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  • Of Passion and Glass

    Of Passion and Glass

    Soozie Hilker

    Founder, A Passion for Glass

    www.apassionforglass.com.au

    Passion isn't something that can be made, but it is carved in glass in each of the bespoke pieces created by Soozie Hilker. An eternal optimist, Soozie has launched her own business at the age of 59 and the only road ahead is forwards. Crafting completely bespoke pieces for her clients, A Passion for Glass is more than just her business name, it is her heart etched in each piece she creates.

    What's the story behind your business? | Due to a family illness, I recently returned to Australia after living in Europe and the United Kingdom for nearly 22 years. When the unexpected opportunity arose to start my own business I had, initially, intended to draw on my corporate background and experience to commence my enterprise. However, one sunny morning, whilst meditating, I had what could only be described as an 'Aha'  moment and, in the calm space between breathing in and breathing out, the realisation occurred that I wanted to choose a different path - and that was to work with glass.

    I had what can only be described as an 'Aha moment and, in the calm space between breathing in and breathing out, the realisation occurred that I wanted to choose a different path [for my business] - and that was to work with glass.

    Why did you choose the name 'A Passion for Glass'? | I was having a phone conversation with my sister describing my vision of the business, it's future and the pieces I was creating, and she remarked on the passion she heard in my voice. I realised then that 'A Passion for Glass' was the perfect name, as it completely reflects how I feel when working with this medium.


    Why did you choose to work with glass over other materials? | My love for working with glass commenced in the late 1980's as a hobby working with stained glass. I have always loved the illuminating effects light and shadow casts on the different glasses, and I find this medium extremely emotive and rewarding when creating different designs. I was recently given the experience of working with 'warm' or fused glass and, from that moment, I was hooked. When kiln-heated glass is incredibly hot, it becomes this beautiful, living, fluid form and the 'natural' elements within the glass take over to create minute changes; creating a unique piece and leading to exciting discoveries each time the kiln is 'cracked'.


    How do you feel taking the risk of launching your own business? What advantages and challenges are the result of launching at 59 years of age? | Good question! I guess I am slightly older than the average age a person commences a new business endeavour, however, I have an extremely diverse business background - including flight attendant, area manager for a prestigious car brand, manager for an international company and international on-site conference coordinator - from which to draw experiences from. 

    On my personal journey,  I have travelled extensively since 18 years of age. I've lived in many foreign countries and studied a number of natural therapies, and these experiences combine and are drawn from on a daily basis, either consciously or sub-consciously. As a sole trader, with all the areas of business this entails, naturally there are the very rare nano-seconds when I question my decisions. However, in these moments, a quote comes to mind:

    Fear is past experiences and challenges,

    Strangling the present,

    And suffocating the future!

    And that is definitely not for me...

    What is your favourite piece that you've created, and why? | Definitely the 'Tree of Life'. The commissions for this piece are so personal and varied - a Mother wanting her children's initials 'carved' into the tree trunk, a newly married couple with a 'carved' heart containing their initials and a young woman who recently lost a sibling wanting his initials carved as a personal memorial - each one a touching commission and I feel honoured that I have been allowed to share in these moments.

    How do you represent the customer and yourself in all of your bespoke pieces? | Listening and hearing the client's 'story' surrounding the bespoke piece is the most important factor. This gives me the vision of how to best create the memories or events they wish to remember. It's their story told in glass.

    What are you working on now and what's next for A Passion for Glass? | At present, a commission of the Arthurian legend 'The Green Man', the Wierwood Tree from the popular Game of Thrones television series, and a set of glass 'etis' coasters, part of a series based on the story 'The Starfish Thrower'.

    What's next? Christmas is just around the corner! Creating delicate Christmas decorations, experimenting with 'lacing' glass, working towards my own studio and kiln and, on a personal level, preparing myself for the 870km Camino De Santiago trek across France and Spain next year to celebrate my 60th birthday.

  • Building the Yes

    Building the Yes

    Michelle Francis

    Founder, Sherlock Homes and Investments

    www.221b.com.au

    There are few out there who can go with the flow, take risks and keep battling despite what setbacks thwart their way. Michelle Francis is one of them. She’s just launched her own real estate agency called Sherlock Homes Investments, and she’s already scaffolding and building a solid path for a successful career in the industry.


