A Festive Business Born as Therapy for a Young Mother: The Doors of Berry

Sometimes out of sadness, new beginnings are unearthed. Berry, NSW, local Ruth Host’s story is one of motherhood, hope, female entrepreneurship and female empowerment.

By day — or sometimes in the wee hours between dusk and dawn — Ruth Host creates wreaths lovingly handmade from native foliage in her signature classic country Australian style. Sounds straightforward, doesn’t it? But this mum of three from Berry in country NSW offers so much more than a decorative piece for your front door come Christmas. And eight years ago, not only was Ruth’s first daughter born, but so was her business, The Doors of Berry.

Ruth Host

“I started the business not long after my first daughter, Imogen, was born,” she says. “In fact, it’s sort of like an anniversary around her birthday, which is special because I went through so much with her and the business is something I have to show through that massive journey, so it’s always a bit emotional for me.”
Shortly after the birth, Ruth was uncharacteristically down in the dumps and generally not feeling herself. At the time, she attributed her sadness to the stresses of motherhood and other external factors, so she carried on. Then, one evening while breastfeeding, she happened upon an idea. “My daughter was born at the end of September, so it was getting closer to Christmas, and I felt like I was never going to leave my home, breastfeeding forever,” Ruth says. “We had a really beautiful fireplace and I thought, I’ll just start searching for a nice wreath online, while I’m breastfeeding. I could not find anything! Everything was just so American and over the top.”

So she decided to make her own and quickly established an online business — mere weeks after giving birth. And, to her surprise, the business that she thought would be a pop-up in the lead up to Christmas turned into something much bigger, and she soon realised that wreaths weren’t just a holiday offering. “I started getting all these orders in January — people were taking down their Christmas wreath and their home was looking so bare — so I thought maybe people want year-round wreaths, and things grew from there,” she says. “When you see a beautiful home, as soon as you put a wreath on it, it just finishes it off and I call it like the crown on the head. I feel like men used to be the man of the house, but now the woman is the queen of the home, she runs it, it’s her design, she’s putting her stamp on it all the time.

Australian Small Business

“I did think that originally the business would be that I make wreaths nine months of the year and sell them three months of the year for Christmas. I said to my husband, ‘I’m just going to start this little business, make wreaths during the day and sell them at the end of the year.’ But I was so unwell, I wasn’t able to sleep, I used to put my daughter to bed at 7pm and work from then to 2am every single night. I didn’t want to go to sleep because things were so bad at night, so I used to stay awake and work on the business. But I feel like that’s what got it off the ground, without that real traumatic time, I wouldn’t have the business. It gave me something to focus on and it gave me something that I could have a few wins in because with motherhood, I just didn’t feel like I was winning.”

Having previously worked in accounts in an office, Ruth describes herself as meticulously organised, methodical and well-achieving, so this loss of self was new to her and it was only after the birth of her second and third daughters, Lydia and Elliana, when she realised what she was going through. “Obviously I was having some issues, I had a really traumatic birth [with Imogen],” she says. “I was having issues connecting with her and I just didn’t feel right in myself. But I didn’t necessarily think it was post-natal depression. You sort of just think this is motherhood because you haven’t done it before and you think, ‘Oh, this is what everyone must feel like.’ That’s the trick when it’s your first. Then I only actually realised I had post-natal depression when I had my second little girl. I had a great birth, and she was amazing and everything was really good and I still felt low. I knew I shouldn’t be feeling that way and I realised, wow, I’ve had this for a few years now.”

The Doors of Berry NSW

It was then that Ruth decided to share her story on her website and was overwhelmed with the outpouring of women reaching out to say they had gone, or are going, through the same thing. “There’s so much knowledge now on post-natal depression and I feel like me telling my story helps take that stigma away and it opens the door for other women to go, ‘Oh, wow, that’s how I felt,’” she says. “I’ve had so many middle-aged women say to me, ‘I’ve had that but never knew I had it, and now that your generation is starting to talk about this, we’re realising a lot of us had that and just suffered silently.’ And they’re only now dealing with it.”

Ruth responds to each woman who contacts her and discusses the importance of getting help or talking to someone — and tells them they’re not alone. And while connecting with these women is also therapeutic for Ruth herself, the business, The Doors of Berry has helped tremendously in other, seemingly simple ways. “Every time I’d get an order, it would get me out of the house,” she says. “I’d walk up with the pram to the post office and it got me out in the sunlight. It was so powerful, every order was therapeutic, it was healing me.”

Christmas Wreaths Business

Today, not only does Ruth offer a range of beautiful wreaths (sometimes she’ll create up to 20 a day) — made from the likes of cotton, gum and vines, and adorned with delightful decorations suited to different seasons — she also runs workshops, during which women learn the art of wreath making, listen to Ruth’s powerful story and connect through telling their own stories. Plus, she runs a mini-mentorship program, where she employs young girls to help her after school and during the holidays.

“When Imogen was going to Kindergarten, she got a buddy, who was a Year 6 girl,” Ruth says. “I had a few little jobs and I thought, if I was in Year 6, I would have thrived working for someone, and she’s amazing and loves it. And I love that mentorship aspect. We chat and that young girl once said she was thinking of starting a business, so we talked through that, how we’ll get it on Etsy… While we’re packing wreaths, we’re connecting and talking about school and what’s going on in their lives. And these young girls are great role models for my little girls.” And it’s that element of connection, female empowerment and family values that Ruth wants to nurture through the business going forward.

The Doors of Berry

“I’m starting to share more now,” she says, referring to her social media accounts, website and in person. “I feel like home is so much more than just interiors, it’s the people behind the door that make a home. If those people aren’t happy and are all screaming at each other, why have the wreath on the door? You’ve got to be working on that beautiful home inside, which is working on communication, respect, love and caring for each other. I’ve started sharing more about my life, the highs, the lows and the post-natal depression, and that’s been so powerful. I feel like that really helps people to connect, so I can definitely see The Doors of Berry heading more down that direction. Yes, it’s about wreaths, but more about home, what home represents.”

To read more about Ruth’s story and to view her beautiful range, click here.

Around one in seven women in Australia suffers from post-natal depression. Resources such as Lifeline Australia (131 114) and PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia) (1300 726 306) offer support to those in need.

Photography by Ken Brass & Chris Jallard, Red Berry Photography

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