08 Mar 2021

Celebrating some of The Rocks' most inspiring women

The Rocks is home to some of Australia’s finest shopping, eating and drinking. We meet the inspiring women behind it all and discover their stories.
Celebrating some of The Rocks' most inspiring women

FAID, DUX Collection, Hunting Hue, The Tea Cosy, Get Drenched, AAD Gallery, Eloise Panetta, The Doss House, More Body, Wendy Murray.

What do these bars, cafes and retailers in The Rocks have in common? Apart from offering products, drinks and food that we love, they’re all run by strong, inspiring women.To celebrate International Women’s Day, we spoke to the ladies themselves to hear more about their businesses and the stories behind them.

Ciara Doran

The woman behind The Doss House

If you like whiskey and cocktails, you’re going to love The Doss House. The woman behind the business, Ciara got the inspiration for this special bar from her mum:

“My mother opened a business in her late forties & we saw a transformation in her. She had so much drive & passion for what she did – it was truly inspiring to watch her come to life. I knew then that I would have my own business one day.”

While Ciara says the hours can be long, she escapes to Palm Beach whenever she can to relax and recharge her batteries. Her advice for aspiring young women who want to start businesses is simple:

“Go for it. The importance of female role models can’t be underestimated. If we look around and don’t see examples of women achieving amazing things, how can we believe that we as women in the world can do great things too.”

Liz Moyers

The lady who dreamed up Get Drenched

Liz Moyers has worked a number of different corporate jobs at a management level but she always knew she wanted to be her own boss. In 2011, she made it happen and started Get Drenched, a retail store selling premium soaps, candles and home fragrances:

“My vision was to create a store at The Rocks that was full of amazing products – the best soaps, candles and home fragrances in Australia – all in one place … Now in its 8th year, the shop has continuously evolved and has grown from strength to strength,” Liz said.

The retail store creates a memorable and enjoyable buying experience for locals and tourists alike. Liz says that while the hours can be long, it’s well worth it:

“The mind never really switches off. I’m always thinking about the products in the shop, the merchandising, and how the customer offering can be improved ... Although retail is often long hours with an occasional sleepless night thrown in for good measure, it’s so rewarding too.”

El Panetta

The artist who created Eloïse Panetta

El’s brand, Eloise Panetta, stocks handcrafted botanical silks and bespoke clothing celebrating the beauty of Australia’s natural environment.

“I have always had a deep respect for the natural world, not only as a person, but as a business. It is my biggest inspiration and one of the reasons for starting Eloïse Panetta. I am constantly in awe at how nature can provide us with so much,” said El.

After being inspired by the artistry of her grandmother as a child, completing a Masters of Fine Arts and working for a Australian Fashion Label, she knew she wanted to start her own business in the industry:

“Opening up my Atelier and retail space in The Rocks has been such an incredible opportunity. I have experienced amazing growth as a small business and it has enabled me to thrive in this new and exciting chapter.”

Wendy Murray

The renowned designer behind Wendy Murray Design

Wendy Murray has won international renown for her handmade leather and suede garments, which she crafts and sells from her boutique in The Rocks. But unlike most designers, her career in the industry started on the ski slopes of New Zealand:

“I studied medicine in NZ, and was a ski teacher in my holidays while still at school,” Wendy says, “My first fashion label was ski suits.”

From there, Wendy moved to Paris and worked as the head designer of a fashion house. She designed a white cut out leather trench coat for herself to attend Paris Fashion Week and got lots of compliments and enquiries. From that moment, Wendy Murray Design was born.

Wendy says after all these years her favourite part of her job is still designing clothing:

“I love designing and making bespoke jackets for my customers. It is very rewarding to see the fit and how beautiful the jacket looks at the final fitting. Once you have made a bespoke jacket for a customer, they usually become a customer for life.”

Shazia Imran

The bold creative behind AAD Gallery

Shazia started her working life as a designer in the digital marketing industry but art was always her passion. In 2013, she was invited to join the New York Art Expo, which provided the inspiration to bring her passion to life:

“Since [the New York Art Expo], I’ve had many successful shows all over the world,” Shazia said, “So in June 2017, I decided to say goodbye to my corporate career and became a full time artist. And 2020 marked another milestone when I opened up the physical AAD Gallery in The Rocks.”

Opening a gallery in the middle of a global pandemic wasn’t a decision she made lightly:

“I started my physical gallery in The Rocks last year in April 2020 when Australia and the entire world was practically shutting down. What led me to go ahead was that we need to support our economy and businesses.”

