In 2012, Georgia Harley was “cruising through life” while enjoying a career in television. But then her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, turning her whole world upside down in the process.
“I was a TV producer and then worked at a charity, but by far the hardest job I ever had was caring for my terminally ill dad,” admits Georgia, who has previously worked on shows such as Better Homes and Gardens, Bondi Vet and Australia’s Next Top Model. Her dad Richard’s illness and subsequent death inspired Georgia to quit her job and launch her own business, something she had never envisaged doing before his diagnosis.
It was during the incredibly difficult period of caring for her father that Georgia could see the struggle friends and family endured while trying to find meaningful, appropriate gifts to bring or send to the Harley family during their darkest hour.
“This actually caused a lot of people to drift away as they didn’t know what they could do or say,” acknowledges Georgia. “I had always created care packages for family and friends, as I loved seeing their faces light up when they received a box full of their favourite things, or a care package with healing goodies if they were sick or unwell. Combined with my handwritten message and an inspiring affirmation, I saw how much joy a carefully curated gift pack could bring – to both the giver and the receiver.” During her dad’s illness, it struck Georgia that her friends and family needed a service just like this. “They needed a convenient, meaningful and premium care package service so that they could connect with my parents rather than shy away.”
Following her dad’s death, Georgia channeled her grief into something positive – launching Caring Canary in May 2015, an online care package boutique. “After dad passed away, I made it my mission to connect people and cultivate happiness through premium, meaningful and convenient gift-giving,” says the 29 year-old, who describes her dad as her “life guide” and “biggest champion.”
“It was only after seeing dad go through a horrendous battle with cancer that I was forced to re-evaluate my life course,” reflects Georgia, who admits that pushing herself out of her comfort zone initially left her wracked with self-doubt. “However when you go through trauma your perspectives shift, and I realised life was too short not to give my care package business idea a go.”
Caring Canary package themes range from bridal, condolences and relaxation, to packages for new mums, with the added option of creating a bespoke package for that special someone. They’ve also just launched a Christmas range, working directly with businesses to think outside the box when it comes to end of year gift-giving.
“My experience caring for dad, who had very advanced cancer, and then going through the grief of losing a loved one, gave me first hand knowledge in what sorts of gifts people need during this time,” says Georgia, who even offers a range of chemo care package, which include items such as a beautiful cotton scarf, coconut water and herbal tea for rehydration, organic moisturiser to nourish the skin, lavender eye rest pillow to soothe puffy eyes, a magazine to pass the long days in hospital and a tin of anti-nausea sweets.
“I thought long and hard about what people need during certain situations, so that my customers don’t have to,” says Georgia. “The giver feels great for sending such a unique and impactful gift, and the receiver feels special and cared for. It’s a win win.”
And in the same way as her thoughtful packages, Georgia’s dive into business helped her turn a setback into something positive.
“Starting Caring Canary allowed me to turn the saddest, most difficult time of my life into something positive. I am now living a life with purpose and am so grateful that every day I get to be the conduit connecting two people in a really beautiful way.”