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Elf on the Shelf Story

Meet the Mastermind Mom Who Came Up With the Elf on the Shelf

Elf on the Shelf Story
Image Source: The Elf on the Shelf

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When it comes to putting parental creativity to the test, nothing does the job quite like the Elf on the Shelf. The book and corresponding "scout elf" have fast become part of thousands of families' Christmas traditions, and now there's a celebratory Birthday Tradition Elf to keep the fun going throughout the year. We chatted with Chanda Bell, one of Santa's favorite employees, and cofounder of the Elf on the Shelf, to learn about the mischievous North Pole resident's humble origins.

POPSUGAR Moms: Let's begin from the beginning. How did the Elf on the Shelf come to be?

Chanda Bell: Both my mom and I have backgrounds as teachers. I was an English, reading, and social studies teacher and stayed home to become a mom and was just absolutely broke. My husband's also a teacher — we did not have two pennies to rub together. My dad employed me to come work for him two days a week. They lived about an hour away, so I'd bring my infant son and stay with them. It was during that time that I looked up one day and saw our [family's] very own elf that we had growing up with. He was up on the shelf, just staring back at me. I looked at my mom and said, 'Mom, we should write a story about our elf.' And it really was just that, there was no intent to start a business. I didn't know I'd eventually be working for Santa Claus! It was really a way for my mom and I to spend some time together. I think that our backgrounds as educators certainly played in. We just combined our skills and passions and ended up writing what is now The Elf on the Shelf.

We couldn't get anyone to publish it. Long story short, we ended up self-publishing. Ignorance is definitely bliss, and we had no idea what we were getting into — we're so glad it happened that way. We put our first order of 5,000 units on my husband's and my personal credit card. It was quite the adventure, for sure.

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