Australian Enterprise Awards 2023

Best Health & Wellness Company - Australia Here’s to Strength is a world first initiative in the health and wellness industry, combining every type of modality of self-care in one place to bridge the gap of access, educate global communities and empower individuals to take control of their life, with the knowledge of designing their own unique healing journey. A genuine grass roots movement, the first Here’s to Strength Community Wellness Hub was opened in June 2022 by Elise Riannen, a young, disabled, small business owner and parent, living solely on a pension due to her chronic pain. After living in fight or flight mode for many years, Elise knew the only real way change could occur was to face the trauma head on and share her story with authenticity, gratitude, and courage - to help bring visibility to those that feel invisible. This is the story of Here’s to Strength. Elise, an only child, grew up experiencing incredibly isolated and prolonged childhood trauma whilst being raised by her loving but very unpredictable parents. Her parents both suffering from high stress levels and mental health struggles meant there was an atmosphere of instability and survival mode. Self-care was non-existent. Moving momentarily from extremely high levels of love to extremely dangerous levels of trauma, Elise’s Central Nervous System could no longer regulate by her early teens. She moved out of home by the age of 15 and continued to live in survival mode until her late 20’s, finally learning how to overcome the trauma she was carrying including trauma in her early adult life from surviving recurrent physical, mental, sexual, and financial abuse/violence. After watching her mum attempt suicide many times throughout her childhood, Elise developed a sense of spontaneity to enjoy life for whatever it was and living it to its fullest. By age 20 Elise was married, she then became a mum, worked hard at her career in health, divorced amicably, chased her career, survived recurrent Domestic Violence, recovered from paralysis, endured continuous medical discrimination and experienced the death of her mum when she finally ended her life in August of 2021. Some of her mum’s final words were “I feel like I can be a better mum to you on the other side. Here’s to Strength is your motto - live and breathe it.” In her career, Elise spent 10 years working in the Primary Health Care Sector leading her way to becoming a Government Manager in Accreditation, Mental Health, and GP Training, supporting over 2000 GPs to improve their systems and practices to ultimately provide better patient outcomes. Her main direction was to improve the health system. Because of her experience in this field, Elise understood how the health system worked inside and out, however when it was her turn to receive the care she needed, the same medical system she had supported for 10 years turned its back on her with responses to her symptoms like “it’s all in your head” “lose weight and you will be fine”. She was repeatedly refused further investigations and became just another lost statistic. Elise continued to advocate for her journey, sometimes having to raise her voice to finally be heard, that by the age of 24, she was finally diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Fibromyalgia, Spinal Sclerosis, Bilateral Sacroiliac Arthropathy, Bilateral Bone Marrow Edema, Vasculitis, Joint Narrowing Disease, Joint Dysfunction, Obesity, Sacroiliitis, Osteoarthritis, CSF Leak (caused Jan23652 by a negligently performed lumbar puncture which left her paralysed for 7 days), Chronic Migraines, Bilateral Sciatica, Bilateral Bursitis, Meniere’s Disease, Endometriosis, Adenomyosis, Cervical Lesions, PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome) and ADHD which affects young girls and women very differently than the disorder is typically known for. Feeling exhausted with the failures of the systems in place, and a soul purpose yearning to dedicate her life to improving the way forward, through diversity Elise designed a business model like no other. A model that would challenge the world to work together and view clinical care in a humane way. Something no text book could teach. The core values of Here’s to Strength are empathy, collaboration and community creating a world first, empathic vision designed by lived experience and a determined mission to end the stigma around self-care, invisible illness, positive body advocacy and suicide prevention by bridging the gap of access and igniting the conversations that matter. During the peak of her pain and dealing with the realities of being a broke single mum, Elise was sitting on the couch crying about how hard it was to take care of herself and frustrated with the fact that she had to go to multiple doctor’s multiple times a week and multiple shops both online and in person to find the products that she needed for basic self-care. Elise then realised - “It should all just be in one place; it doesn’t need to be this difficult to take care of yourself”. It was that day that Elise realised she had a genuine solution for how it could be simplified and from that moment she dedicated herself to the possibility of a new way forward, held her glass of wine in her hand and said cheers “Here’s to Strength”. Elise started to plan the Here’s to Strength vision, mapping everything out, sewing and making products, selling at markets, running a chronic pain support group. However it wasn’t until she finally met an incredible GP that actually listened and introduced her to Medicinal Cannabis that her illnesses dramatically became more manageable and ultimately turned her life around completely. Elise went from experiencing immense daily pain, disabled, 160kg, administering 12 high dependent prescription drugs of addiction all day, every single day to completely functional, motivated, minimal to no pain, 60kg lighter and eventually able to start and solely run her business working 7 days a week and 14-hour day’s all without high levels of pain. “Medicinal Cannabis changed my life. I was finally able to sleep, eat, relax, and regulate my central nervous system”. Fast forward 12 months, the healing that Medicinal Cannabis provided Elise allowed the journey of Here’s to Strength to come to fruition. On the 13th of June 2022 the first Here’s to Strength Community Wellness Hub opened in Aldinga, South Australia, in a small coastal town on the Fleurieu Peninsula. A community safe space dedicated to her parents, her daughter, her own journey and to those in the community who were longing to be seen, heard, and validated.