Farewell Axel & Ash
It is with sadness that I announce my departure as the Co-Founder and Director of Axel & Ash.
Sometimes life throws curve balls at us and it’s hard to understand the reason why until much later…Sadly, late last year on the 27th September 2019, I was thrown one of these when my world was turned upside down when I was involved in a severe motor vehicle accident and almost killed.
I suffered major internal & external injuries, basically my entire right side was damaged and my pelvis was shattered. I’ve had 9 operations so far and still another 3 or 4 to go. When I was lying in hospital a few days after the accident, the doctor broke the news and told me that I may never be able to walk again properly. Hearing those words, broke my heart into a million pieces. Life as I knew it no longer would exist. I cried for many months, it was hard both physically to be stuck in a hospital bed in so much pain, but then also the emotional rollercoaster that comes with it. The thoughts of not being able to go for a run along the beach, work out at the gym, work in the company or be able to do so many things I loved most. It's been the most difficult thing I've ever had to get through. I never wish it upon anyone.
Having such a big event happen in your life changes everything and quickly brings to a head the most important things in life. Whilst over the last 12 months I’ve been doing my best to try and walk again, I’ve also had the opportunity to reflect on my health, who I am, my values, ethics & beliefs and which relationships in my life that serve me wholeheartedly.
Rewind back to April 2012, when Axel & Ash was born.
It was a balmy summer's night, we were sipping coconuts on my balcony in Bondi Beach, Australia. The dream was to share our zest for life by motivating people to be wild, free and chase their dreams. Coming from a tough childhood, I didn’t have a lot of confidence or belief in myself. Therefore, I wanted to make sure that I could help people believe in themselves - to be an example and show that we can chase and achieve our dreams no matter where you came from - as long as you find that faith in yourself. So we found our way to help others by turning what we lived and breathed into designing fun, stylish journals that inspire and provoke curiosity amongst jet-setters and dreamers all around the globe.
These journals would not just be your ordinary blank ones, they would be full of life, filled with quotes to inspire you, photography that mesmerised you and prompts that helped you capture and 'Insert YOUR story'. The journals would become like your best friend, that beautiful sacred place to write your thoughts, supply you with motivation and be that gentle reminder to make sure you tick-off your bucketlist dreams, because anything is truly possible!
When you start a company from scratch, there is so much hard work that goes into it. Lots of long hours without getting paid. For the first 3 years, I was juggling a full-time job so I could survive, and then working full-time on Axel & Ash. I would get up early in the mornings, work late in the evening and then all weekend just to make it come to life. I remember those days like it was yesterday, I didn’t care how many hours I was working as I just loved working on Axel & Ash so much, it didn’t feel like work.
However, you can put in all the hard work in the world, but without people around to support you, there is no way you will be able to lift off and fly.
That’s where family & friends come in. My family are such legends! Literally, every single one of my family members has worked for Axel & Ash and helped this company be what it is today. In the early days, my parents & sisters' houses would always be full of books. Couriers were always coming by, taking the orders away. Dad would be filling up the storage containers. I will never forget how much they helped without fail to make this dream come true. I owe my family my life and I love them so much.
To my close friends, you never stopped cheering us on every single step of the way. A special thank you to Salleigh & Nathan, Claire & Adrian, Nikki & Joel, Siobhan & Sean, Jen, Karina, Alex & Linus, Steph & Shrish, Kimba, Sarah G, Izzy, Maddie, Chris, K & Spenny, Matt P, Courtenay & my Aunty Sue, my Uncles + many more (you guys know who you are around the world). I am so deeply grateful for every single one of you who were there. From helping answer all our questions we prepped in the journals, to always being the first ones at our launch parties, you guys were always supporting us every step of the way.
Hands down, the best feeling about creating the company was that each product we made was like a new baby was born. From our first ‘Wanderlust’ travel journal to our latest ‘Pause’ journal. Creating each journal had their own story and creation to them. They took us on a journey through life, where we learnt so much. The journals were a reflection of what we needed ourselves or experienced at that point in time. When you pour all the love, passion and care you have into them - the sky's truly the limit!
Whilst making the journals, I also got to interview and hear the stories of some inspiring people who are featured in our journals like; Kayla Itsines, Lisa Messenger, Sebastian Terry, Kim Leuenberger, Ivan & Beth Hodge, Emma Carey, Elise Cook, Beau Taplin, Jai Vaisikek, Tara Winkler, Courtney Adamo, Clean Coast Collective, Jeremy Veach, Felicity Palmateer, Mimi Elashiry, Cait Miers, Idle Theory Bus and Orion Griffiths! All such fascinating people making big difference, it was so wonderful to meet them and I won’t forget anytime soon.
Then not to mention having images in our journals from the most talented photographers and influencers around the globe that have contributed to our journals like; Liz Rosa, Christian Schaffer, Oscar Nilsson, Daiton & Marie Vike and many more. The journals wouldn't be as beautiful as they are with out all their talents.
