Have you heard the term ‘spoonie’ or ‘The Spoon Theory’? Maybe you are a spoonie or you know someone who is a spoonie? The Spoon Theory is a metaphor used to give a visual representation of a person’s mental and physical energy suffering from chronic illness. The spoons are used as a measure and the method has been accepted worldwide as a tool to help outsiders understand what it is like to live with an illness.
Two fellow spoonies, Dominique Ribeiro Da Silva and Helene Hill, launched The Spoonie Society in Melbourne in 2020 as a means to offer support to the spoonie community. Both women suffer from Endometriosis and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and together joined forces to help others find their voice and raise awareness amongst sufferers and non-sufferers.
Dominique and Helene are chatting with our blog editor, Jacqui Taylor, today about being a spoonie and running, The Spoonie Society, as well as its connection with Nerida Hansen Fabrics.
Hello Dominique and Helene, thanks for joining me for a virtual interview. Let’s start with The Spoonie Society, and for those who do not know what is a spoonie?
Hi there, thanks so much for requesting an interview, we are so excited!
Spoonie is a term used to describe people with a range of conditions, diseases, disabilities and a range of conditions as it is a very inclusive term. The term ‘spoonie’ is based on the 'Spoon Theory' which is a disability metaphor used to give a visual representation that signifies the decreased amount of both mental and physical energy available for activities. These activities can be as simple as washing your hair to going into the office and represent both essential and productive tasks. Each activity requires any given amount of spoons which can only be replaced through rest. Once a person has run out of spoons they are unfortunately only able to rest until they have replenished their spoons. There are so many chronic and invisible illnesses covered under the spoon theory and individuals who suffer from these refer to themselves as Spoonies. We decided to add Society as we really wanted to create a community of people who feel welcome and apart of our business and I think we have done that.
When and why did you launch The Spoonie Society?
We originally launched The Spoonie Society in late October of 2020 as we found a lack of representation in the wider community, a lack of products directed at the chronically ill and if there were any they were ugly as hell. It originally started with our diary and symptom tracker and we just grew from there. Both Dom and myself (Helene) always wanted to start businesses but until last year we had no idea what those businesses would be, we share a very similar passion and ambition and thankfully all of our hard work is starting to pay off and that is how The Spoonie Society came about.
How would you rate the response?
It has been absolutely overwhelming to say the least. Never in our wildest dreams did we think our business would take off this quickly and this well. We are very fortunate that we got to quit our day jobs and now have a team of 11 which is absolutely wild. We have also both been recognised a few times when we’ve been in hospital having procedures, as the owners of The Spoonie Society which has honestly been so surreal. We are so grateful for the community we have built that has allowed us to grow our business and we pinch ourselves every day that this is our life and that we have made our dreams come true.
How has launching and running The Spoonie Society helped both of you?
As we both have multiple chronic illnesses that we try to manage, having a normal 9.00am to 5.00pm day job previously had been quite challenging for both of us. It was hard to manage not only our symptoms day to day but manage hospital visits, surgeries and doctors appoointments all on top of a full time job. We are very grateful that we have our own business now where we can now just pop out for appointments and if we are unwell we can work from home. We also don’t have to have awkward conversations with our employers anymore about taking time off for surgery as we have an incredible team that we can rely on as well as each other.
Talk me through a typical day. Do you have typical day or do your illnesses mean your day is more unpredictable?
To be honest I don’t think one day is ever alike and recently both Dom and myself (Helene) have been tag teaming between hospital visits, which doesn’t make things easy. We are blessed that we can work from home when we need to but there definitely has not been a standard work day in a while. We both do push through our pain and go to work more often than we should and working with your best friend truly does make working whilst in pain a bit more enjoyable. A lot of our day to day tasks consist of doing emails, running our social media, managing our warehouse and sewing team and making sure our warehouse is running smoothly. No two days are the same but that is the best part and thankfully we love our jobs. We are also so lucky to have such an amazing team that care about our business nearly as much as we do so we are very blessed that when we are in hospital or at home sick we have a lot of faith and trust in them to keep our business running and for that we are forever grateful.
Could you tell our readers about the connection between The Spoonie Society and Nerida Hansen Fabrics?
Of course! The strong majority of the fabrics we use for our heat packs do come from Nerida Hansen fabrics and we have been working with them for nearly the whole year we have been in operation. When we first started our business, we thought ordering 100m of fabric was a massive deal and we were terrified that we would never sell that many heat packs or use that much fabric. We are now at a point where we order thousands of metres of fabric each month and we are always increasing our numbers. Nerida Hansen fabrics have been an integral part of our business growth and without their beautiful prints, I don’t think we would be where we are today without them.
What is next for The Spoonie Society?
Big things!!!!! We have recently hired a few new staff members to help increase production as we are growing so fast and are doing our best to keep up with demand. We also have so many new and exciting products on the way to help our fellow spoonie community that we are bursting at the seams to launch. We can’t reveal too much but believe us when we say that we are changing the game for the chronic illness community.
Follow along on The Spoonie Society journey @thespooniesocietyau.