It was only launched in 2004, but The Elf and the Shelf franchise has quickly become a beloved family tradition for millions.

And while by this point in December parents might be tiring of finding ways for their elf to move each night, it's clear the little red creature will be a Christmas staple for years to come.

Yet while today it is a huge money-spinner, Elf On The Shelf's origins are far more modest than you might expect.

The company began when new mum Chanda Bell reflected on her childhood experiences in a bid to pass these on to her son.

“When we were children, our Scout Elf, Fisbee, would come to our home and look over our family each year,” the Atlanta, Georgia native told 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 Christmas Tradition.”

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.

Then, in 2007, actress Jennifer Garner was photographed with an Elf, before America's Today Show ran a segment on the tradition.

Orders flooded in, and Elf On The Shelf has since become a cultural marvel. The family owned business employs 40 people and it's products are now sold in thirteen countries with over 50 licenses across the globe.

This was never the original intended outcome though as the entrepreneur insists Elf On 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.

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