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Founder

Melissa Gardi

On growing up in a creative family…

I’ve been surrounded by creative people my entire life. Growing up, at home there were always creative projects going on. One year my dad would be into stained glass, the next it would be woodwork – dad would carve the wood and mum would paint it. Both of my two brothers are talented musicians. And I've always been obsessed with photography (as a teenager you couldn’t see my bedroom walls as they were covered with art and pages torn from magazines). I’ve always been inspired by creative thinking and the arts, whatever shape it takes. 

On working in the creative industry…

I started working at an ad agency when I was 16 – I would go there every day after school and assist the art buyer, writers and art directors. During university I cut my teeth in publishing at Interview Magazine followed by Harper’s Bazaar in New York City. Working at both big corporates and small independents over the past twenty years has taught me a lot about how awesome things can result from experimenting and pushing outside of your comfort zone. And striking the balance of organised systems and messy creativity isn’t easy, but necessary for innovation.  

On moving to New Zealand…

I moved to New Zealand 17 years ago after falling in love with my husband, Dino. I had been living in New York, finally paid my dues, and felt like doors were opening in my career so it wasn’t easy to leave that. I think we’re constantly faced with opportunities – and we ask ourselves what direction to go in. It could be a simple decision, or a big one. I didn’t think it would be such a life changing decision to move to Auckland as I was sure we would move back after a year or so, but that was 17 years ago. It’s difficult to live on the other side of the world from people I care about. Although, the distance in 2002 felt further than it does now – we didn’t have Facebook or WhatsApp then. Now, whenever I see my Stateside family and friends, I savour every minute, grateful for the time I have with them. 

On living in New Zealand…

There are a lot of differences between New Zealand and the States, starting with the obvious: sheer land size of the country and population. We have about 2% of the States’.  Recently I spent a few enjoyable months on the American east coast visiting family, and returning home to New Zealand only heightened my gratitude for living here – from the beauty of our island coastlines to the innovation of our people; our healthcare system and way of life. It got me thinking that while we are all grateful for various things – such as our health, our families and friends, our homes, our lives – in New Zealand we are also great full. We are a country brimming with skill and talent – makers and artists; designers and builders; scientists and engineers; organisations and businesses. It's important to celebrate that!

On an inspiring quote…

‘To see is one thing. To look at what you see is another. To understand what you look at is a third. To learn from what you understand is something else. But to act on what you learn is all that really matters.’ – Author unknown

On essentialism…

The pace of change for all of us has increased so much in the past few years – and as technology continues to advance it’s not likely things are going to slow down. For me, what’s key is identifying the essentials – distilling all of what we’re bombarded with and focusing on what’s important. For me, as I’m sure for most of us, this includes contributing to a better future for our children.

On being grateful...

Practicing gratitude was particularly helpful when my husband and I were trying to get pregnant. After multiple rounds of IVF and experiencing a miscarriage, we were successful. At 40 years old with a history of complications, I knew that risk factors were higher than the norm so took the pregnancy day by day. Placenta previa put me in Auckland Hospital (my first-ever visit to a New Zealand hospital) where I was amazed about the care I received, and the medical teams I met. After two more visits to hospital, at 38-weeks our daughter Isabella was born: healthy and happy. We knew she’d be our one and only, and every day I’m thankful that she’s in our lives. 

On supporting our community’s access to quality healthcare…

It blows my mind that in this little country, we have such extraordinary services, accessible to everyone. But having access to extraordinary services is only possible through funding. And while the New Zealand government contributes to our health care system and hospitals such as Starship, it doesn’t cover all the costs required for us to have the latest equipment or advanced technology. That’s why donations are so important. 

On starting Great Full…

When considering ways to make ongoing contributions to our community – a community that has given so much to my family through the years – I thought that bringing people together for good, perhaps we could do something great. For me starting Great Full has become part of my gratitude practice. Working with others on projects that can help others lifts me up, drives me forward and makes life better.

On Great Full’s first project…

Life starts with birth, right? Whether that’s in the form of a person or a project. With our first project, it seemed fitting to support our New Zealand community through an initiative for Starship – as they focus on providing family-centred care to infants and children in hospital.

Through the years, I’ve met some phenomenal people in various industries, including fashion, who have inspired me. I do love fashion – and with a young daughter I love dressing her in fun clothes. I thought it’d be interesting to see what some of New Zealand's best fashion designers would come up with for babywear. I am over the moon that the first five I asked agreed to be involved by gifting a print that we could screenprint onto a onesie. Having the onesies manufactured in New Zealand introduced me to a side of the business that is awe-inspiring. The experience gave me new appreciation for the talent and skill that we have here, close to home.