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Mpowered. By Women for Women: Shelley Caruana

Mpowered. By Women for Women: Shelley Caruana

Meet Shelley Caruana– A woman with a remarkable story who turned a household chore into a passion project into then a successful social media and business venture called Shelley’s Indoor Jungle.

 

 

 

 

 

Towards the end of 2019, Shelley Caruana, owner of the Instagram account Shelleys Indoor Jungle, decided to buy some plants to decorate her new home as it was looking bare. She started researching plants and turned a household chore into a passion, later on into a social media journey of now over 169K followers, and also into a business venture with her own e-commerce website selling pots and planters. This was the start of an incredible journey for Shelley.

‘It was just six plants in the beginning and, my husband and I were going to get less potentially. We do all the house décor together as Shaun loves to be involved. The house was looking very bare as we were conservative with colour. So, we bought six big plants and they were very expensive. Since I was the one who wanted these plants, my husband put pressure on me to keep them alive! So, that’s how it all started!’

Shelley explains that she has a ‘go big or go home’ kind of character.

 

‘When I do something, I tend to commit fully. I started researching plants and found out that there are so many out there. I created the Instagram account and realised that there is a whole community of people who are obsessed with plants, just like I was. In the beginning, I knew nothing about plants, so the sudden switch was really weird!’

Shelley posted her first post on the 1st of December 2019. Her first picture was a photo of a prayer plant called Miranda and it got 136 likes. Considering it was her very first post, the response was very encouraging. Fast forward to today, Shelley has a growing community of 169K followers engaging with her posts. But how did she make herself known on Instagram?

‘There are a lot of plant accounts out there so when I started this journey, I tried to think of ways how I could stand out and how I could be different. How will people remember which ones are my plants? So, I named all my plants, and I gave them their own hashtag so that people could follow their journey when they clicked on the hashtag. I documented my journey of growing plants and healing them when they got sick. People started to get invested in my plants’ journeys. I even posted when I killed plants – and it’s ok. We need to normalise killing plants…I’m not perfect! I think the fact that I was always real also helped with my followers’ engagement. I posted when I had pests, when I killed plants, and even when I neglected them…it happens!’

Shelley’s social media blossomed and bloomed due to this incredible strategy. For almost two years, Shelley’s posting schedule was twice daily which included a lot of stories that take up a lot of time. 

‘I planned everything in advance but it’s tiring when all you’re thinking about is one thing. The high you get when posting on social media is addictive. There was a time when I used to get over 100 followers a day. I was aware that I was affected by the dopamine effect. It’s so addictive, it’s crazy. The Covid situation also helped with my page’s boom since people were staying inside and taking care of their plants or buying new ones.’

 

However, Shelley reveals that being heavily committed to social media as she was started to put a strain on herself and her relationship with family and friends.

‘It was very consuming – it does create a strain on relationships. I was lucky with Covid because we were indoors, and I had time to do it. However, I decided to take a slight break earlier this year because I was not enjoying it anymore. I rediscovered old hobbies and strengthened my relationship with family and friends. It was a relief to not always be stuck on my phone. Now, I post whenever I feel like and whatever I feel like – it’s not always plants! I made a promise to myself to stop fixating on my likes and insights. I want to post more meaningful content.’

Shelley knows that she has a huge platform, and she wants to make more of an impact.

‘I want to make a difference. I’m still trying to understand what I want to do and how I want to share my story, but I think that it’s a waste to have such a large platform and not do anything impactful.’

Shelley also speaks about her journey with mental health issues. She suffers from hypochondria, meaning that she gets very anxious over health issues. She stresses that everyone’s mental health journey is different.

‘I was always a bit susceptible. Towards my late teens, I would immediately catastrophise whenever I felt a symptom or see anything strange on my body. I studied psychology so I was always beating myself up for this because of this battle between my rational side of the brain and the non-rational side which has me fixating on the little things. I finally went to therapy for it and the last few months have been the best in terms of my anxiety. I learnt a few coping mechanisms for it as well. Recently, I lost my nanna and my father suffered from a stroke and I think I realised that things are not as catastrophic as I make them out in my head to be.’

Shelley admits that Shelleys Indoor Jungle grew because she finds herself throwing herself at things so that her mind does not go idle. In this way, she did not let her mind travel to dark places because she always had something to do with her time. But did her Instagram account feed or relieve her anxiety?

‘When I was creating content, it kept my mind busy. But I did get anxious when a post didn’t get as many likes as I thought it would. So, I think that social media does affect your anxiety if you’re already suffering from it.’

As Shelley takes a journey outside of plants to post more lifestyle content, are all of her followers positive about her journey?

‘No, but I think that my followers are more positive than most people’s are. Sometimes you have to be careful what you post on social media but there are always going to be keyboard warriors trying to put you down to look superior to you. Sometimes you do get good feedback as well. I try to be as informed as possible when I post. Overall, I feel lucky that I have a positive community.’

So, what’s Shelley’s mission for the future?

‘Creating an e-commerce website was a wonderful journey but I want to focus on making a positive impact. This will make me fulfilled. Plants will always be a part of my life. In fact, I think that plants have helped with my mental health journey. But they’re only a fraction of my life. I have a lot more to give.’

Shelley, it has been fantastic to hear about your mission, you as a person, and your grounding perspective. Thank you, for being on our podcast!

 

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