North Yorkshire Woman Overcame Agoraphobia And Anxieties To Become An Entrepreneur And Mental Health Advocate
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Last night there was announcement that we must spend 3 weeks inside unless if you are a key worker or shopping for essentials. My Stay calm, Stay safe and Stay connected capmain is to help raise awareness for those who struggle with mental health. As someone who struggles with anxiety, depression and being left in your own thoughts can make things worse, I know first hand how tough these next few weeks are going to be for those in isolation. Many people who struggle with mental health have coping mechanisms to help them get through the day. Whether this be physical activity such as the gym, being around people, getting up and going to work, we will not be able to do these things. My ask is this, if you know of people who struggle with mental health, live on their own or you know those who are going to find this tough, please stay connected. We have a wonderful device that we use everyday, use it to help spread positivity, use it to make calls, texts, whatsapp videos etc. There will be people who need someone to talk to. I have grandparents who are on their own and we finally got them to figure out the whatsapp video so they can see us. Please look after the elderly, look after yourselves and look after others in these current heartbreaking circumstances. Thank you 💕 #mentalhealth #stayclamstaysafestayconnected #covid19
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.
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.
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.
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It's been one month since we moved our Ellington Timepiece in to it's very own headquarters 🎉 We have continued to share our journey from the start as the brand started off in a bedroom with the creator @officialteriellington. Almost two years on we are proud to continue sharing our journey as we grow and continue to help raise awareness for mental health. We cant wait to show you all our new collection very soon 😱 ▪ ▪ "One month in my new office 🙌🎉 The new photo is of me one month on since moving in to my office. I have space to work, no cars going up and down, noise, dog barking or washing machine running! The second photo was of me last year squished up against the wall in my converted garage, with boxes upon boxes and you can see how unhealthy I was, I felt unhealthy. I was struggling with my anxiety, depression, loneliness and was unable to take care of myself properly because I felt exhausted and felt like giving up. You can see the big difference in both photos. 🙌 What ever you are doing, keep pushing and keep believing in yourself. You never know you where you will be in a few weeks or months ✨💃" – Director of Ellington Timepiece, Teri Ellington
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.
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.
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Taking it back to one of our first photos from earlier this year when the Amare collection was born. We are so overwhelmed with how far this brand has come to help raise awareness and the purchases that have been made. We have also loved the comments we have received about not only the awareness but also the compliments to the quality of our watches. We will keep doing out best to keep spreading awareness and keep creating amazing watches that you can be proud to wear 😄❤️
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.
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’.
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Today I choose life! #suicideprevention " I am someone who has had those thoughts, those thoughts that can make you feel alone and that it's better to no longer be here. Suffering from mental health everyday can be exhausting. But you have to remember you are loved, you are not alone and everyday will get easier. " Director of Ellington Timepiece, Teri Ellington. ✨ Wearing the Rose Gold Amare from our Amare collection 🖤 #yourstoryetp
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.