It’s another scorching Darwin day. The “build-up” is in full swing, but the villa oasis that Ross and Sally Willsher call home is a little piece of heaven.
The sounds of water trickles over a rock water feature beside us into a crystal blue pool setting the scene for an afternoon escape. Baby Nalu is paddling around in the nude when I manage to steal a few minutes with Mum.
Sally is happy and excited. She’s spent the day organising photography for new season collections in amongst making sure Nalu is happy. I can still see the wheels turning inside her head as she runs through her to-do list.
“I really don’t know how I manage [Sally chuckles], I wish there were more hours in the day”. Sally says about balancing being a mother, a wife, a business owner and a designer.
“I think when you’re a Mum you learn to just manage. I didn’t realise how much time I had on my hands before I had Nalu! But the love of a child is like no other. It’s worth it, that connection you gain once you become a Mum”.
Over the past five years Sally and her husband Ross have grown a small jewellery business that travelled the markets into a thriving brand with besotted customers across the globe.
“It’s been pretty crazy but we have loved it. We never imagined that missing that yoga class, deciding to take a stroll through Star Village and coming across a for lease sign would lead us here. The universe is amazing”.
When Ross and Sal met at just 24 years of age they were both filled with wanderlust and ready to embark on an adventure. What started as just a hobby for a young Sally, putting little bits and pieces together and sharing with friends and family became a way of life.
For seven years the couple travelled Australia in a motor home with their 3 dogs, following the market and festival trail and culturing life-long Embella lovers everywhere they stopped.
Eventually the pair settled in Darwin to become a permanent fixture at some of Australia’s most iconic markets here in the Top End and swapped their motor home in for a gorgeous little villa.
“I was just saying to Ross this morning walking along the beach that it’s incredible how far we have come over the years. From life on the road to owning our own home and transforming it into this beautiful tropical villa lifestyle that we are all about.”
Ross has single handedly crafted a space for the family to live and love. Soft grey decking, tropical palms and succulents, carefully placed rows of tiny aqua tiles.
“It’s just been an incredible journey. And now we have our beautiful son Nalu, we’re home”.
Nalu, meaning wave in Hawaiian is a cheeky and bright 17 month old. Out of the corner of my eye I see him sneak up to the table and reach out for my keys.
“I’m glad we did so much travelling before we started a family as things are definitely a bit different now! It’s certainly not as easy to just jump on a plane and take a trip overseas to source new stones”.
The Embella brand has become a force to be reckoned with over the past few years, but Sally and Ross have never forgotten their roots. A lot of what makes the jewellery so impactful is the effort they have put into sourcing stones and silver from all over the world, and not settling for anything that isn’t ethically sourced and of the highest quality.
“There are people we met 10-15 years ago on our journeys that to this day we still go to for our materials. We’ve built these great relationships with them and know exactly where it’s sourced from, where they’re cut, and the great quality they will deliver. It’s so important to have those people around you”.
Having spent a few weeks visiting the Embella store myself and watching how customers interact with the brand online, it’s clear that Embella have developed a strong bond with their clients. Customers constantly send the team love and appreciation, they drop by the Darwin boutique to say goodbye when their holidays are over, and they joke with newcomers welcoming them to “their new obsession”.
“We just try and stay true to ourselves and what we love, and it is so great that so many people connect with that. We’ve come up with a range that people from all walks of life can carry with them, and most importantly we have tried to create something that works for true wanderers. Not something that will be ruined by the salt, sand or surf. It’s for true Earthgirls”.
I ask Sally about her inspiration and she thinks hard for a moment.
“To be honest, I think my inspiration shifts as the years go by. As I grow, and the world grows and our adventures bring new people, places and stones into our frame of mind.
“A large part will always come back to the earth and the water though. I am always pulled towards those greens and blues and yellows of the tropics. Especially the blue! Anything to do with waves. You know that cool, calming feeling when you’re in the water? That’s how I want my jewellery to feel”.
Embella have new and exciting adventures on the horizon. With the opening of a second store in the past few weeks in the Star Village and a third store in the works for the east coast of Australia (yippee!!) late 2018.
“The past few years have been extraordinary, but so overwhelming. I still need to find time to breathe and find myself every now and then and just connect with why we pour our hearts into this” Sally says on how she has coped with scaling a successful brand at such a fast pace.
“I’m always thinking about the next journey, next design, next roster [Sally chuckles], so it can be hard to switch off.
“I need to exercise everyday, whether it’s pilates or yoga, or taking Kirra and Nalu on a big walk by the ocean. Exercise really helps to quieten the mind and give your mental wellbeing a refresh”.
And if any of you are thinking of turning your passion into a way of life like Sal;
“Go for it. Have faith in yourself. You always have your ups and downs but you will always have support. Always think positive and trust the universe”