It was during a year of living in Italy a few years ago that Elise Heslop struck upon an idea that has since changed her life. She was living a simpler life with her young family in a smaller home and came across a bunk bed that she appreciated for its design and ethos. Elise took a train trip to Milan to meet the designer who specialised in custom-made plywood homes and furniture made with wooden joins and pegs. “Being out of my comfort zone pushed me to try new things and start conversations without worrying about whether I would fail or succeed,” she says. The result was starting Plyroom in 2013, a business that creates flexible, space-efficient furniture with a low impact on the environment. While Elise and her family have since returned to Melbourne, her time in Italy changed her immeasurably. “We lived in a small village where we started from scratch, which was scary at the time but also liberating,” she says. “Being away from our Melbourne life and having a bit more time as a family meant we started saying yes to new experiences that we probably wouldn’t have tried back home.”
Which five words best describe you? Warm, determined, loyal, honest, self-depricating.
How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I started my career in marketing but always had a notebook for “other” ideas. They ended up taking over my work life. I had to step away from my existing career though to help me broaden my thinking about what I love to do. Marketing was a great foundation for starting a business but jumping in I’ve also realised how much I didn’t know.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? To listen to my instinct which sometimes seems to be the quietest voice. I’ve received some great advice from a diverse range of talented and generous people. What I’ve learnt though is that in the end, only I walk in my shoes and I have to own my decisions and back myself.
What’s your proudest career achievement? Starting Plyroom has been a pretty amazing climb and is definitely a highlight.
What’s been your best decision? Marrying my husband.
Who inspires you? My husband. He’s extremely honest and pragmatic and he always manages to put a new perspective or a big fat reality check on things - sometimes that’s hard, but often it’s what I need.
What are you passionate about? My children. Food. Italy.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I’d love to go back in time and meet my grandparents when they were young, before they had families of their own.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? For years I’ve wanted to walk the Camino de Santiago, but if I can’t get away for long enough I’d happily settle for walking the Bay of Fires in Tasmania.
What are you reading? The Fall by Simon Mawer, WeirDo and Harry Potter with the kids. Plus there’s always a stack of old Kinfolk and Green magazines next to my bed.