REAL TALK: What Happened to M&T?? - (The highs and lows)

For those of you that personally know me, you know that I pride myself on being a positive, optimistic person. Having this mentality is, in my opinion, a good thing - (most) of the time. Having said that though, it has meant that I've struggled in acknowledging the negative experiences that I've encountered as a business owner for fear of them getting me down. It's taken a great deal of courage and time for me to feel as though I can finally open up about the lows my business has encountered, but I truly feel that with all of the highs, it's important to share the struggles too, and in all honesty, just let you (the most valued people in my businesses life) know and understand my journey that does unsurprisingly have, as aptly titled; a lot of highs and lows.


So here it goes, I offer in all its honesty a detailed recap of the highs and lows of M&T's journey to date and my vision for the future to come. I hope you can appreciate me sharing this with you and can understand the strength it's taken to do it.


Before I begin I feel as though I need to take a moment to thank and acknowledge YOU (the people that have taken the time to read this). All of you have been so supportive of me as a person, my dreams, my journey to date, and I feel at times I’ve taken that for granted. I'd like to apologise for that, and now I think I owe it to you, to share this very personal experience because after all, we're in this together, and perhaps my journey can help prepare and motivate someone else that is hoping to risk it all for a dream.


So most of you know how Mallow & Thyme began, but for those of you that don't; M&T was founded in July of 2014 while I was at the ripe young age of 18. I was also, then at the time beginning my first year of a degree in Nutrition Science at QUT and decided to register the business in my midyear break.


Throwing back to my days spent as a child, I was always enthralled by stones, crystals and anything shiny. When it came to jewellery I was encouraged from a young age to make the most of my arts and crafts and found most of my free time was taken up either by painting or jewellery making.


"Started from the bottom now we're here". - DRAKE


In all seriousness though, my jewellery-making did progress - as I got older, I moved away from plastic beads and discovered the shiny beauties that were "Swarovski Crystals". I fell in love with their unrivalled quality and dazzling sparkle. From there I began incorporating natural gems and stones into my work until finally my love for chunky crystals and jewellery fused into the creations that are Mallow & Thyme's signature crystal necklaces. I began the label initially as a hobby but within a few months watched it grow to become an income source that I used to partially support myself with whilst at Uni.


Things were going well at this stage, I was seeing continued growth financially and my social media platforms were filling with positive feedback from people around the world. It was approx. 4 months later that I received an email from a stylist who represented Ashlee Simpson her partner Evan Ross, and Vanessa Hudgens. She requested I make pieces up for each of them and thrilled with the offer I obliged happily. The prospect that my childhood idol (Vanessa Hudgens - Actor - High School Musical) would possibly where my jewellery seamed too good to be true, and in all honesty, it was. Although pieces were sent to all three celebrities, we've only seen paparazzi shots of Ashlee and Evan wearing the jewellery in public. With that said, I didn't let that dull my outlook.


I continued to juggle University and the Business however was slowly becoming aware of the inevitable fact that my business may have been growing and succeeding but I was falling back when it came to my studies. I saw a cross roads in the inevitable future but chose to ignore it - at least for a little while longer anyway!


(With hindsight, I'm glad I chose to ignore it, as one of my greatest business milestones would not have occurred if I didn't.) In early January of 2015 I received an email, which was essentially an invitation to take my business over to Los Angeles in late February to be a part of a gifting ceremony that was held to commemorate the Academy Awards/ Oscars. Once again, I couldn't believe my luck! How could these amazing things be happening to me? As part of the deal, I was expected to pay a large amount of money to the organisers, and in return I was provided with a stall and a position in their ceremony where I would be able to showcase my products to these important people, meeting celebrities face to face, where I could chat with them and gift them with (in my case) a Mallow & Thyme crystal necklace. A little naïve at the time, I thought this was an opportunity of a lifetime - and from my perspective, it was.


Australian news bodies caught wind of the story and it swept across the nation. I found myself doing interviews with reporters from large newspapers, radio stations to the breakfast morning television program 'The Weekend Today Show". All the publicity was doing wonders for the label and I saw a rise in interest from the Australian population. Understandably, as more people became aware of the business so too did the amount of negative feedback from random individuals.

I began receiving horrible Facebook messages from people who felt I needed to hear the terrible things they had to say. These comments and messages hit hard, some of which I still feel have left irreparable emotional damage. To an 18-year-old that wasn't used to experiencing such negativity, it was difficult...

Thankfully, I had a strong support network around me from family to friends that countered the negativity and gave me strength. It is only with them that I pushed on and managed to make it to the States.


