These last few weeks have been tough for us all, as we find ways to adjust to this strange new world in our private lives and for many of us, our professional lives too.
For us, running a small independent business, so many difficult decisions had to be made, as we navigated a path between protecting the safety of our staff and customers (both being the life-blood of this company) and keeping the business alive to support us all after these grey clouds lift.
Through all of this, we have taken great comfort in a network of other small businesses around us that we could turn to: to bounce ideas off, to get collective answers on what we should all be doing and just to listen to and support each other. It has been truly uplifting to see everyone come together
So, we have created a series of newsletters titled 'Together With ...' - each dedicated to one of the companies, organisations or individuals that we count not just as friends, but that continually inspire and support us. We want to introduce you to these brands and the people behind them, not only because we think their insights will bring you some joy or wisdom at this time, but also because it is important that we all support each other by doing whatever we can to raise each other's profiles.
Today we are focusing on The Grace Tales, the most beautiful Australian online platforms for Mothers - an inspirational digital hug, that makes us all want to up sticks and move down under.
We first discovered The Grace Tales a few years ago and were instantly drawn in by the informal Australian tone and the concept of a place for women to find style, substance and solidarity. We adore their refreshingly honest and insightful conversations with mothers, be they celebrities, completely extraordinary women, or just one of us, who are all just trying to do the same thing...raising the next generation in the best way we know how!
When we finally met the founder Georgie last year, we discovered a driven entrepreneur, with a wealth of experience and advice to share. Formerly a deputy editor at Australian Vogue, she bravely followed her heart, stepped out alone and created something really special, that has set The Grace Tales apart from the thousands of mummy blogs and online forums out there. She recognised that Mothers could feel isolated and were looking for kinship and community online - everyone wants to know that it is not just them 'winging' it, but that at the same time they also wanted something which reflected them, their lives and their passions. So, The Grace Tales was born as a content - first platform, full of profiles, fashion, beauty, lifestyle, interiors and food - a place where woman can connect.
We are self - confessed aesthetes here at S&B, so we also have to admit that for us, one of the main stand outs is that it is just a beautiful and inspirational place to get lost in.
So, at this time when we are all more isolated than ever and life has slowed down, to afford us the time to explore new things, we really recommend spending some time with The Grace Tales - it will inspire, distract and entertain. Not least because the visual imagery (we love you Julie Adams) is spectacular, and the backdrops in Australia and Los Angeles mainly, feel like a warm hug emanating from the page.
Click here to take a look for yourself and see what we are raving about... or visit their instagram page for daily inspiration.
So we could share some of Georgie's wisdom, we caught up with her, below, to talk about the difficulties of starting your own business and following your dreams, plus why it has all been so worthwhile for her. Enjoy.
Q&A with 'The Grace Tales' founder Georgie Abay.
What inspired you to start The Grace Tales? What were your dreams for the brand when you started?
You know, when I first started it really was a hobby. A passion project. I never thought I'd make a cent out of this business - I didn't know that was even possible. At the time, my head was buried in the world of magazines, which had been my passion and love for so many years.
Ever since I was little, I wanted a career in magazines. I worked my way up the ladder in Sydney, via London and Dubai, to finally land my dream job of deputy editor and fashion features director at Australian VOGUE, under Edwina McCann, who is still the editor and the best boss I ever had.
After I had my firstborn, I came up with the idea for The Grace Tales - a chic online destination for mothers which was as beautiful as a magazine, but filled with honest, heartfelt stories of women from all over the world, along with style inspiration.
I remember meeting photographer Julie Adams for coffee. I told her about my idea and asked if she'd shoot stories for me. She said yes and to this day, she still shoots profiles for the site (her portraits are spectacular) and we've become great friends and have gone on to create two books tougher.
My dream was for The Grace Tales to become a global destination and that it would make mothers feel supported. I wanted to be part of their motherhood journey. We have run events all over the world, which doesn't really feel real.
Dreams do come true - you just need to be patient.
At the Sydney launch of GRACE magazine. Photography by Grace Alyssa Kyo
What were the biggest changes for you personally leaving the world of fashion journalism?
