Steffanie Ball was an interior designer on maternity leave with a busy mind and idle hands. To scratch her creativity itch, she began selling vintage furniture on Instagram. That business has now blossomed into En Gold, her line of neutral, minimal-chic homewares crafted by family artisans in the Phillipines. Not content running just one business, she has also recently founded YŌLI, a range of towels and body care products designed to emphasise bathing as a moment of quiet ritual to be enjoyed. Here, she tells us about some of the business struggles she has weathered (including pandemics and natural disasters) with the help of her community, the matte lipstick she buys in bulk, the beauty brands founded by fellow Melbourne mums that she uses daily, and how love has taught her to appreciate growing older.

“I grew up by the beach on the Mornington Peninsula, about an hour outside of Melbourne. At the time it wasn’t a very multicultural place, so I often found myself unsure of where I fit in.

Both of my parents had migrated to Australia – my dad from Austria and my mum from the Philippines. They raised me with strong influences from each of their cultural backgrounds; I very much felt my Austrian and Filipino roots. I was always very connected to the foods, traditions, values and communities of both countries. They were very hardworking business owners; my Dad had a computer business and my mum had a gourmet food delicatessen called Steffanie’s Fine Foods. She used to conduct Simon Johnson cooking demonstrations and bring a lot of the iconic gourmet food names to the Mornington Peninsula.

Once I was old enough, I worked with both them after school and on the weekends. Seeing first-hand the stress, challenges and long hours that came with business ownership, I swore I would never run my own… but I guess it was inevitable I would one day be here! Now, I am able to reflect on my parents’ journeys as business owners. I use their experiences as a learning tool to shape how I can do things in ways that work best for me.

There have been some incredibly challenging periods on this journey with En Gold.

Being an e-commerce brand selling unique, handcrafted, fragile, heavy products that ship nationwide is not easy. It was particularly tough during the pandemic, which caused major shipping delays, in addition to the unprecedented hurdles many of us had never experienced before.  On top of that, I gave birth to our second baby in April 2020, and we experienced a super typhoon in the Philippines. The typhoon completely devastated our community and wiped out our factory (along with many customer orders) beyond repair, which was overwhelming for myself and my team. We had to be agile and come up with creative solutions, while navigating some crazy challenges. There were many days that I considered giving up, however, my community in the Philippines always pulled me through.

Our workshop provides income for 120 families. We have generations of fathers, sons, mothers and daughters, including my own family, who are dedicated to this artistry. So I know first-hand the positive impact we are making by supporting our community. Increasing this positive impact motivated me to start The Hiraya Foundation, a non-profit foundation that directly supports the regions where our pieces are made.

I am so grateful I work with my husband. What we have experienced being in this business together has made our relationship stronger. We now have an incredible team we work with that believes in our mission and is excited by what we do. I have learned that the people you surround yourself with mean everything, especially during challenging times.

Steff with her Great Dane, Beau

I am extremely connected to the mission and vision of my businesses. I have a very strong value system, and my connections to my community and my heritage shape many of the decisions I make throughout my life.

I love to support goods that are produced with intention and skill. This influences all sorts of products I purchase, from fashion to skincare… even to food.

The most fulfilling part of this journey has been, on one side, to be present in my workshop, and then, on the other side, to connect with our community; there is just so much gratitude and appreciation from both sides. Through En Gold, I have been able to create a platform that transparently shares the story and creativity of our artisans, which has never been done before. Standing in our workshop and watching my designs come to life with so much intricacy and skill is magical, and never gets old.

The only real downside is that there’s never enough time to do everything we want to do in a given day, is there? I am a very goal-driven person, and have so much I want to achieve, but don’t always have the time or resources to do it all right away. I am a typical headstrong, impatient Aries, so trusting the process and giving myself time to get to where I want to be is always something I am working on.

I have a very active addiction to skincare products.

