Interview with founder of Ellie Ellie for V&OAK

Categories Business, Interviews

Personal Appeal

Online emporium Ellie Eillie first caught our attention back in 2012 with their selection of handmade and upcycled gifts. Since then the brand has gone from strenth to strength. We asked founder Danielle Ellen Plowman to tell us her story.

They say “do a job you love and never have to work a day in your life.” Sounds easy enough, but for many of us finding out what that thing is, working out how to turn it into a business, and finally reaping the financial rewards, are three very challenging parts of an equation that can be difficult to combine. Danielle Plowman it seems, has cracked the code. However, her company Ellie Ellie was on a very different path
when Danielle first launched her own business, as she explained to us when we asked her to give us the lowdown on her upcycling venture.

How long have you been running Ellie Ellie, and why did you start the business?

I have been running Ellie Ellie since 2006 when I graduated from Kingston University where I studied Fashion Design. Lots of people don’t know that Ellie Ellie started
as a girlswear label in 2006, after I struggled to find a job in the design industry. After trying to find a shop assistant role to get my foot in the door I soon realised no one was in the position to offer me a job. I found myself frustratingly without
a job and without any money and  having to move home to Brighton.

I got an opportunity to design a range of girlswear with a shop called Groms which was an exciting time for me. However, I soon realised because it was the beginning of the financial recession the shop wasn’t doing well and they were unable to
pay me for my time and designs.

“Every day I wake up with a smile knowing that I am doing what I love and that what I love to do supports me financially.” I was left with all my designs and clothing in the corner of my work room, which I needed to sell in order to make money. So I decided to sell them under my own label, which is when Ellie Ellie was born.

I set up in a little local town in a small shopping arcade as well as creating an online Etsy, eBay and Folksy shop. Unfortunately it didn’t work, I was barely making money
and I had to work three jobs to fund the business. I did this for three years when I decided enough was enough – I quit everything and went traveling for a year.

During my time travelling I fell in love with Melbourne and its sustainable design culture and I knew I wanted to translate that ethos into Ellie Ellie. After reluctantly
returning from my travels, I threw myself back into my business and totally rebranded Ellie Ellie with the ethos of ‘redesign, recycle & relove’.

It was the introduction of this ethos which turned things around for the business as it now had a focus and an identity that people could relate to. It turned Ellie Ellie from a business into a brand and it is this tag line that still remains the focus point of all decision making within the business today as it grows.

Where did the name come from?

Ellie Ellie comes from my name, DaniELLE ELLEn Plowman. It initially started out with the spelling ‘Elle Elle.’ However for pronunciation I put an ‘i’ in it to
read Ellie Ellie. It was something the kids picked up on when I was at school. They would laugh about how many Es and Ls there were in my name. When I was thinking of names for my business I came up with loads of ideas but none of them
had any meaning, and I was drawn back to Ellie Ellie. I think it is nice to have a personal story when selecting a name.

What are your most popular pieces?

Ellie Ellie’s most popular products are those that are designed for women to buy for men. Men are so difficult to buy for and our personalised map cufflinks, customised sixpence cufflinks and building brick cufflinks are big sellers. I think this is because they are unique, women can add that extra touch by personalising them,
and they are different to cufflink designs you see on the high street. Initially it was my vintage letter tiles pieces that got Ellie Ellie noticed.

What’s been the highlight of running Ellie Ellie?

The highlight of running Ellie Ellie has to be the freedom to be creative. Every day I wake up with a smile knowing that I am doing what I love and that what I love to do supports me financially, which is always a hard balance to obtain. I get massive thrills when I see people wearing my products or when customers email me to tell me how much the recipient loved their present; it truly is a great feeling.

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