Shazia says her family helped her start her career and get through the tough times:

“I have a very supportive family. They have sacrificed a lot to accommodate my work plans. And due to Covid-19, the challenge continues. Hoping that in the next few months we will have a little normal coming to our lives.”

Rebecca Collinson-Smith

The Heart Behind Hunting Hue

Hunting Hue's Rebecca Collinson-Smith draws inspiration from women that came before her in photography, wearable art.

Rebecca’s love of photography emerged from the use of her great grandmother’s Box Brownie (an old Eastman Kodak camera) to shoot and process her own film when she was very young. She didn’t find her way to photography and fashion right away though:

“I was an interior stylist for 9 years, however, I have always been creating my own products after-hours and on weekends,” says Rebecca. “My styling work wasn’t ticking the boxes anymore, I was ready for a creative change.”

And thus, Hunting Hue was born. While photographic inspiration is drawn from her environment here in The Rocks, Rebecca will always count her mother as her greatest icon.

“Her work ethic is incredible and has set the precedent for my career,” says Rebecca. “She is my go-to for every idea I have.”

Melinda O’Rourke

The boss lady behind MORE BODY

The Rocks is home to one of Sydney’s best loved sustainable activewear brands for women - MORE BODY. Melinda O’Rourke says her time as a pilates instructor and passion for the natural environment inspired her to start the business:

“I wanted to create an activewear brand that really supported you in your moves and left a lighter footprint on the planet.”

She says she’s know many inspiring females in her life, but the one who’s had the most influence on her is definitely her mum:

“Without a doubt the most important is my mother for her quiet determination and incredibly positive outlook.”

As a consultant, business owner and avid exerciser, Melinda has some very practical advice for aspiring entrepreneurs:

“Ideas are only ideas until you start to move them into action. Also know that you will need to be across every part of your business in the early stages to innately understand all areas.”

Aisling Kinchin

The Hard-Working Matriarch of The Tea Cosy

The Tea Cosy could not have a more apt title. Its founder, Aisling Kinchin, has the same warm welcoming nature as the cafe that she founded in 2005.

An old-fashioned tea room would create that heritage hospitality she was after, and would be the second in a family line of women running a business in The Rocks.

“My mum had her own business in The Rocks from 1985 and I was always really proud of the fact that my mum was a business woman,” says Aisling.

Aisling felt a tea room would be a good fit alongside the beauty of The Rocks’ many stunning heritage buildings, so it’s no surprise that the interior design side of her business, or to put it more simply, “making the tea room pretty”, is her favourite part. You might find Aisling cleaning, cooking, as the barista, the office girl or simply greeting all the customers.

Aisling is glad to be back on the tea room floor, after taking a break to help raise her children. Visit her for tea and scones and a warm welcome at The Tea Cosy in The Rocks.

Jess Speers, Kathryn Cowle and Tessa Boehm

The Founders of FAID

FAID Store was formed by Jess Speers and Kathryn Cowle, co-owners and designers of Cedar and Onyx; and Tessa Boehm, owner and designer of Boehm Intimates.

“We started as a pop-up called The Australian Designer Collective,” they say.

“A 6 week pop-up turned into 10 months, at which point we realised that there was a need for a permanent space and hence FAID was born!”

“So many of our designers are women and their stories are all so different; it’s exciting and inspiring to see how other women are tackling business,” they say.

Arlene Nolly

The Duchess of DUX Collection

DUX Collection was started when Arelene Nolly found a way to comfort her daughter using certain products:

“DUX was not planned,” says Arlene. “It evolved from a need.”

Arlene tried a homemade pure essential oil pillow spray to soothe her daughter’s chronic bleeding disorder and it was so successful that soon she was making blends for friends. Then suddenly spas, boutique hotels and even healthcare professionals were repeat customers.

Arlene’s creativity is informed by the family connection, as she counts her two daughters, Courtney, a solicitor, and Lauren, an actor/designer, both successful women, as her greatest inspiration.

“They are my living icons,” says Arlene. “I watch them achieve their dreams in the modern world, where the bar is so tough. They rebound from hardship and grow stronger from their struggles.”

Arlene’s inspiration and passion has helped DUX Collection to have a large local and overseas following and a stunning collection of luxury homeware, scent and botanical body store. Enjoy the luxurious experience with DUX Collection next time you visit The Rocks.