Manager as I used to be a neat freak. Now my workstation is as messy as my mind with ideas all over the place!
Give me your best kid distraction strategy:
One of the best things I’ve learned recently is in dealing with our youngest who is having some issues around control and was throwing tantrums about every little thing at the drop of a hat. And that is the illusion of choice. For instance, we were having major dramas getting her to shower every day and the tantrums were unbearable. So now we say to her “would you like to have a bath or a shower tonight” and she very calmly without drama chooses and is satisfied she has control over the situation, so suddenly it’s a non issue. A family psychologist helped us with that one, and it is golden and works for everything!!
Most embarrassing moment as a mum, or in your biz?
The very first time our little one threw a tantrum in a shopping centre in the middle of a crowded shop, I almost died there on the spot. So many people looked at me like “oh my God can’t you control your child” and I was like “I’m only new at this, I have no idea how to handle this”. I was mortified!!
What are you most proud of achieving biz wise?
The best thing that has come out of this is that it has got my Mum excited about craft again and crocheting again. 5 years ago we lost my sister to brain cancer and when she died my Mum kind of lost interest in everything and she put the crochet hook down and didn’t want to think about it anymore. By starting this business my Mum has got her mojo back, she’s picked up the crochet hook and the knitting needles and has a new lease on life. If that’s all this business ever does I’ll be grateful for that.
What are your big goals for the next 12 months?
I really want to branch out and start adding other handmade items to my hampers, by collaborating with other high quality handmade businesses and products that are local and really support small business.
Exclusive reader offer
Ellen is offering Nestling Collective readers 25% off all handmade gifts over $15 at Annie Bella’s Gifts. Just use the code NEST25 at checkout!