Claire Conza dreamed of creating a business that could change the world – but she never imagined a post on a royal Instagram account featuring adorable baby Archie wearing one of her sweet $49 beanies would make her social enterprise known across the globe!
Just hours after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex shared a snap to their 10 million followers on New Year's Day of their eight-month-old son wearing the cute Cocobear hat by Kiwi knitting brand Make Give Live, business partners Claire, 37, and Becky Smith, 50, were faced with restocking their entire online store and even temporarily closing orders.
"You could never dream this stuff up," tells Claire, who was blown away at how the 'Archie effect' had such a dramatic impact on their sales.
For the Auckland mum, who crafted a unique plan to get communities of knitters purling and crocheting in company for their wellbeing, as well as giving away warm beanies for Kiwis in need, the way her fledgling business has suddenly been boosted by one of the most famous families on the planet reduced her to tears.
"We had a little bit of breathing space because initially nobody knew it was a Make Give Live beanie. But in the middle of the night stories started coming out about how intentional it was that they shared that photo because they wanted to support what we were about."
While Meghan and Prince Harry had been gifted a Make Give Live beanie more than a year ago during their tour Down Under, the businesswomen had all but dismissed any chance of seeing the youngest royal wearing a piece from their handcrafted collection.
"I guess you hope that they get to use it and maybe one day you get to see it, but that's a really slim chance. To be honest, I'd almost forgotten about it," confesses Claire.
But when the rare photo of little Archie looking cute as a button, in the mist-grey merino pom-pom hat, lovingly held in the arms of a smiling Harry, both Becky and Claire realised the beanie he was wearing was not the same style as the expectant couple were given.
"One story said Meghan had since ordered two more beanies in the next sizes up so that Archie would always have one that fit. That got us quickly checking back through our orders. We found one from early November that was for the Cocobear beanie in sizes six to 12 months and one to three years from an address in Windsor.
Looking more closely, the email address was royal.uk. We didn't pick up on it at the time, so when it did appear we were completely surprised and blown away," laughs Claire.
Waking on January 2 to orders pinging into their inbox every few minutes, it became more than clear the message of kindness and inclusion and being there for others – a key mission of their enterprise – had struck a chord with the Sussexes.
Watch: Prince Harry and Meghan share their favourite moments of 2019. Article continues below.
"Part of the reason we were excited that they might get a beanie is that we knew how passionate they are about advocating for mental health. We thought that if they did read about our purpose it would resonate with them.
"So when we found out how intentional it was, we were both just brought to tears," shares Claire, still deeply moved by the gesture. "It was so touching."
The former fashion graduate says the commitment to wellbeing and using knitting as therapy was born out of her own experience of depression.
"The repetition and mindfulness required to make stitches broke down negative thought patterns, and having something to feel proud about at the end gave me a boost," she explains.
Forced to reassess her life, the mum-of-one daughter and two stepsons decided she wanted to use her skills to create a business venture with heart.
"We have groups of people that get together every week for a couple of hours to have a good laugh, a cup of tea and enjoy making all these beautiful things," she tells.
"That is our main purpose, although a lot of people pick up on the 'buy one, give one' aspect – for every hat we sell we give one to a Kiwi in need – but that really feeds into giving our makers' purpose and enriching them through the platform to give. We all know how much we get from giving."
With orders from all over the globe – including the sunny Bahamas – eager knitters are keen to make a dent on the 1000 hats to give away following the unprecedented demand.
Tells Claire, "Our makers have been saying, 'Where's the wool? We're ready!'" It's also provided an international platform for a pair of women who have fused hobby, heart and business to make the world a better place.
"Creating Make Give Live and keeping it going has come with a lot of personal sacrifice. But I never let it go because I knew what it was doing for those involved and how important it was," Claire says.
"There were days I remember wondering how I could keep going and pushing through. I did sometimes think to myself one day I'll look back and know that it was worth it."
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