How I got here: Spell & the Gypsy Collective
Elizabeth Abegg tells Cosmo how she and her sister took their business from a market stall to a global brand
How did Spell start?
‘ Isabella had moved from Melbourne to Byron Bay and was designing jewellery and selling it at the markets. I had been a film editor for over 12 years and ended up going through a huge breakup in Sydney and my life got turned upside down. I then did a selfdevelopment course. The morning after I finished the course, I called Spelly [ Isabella’s nickname] and said, “Do you need a business partner?” She said, “I totally do!” So I moved to Byron.’
How did you and Isabella take Spell from a market brand to a powerhouse business?
‘I needed to make it profitable because Spelly had let me in to the business and made me a partner. When I started, there was the prospect of pushing wholesale or our online presence. We tried wholesale and we didn’t feel it was our path. It was the online approach that came a lot more naturally for us through blogging, social media, imagery and creating our own editorial. We wished we could have our clothes in magazines but they wouldn’t look at us because we were tiny, so we created our own editorial. We started putting budget into shoots – paying photographers and investing in imagery.’
Why do you think you work so well with your sister?
‘I see sisters working together often because sisters really do have very different traits that complement each other. Growing up, Isabella was the creative and I was the ideas girl – it has always been that way. Without me, I don’t think she would have had a business, and without her, I wouldn’t have a business – but together we work.’
What type of boss are you?
‘ I’m very empathetic and compassionate, but I expect a high level of performance from my team.’
Is it true you only work with ethically accredited factories? ‘ When we started looking for factories to partner with, we were looking for owners we really connected with and had similar values to. So we could see the workers were being treated amazingly and it was f ine, but as we grew and took on new factories, we knew our customers wanted more than just our word. We wanted to be able to say, “These factories have been ethically approved by a third party auditing body.”’
What are your thoughts on work/life balance?
‘ If you asked me six months ago what the biggest business challenge was, I would have started crying and said “the juggle”. It’s only now that my youngest has turned three that the balance has come naturally. Now I feel like I’ve come out of the tunnel – the vortex of mother guilt – and I’m so much happier because my kids are older and everything is falling into place.’
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to Cosmo readers? ‘ In business, don’t be afraid to start small and humble. Start with one product, do it well and you’ll be fine.’
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD… ISABELLA PENNEFATHER AND ELIZABETH ABEGG ARE THE SAVVY SISTERS BEHIND THE BOHO LABEL.
OFFICE SPACE OF OUR DREAMS!
THE STORE IN BYRON BAY.