It is often in the unexpected ordinary that God fashions the remarkable twists in our story. Amid a season of sadness and restlessness, Brenna Milleville fearlessly and obediently followed that still small voice, entrusting herself to His plans, purpose, and timing. She never could have imagined that just a few short years later, she’d be designing and selling over half a million shirts for women across the globe. In this inspiring interview, Brenna shares her heart and the story behind the intentionally designed products of Elly and Grace—a company spreading truth, hope, and grace through beautiful apparel and accessories.
1. Tell us a bit about your family, where you live, what you enjoy doing as a family, and how you love to spend some of your downtime.
I’ve lived in Missouri almost my entire life—and we recently moved out into the country (our entire house is surrounded by trees!). I’ve been married for 7½ years, and we have an almost 2-year-old named Grace.
I’m a bit of a workaholic, so it’s hard for me to relax and get away from my work, but I love traveling. I got the opportunity to go to Australia with my husband for work a few years ago and it was an incredible experience! I also enjoy reading fiction and exploring other creative hobbies unrelated to our business. Oh—and bubble baths!
2. What is your salvation story?
I was very blessed to grow up in church. I played the keyboard in the Praise Band in high school and was very involved in my church’s “Journey to Bethlehem” program. Once I was in college, I realized I had a choice about whether or not I would continue attending church (it was always a given growing up), and then I decided that yes, I truly desired to go. It took a while to find the right church community, but I did, and it was at one of their women’s events that I came up with the idea for EllyandGrace!
I want to always be passionate about loving God and loving others—not just going through obligatory motions. I’ve found that it’s so important for me to stay rooted in the Word and spend time off social media and away from the business (even if it’s just for an hour) to recharge and refocus on my mission—which is the company mission—to uplift, inspire and point others to Jesus.
3. What is your business/organization story? How and when was the idea seed first sown, before sprouting and blooming to what it is today?
I was attending a women’s event with a friend that my church was hosting. I decided to go really last minute, which is unlike me (I usually plan everything weeks ahead!). It was a God thing. I walked in, and immediately noticed they were selling apparel. My friend and I visited the booth, but all they had were women’s smalls. We talked about what a bummer that was, and then we found our way to the auditorium. The theme of the event was “Be Fearless,” and during the speaker’s talk, I heard a whisper in my head: You could start a Christian clothing company. It came out of nowhere, and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I thought about it on the drive home, and I talked to my husband about it the next day. He said, “go for it!” and EllyandGrace was born!
Taking the Step
So, I simply started. I listened to podcasts; I did research. And I sketched out what I would like to wear. I started ordering blank samples of clothing to see if I thought it was soft enough and fit well. I still remember getting my first order on Etsy. Six months later, we launched our own website, and we hired our first virtual employee. After about a month of working seven days a week, we decided we had to move the business out of our basement and hire more employees.
Since 2017, we’ve moved office spaces twice and now own our own building. We have a great local and remote team that helps us fulfill our mission of sharing God’s love with others. We print and ship all of our shirts in house, and I design everything that we sell. And we’ve sold over half a million shirts and inspired women and those who see them all over the world.
4. How did God move in your heart to encourage you to move forward with your dream of building a business?
There were a lot of signs and confirmation from the Lord. The most significant to me was when I initially heard the voice in my mind during that sermon that I should start the company. That had never happened before, and it hasn’t happened like that since.
I had googled “christian shirts” and I couldn’t find any. I know that’s crazy to say, but I think God shielded my eyes from them. If I would have seen how many there were (even in 2016 when we started), I might have been discouraged from starting.
I also received an unexpected bonus from my job, which I used to purchase my first supplies, and then God really took the business and grew it. If I hadn’t been listening and open to His direction, I don’t think EllyandGrace would exist today.
5. How did you decide on the name of your business? Does it have any significant meaning to you?
I immediately knew I didn’t want to use my name as part of the business, so I started brainstorming other related things. Elephants are my favorite animal, and so I shortened that to “elly.”
God’s grace is so powerful and really is the reason we are able to do anything at all, so I decided to use “grace” and put them together to form “EllyandGrace.”
One of the reasons I started EllyandGrace was because I was becoming very unhappy at my day job and the long commute, and I was also in a season of sadness because we were struggling with infertility. I thought that maybe, if we ever had a child, and maybe, if that child was a girl, we would name her Grace. (But I didn’t tell very many people that…because naming your business after a child that doesn’t exist is a little strange.)
Fast Forward to 2019, and I was shocked to find out I was pregnant. And then, elated to learn the baby was a girl. Grace Elaine was born on January 4, 2020, and every time I see her, I’m reminded that our powerful, loving God performs miracles.
6. What are some of the specific gifts and abilities you feel the Lord has blessed you with that have led you to this business/organization?
