The Inside Story

OLLI ELLA – TWO SISTERS WHO NEVER QUITE GREW OUT OF BEING KIDS

Although we don’t always see things exactly the same way, we can always come to something that we’re both happy with. Neither of us takes offense to the other person having a different opinion. Ultimately we have so much respect for one another. It’s just a really beautiful relationship,” Olivia

Chloe (right) and Olivia (left) spent their childhood creating together – playing make believe shops, drawing and collecting treasures. What they didn’t realise at the time was that they were already planning their one day business – Olli Ella. Today the sisters have a thriving brand designing sustainably made homewares, apparel, children’s products, toys and baskets. They use natural materials and focus on ethical production… And they still get to play.

HOW IT STARTED

Chloe and Olivia were living in London, running an art gallery. But they both started to feel disillusioned with the role. They lacked a creative outlet. You would assume that working in an art gallery would be very creative, but selling 20th century masters didn’t excite them – not the type of creativity they yearned for. Chloe was pregnant with her first child (the ladies now have eight children between them) and as she started to prepare for this new phase of her life she searched for the products she needed. She was looking for a contemporary nursing chair. Everything she found was traditional and not to Chloe’s taste. So the sisters decided to design their own. They had it made locally. Their friends started to request Chloe & Olivia’s nursing chair too. So they put together a website, decided on a name, took their product to a tradeshow, and their new baby (the business kind) took off quickly.

AS THE FAMILY GROWS, SO DOES THE BRAND

With Olli Ella, Chloe and Olivia set out to create a lifestyle brand. This broader focus has allowed the brand to evolve with them. The brand continues to reflect the different stages of where they are in life. They started with products for babies and nurseries, and then as their own babies began to grow they wanted to create toys for their children that were fun, well made and functional. Whenever they would search for something and couldn’t find exactly what they were looking for, they would make it. For example, one of their most iconic products ‘The Luggy’ was designed to help support Olivia’s eldest daughter as she began to walk. Her daughter was in that transitional phase where she was beginning to be on the move but wanting to bring all her things with her. Olivia could see her toddling along precariously with her arms filled with things and she thought, ‘there’s a better solution. Why don’t we design a lovely basket on wheels, so she can plunk everything in and keep it all close.’ That’s the way they design. They see a problem to solve, and they solve it.

FROM A DREAM TO A BUSINESS

Chloe and Olivia didn’t study design.They didn’t study business. They learnt everything on the fly. 

“I remember someone asking for a proforma invoice. I had no idea what that was. I had to Google it”, laughs Chloe.

However there have been some positive outcomes from being so naive in business. They never would have launched in the USA – if they knew what they were doing. It was a huge headache in the first two years. But now they wouldn’t change it for anything.

Of course they are full of creativity and imagination, and have a natural talent in what they do, but beyond that they had to figure things out and make lots of mistakes along the way.

But what they were always sure about, was that they needed to stay true to their fundamental belief system – a commitment to simple concepts, beautifully made. All of their pieces, you put them in front of a child and straight away they know what to do with them. 

Although there is cross over in their roles, they have both found their niche in the business. Olivia has a focus in product design. She has never stopped playing with toys. Her house is full of toys. And Chloe leads the marketing and sales side of the business. They have only recently announced (to their now large team) that they officially share the role of CEO.

“We’re both heavily involved in all aspects of the business but we have a terrific General Manager and senior team, so it frees us up to focus on the areas that we really love, and we’re good at, rather than having to do everything ourselves,” shares Chloe.

“Although we don’t always see things exactly the same way, we can always come to something that we’re both happy with. Neither of us takes offense to the other person having a different opinion. Ultimately we have so much respect for one another. It’s just a really beautiful relationship,” smiles Olivia.

GLOBAL STARTS

For much of their business journey together, the sisters have been living on opposite sides of the world; Los Angeles and Australia. And now for the first time in a decade they will be both living in the same city – Sydney. It’s an exciting time for the brand. 

Being on opposite sides of the world had its benefits though. It meant that they have approached their business with a global mindset from day one. 

“It’s allowed us to expand, probably faster than we might have been able to if we’d been doing everything from the same location,” explains Chloe.

It also meant that they had the space to independently grow and focus on the areas that they are good at.

“The hard thing is that we do work so well together. We are so close, and I’ve really missed my sister. We feed off each other’s energy and when we are in the same place we create magic,” shares Olivia.

OUR WALKING TALKING INSPIRATION

So much of Chloe and Olivia’s inspiration comes from their children. Seeing them hit the same developmental milestones, noticing their universal needs. All children want to nurture, they want to carry, they want to push and pull, they have similar play styles. It’s a magical time. Olli Ella designs for that time. And for the homewares and arsenal for parents – elevating the mundane – wearable, washable, stylish, well-made items to mask the mess of a busy life.

Olli Ella has been, and always will be, in the business of creating magic for children and their busy parents.

Learn more about Olli Ella.

Words: Emma Scott
Photography: Kate Holmes Photography, Olli Ella

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