The kids are alright: creative entrepreneurs doing it their way

The kids are alright: creative entrepreneurs doing it their way

Text: Yeong Sassall

Image: Salleigh Olsen at Art Pharmacy

Ever wanted to escape the daily grind? Meet five local entrepreneurs who have done exactly that. By Ros Brennan

The French have this expression métro, boulot, dodo - train, work, sleep - a wonderfully succinct way of conveying the monotony of the daily grind. We've all experienced that feeling of mid-week inertia, where the snooze button is your best friend and even an intravenous caffeine drip couldn't clear your foggy mind.

There is a profound difference between holding down a job and building a career you love. The latter assumes a far more emotionally complex and symbiotic relationship - where your occupation becomes not only your 9-5, but a lifestyle, a cause you are excited to jump out of bed for and one that taps into our deeply human need to create meaning and connection.

Not content with working for someone else's dream, the founders of Cake Wines, Art Pharmacy, Astral People and Peaches Pilates, took the leap from more conventional careers and started their own labour of love; building brands based on heart, developing genuine connections with their audiences and executing some of the most forward-thinking ideas in their fields.


Glen Cassidy, co-Founder of Cake Wines

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How did you start out in your career?
I studied Communications and Marketing, worked in 'creative communications' roles, and basically spent the rest of the time either talking about or consuming wine. Then the penny dropped... 

Why did you decide to start Cake Wines?
My business partner Mike Smith and I loved wine, we loved the culture it is part of and didn't really see any wine companies doing anything remotely interesting to bring these two worlds together. It still baffles me why there are not more wine companies like us.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
When you see people discovering and experiencing wine in a new way. I also love being surrounded by a constantly evolving creative culture alongside a group of people who want to do fresh stuff, continually looking for new ways of doing things. Getting to play records on the lush sound system at the Cellar Door whenever I want is an added bonus.

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Describe your perfect Saturday in Sydney
Breaky sandwich from Scouts Honour with my girl, smashing a smoothie at Henry Lees, chilling in the park hunting for tunes, then heading to Cake Wines Cellar Door for a Shiraz where Vic from Astral People is permanently positioned at the end of the bar striking up conversations with basically anyone who will listen (mostly girls). 

What is coming up at Cakes Wines?
Our new vintage whites have just dropped, it's always and exciting time because we get to finally see what people think about these things we've been working on for over a tip, our new Rose' is the bomb!  We've also got the Cake Wines School of Wine starting in July. It's a new four week course hosted by the Head Sommelier of our Cellar Door, Anna Boydell, who'll be talking everything from tannins to terroir, food and wine matching and much more, in a relaxed, un-intimidating environment. Aside from that, we basically live at the Cellar Door so anything that happens at Cake at the moment is focused on that.

Emilya Colliver, founder of Art Pharmacy  

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 How did you start out in your career?
I studied art history in London, majoring in Chinese Contemporary Art. After graduating I got an internship at Eskenazi, where I had clients flying in on private jets to look at artwork and I realised there was so much wealth in London, it really opened my eyes. Then I worked for Nicholas Logsdail who represents Anish Kapoor and following that an art collector named James Birch who exhibited Francis Bacon and Grayson Perry.

Why did you decide to launch Art Pharmacy?
In London I got swept in quite an elite circle of artists and collectors. I was surrounded by so many beautiful artworks but couldn't buy any of it because the prices were so inaccessible. Art Pharmacy started organically five years ago when I helped a friend sell his artwork online, which snowballed into helping more artists to promote and sell their work online. I realised this could be a great voice for emerging and unsigned artists.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I think getting out and meeting new artists, watching their progress and helping them get to a point where they can support themselves. Selling artwork really gives me joy as well. I like to think that I'm slowly changing people's attitudes towards art and getting them to purchase originals from local artists rather than prints overseas. Every time I sell an artwork, it's a win for me.

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Describe your perfect Saturday in Sydney
We get up early in the morning and go to Don Campos in Alexandria or Brickfields in Chippendale and then take the kids swimming. Then I'd head to Redfern Continental for lunch followed by a gelato at Ciccone and Sons around the corner. Then I'd finish the day with wine and cheese at Stinking Bishops in Newtown. 

