An ode to my mum Marie
Written by Elisha, Nisa’s CEO & founder
When people hear about how Nisa got started, they often ask me how I was brave enough to quit my stable job at a law firm to start a social enterprise. This Mother’s Day, I’d like to shine a light on one of the people who gave me the strength and support to build Nisa into what it is today: my mum, Marie.
My mum worked as a journalist, before moving into communications roles at different government agencies. She married my dad and had me in her late 30s. I didn’t have any siblings, which suited me just fine - I loved pretending like I was one of the adults, staying up late at dinner parties and trying to hold my own in conversations (often unsuccessfully).
While mum was dedicated to my musical education, she didn’t really mind how I did in school or at sports. She always told me that I was talented, even when I was demonstrably not (one day, I got a prize for last place in a bicycle race after going so slowly that an ambulance gave me a ride to the finish line). This gave me the confidence to believe in myself, and give anything a go. As an adult, I’m happy to be the dumbest person in the room because I’m stoked to be around people who are better than me and can teach me. I think this comes from my mum and her affirmation of me, and knowing that I wouldn’t be judged if I didn’t succeed at something.
It was this courage and lack of judgement that emboldened me to start an underwear label with no business experience or sewing skills. While my parents were a bit nervous for me, their faith in my abilities encouraged me to make the leap. I knew that, if I started the business, I wouldn’t be able to pay myself for a couple of years while getting Nisa off the ground. My parents let me move back in with them, rent free, so I could put my heart and soul into building the business.
I distinctly remember one night at the beginning of the journey where I had to top up our underwear stocks to sell at the market the next day. Sewing underwear was hard, given that I was entirely self-taught, and it was even harder that evening because one of the machines was playing up and I had no idea how to fix it. Mum came to the workshop and sat with me until I finished sewing at 2am, just to make me feel like I wasn’t dealing with everything all on my own.
Since then, mum has worn many hats, from tear-wiper to dispatch manager and, recently, workshop beautify-er. Some of you might have met her in our shop. She still comes into the workshop several times a week to help with quality control and making our space look joyful and welcoming. She’s also (quite embarrassingly) Nisa’s top customer outside of our wholesalers. She’s always desperate to be the first to get her hands on a new style, which often involves trying to buy items straight off the production line before they’ve been named and priced! My dad also deserves a shoutout, as he’s Nisa’s handyman and expert DIY-er. I’m so grateful for the love and support of both of my parents.
This Mother’s Day, I’d like to say thanks to my mum - for everything she has given me and continues to give me.