08 Mar 2023

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

DUX Collection, Hunting Hue, The Tea Cosy, Get Drenched, Shazia Imran Gallery, The Argyle Oracle, Eloise Panetta, The Doss House, Wendy Murray.

What do these bars, cafes and stores 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.

AJ Baker

AJ Baker is taking the helm at The Rocks new venue, The Keel, working alongside her partner Laura the head chef.

The Keel is a bar and restaurant with a purpose, supporting the local community and trying to make a difference by rebuilding the Daintree rainforest. This duo will be heading up the team there focussing on life at sea with rum cocktails and food by the harbour.

AJ is believes all women can keep making a difference and go even further, she says "Nothing is impossible for those who try".

Magdalena Duma

Starting a business during a pandemic is not for the faint hearted but when you have a dream and drive nothing can stop you. Magdalena did just that.

After coming back from living and running a business in Europe, she was waiting for inspiration to show her what to do next. It came in the form of seeing people's need and want for Australian made children’s and women's wear. Quickly she handmade a collection that was incredibly well received which prompted her to think about where her creations could be best displayed and made. An incredible opportunity opened up at The Rocks, Sydney's prettiest, oldest and most vibrant area. 

Her boutique and studio, Daisy.Lifetyle.Store is a reflection of her life's journey and experiences living in Europe and Australia. It's a juxtaposition of the relaxed, light and earthy style of living in Australia combined with elegance, tailoring and quality fabrication synonymous with European design. Her collection includes womens wear, children's and hand embroidered soft furnishings and accessories.

Ciara Doran

The woman behind The Doss House and Frank Mac's

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.”

Helen Beckman

The enchanting mastermind behind The Argyle Oracle, Sydney's original psychic haven

Helen Beckman, the ultimate spiritual guide, conjured up The Argyle Oracle in 1993, igniting a vibrant community of spiritual seekers. Her store was the first in Sydney to combine an array of mystical tools and delights, from spellbinding books to captivating jewellery and bewitching crystals.

Her curiosity about clairvoyance, astrology, numerology, mediumship, tarot, palmistry, and kinesiology has grown over the years, fueling her passion for providing restful and supportive readings to people from all walks of life.

With her unique and magical gifts, Helen has curated a community of talented psychics, clairvoyants, and mediums who are dedicated to helping people unlock their true potential. Having first worked at Argyle Leather in The Argyle Arts Centre in 1972, Helen is a longstanding member of The Rocks community. 

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.”

Shazia Imran

The bold creative behind Shazia Imran 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. 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.”

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.

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.