Steph Dunleavy, co-founder of affirmation jewellery brand Soul Analyse, shares the experiences and inspiration that set her on a new path in life...
Inspiration can come in many forms. It could be something we read, hear, see, or scroll past, but when a phrase or way of thinking really resonates with you, it can make a huge difference to your perspective in that moment, and beyond.
For Steph Dunleavy, inspiration came after listening to a talk by the late Louise Hay, who is acknowledged to be one of the original founders of the self-help movement.
However, Steph’s own journey of change had started some time before that moment, after she lost her dad, suddenly, to cancer in 2012. He was just 46 years old.
“The two years that followed Dad’s death were a tumultuous whirlwind,” Steph explains. “I felt like I’d had the rug pulled out from underneath me. Life felt so unstable and uncertain. I couldn’t seem to find peace, and I started spiralling out of control. I was self-sabotaging and not taking care of myself, which led to me feeling very depressed.”
One evening, when Steph was struggling with her emotions, her partner, Jasper Ibrahim, introduced Louise Hay’s talk into their lives. At first, Steph felt irritated by the noise coming from his laptop, but her mood changed when she started to really listen to what was being said.
“I remember this feeling of serenity, calm, and possibility coming over me,” Steph explains. “What Louise was saying felt real, authentic, and really resonated. I stared at the screen in disbelief, because something had just clicked. Hearing that we can all change our lives based on what we think was incredible. Back then, that was a totally new concept for me.”
The impact of that talk lasted well beyond one evening, as Steph stuck Post-It notes around her home so she could read positive affirmations throughout her day. “I wrote phrases such as ‘You can do this. You are strong,’ because I felt so weak at that time. Just seeing that message to myself was the boost I needed.”
Acknowledging the success of this simple action, Steph and Jasper began to talk about the power of thought, both agreeing they wanted to help others move through tough times, as they were starting to, using visible affirmations. They dreamt of starting a business, and a new way of life together.
Sign after sign seemed to appear for the pair, indicating the change of course they were on the brink of taking was the right one. After they came across a notebook that read ‘Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air,’ the couple set off to travel around Asia for a year, to explore not only the world, but what might be possible for them.
Steph’s face lights up as she shares her story of Soul Analyse’s beginnings during this time. “We started to live with purpose. We were being guided, and we were taking in the messages we recieved. We’d write in that notebook every day, and flesh out ideas; how we could change our own mindsets to grow something that had meaning, and help others, too.
“That’s when we came up with our first range of jewellery, and began designing and speaking with manufacturers, even though we were constantly on the move,” she continues.
Their original ‘I am’ range featured just three words, but a powerful message for anyone reading or wearing the pieces. Bracelets and necklaces, etched with phrases such as ‘I am enough’, ‘I am strong’, and ‘I am loved’, were created to remind people of their self-worth, ability, and value.
When Jasper and Steph landed back in the UK after their adventures, they’d successfully created their dream business – and a new life. Steph was five months pregnant with their daughter.
The first batch of jewellery arrived two weeks after their return, and the next chapter of their lives was unfolding. Life at that time was far from easy though, as Steph explains. “We’d put everything we had into this year away and the jewellery, so we had nothing left. We’d spent literally every penny. We rocked up at Jasper’s mum’s with our backpacks, and asked if we
I wrote phrases such as ‘You can do this. You are strong,’ because I felt so weak at that time
And so, the first ever Soul Analyse range was launched from Jasper’s mum’s front room. “We didn’t have any experience to be honest,” Steph says softly. “We had an idea, we felt it was right, had meaning, and it could help people – and we ran with it.”
The inaugural year of operation, she notes, was incredibly difficult. Money continued to be hard to come by, but the couple would not be swayed off course. “It was obvious to others that we were really struggling, and they questioned what we were doing, but we just kept going. Even if we only had one sale a day, we knew we were doing something substantial. We were helping that one person.”
Their gut instinct, solid work, and strong belief ultimately paid off. Although Steph and Jasper have negotiated many highs and lows between the company’s launch in 2015 and the present day, they’ve now reached a place they’re deeply grateful to be at.
“I say thank you every day,” Steph says. “In the early days, Jasper and I held hands every time we got an order and said thank you, out loud. I’m a big believer that gratitude multiplies blessings, and what you give out comes back. When I think back on those times, I know that they were really hard, but they were also really special.”
Today, Steph continues to listen to the words of Louise Hay, Wayne Dyer, and other inspirational speakers. It’s become a fundamental part of her own daily self-care ritual, and she honours the impact it’s had upon her life.
“I had a hard upbringing, with very little money, so I had many self-limiting beliefs about what I could achieve and what was open to me before I heard Louise Hay talk,” she reflects. “I didn’t realise that there were resources out there that could help everyone, including me. That changed absolutely everything.”
I’m a big believer that gratitude multiplies blessings, and what you give out comes back
As well as listening to others speak, Steph now religiously takes time to respond to customers’ messages about their life stories. “Being able to listen to their experiences is really powerful. I’ve had many calls where I’ve shared my own stories too, because if I can say something that might help, or let them know they’re not alone, I want to do that. I honestly think that’s why I was called to set up Soul Analyse, and that means the world to me.”