Evolve a traditional business model

Evolve a traditional business model

With help from the City

With hard work, pilot projects and strategic help from the City, Emilya Colliver was able to evolve a traditional business model into a contemporary and thriving business. Read about how she achieved success. 

What do your businesses entail?

Art Pharmacy is an online gallery that sells affordable art by Australian-based, emerging and established artists. Culture Scouts offers tailored walking tours around central Sydney suburbs, which help people discover street art, shops, history, galleries, cafes and more. And Art Pharmacy Consulting is a curatorial service for corporate clients.

What made you want to start up your businesses? 

My first business, Art Pharmacy, came from my own interest in buying affordable art by Australian-based artists. I realised there were so many amazing artists without a proper outlet to buyers. My arts degree and work in London were centred around priceless artworks. But art doesn't need to be like that! As I got to know more and more artists, designers and other local, like-minded companies, I created Culture Scouts so people could discover a different side to Sydney, incorporating street art, galleries, shops, cafes etc. Culture Scouts keeps me grounded in what is going on at a grassroots level. 

How did you innovate a traditional business model?

Walking tours aren't new, but for them to work with art, you need to keep up to date with what is happening in the suburbs – walls are always changing, new restaurants and cafes come and go, galleries change their exhibitions. Our motto is 'Discover Sydney differently'. We really involve the people who run the spaces we visit, that way our customers get a true understanding of these places. This also keeps those proprietors involved. We are working very closely with Destination NSW & Tourism Australia. We receive lots of local and international press – for example, next week I am meeting a journalist from India who writes for Harper’s Bazaar.


What has been your biggest lesson?

Working with the right people is key. Running a business is really about dedication and focus – it takes years to establish something. And that making mistakes teaches you so much.

How has the City helped with your businesses?

The City of Sydney has been immensely helpful to me, providing strategic advice and marketing support, and also introductions to invaluable contacts who have helped me develop my business. I also received a grant to extend Culture Scouts and received an award for ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ at the NSW Business Chamber Awards supported by the City.

Would you encourage others to take part in City programs?

Absolutely! I would suggest testing your market and idea first – hire a venue, build a website and get networking. The City doesn't just want an idea, they want to see you can bring that idea to life too with previous projects.

Hear more from Emilya at our next Business 101 seminar, in which she and other small business owners will discuss their innovative business models and share how they became leaders in their field.

Last updated: Thursday, 20 October 2016