“When people buy from a small business, they buy a story. They’re supporting the dream. They’re support a woman. They’re supporting a mother who is trying to bring her dreams to life in the best ways she can. They are changing lives.”

– Oznur Demirhan

“When people buy from a small business, they buy a story. They’re supporting a dream. They’re supporting a woman. They’re supporting a mother who is trying to bring her dreams to life in the best way she can. They’re changing lives.”

They are the spectacular words from today’s interviewee – Oznur Demirhan – but they could also be the purpose and catchphrase behind not only Made By Many Hands, but every small business across the world. As the founder of divine macrame brand Lennon & Me, when we speak, Oznur is managing her business with her two-year-old Lennon by her side, in Melbourne’s fifth lockdown. But there’s not much that will dampen Oznur’s smile.

“I am very grateful to be here,” she says. “In Melbourne, I feel like a human. I am respected and supported, and I feel like I have become a better person here.” That’s not to say that Oznur doesn’t adore (and greatly miss) her hometown of Istanbul in Turkey, which she and her husband farewelled four years ago. 

“I miss the country and my family every day, particularly in lockdown,” says Oznur. “But my husband and I always wanted to move abroad. In fact, when we got married, rather than buying new furniture or requesting gifts, we decided we wanted to move to experience a new life. But our families weren’t happy, so we stayed behind.” There, she and her husband worked in highly successful professional careers, but they found they weren’t happy.

“I did not feel safe, particularly in 2015 and 2016 when Turkey experienced so much unrest,” Oznur says. “This time made me realise that we only have one life. So we decided to make a change, and wanted to find a new home where we not only felt safe, but a place where we could continue to enjoy our Turkish culture. That place is Melbourne!”

Oznur is a living, breathing example of just how much travel can benefit us. “When I saw there was a life outside of Turkey, it changed me as a person,” she says. “Before studying abroad, I might have been a bit closed minded. But now, I feel like a better version of myself.”

Part of that better version involves being environmentally conscious, which extends to Oznur’s beautiful business. “When I buy something, I always read the tags and I try not to buy cheap products because I worry about how they are made. I am also really conscious about the world my son is growing up in.”

That son was an unexpected delight, who arrived after Oznur was told she and her husband would not be able to conceive. “We named him after John Lennon,” says Oznur. “Because as he said, life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

It’s Lennon who has gone on to inspire Oznur’s business, which started with a single macrame rainbow – placed in the family home window for neighbourhood rainbow hunts – during Melbourne’s first lockdown. “When I found out that people were putting rainbows in their windows, I thought, ‘I should make one!’” says Oznur. “I have always been crafty and it turned out to be so much more.” 

After making these delightful rainbows for friends, Oznur soon realised she could turn this hobby into a business – one that would support her family. “My mother’s group was responsible for buying my first batch of rainbows!” Oznur laughs. “They also encouraged me to find ways to start selling them to more people.

“I realised that I just needed to try. If I failed, I would learn. And if I didn’t fail, then wow, I would have so much happiness,” she says. “It was so easy to start. I applied for my ABN in a second, I created my logo in Canva, I set up my store, and it has been a joy to create.” 

Making her creations at night and while Lennon sleeps, Oznur’s products are eco-friendly, 100% biodegradable and recyclable. 

When we ask Oznur what’s next, we’re not surprised to learn that she wants to start workshops to teach others how to make their own creations. “I learned this skill when I was a teenager, and now I’m earning my living with that same skill. Who else could I help in this way?” 

We have a feeling there will be many. And we’ll be first in line.

Published by Amy Malpass-Hahn, Freelance writer