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North Yorkshire Woman Overcame Agoraphobia And Anxieties To Become An Entrepreneur And Mental Health Advocate

by : Emily Brown on : 15 Apr 2020 12:31
North Yorkshire Woman Overcame Agoraphobia And Anxieties To Become An Entrepreneur And Mental Health AdvocateTeri Ellington/Ellington Timepiece/Instagram

A young entrepreneur managed to overcome mental health struggles and anxiety to set up her own business through which she now shares her story, encouraging others to open up about their issues. 

When you struggle with your mental health, it can be so debilitating that the prospect of achieving even the smallest goal seems insurmountable.

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Teri Ellington, from North Yorkshire, is now the director of watch brand Ellington Timepiece Limited. At 24 years old, she has developed the brand from nothing more than an idea to selling limited edition, luxurious and affordable watches – but it hasn’t been an easy journey.

Teri showing off watch designsTeri Ellington

Teri experienced her first panic attack when she was just 16 years old, after she finished filming one night for a BBC children’s TV show on which she worked as an actor.

The acting opportunity had been her dream, but the panic attack changed her so much that she felt ‘almost like a different person’. From that point Teri constantly felt anxious, going on to develop agoraphobia, meaning she struggled to ever leave the house.

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She sat her GCSE exams at home and missed out on prom due to her anxieties, and after spending the following summer at home she started to struggle with depression and developed an eating disorder from the fear of choking on food.

Teri Ellington posing with watchTeri Ellington

Teri spoke to doctors about her struggles, but they told her she ‘was young and would get over it’. For the next two years, Teri would take each day as it came and focused on developing her own coping mechanisms.

When she was 17, Teri’s family welcomed a German Shepherd puppy named Sheba, who helped Teri get out of the house and, with the help of medication, overcome her agoraphobia.

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Teri told UNILAD:

When Sheba came in to my life I had no routine, I was struggling with my anxiety and mental health. Sheba helped me be able to have the confidence to leave the house again.

Teri Ellington and dog ShebaTeri Ellington

Teri also received help from her family, including her father, who has struggled with mental health himself in the past, and her grandfather – a collector of watches.

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In 2017, Teri was looking to buy a watch, but she struggled to find anything affordable she liked. After growing up around watches thanks to her grandfather, she toyed with the idea of designing her own – something ‘unique and special’.

Towards the end of 2017, Teri lost her job and decided she had ‘nothing left to lose’. She used her remaining £80 to purchase her first watch sample, despite having no experience in retail, design or business.

Teri creating watchesTeri Ellington

After managing to overcome her agoraphobia, the young entrepreneur used the fact she’d been able to combat her fears as a driving force. She contacted factories and started designing her first collection, and took her business plan and design to a local company that helped start up small businesses.

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Teri was able to secure funding, and the following month she created the Sheba Collection, named in honour of the dog who ‘practically helped [her] get [her] life back’.

She told UNILAD:

Not only do I love her name, but when I started my business I never thought it would be where it was today, and I named it as a personal way of saying thank you to her. The Sheba Collection was a three-different-colour-design, and I thought [her name] fit perfectly.

Teri Ellington celebrating birthday with dog ShebaTeri Ellington

Teri designed a website for her business, and within months started selling to neighbours and advertising by knocking on doors and posting leaflets.

Before long she was able to secure a pop-up stand at a department store, but Teri continued to struggle with social anxiety and was worried about how she would try to convince strangers to buy her product.

She recalled:

I started my brand in my bedroom with no knowledge or experience… You see the likes of Dragons Den and Lord Sugar and it becomes very daunting, and I was worried I wasn’t cut out for the business world – given I struggle with anxiety, I had lot of self-doubt.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to speak to people, let alone show and sell my watches.

I would walk up to complete strangers and ask if they would like to see my watches. Some did, some didn’t, but I was standing next to other brands who were so established and it was extremely daunting.

Teri stood in front of Ellington Timepiece billboardTeri Ellington

Though she was nervous at first, within a matter of hours Teri sold her entire stock. She had a line of people wanting to buy her watches, and she started telling people about her mental health struggles.