I’m not good at complimenting myself, so I asked my husband for help with this question and he graciously said my gifts of organization, work ethic, design talent, and dedication have been fundamental for our business.
A hard-working attitude and always being willing to do what needs to be done has really helped the business grow. I think this sets a good example for the rest of the team, too.
Not a lot of people know this, but I currently design ALL of our products; we don’t have a design team. Sometimes I have a plan for a collection, and sometimes an idea just comes to me (like “Jesus is Essential”). I didn’t go to school for it, and there are times I feel inadequate, but it’s definitely something the Lord blessed me with—something I know I couldn’t do without Him!
7. What are some of the difficulties you have faced along your journey and how have you worked with the Lord to overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges of the recent past (besides the pandemic!) was the transition season of navigating being a new mom and a business owner. In the past, I would work 60-80 hours a week during busy times—but that wasn’t sustainable when Grace was born.
I’m so blessed to have an incredible manager and an amazing team who love what they do. I have part-time childcare and work part-time, and I’ve always been a bit of a control freak. But, God really showed me the importance of trusting others and delegating. It’s really hard to give up control in so many situations, but God has shown me that it’s always worth it and He is trustworthy.
8. What does a typical workday look like for you? Share a bit of a behind-the-scenes view of your day from the time you wake up until the time you finish work.
I typically get up around 7 a.m. and if Grace is still sleeping, I spend some time with God in His Word and have breakfast. I’ll get her up if she’s not awake, and then she has her breakfast and play time before our nanny arrives.
Once she’s taken care of, my husband and I head to our office. Once there, I check-in with our office manager to see how things are going. I’m always taking behind the scenes videos and helping solve little problems that have come up in the previous week. We usually have a marketing meeting at the beginning of the week to discuss all our creative content and strategies with our virtual team.
My husband and I usually get to enjoy lunch together, and then it’s back to the office for more meetings, picking up things for pictures, etc.
Some days, I don’t go into the office, and instead, head to the basement around 9 a.m. I take pictures first—whether it’s a new design or style. I take all of our flat lays, and it’s one aspect of my role that I particularly enjoy.
Then, I’m creating! Whether it’s a new design, an Instagram caption, a Tiktok video, or a Reel, I try to create content for most of the week on Tuesdays! I make sure to answer as many instagram DMs as I can then, too.
I enjoy the variety and flexibility in my days.
9. What have you discovered to be your greatest joy in running your business?
I love hearing the stories that customers share with me about our shirts—the customers who email us to say that their package came at the exact right time, the conversations at the grocery store, the hospital, and between friends.
I’m an introvert, so giving people a way to share their faith in a subtle way that opens the door for a smile or a moment is such a joy for me.
10. What is a significant character trait of God that you’ve come to know by means of walking through a trial, and how did He reveal Himself to you through that season of struggle?
I always heard growing up about the “Lord’s timing” and that, “His plans are greater than ours.” But it wasn’t until my late teens/early 20s that I really experienced what that actually meant.
There have been MANY times in my life where I wanted things to speed up. I wanted to hurry and graduate high school, hurry and meet someone, hurry and get married, hurry and have children.
If I would have gotten into that college that I wanted so very badly to attend and kept dating that guy, my life would be completely different today. Grace wouldn’t exist. EllyandGrace wouldn’t exist. I wouldn’t be married to my amazing husband.
Looking back, I’m so thankful that God protected me from getting what I was earnestly praying for. And I’ve learned to trust Him deeper because of what He withheld and His proven perfect timing.
11. If you could rewind life—what is something you would have changed about yours? What would you do differently in hindsight?
I would have enjoyed time more when I didn’t have the things I wanted. I struggle with focusing on the next thing instead of enjoying what I have in the present moment. So I wish I would have savored the time before I had Grace a little more, instead of lamenting about how I may never have a child.
And I think that can be applied to so many different aspects of life. “I can’t wait until I _____.” It’s our human nature to want more. But one thing I’ve been learning is that true satisfaction can only be found in God.
12. What is one thing you believe women struggle with today inhibiting them from utilizing the abilities God has given them to forge a unique path—and what is your advice to equip them for the battle?
Comparison. Oh, comparison. It’s something I struggle with almost daily. Even now, I can think of someone specific who is an incredible hand letterer and woman of God! I try not to compare myself to her but wow, it’s hard. I know first hand how comparison can steal your joy and your confidence.
But, there is no one who is just like me. And there’s no one who is exactly like you either! God gave all of us unique abilities to fulfill His call on our lives.
My advice is this. If you are constantly comparing yourself to a certain person, unfollow them. It’s okay! If it’s triggered by social media, log off or turn off your notifications.
And remember, God created you with purpose for a purpose. The more you focus on loving God and loving others, the less you will focus on yourself and your struggle with comparison.
Share This Post