Entrepreneur a bad employee but great boss

LARISSA HAM
Last updated 10:16 02/09/2014
Juliet Rosser
Fairfax Media
JUST DO IT: Juliet Rosser says half the challenge in creating your own success is in starting.

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Australian entrepreneur Juliet Rosser reckons she was once a terrible employee.

While working in corporate marketing roles, Rosser says she hated having to be at her desk at specified hours - "I was never on time," she says - and purposely maxed out her sick days.

"I thought 'god, is this really my life?'" says Rosser. "I kind of realised that maybe being freelance or not so regimented might be for me."

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The 37-year-old, who also has a mixed-bag background as a documentary producer and one-time part-owner of a London cafe, decided to return to university, taking on a Masters of Studio Art.

After finishing the course, she was unsure which direction to take, so moved to the beach for a year to think, while working as a waitress and doing plenty of yoga.

Recharged, she decided to plough her energies into her own venture, Platform72, a business that would support artists and aim to bring an appreciation of their work to the average person.

Her first space, a hybrid art gallery and retail store also selling designer homewares, jewellery and accessories, launched in February 2012 in Sydney's Darlinghurst, and was followed by a second in Broadway last October. This month Rosser will open a showroom in St Leonards.

Her initial idea was partly inspired by a concept she'd seen in Brisbane, where artists paid for a display space each month but kept the profits of any sale.

"But I thought it was too crafty and coming from an arts background I'm really into painting and sculpture and ideas around things rather than craft," she says.

Rosser's business started on a similar payment model, until she realised that many artists don't have the money to keep paying for space. She figured it would make more sense for the business - and the artists - to take a percentage commission of any piece sold.

Rosser says it took some time to build a solid base of artists, but there are now 75 on the books, and she has to regularly knock back submissions.

With original artworks ranging from about A$50 ($56) to A$15,000, Rosser says she is working hard to make artwork accessible to everyone, including those who may have previously opted for a "A$100 IKEA print".

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"I just think people should be living with local Australian art in their homes. There's a real joy to living with something that's made by a person," she says.

"Too many people are intimated by art."

Rosser takes great pleasure from dealing with first-time art buyers, and also enjoys taking artwork to potential buyers' homes as part of their in-home consultation service.

"It's a big decision to spend A$4000 on a painting and you want to know it works with your home," she says.

Of course, it's also good for business, Rosser says. Once a buyer sees something in their house that they like, she says "it's very easy for me to leave it there".

While Platform72 is beginning to really get some traction in the art world, Rosser chooses to live frugally and invest in good staff.

"I'm earning less than I was earning at uni, but that's because I'm building something and it takes time," she says.

"There's obviously times that are tough, sometimes I don't pay myself that much. But it's a long game."

Rosser, who started her venture without any solid business plan, says half the challenge in creating your own success is in starting.

"You've just got to do it. We can be so hesitant and not do it, but you've just got to actually do it. It will never be perfect."

While Rosser continues to constantly refine the business, her focus now is on consolidating what she's built so far.

And there is only the odd moment where she misses being that "terrible" employee. "It would be nice if someone just put the money in my bank account like they used to," she laughs.

The joy of following her passion, and creating something from nothing, outweighs any short-term financial sacrifice.

Rosser says: "I love working with artists and I love seeing people get joy from living with artworks in their home."

- Sydney Morning Herald

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