I’m particularly interested in ‘natural’ or vegan products, and anything that helps to bring the day spa experience home. I’m also into anything that can keep me looking and feeling fresh and bright. Recently I have started using the So Bright Serum by Ofia Skin, which has become a staple in my daily routine, and the beautifully considered products by Gracious Minds. Both Ofia Skin and Gracious Minds are brands owned by Melbourne mums and make divine products, so I love supporting them. I also like Vanessa Megan products, which help me reach my day-spa-at-home goals.

I always cleanse morning and night, followed by a serum. In the morning I use the So Bright Serum by Ofia Skin, as it makes me feel fresh and bright for the day. Then I use a gua sha tool with the Gracious Minds Green Genes Regenerate Hydration Superfood Face Cream. In the evening I use the N.E.O. 12 Hour Miracle Oil by Vanessa Megan, as I like to have it working its magic while I sleep. I follow this with Chanel Le Lift Eye Cream to prevent fine lines, and then moisturise with Vanessa Megan’s Marine Collagen Firming Night Cream.

My mum never leaves the house without her makeup done. When I was growing up, she was known for her signature red lipstick.

Although I am not always as diligent as she is – I like to go barefaced on the weekends if I am not doing anything – I have definitely adopted her love for a good lipstick. Now, I never leave the house without wearing my Sunnies Face Fluffmatte Lipstick. It is hands down the best matte lipstick on the market. I have every single colour, but Nudist is my go-to. Every time I go to the Philippines I stock up to gift them to my friends and team.  Sometimes I’ll do a quick, easy, natural-looking makeup trick, and use it on my lips as well as on my cheeks and eyelids.

I start every morning with exercise, and then begin my YŌLI bathing ritual, which focuses on calming the senses.

I turn the lights off, light a scented candle and play the YŌLI bathing ritual’s playlist. I make the most of these 15 minutes in the morning to calm and centre myself before my busy day kicks off. Being a mum of two children and of two brands often means this sweet time in the shower is my only quiet time to myself for the whole day. We have a very loud household, so I really crave those moments of calm.

Once my time in the bathroom is up, I am straight into getting the kids ready, packing school lunches and getting out the door. After drop off I head into the office, straight into morning meetings. At the other end of the day, it’s all about unwinding. At bedtime, I always meditate and practice breathing exercises to release stress and tension.

I make it a priority to exercise almost every day, but I also very much listen to what my body is telling me.

I get up at 5:30am each morning and go straight our home gym to exercise. I am a Peleton devotee and usually mix it up between strength/weight training, cycling and yoga. If I feel tired, I will choose yoga, which is less tough on my body. I have been practising for many years. I attended the International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh, India, in my early twenties, with plans to one day pursue a career as an instructor. And although that is not ultimately where my path led me, I do still love connecting with my practice as much as possible.

I have been a vegetarian or vegan for more than 20 years. I was very young when I decided meat was not for me – long before I had learned of the health benefits of a plant-based diet. I have never had to supplement any of my vitamin levels; my body really thrives on this type of diet. I feel very grateful for that, as this way of eating is better for my health and for the planet.

The actual concept of ageing doesn’t bother me too much. The older I get and the more I have experienced, the more comfortable I become with myself.

When I was younger, I was overly critical and insecure about my body and every single flaw, but after having children I have a new, empowered sense of respect for my body. This respect brings with it a bit more forgiveness for those imperfections. I do experiment with preventative treatments to try to maintain healthy, youthful skin as best I can, but I won’t cry over a few wrinkles.

My husband and I have been married for almost 14 years, and it helps me keep things in perspective knowing how much I love looking at him and seeing how we are growing older together.

I really enjoy infrared saunas, mineral bathing and getting a massage once a week. Massage is only great for the body, but it also helps to relax the mind and soul.  

A visit to a day spa, bathhouse or hot springs is one of my favourite things to do when every part of me is craving some time to switch off. Two of my favourites are Alba Thermal Springs and Sense of Self.

I also really love painting, which I have done my whole life. I pour a glass of wine, put on some music and put my brush to canvas. I may not be the next Frida Kahlo, but I value the relaxation and creativity it allows.”

Story by Zoe Briggs. Imagery supplied by En Gold.

This article was produced in partnership with En Gold.

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