It's not an easy decision to step away from VOGUE, It's a brand that opens a lot of doors. No one says no to VOGUE, at least they didn't back then.
I travelled all over the world to attend fashion shows and I look back and can't believe some of the things I got to do - Chanel Resort Show in Cannes anyone?
The thing is, this was all pre-kids. My children changed everything. After they arrived I didn't want to travel so much. I didn't want to be in the office until way after their bedtime.
I returned to work after my firstborn (running The Grace Tales on the side), but after a difficult birth and postpartum period with my second baby, which saw me in hospital with multiple blood transfusions, I knew I wouldn't go back - life was too short.
Change is scary, yes, but it's also incredibly exciting.
There I was, by myself, with no publishing empire behind me. Just me and a little website which I ran all by myself.
It was humbling, I've never been one of those people who makes other people get me a sandwich and I made a point of this with all my interns at VOGUE. I was always happy to do any job, which is lucky, because when you run your own business, you're both the CEO and the assistant.
Ultimately, I stepped away from print at the right time and found a new career in digital. I'm excited for the future.
A GRACE Talks event in George, Mayfair. Photography by Ana Ruivo
How does working with children differ from working with the Miranda Priestley's of the magazine world?
I actually loved stepping away from fashion magazines. I spent my entire maternity leave in jeans and t-shirts from the high street. I never used to wear high street brands at VOGUE.
I know it's different in the UK, but in Australia the high street isn't as celebrated. I felt like I needed to spend a small fortune on clothes just to look right at work - this might have been in my head, but I think most people would agree that this pressure does exist.
I met my fair share of 'Mirandas', but I was lucky that the last boss I worked for, Edwina, was incredibly kind and approachable. She didn't have the insecurity that so many women in fashion have, which meant she didn't need to make others feel bad to make herself feel good.
My interests were already moving towards the home and I was fascinated by motherhood. I am someone who needs to be passionate about what they do and booking skinny models in sizes I'd never be, plus wearing clothes I couldn't afford...just lost its shine.
When we photograph mothers, I love the conversations we have and the connection that unfolds.
Almost seven years later and I still love working on The Grace Tales.
What tips would you give to anyone looking to make a big career change?
We can talk about following your dreams, but realistically, you need to think about finances first. How are you going to make it work financially and can you afford it?
In my case, I ran The Grace Tales for a year on the side while I was still at VOGUE. It was a hobby.
Only when I knew I could turn it into a business did I resign - so, make sure you have your finances in check. If you think you can get investment, go for it.
Visualise what kind of life you want. For me, I wanted more flexibility and knew I would get that by changing my career.
Finally, what have you got to lose? If it doesn't work out, you can always go back to the job you did before.
Remember that life really is too short - hasn't COVID-19 taught us exactly this?!
Bianca Balti photographed in LA for The Grace Tales. Photography by Julie Adams
In what ways has running The Grace Tales exceeded your expectations? What have been the unexpected joys along the way?
I think the friendships I've made have really been the most wonderful part.
Women who have supported me and worked with me to build this little brand into what it is today.
When I'm feeling down or like what I'm doing is a bit rubbish, they'll lift my spirits. It's so easy to fall into the self-doubt trap. You need a team of cheerleaders to push some positive energy your way.
So, friendships, and then I guess the global reach.
Seeing our book 'Grace Mothers' in both Libertys and Anthropology in London was pretty incredible.
What have been the biggest challenges you have faced?
Honestly, it's funding. I fund the business myself and we are currently pitching to investors.
As a small publisher, you're up against the big guys who have deep pockets and multiple titles in their portfolio. It's hard to compete.
I know we have something unique and our platform is unlike anything out there, which has helped us overcome some of the challenges of being small.
'GRACE MOTHERS - Letters To Our Children' book. Photography by Emmy Etié
We adore Grace Mothers, the table-top book you launched last year - what inspired you to do this? What do you think is the biggest take out from the book?
Publishing Grace Mothers with my co-authors Julie Adams and Claire Brayford was a dream come true.