Teri continued:

The people I spoke to also opened up about their own struggles or told me a loved one struggled. It made me realise just how important it is to talk about mental health.

Over the course of a few months I started receiving emails, comments and messages from people telling me they were purchasing my watches as a gift for a loved one.

Ellington Timepiece watchesEllington Timepiece

Once the Sheba Collection sold out, Teri went on to create new designs for the current Amare Collection, which means ‘to love’ in Latin. The Amare Collection is made up of 600 watches, each with its own certificate of authenticity.

Teri further shared her story online, with a post in which she spoke about the struggles that come with running a businesses: the cashflows, the marketing, and struggling with mental health. Within three days the post reached almost two million people, and she received messages from people all over the world talking about their own struggles in business and with mental health.

The journey hasn’t been straightforward, and Teri had to sacrifice a lot to get her business off the ground. She sold her belongings to help fund Ellington Timepiece, and would stay in and save rather than seeing friends, which made her feel lonely and depressed and brought on panic attacks. Just over two years on, however, and Teri has moved in to her own offices and taken on members of staff.

She recalled:

I slept on the sofa for a number of months because my bed broke, and rather than buying a new one I used the money I had to put back into the business.

My strength has come from remembering how far I have come, from struggling to leave the house to starting the business and going out of my comfort zone.

Teri Ellington showing off watchTeri Ellington

There have been people who didn’t believe in Teri along the way, and those kinds of reactions would knock her confidence. She questioned whether she was capable, but eventually she stopped trying to prove herself to others.

She described her dad as the main supporter of her business, and when she was first starting out he came to meetings and taught her what it meant to run a company.

From being at a point where she couldn’t leave the house or even eat without fear, Teri believes creating her brand has allowed her to show herself what she is capable of and helped her deal with her anxieties.

Teri explained:

It’s given me confidence that I never knew existed. I went from a shy, reserved person that couldn’t even pick up the phone to make an appointment for myself, to now being a mental health advocate and business speaker, speaking at events and doing interviews.

I’m only human, I still struggle from time to time and sometimes need to take a moment to slow down. I think a lot of entrepreneurs and businesses owners will agree with me on this, we can burn ourselves out if we push ourselves too much – it’s finding that balance.

I still struggle with social anxiety; going to events and meetings are still are daunting but I’ve learned to manage.

Through Ellington Timepiece, Teri began sending out little notes of inspiration to her customers and started the hashtag ‘YourStoryETP’ (Ellington Timepiece) to encourage others to share their own stories.

The brand has gone on to work with charities such as the Redcar Lifeboat Station, and Teri hopes to expand with a second Sheba collection to continue to raise awareness for mental health and give proceeds to the mental health charity MIND.

Discussing the response she’s had to opening up about her own struggles, Teri said:

When I first started my brand, I was extremely nervous talking about my own story with mental health and what I went through. I was worried about what others thought of me. I kept my mental health struggles to myself for a long time…

Once I had opened up about my story and more people started to see it, the more messages I was receiving about how my story has helped others to open up. It was, and still is, an amazing feeling to know that I could be potentially helping someone.

Teri at RNLI lifeboat charityTeri Ellington

Teri continued:

As the brand and story became more known I received emails, messages and comments from both men and women of different ages.

Some people ask for advice, some people tell me their story, and some people tell me of loved ones who have struggled. Most of the time I receive messages from a lot of people in the entrepreneur and self-employed community talking about mental health.

She hopes her story will be a source of inspiration for anyone struggling with mental health, as she knows how restricting it can feel. She pointed out that although ‘some days are better than others’, it is possible to achieve your dreams ‘despite where you come from or what you’ve been through’.

Hopefully Teri’s brand will continue to grow and raise awareness for the importance of opening up about mental health, and for the fact that overcoming struggles can be used as motivation for success.

If you’re experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They’re open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58 and they also have a webchat service if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone.

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: Featured, Anxiety, Business, depression, Eating Disorder, Mental Health

Credits

Ellington Timepiece
  1. Ellington Timepiece

    Ellington Timepiece