    How did you start out? | I have a family friend who is a developer, when he heard I was in real estate, he asked if I would be interested in working with him. I know that new homes and units aren’t always the best investment for some, but this opportunity was too good to pass up, and I knew that this idea could grow into more than what was available right now. 


    What gave you the inspiration to name your agency after the great fictional detective? | I was looking for a name that would be memorable. A name that would stick. Something quirky and almost cheeky. Sherlock Holmes was a detective hero, solving people’s cases, with practices against the norm. I saw these characteristics as parallels of how I work. I search and detect the best homes for investors, solving portfolio ‘cases' in my own way. I’ve also referenced the home of Holmes, of 221b Baker Street in London, choosing my web address as 221b.com.au

    So that’s my business: Sherlock Homes Investments - Investment homes without the mystery

    What do you love about the real estate industry? Is there anything about it you'd like to change? |This industry is totally what you make of it. You can do as much or as little and reap exactly what you sow. The only unfortunate thing about that is we, as a collective industry, can be very selfish with our intentions and we have created a ‘sleazy’ name for ourselves. The only way I believe this stigma can be changed is through individual integrity and reflection. If just one agent makes it a priority to uphold a high standard of business ethics and honest attitude, a ripple effect of trust and respect should follow. 

    Was entrepreneurship something you've always wanted to dive into? | I suppose I have always had a streak of going against the norm, and I’ve been lucky enough to try my hand at a few different avenues, but I’ve never considered myself an entrepreneur, more of an opportunist and proactive creator.  


    What have been your toughest challenges so far? | Ooh good question, there have been a few really great challenges that have tested my resolve. And I could say I’ve grown stronger from them. I suppose my greatest challenge was my previous role as manager of a local independent video shop. 6 months into my supervisor role, the owner tried to shut the place down. I felt it still had potential, but the management wasn’t on the same path as what the community needed, so I approached the owner and asked for a second chance. He said yes and gave me $5000 to move the shop, design and renovate it and be up and running in two weeks. It cost me and my amazing staff a lot of 3am finishes to get us there, but we did it!

    And so what’s been your biggest achievement so far in your career? | I’d have to say the moment I launched this business. I’ve worked hard bouncing back from the closing of the video shop I was running. It was incredibly daunting to leave the comfort and familiarity of a franchise where the work was steady and safe for something that's never a guarantee. But I did it, and it has been the most thrilling, rewarding and freeing choice I've ever made, and I haven't looked back yet, nor do I see myself doing so. This new endeavour is absolutely amazing and I'm enjoying every second, every new encounter and every step I take towards joining an investor to their investment.


    Who or what inspires you to keep doing what you're doing? | My favourite quote of all time: “You already have your no, you may as well try for the yes.”


    How would you like to set yourself apart from the rest of the sharks out there? | I would like to be the person that people refer to as the honest one, she’s got my back. How I can create that, is I don’t follow the traditional real estate sales procedure. Instead of pushing certain ‘stock’ that belongs to one developer, aka a Spruiker, I find out exactly what the investor wants and where they want it, and then go find it for them. I don’t want to push a certain location as investor friendly, because there are plenty out there that just don’t work for investors.

    You're definitely a winner no doubt about that. But if "Failure" just decides to rock up out of the blue and knock on the door, what would you say to “Failure"? | Hey, How you doin’? In all seriousness, though, if failure knocked on my door, it wouldn’t matter, mistakes are a great teacher. ☺ 


    So where to from here? | We keep trucking! I love what I do, and I think I do it well, and that’s half the battle. Now it’s offering people the same passion and confidence I hold in myself and look forward to creating and building portfolios for savvy investors!

  • Heart of Horses

    Heart of Horses

    Sophie Barrington

    Founder, Archer Creative

    www.archercreative.net.au

    A rider without a horse may be just a man, but that's a sentiment that certainly hasn't stopped Sophie Barrington. At the age of 23, Sophie has launched Archer Creative, a boutique media consultancy that works exclusively with equestrian and rural businesses - despite having never owned a horse of her own.

