The millionaires behind the epic Elf on The Shelf franchise

The Elf and the Shelf franchise is beloved by children around the world and is firmly installed within festive traditions since being established in 2004, being featured in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, a live musical, and several sweet snack boxes.

Created off the back of an American family’s own Christmas tradition, The Elf and the Shelf started out as an idea between mother and daughter that branched out into a commercially successful brand bigger than they could have ever imagined.

Chanda Bell had been reflecting on her childhood experiences around the holidays and initially thought of retelling these in way of honouring her family and cheering up her mother Carol Aebersold, who was sick at the time.

“When we were children, our Scout Elf, Fisbee, would come to our home and look over our family each year,” the Atlanta, Georgia native spoke to Forbes in 2019.

“I have such wonderful childhood memories with Fisbee. I remember racing with my brother and sister to see who could find Fisbee first and letting him know what I wanted for Christmas. It really was a holiday tradition that our family enjoyed doing together.”

Seeing her mum go through health issues in 2004, the idea of The Elf and the Shelf then came to Chanda.

“At the time, my mom had been feeling a little down,” she said.

“It was in that moment that it occurred to me, ‘Mom, why don’t we write the story of our family elf?’ We thought this would not only be a fun project for us to work on together but also a wonderful opportunity to share this story and tradition with other families. So, we wrote The Elf on the Shelf: A ChristmasTradition.”

Chanda’s twin sister, Christa Pitts, joined the duo in creating this story and bringing it to life with their own investments – receiving no help from anyone else.

“After we made the decision to self-publish, my husband and I maxed out credit cards, my sister sold her house and my parents even tapped into their retirement savings so that we could invest everything we had into starting our company,” Chanda said.

Despite being a risky move at the time, this turned out to be the best one for the family, as they have made a fortune from their business decision after maintaining 100% family ownership.

The Elf on the Shelf has since become a cultural marvel as products are now sold in thirteen countries with over 50 licenses across the globe – leaving Chanda’s family very rich indeed.

This was never the original intended outcome though as the entrepreneur insisted that The Elf and the Shelf was created to celebrate faith and love.

“We pride ourselves in providing unique, family-friendly storytelling that captures the spirit of Christmas and uses characters kids love to explore themes of generosity and kindness while staying true to our purpose of creating joyful family moments,” Chanda added.

With Christmas around the corner, The Elf on the Shelf products are sure to continue brightening up children while spreading the same positive message.

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