The company provided me with more than I could’ve ever anticipated. I’ve had so many incredible experiences and life lessons that will stay with me forever. All the adventures I’ve been on are just priceless. From walking the Camino, smoking a cigar in Cuba, standing underneath the most magical waterfalls in Iceland, Roadtrippin across the USA, jumping from country to country in Europe, living in NYC for 3 months and so much more. I’ve gained so much and I am just so proud and happy that I got to create this and know that these journals are in people's hands all over the world.
Reflecting back on the last 8 years in the company, there are so many memories and big moments that will always stay with me.
For example, back in 2013 when one of my biggest dreams came true. I was standing outside my favourite bookshop, Shakespeare & Co, in Paris. With my limited French, I asked if they would stock our ‘Wanderlust’ journal, and when an American accent said ‘Yes’ I almost fainted of excitement. I was all by myself and just had tears rolling down my cheek. I knew I was on my journey changing the world, one book a time.
However, that just set the benchmark, as I will never forget the huge amount of persistence it took to get us contracts with UK & USA Distributors. I worked so hard and for so long, contacting so many different companies. I got so many ‘No’s’, one after another, but I didn’t give up. I was determined for the world to see our journals. I wanted them to fly around the world and inspire as many people as possible. With that dream at the forefront of my mind, I finally got a ‘Yes’!
It was dream after another coming true. I even printed out the emails from Anthropologie and Barnes & Noble in the USA when they said they wanted to stock our journals. I didn't want to forget what it felt like to achieve that.
One of the best things that happened when we started off the business, was that we found ourselves meeting so many amazing store owners from all around the world (from the big retailers to the small independent business owners). Everyone who stocked our journal all took a chance on us. They helped us share them with the rest of the world and I will always be so grateful. It’s been so beautiful to build such strong relationships with such talented and interesting people that will last for a lifetime.
However, creating a company like Axel & Ash just doesn’t take just a few people and my family. It takes many more talented individuals. That is why I want to recognise and say the biggest thank you to the ever-talented Jessica Wells who designed our latest two journals (Pause & Roadtrip) and world map (Let's See it All). Jess, you captured our dreams and vision so perfectly and made them come to life. I will forever be in debt, however walking away with such a beautiful relationship with you was the greatest gift of all.
To Jillian Sun, jeez you are such a gun and experienced beyond your years. You helped elevate this brand to the top and your organisation skills were on point. Thank you so much for staying as long as you did and sharing the same vision as myself. You always gave it your all to make the company a success. To Charlotta Barman, your energy and positivity of spreading the word about our brand was so special. You were the best spokesperson anyone could have. Thank you for sharing our story with the rest of the world and just being so damn positive and making us smile no matter what. To Victoria McGuigan, thank you for keeping the wheels turning and getting all the orders and books out to everyone day and night. Your dedication to always getting the job done was invaluable. The company was running like a machine with you, thank you. To Luanne Shneier, you wordsmith and creative genius. Thank you for making our words make sense and pulling us into line. I loved having you as part of our journals and also getting to experience some incredible adventures with you. Sam, Clare, Amy, Jess, Bianca - you guys rocked and thank you for being the best and most thoughtful interns/casuals. Always going above and beyond. Lastly, there is Chantyl De Sylva, who was our first ever designer who put 'Wanderlust' together for us and Emma Scottchild who designed our ‘Bucketlist’ journal. Both of you helped kick us off the ground with your skills and I will never forget. Thank you for spending hours and months with us to get them both done.
Lastly, I would like to move on to saying the biggest thank you to all the kind strangers who supported us and became part of our tribe by getting our journals for either themselves or their family or friends. By following our journey and sharing our products, it allowed us to keep going and keep doing what we loved. When I would see pictures that people tagged us in from all over the world, it was so special. Just seeing people ticking off their bucketlists, pressing pause at home or travelling/road tripping around their country with our journals, was so special to see.
All the feedback and images would always make me smile so much. I loved to see how each person made their journal their own unique story. My heart would quite literally burst. When that happened, I could see and felt that I achieved my dream with the company that I set out to do right then and there.
Life is a collection of moments. From the big, meaningful decisions that change our paths, to the little smiles we receive from a stranger - every moment defines our story. Fast forward to today and what has happened since I've had my motor accident, it has been so disheartening for so many reasons. However, life has its reasons for it and without this whole journey I wouldn’t be as strong as I am today. So for now, I have to close this chapter and begin a new one. I am proud to say that I was able to achieve the dream I intended for Axel & Ash during my time, and I am now at peace.
As David Bowie said, “I don’t know where I’m going next but I promise it won’t be boring.” Thank you so much for being with me so far, thank you for every single moment shared over the past 8 years. I hope to see you all for the next chapter and never stop chasing your dreams.