    What's the story behind your business? | At the tender age of 22, I became closely acquainted with the heart-rendering, humiliating shock of losing the job that I thought was the start of my impressive corporate career. In early 2013, I was feeling proud to be working in the dream role I had been aiming for. And then, the dream died. Reality gradually seeped in as I carried out the infamous task I'd only seen in sitcoms. I gingerly packed up my belongings and stepped out into a rainy day. What a cliché.

    "At the very moment that one opportunity closes, an entire world of new possibilities arise before you."

    You see, my friends at high school told me that I was destined for the United Nations. An academic achiever, I quickly became the journalism student who was more known for her passion for human rights, than by her own name. I hadn't set parameters for failure at the beginning. I didn't think it was even possible. I had finally got to the place where I wanted to be. Or, at least the place I thought I wanted to be. But, what if success doesn't look like what you first imagined? What if the one thing you'd been dreaming about, wasn't the thing that you wanted after all? 

    It is a bittersweet blessing to lose your grip on the job you thought you wanted. A busy weekly schedule is quickly replaced with days that don't have quite the same meaning between 9-5. A once almost hectic purpose is replaced with feelings of disappointment, embarrassment and loss. And your pair of neat black wedges, which were worn almost daily, are put back in their box and placed on the shelf.

    But there is also something profoundly unique in losing the job you thought you wanted. At the very moment that one opportunity closes, an entire world of new possibilities arise before you. It is exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time. In a single moment, a once-defined path becomes blurred. But, what is truly terrifying is that you have been given something rare. An opportunity to re-define, re-evaluate, re-adjust. To achieve dreams which may have otherwise been left behind for another version of yourself. Archer Creative was born out of my very own silver lining.

    How did you develop the brand Archer Creative? | For those who don't yet know me, the image of the archer closely resembles my approach to the world - both to my life and to my work. Drawn from ancient Roman mythology, the archer is embodied by the centaur, half person, half horse. She is renowned for her intellect, clarity of thought and boldness of approach. These are the characteristics that I hope lay the foundation for Archer Creative, both now and into the future. Put simply, the client is the arrow and Archer Creative is their bow. Archer Creative is the first of its kind in Australia. Dedicated to working exclusively with equestrian and rural businesses, Archer Creative exists to help them reach their full potential - to help them strive, expand and perform - through its creative marketing and PR solutions.

    What trait do you think is most important in starting your own business? | Tenacity. 

    An unshakeable belief in yourself that your idea might just work. An enduring sense of purpose that it has to work, because you simply know that it will. Because this is what you choose to do every day. 

    To this day, I have never had the pleasure of owning my own horse. It is still a dream that feels somewhat distant. There is always either too little time or too little money to get in the way. I think the very nature of that word, 'dream', ensures it remains in the realm of improbability, rather than certainty. And that can be applied to your own business. I think it is time to change that. It is time to turn my love affair with horses into my life with them. To chase my dream until it cannot run anymore and it is no longer just a dream. An old boss once told me that my tenacity, at times, works against me. I disagree. Have tenacity.

    What has been your biggest learning curve? | We all have the same 24 hours in a day, it is up to you to choose how you spend it. Managing every aspect of your own business can be difficult - sometimes, it can feel insurmountable. I find the more I look for work to do, the more I find it. But being dedicated to consistently building your business, your brand and your key strategies will serve you well over time. 

    My business is still in its early days, but I can look back and say that, in less than six months of operation, I have achieved more than I ever did in that same amount of time in previous jobs. Running your own business should not take over every moment of your time, but it should be engaged as not just a job that you do, but something you choose to do every day. My next move is working towards more collaborative projects, like this one, developing a network of like-minded creatives for larger projects that come across my desk, and eventually establishing a full service agency. You cannot do it all alone, but you can pick a point and just start.

    What's one thing about yourself that you'd like to share | I was the first and only equestrian captain at my high school who didn't have her own horse. I was perhaps also the only senior student who applied for the position with no competition that year. But what I did was create something unique with that gifted opportunity. I started the riding club. A club for girls, like me, who loved horses but didn't have the pleasure of owning one. My lunch times were often spent with notebooks in hand, at meetings with staff organising trail rides and other equestrian activities. Since those early days of managing a schedule in addition to my schoolwork, I haven't looked back. I enjoy diversity and working with different businesses on different projects. The riding club is still going strong, even today, seven years on... The smiling 17-year-old in me likes to think it's her very own legacy.