Anna and I met about six-and-a-half years ago, working together in a retail shop in Yarraville. We both realised there’s a gap in the Inner West for a clothing brand that was for normal women, at attractive prices. Our shop allows mums to shop in a child-friendly environment, and we help people mop up their tears while they open up to us. We want it to be easy for women. A lot of our customers are mums who have a busy social and professional life and love going out. Our clothes are affordable, easy and fun, and we just love it when customers walk in and start chatting with each other.
Anna and I were juggling two little kids each then, and I knew I’ve always wanted to work for myself. I have a twin sister and I’ve always had a female by my side. As soon as I met Anna, I knew she’s the one, I thought we could do this, but I really had to encourage her quite strongly to pursue this idea. Our personalities are polar opposites. I’m extroverted while she’s introverted. However it forms this beautiful relationship. It was understanding each other’s vies and workstyle. I need a coffee and a slow chat, and Anna would come in and start working.
I’m a risk taker, and she’s not, but I knew my skills from a banking and finance background would help us succeed.
Working with someone means you have to account for them, respect them and work together. All our staff are local mums Underneath it all we care about the same thing, and making women feel good about themselves.
During the lockdowns, we were very humble as we were more successful during Covid, but we also felt a lot of guilt. I felt like we had let our staff down as we couldn’t give them any work, and people were falling apart, but we were doing okay. I don’t know if this was something about being women, and we feel like want to say that, and this is why we don’t see a lot of publicity about us. We just quietly go on doing our business.
We’re not here to make million; we just want to have a happy life and take our families on a holiday.
Why Mabel and Woods?
Mabel is the first letters of our children – Maddie, Alex, Ben, Ella, and L for Love.
Wood is from Spotswood.
During Covid, the mums – who we could no longer hire as staff – offered to work for no cost, as it gave them purpose. That’s how much the brand feels like family.
I think Inner Westies are unpretentious and easy-going, and give out familiar vibes. You can walk into any shop in the Inner West and start talking easily, and that’s what our brand is as well.
I was born in Melbourne, and my family moved to Sunshine Cost when I was three. I’m the middle of three girls, older by 30 minutes to my twin. I grew up on the north side of Brisbane. Mum was really lucky to meet with a lovely man who stepped in immediately, after she and dad had broken up. I realise now when I go home to Sunshine Coast, it has all the reasons of home. I can smell the earth when I alight the plane; there’s something calming when I return to Brisbane.
I was a good student but didn’t go to uni. I made my sister travel with me, and travelled from Brisbane to London when we turned 21. At 17, when I left school, I went straight into the superannuation world for three years. I’ve always been quick with numbers and practical.
When I arrived in London, I secured a role in the banking and finance world, and thought I was destined to never meet anybody. I travelled around a lot. I met my now husband six weeks before I booked a one-way ticket back to Brizzy after five years in London. I cancelled my one-way ticket and didn’t leave. He’s a policeman now, and a was Bobby in London.
From the minute I landed in London, and the minute I returned to Brizzy, it was 13 years. I felt like it was a big party. I was a free spirit, travelling kind of girl. I even had a panic attack after I bought a house in London, and thought ‘Sheesh what am I doing? I shouldn’t be doing this.’
When my husband and I returned to Australia, we stayed with my twin for six months in Melbourne. I remember having a panic attack while we were shopping in Chadstone. I realised I felt trapped, and was making the big mistake of settling down. Having children didn’t come naturally to me as I’m a high achiever and I really struggled in the early years of motherhood, and even had a breakdown. I was diagnosed with anxiety.
Looking back, I realise I’ve had it all my life, and travelling was my way out. It was my coping mechanism.
I had my first child 18 months after we returned to Australia in 2008. We were living in Seddon then. We had discovered Seddon after the saleslady I was working working with told me about it.
‘Go check out that area. It feels like an English village.”
We were considering living long term in St Kilda as my husband like the idea of the beach, but I told him ‘We are not living where sex workers are.’ I think he realised that when he was waiting in our car to pick me up, and a sex worker almost got in the car before me.
When I was in London, I pursued jewellery-making as banking and finance is very dry. I actually took two years off to pursue design and silversmithing, and as a side hustle I would sell jewellery and do parties are people’s houses. I had a fancy shop that I rented in London, and it was my first exposure in the retail and fashion environment. Jewellery was my creative outlet.
I even got involved in the Yarraville markets and would do anything to have some freedom and creativity.
I was about four months pregnant when we looked up Seddon, and found a little house. We have never bought a house in Australia before, so hired a tall American boy to buy it for us. We moved into our home in 2008 just before Alex was born, and began setting up our lives in the Inner West.
We often say to ourselves ‘Do you often have imaginary fights on where you would live, if you won a million dollars?’ But our decision was always the same – even if we had all the money in the world we would never leave the Inner West. This is us.
My mental health has always come first, and I’m quite open to talking about it. If I have downtime, I’m open to sharing it verbally, and it’s how I process it.
After Ben came along two years later, I had to pick myself back up again, and that’s where I learnt when you’re a high achiever, it’s hard to tell people your weaknesses. I sought the help of a psychologist, and I now know not to push myself too far.
I lost my confidence after Ben was born. Professionally I really felt like an imposter and I couldn’t do my job. I had a job in ANZ as PA to lawyers. Coming from a management level in banking, I was managing projects, and having to deal with mental health issues. I felt like I had nothing to give anymore.
I went from a High to Low.
I ended up in Footscray Salvos doing admin for two days a week. They didn’t have enough work for me, so one of the women put a job ad out there for me, and that’s how I met Anna.
My husband and I outgrew our Seddon home really quickly as our two boys ARE GIANTS.
We started looking for a new home in 2016 but we didn’t want to leave the Inner West. I’ve always wanted to grow my own veggies, and we found it in our current home in Maidstone. It has five veggie beds, and fruit trees. One of the benefits of travelling is having no shoes on, and having my feet on the earth. It’s grounding, and it’s a contrast to all my thrill-seeking.
One of the side effects of anxiety is anger, and that’s why I was never a good employee. I just do things in my life that gives me joy instead.
Covid wasn’t as hard for me as many people. My husband is in a stable job, and lockdown made me realise how simple things like growing veggies and dropping them off at their doorsteps meant more than going on holidays. I coping very well, and feel more at peace through the most of it.
Covid has also changed me. I realised I don’t need a lot to be happy, and all I need is sunshine and a takeaway coffee. It’s quite a lovely thing for this high-achieving extrovert to finally realise this, at her age!
In 2022, we want to allow ourselves to have a bit of time. We were doing the work for seven people in 2020, and this year is about balancing that out again. I’m so damn tired, and I can’t even explain how tired I am. Post-Covid fatigue is real, and I’ve got so many mums saying ‘Yay I’m out of lockdown.’ but I can’t even be bothered to do anything.
I joined the women’s baseball team two weeks ago, Sunshine Eagles. I felt so nervous then until I felt sick, and once I felt like cancelling. However I wanted to give it a go, and it was the first time I followed through with my decision and actually doing it. That’s what 2022 will be about, and giving myself the opportunity to give joy to myself, apart from work.