I never give myself praise, but this book truly is something to be treasured.
The biggest take out is that as a women we all have different journeys and for the most part they're incredibly challenging.
But I love how open and honest women are, because we heal through sharing our vulnerabilities.
What would be your favourite profile / article that you have ever run?
A story of an incredible woman called Peta Murchison who lost her daughter to Batten disease.
We photographed her with her daughter Mia a few times and they are without question the most beautiful images I've ever seen.
Julie Adams photographed Peta and they have become very close friends.
Peta is one of the most elegant, kind, loving, beautiful and remarkable women I've ever met.
It was a privilege to share her story on The Grace Tales to try and raise awareness for this rare degenerative disease.
Peta and Mia Murchison photographed for The Grace Tales. Photography by Julie Adams
We are living through the most incredible of times...How is the business adjusting to this crisis?
The first week was the worst of my career. Honestly, I wondered if I should just call it a day on my business.
Almost all of our advertisers pulled out and there were a few other things that happened which were devastating.
I threw myself a big pity party, cried.. cried some more and then realised that I just needed to get on with it.
There are some great government grants coming in which will help businesses like mine for the next six months and then I hope some normality will return.
We're really focusing on great content and keeping the conversation with our readers going.
We have just launched our first podcast, which I'm slightly nervous about as I have zero experience in podcasts and it's all recorded in my front room.
But 'done' is better than perfect, right?
Has this lockdown in any way effected how you feel about your home - or how you are styling it?
So I've gone slightly into overdrive which I know is driving my husband crazy, but spending so much time at home I'm looking at spaces in a different light.
I've set up a new table at the back of our house which gets flooded with sunlight.
I think sunshine cures everything! I'm also dreaming a lot about dinner parties and table styling - clearly I'm missing my friends and family.
Pandora Sykes photographed for The Grace Tales. Photography by Julie Adams
Do you have any rituals you have put in place to keep your mood up? Do you have a place at home you escape to for some quiet time, to relax and wind down?
Definitely. I exercise pretty much daily - either at the park or I'll do an online 'Body Love Pilates' class.
I've started trying to meditate as much as possible as this helps me calm down. And I've stopped drinking as much.
This sounds like I've gone on a health kick... but in times like this, we need to do what makes us feel good and while I got stuck into the wine rather heavily when this first happened, I quickly realised it wasn't making me feel particularly good or happy.
How are you styling your table at home at the moment?
For me, it all starts with fresh flowers. I miss my trips to the farmers markets. I go weekly usually with my Mum.
Then a great tablecloth (an exquisite one from Summerill & Bishop is the dream of course!) with some beautiful ceramic plates.
When we host, my husband is the cook and I'm the stylist. Right now, I like the lighting dimmed and candles always make a table feel special.
Noëlla Coursaris Musunka photographed at the launch of GRACE MOTHERS at Bonpoint in London. Photography by Ana Ruivo
Who are the eight people (real, fictional, alive or dead) that you would love to invite over for dinner at the moment, if you could?
My nan, my grandmother, both my grandfathers, Whitney Houston, Frida Kahlo, Jacinta Ardern and Jennifer Aniston.
What would you cook for this fantasy dinner party?
I'll have to ask my husband, as I'll get him to do the cooking and I'll do the styling.
Tori Praver photographed in LA for The Grace Tales. Photography by Julie Adams
Finally, we have to ask, are there any pieces from S&B you are coveting at the moment?
We might be here all day...it's hard to pick favourites! I
still remember first discovering Summerill & Bishop and falling in love with the tablecloths - I'd never seen anything like them.
So, to start, a tablecloth from the Rainbow Collection...could there be a happier collection? My gosh we need this right now!
I'd then go for the Stripe Linen Tablecloth in Avocado Green and Pale Pink - these colours together are the dream!
I'll take virtually everything from Astier de Villatte. We once photographed a woman who had her shelves filled with it - it was just like walking into the store in Paris.
And then, so as not to leave out my girls - some gorgeous bespoke duvets with their names on.