What is coming up at Art Pharmacy?
We are installing works by emerging artists on Level 3 of Broadway Shopping Centre, in the Deloitte offices and at the Sofitel. We are also running 'Culture Scouts', off the beaten track arts and culture walks through creative precincts such as Chippendale and Redfern, and selling hundreds of artworks online at


Vichara Edirisinghe and Tom Huggett, Co-Founders of Astral People

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How did you start out in your career?
Vic: I was studying Health Science at UNSW, and, as a means to pay my way through university, I was promoting at clubs and selling tickets for festivals and became completely absorbed by this world for better or worse. This soon evolved into helping friends get gigs in various clubs I was working for and in my final year of university, I started up Astral People with Tom and Lee. Here we are some 5 years later!

Why did you decide to start Astral People?
Tom: We wanted to fill a void which we thought Sydney was missing. There was no real home for the ever increasing live electronic scene in Sydney as far as parties and events/management was concerned.  We wanted to start a family/collective where everyone could collaborate, play shows together and just live in a likeminded community.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Vic: There's nothing more rewarding than watching an artist build their careers in front of your very own eyes. We've managed the majority of our acts since they've put out their first song, now some of them are playing some of the biggest festivals in the world and being championed by some of the biggest names in the world.

Describe your perfect Saturday in Sydney

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Tom: My perfect Saturday in Sydney definitely changes with the seasons. Let's talk about summer. I'd kick off the day with a late breakfast at Orto Trading Co. in Surry Hills. Then I'd head over to Redleaf for a swim and most likely spend the entire day there. That night I may check out an early show for some live music at Plan B Smallclub and then head over to Freda's or Cake Wine's Cellar Door for a little dance until they close at midnight hen head close by to the Lord Gladstone for some more drinks.

What is coming up at Astral?
Tom:  We've got new music dropping weekly at the moment from the majority of our roster including: GL, Dual Point, Rainbow Chan, Roland Tings, Collarbones, Alba, Dro Carey, Cosmo's Midnight, Polographia, and BV... We have Snakehips returning to Australia for Splendour In The Grass in July which is selling super-fast. We've also just signed our first new act to our management roster in close to two years ... more on that soon!

Tori Clapham, Peaches Pilates

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How did you start out in your career?
I was a food and travel writer at MTV Australia. I loved the work and the people; however I did begin to itch to get out of an office and away from being sat at a computer for hours on end. 

Why did you decide to start Peaches?
My mother actually became a Pilates instructor before me and I remember feeling so surprisingly envious of her venture. I have always practised Pilates and am a huge believer in the results it delivers, physically and mentally. I became certified and began teaching in the office and before/after work. One thing led to another and Peaches really started to take off. I furthered my certifications and by the end of the year I had my own studio.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The people! I can't describe the sense of community I feel now that I have a business base in Bondi. I have met the most incredibly kind, fun and worldly people - I teach a huge range of clients from all walks of life; from those with illness and disability, pregnant women or mums with kids in tow, famous models, married couples and even my property mogul landlord.

Describe your perfect Saturday in Sydney

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Well it of course would start with getting Peachy! I work 6 days a week (life of a new business owner) but I love my Saturday morning classes because they always have such a playful vibe. Then I head to Bennett St Dairy which is my local that does the BEST coffee. Then I'd do the coastal walk along the Bronte followed by lunch and a glass of Rose at the Boathouse in Balmain. If I was pretending I wasn't someone who was strapped for cash and in the start up stages of her business, I'd include dinner on the wharf in Woolloomooloo while the sun goes down, then drinks and dancing from there.

What is coming up at Peaches?
Aside from my weekly classes in Pilates, Boxilates and Barre, I also hold regular workshops with a qualified nutritionist and hormone/wellness expert - stay tuned for our next sessions, which will focus on gut health, fertility and pregnancy nutrition. 

Opening images: 'Daydreams' (left) and 'Maple Syrup Sundays' (right) by Salleigh Olsen at Art Pharmacy

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