We arrived a few days prior to the Academy Awards and spent the time organising and preparing our stall. As the day rolled around I didn't know what to expect but I thought there was nothing I could do but stay true to myself and let my light shine through as I met these people.

"Celebrities" started arriving to the event and as the day progressed I was beginning to learn that many were B and C grade for lack of a better word and the anticipation I had for who may have arrived was brought back down to earth.

Even though the event didn't meet my initial expectations, I still retained my positive attitude and made the most of each person that I spoke to, grateful that they gifted me with their time to be there in the first place – and there were some wonderful people.


I had the privilege of meeting celebrity stylists, Television hosts and frankly just people that knew people.

I had agents that wanted to represent me - whether it came to acting, modelling or television, they were offering it all but sadly, I couldn't accept it... I had a life that I had to come back to... A lecture that I would walk into literally the day that I walked off the plane arriving in Brisbane. Even though things could have been very different, the decision I made is inevitably the path I travelled down and I believe everything happens for a reason.


Arriving back in Australia, I was interviewed by reporters who eagerly awaited to hear about what happened, who I met, and who wore my jewellery on the red carpet. Even though I had met all of these amazing people and had experienced such an incredible opportunity I felt anxious and ashamed to tell the nation that it didn’t live up to their expectations. In a way, I felt as though I had let my country down. That I somehow wasn't good enough - I didn't meet enough A grade celebrities...

I know it sounds silly now, but to feel like you've let people down is one of the hardest feelings I've come to experience.


With interviews completed and interest waning, I came back to reality with a THUD. I had been soaring through life on such a high frequency attracting good people and good things to me and landing back home, reality painfully struck. I was forced to pull myself together pretty quickly as I had a 9am lecture I was expected to walk in to.


Can you recall that cross road I mentioned earlier? Well, unfortunately it had made its inevitable appearance once again, but this time it had to be dealt with.

Reality was hard to come to terms with, I wanted to go about living my creative adventure but felt the responsibility to finish my degree.


...and so, my decision was made...


At that time, in my second year, I decided I would knuckle down and complete my studies.


All of the momentum and excitement I had managed to build over my brand slowly fell away over the coming months and later year, as I put my energy into study. Although I continued to take orders I could feel my energy drain away from the brand and so too, people's focus.


It was towards the end of 2015 that I learnt someone had nominated me for 'Business Woman of the Year' in the Downs Region of Australia. Taken aback that someone had thought so highly of me I was overcome with love for my following. I conducted my interview and was later announced winner of the 'Rising Star Award'. To be considered on par with the awe-inspiring women I met through the event is incredibly humbling.


Time passed, and I found myself in my third year of Uni. Nothing much had changed with the brand and I was disappointed to see it plateau, however I was closer than ever to the completion of my degree! I was itching to finish and finally throw myself into the opportunity that lay with my brand Mallow & Thyme. The day finally came and on the 15th of December 2016, I graduated!!! With the love and support of my family and friends around me, I had made it…


So, there I found myself, officially out in the real world, free to do and be whatever I wanted to be and yet there was still some sort of barrier that held me back.

Physically there was nothing stopping me, but mentally, I was holding myself back. All of the fear of disappointment and rejection came flooding back to me.


What if I wasn't good enough to achieve what I'd dreamed for myself?

What if I've missed my window of opportunity and it's too late?

Other people don't think it's a good idea...

What if they're right? Maybe I do need to settle and fall in line with the status quo and get a job like everyone else?


This mental barrier would roll over and over in my mind, holding me back, an excuse that kept me safe yet away from my dreams.


So here we arrive at my present day reality. I can say this journey has been filled with equally highs and lows but now I have regained clarity and conviction of my future. With a new luxury line about to be launched the business is moving in a positive direction once again.


I have decided that I will no longer hold myself back from doing what I love in fear of what other people’s opinions are.


I choose to live a life full of happiness because I will be living it as the most truthful and authentic version of myself.


I acknowledge that there have and may be future set-backs but I will not let them keep me down for long.


I choose to live out my dream and step past my fear because human life is too short and too fickle to do anything else!


So thanks again, my family, my friends, customers and the people who haven't even met me for your unwavering support. I now see that that's always been there for me.

Now it's time for me to believe in myself the way you all do.


I finally believe once again I can achieve anything I set my mind to and have the strength and fortitude within myself to overcome future barriers.


Let’s draw strength from one another and clarity in ourselves.


We are marvelous beings, and the potential for our futures are infinite.


Sending Love and Light to each and every person that reads this.


Have a beautiful Day, Week, Year, & Life.

Love Tiona