Hey there! I am Kristin, the owner and one woman show behind Ella Winston Co! And that handsome man is my husband of nearly 8 years, Mike. This year I have tasked myself with stepping outside of my comfort zone. Typically, I just hide behind the computer (or sewing machine) but I think it's important to stop hiding and let you see the real me. This post is deeply personal for me. I am opening up about personal struggles I faced early in our marriage and how that lead to creating this business, Ella Winston Co.
Here we go...
I remember the day like it was yesterday. Mike and I were planning on making a big move from the Bay Area to Las Vegas. It was two weeks before we were supposed to pack up our lives and move. We were enjoying doing all our “lasts” before we left. Mike suggested we head out to Half Moon Bay and eat at our favorite restaurant right on the water. Of course, the meal was delicious and after dinner we drove up the coastline until Mike stopped at the beach where we had our first date. It was so romantic and thoughtful but I never saw what was coming.
We were sitting there on the beach watching the waves crash and I leaned over and said “I love you.” He replied with: “are you sure?” I just laughed because he always jokes like that. Then he pulled a little black box out of his pocket. I knew what it was instantly and just started crying… I am not even sure what he said after I saw the box but at some point I said yes.
We were on cloud 9 for 6 months, planning our wedding and discovering a new city together. That is until the day a doctor discovered something in one of his lungs. Three weeks to the day before our wedding he was sent to the hospital for an emergency lung biopsy. I still remember sitting on the floor in his home office crying as he was telling me where he kept all his important papers just in case he didn’t make it. That is not a situation most brides are prepared to deal with just weeks before they get married.
He made it out of the surgery with no real diagnosis (that came 2 years later!). Even though he was still recovering we had our wedding and it was perfect. Fun, emotional, magical, it was everything we both wanted. That day stood out as a beacon of light for both of us as we walked through this darkness of his health crisis, and later infertility struggles, for many years.
You always hear that the first year of marriage is hard, but nothing could have prepared me for what we were going through. During this “newlywed” period of our lives I desired an escape. I needed to do something that would occupy my mind. Take it away from the fear and anxiety that I felt every single day, worrying about what might happen, wondering what our future would look like, wondering if we would ever be able to have kids. I have always been a creative person, so I took over a spare bedroom and made it into my craft room.
I began sewing together clutches (small bags) just for myself to use. After I made a couple, Mike said “you should sell them.” I quickly poo-pooed his comment saying, “nobody would buy them.” I had absolutely no confidence in myself or my ability to make something beautiful. But I continued to create and eventually I felt like they were nice enough to give away as gifts to friends and family.
I made one for my cousin who had a wedding coming up and gave it to her as a gift at her bridal shower. It went over well and after she was done opening her gifts one of her mother in law’s friends came up to me with tears in her eyes and said she had to buy one from me for her daughter’s wedding. That’s how I made my very first sale! I couldn’t believe it! First of all, someone actually wanted to BUY what I made and secondly that it actually made her cry (which of course made me cry)! That was the sign I needed. It was time to open my shop!
I didn’t know the first thing about selling products online. I was nervous and scared about what others might think of my products. I down played my store for a long time (4-5 years!), saying it was just a hobby and a little side business. Deep down I wanted this store to be successful, I wanted to contribute to my family in a significant way. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do this. I also really wanted to take the stress of providing for our family off my husband’s shoulders since stress was terrible for his disease.
So, I set goals and started taking action. That first year (Aug 2012 – Dec 2012) I wanted to sell 20 clutches. I ended up selling 28! I was so excited! I thought if I could do 28 clutches in essentially one quarter of the year, I bet I could sell 100 bags next year. So that was my goal, sell 100 clutches in 2013. I ended up crushing that goal and sold 834 clutches that first full year (yes, I still remember the exact number because it was a HUGE deal!).
There have been many times when I think back about how far I have come from that first sale and I just wish I could reach out and hug all those brides who trusted ME with providing them a clutch for their wedding. They believed in me and my products before I truly every believed in myself.
Today, my business has expanded and grown in ways that I could never have known when I first started. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s always been worth it. Through health scares and years of infertility struggles this business and the brides I have worked with have truly given me so much light and positivity. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to serve my customers every single day.
I know how important the memory of a perfect wedding day was for me and my husband. My goal is to provide an exceptional experience for all the brides who choose my accessories so that their wedding day, and all the memories around that day, are also exceptional. You never know what life will throw at you and having beautiful heirloom keepsakes from your wedding day could brighten whatever dark day you might be having years later.
I want to provide all my brides with a wonderful experience they will never forget. I want to provide them with accessories they can make memories in that will last a lifetime. Accessories that they can pass down to their daughters or granddaughters one day.
The best part for me has been celebrating with my customers. Being just a teeny tiny part of their wedding day brings me so much joy. I share in their excitement which makes it thrilling for me to get to work for them every day. I want every bride who chooses my accessories over any others to feel special, appreciated and valued.
One a personal note, Mike’s health is stable now and we have two beautiful, healthy, happy little girls who are the loves of our lives.
If you have actually read to this point, thank you for hanging in there! I'd like to offer you a FREE download of my top 3 things you should know before you purchase your bridal garter. You can sign up and download it here