Nearly 20 years ago, Elizabeth 'Lizzy' Abegg of the hugely successful Australian fashion brand Spell and myself, sat at a local cafe with paper and pen, furiously brainstorming and scribbling away our business ideas. That passion-fuelled exercise was the little seed that formed Calmer Sutra Tea.
Six months after we founded the business together, Lizzy left for Sydney pursuing her career in video editing and I continued Calmer Sutra Tea solo. Eventually, Lizzy moved to Byron Bay on a whim to join forces with her beautiful and talented sister Isabella 'Spell' and got their fashion brand off and running.
This kinship between fellow women entrepreneurs (whom I’ve had the pleasure of working and playing with) is a special one. So I sat down for a Chai & Chat with Lizzy to find out more and here's what she had to say...
Lizzy Abegg, Spell's co-founder.
First and foremost...tea or coffee?
Back when we were ‘younger’ adults, you always had the reputation of being the ‘ideas girl’! (Gosh, I used to love it when you had a lightbulb moment). Do you believe this characteristic to be significant when it comes to the success of Spell?
Haha, so funny you remember that about me because it’s what I still fondly refer to myself as. Mostly because it was what my Mum used to call me, her 'little ideas girl'. I definitely believe it has played a huge part in my role at Spell.
Trip down memory lane, circa 2002.
I’m taking a punt that you still have plenty of ideas swirling around your head. Do you ever get tempted to start a new venture?
I do get tempted. I've often thought about a new fashion brand that would sit under our umbrella, but then I think oh goodness I'm too old for that! I have so many ideas – but of course, an idea is nothing until it's implemented. Anyone can have an idea, and it's my team who often bring those ideas to fruition. But yes, I do wonder what the next season of my life will be one day and what ideas are still yet to be hatched!
You and your sister Spell are so wildly different, while still being so connected. Do you ever clash when it comes to business ideas and who has the final say?
We don’t clash, but we do give each other a wild amount of autonomy. She designs and while I often have an opinion, she’s the boss there so I trust her. And I run the other side of the business and we really just respect each other's roles in the business. But yes, we’re worlds apart different! So many similarities and we can often read each other's minds, but so different at the same time.
Spell's Byron Bay store.
Over here at Calmer Sutra Tea, we’re a little obsessed with spices. What’s your favourite spice to use in the kitchen?
Cinnamon! And nutmeg and ginger. I'm all about ones that go with sweet flavours.
Do you have a favourite escape? Luxury or low key?
I love both. I love the luxury of space and time away on my own and I also love being down and dirty out in nature with my family too. My ideal way to escape is camping with my family.
Tell us about your commitment to Mother Earth. What’s the most significant change you’ve made professionally or personally?
We’ve made a lot of changes in our business to try to find balance with Mother Earth - from transitioning away from conventional fabrications to what we call ‘preferred fibres’ (no fibre is totally sustainable so we’re careful not to use that term with materials that ultimately take from the planet), to mapping our supply chain, to reducing and offsetting carbon, to supporting the Climate Council through our giving back program. Personally a big change is getting off-grid at home with solar/batteries and tank water, etc. But next I want to invest in an EV.
Spell's early days when they used to do markets.
You’re a mother of 3 and a business owner. I imagine you must be a busy woman! How do you juggle it all and what do you do to unwind?
I have an amazing team these days so things feel less like a juggle and more balanced. It used to bring me to tears thinking about how much I was working vs. how much time I was spending with my kids. I find pottering around my house while the kids float in and out from under my feet is the nicest way to unwind. It’s nice as they’re getting to the age where they can just be here with me and also play on their own – and I get to pot plants and cook and wander in the garden.
What does your life look like in 5 years time? Will you still be running Spell?
Haha well I’ll be over 50. I don’t know. Will COVID still be around? I hope I’ll be travelling with my family!
And finally - for those out there teetering on the edge of going for it with their business dream, what are your top tips for getting started?
Start with one great product. Don’t wait for it to be perfect just start. (Even though we got that Calmer Chai recipe perfect after that very first batch!) Secondly, collaborate. Don’t get too stuck in your own little bubble, reach out and network with other brands who can offer mutually beneficial partnerships!
Thank you to Lizzy for taking the time to chat with us and sharing such gems of advice! Stay tuned for future interviews and conversations in our Chai & Chats series.
Images by Spell and Calmer Sutra Tea.