HOT: Ashkelon Food Store, 321 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North

Ashkelon Food Store 321 St Georges Rd Fitzroy North 1 HOT: Ashkelon Food Store, 321 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North

I wished my kitchen looked like Ashkelon.

Ashkelon Food Store HOT: Ashkelon Food Store, 321 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North

The thing that first draws your eye when you enter this single-room cafe/foodstore is the floor-to-ceiling plywood shelves. Each nook is laden with neatly lined and labelled jars of housemade condiments, crinkly packets of granola, pasta and grains and an overflowing hessian-lined basket of organic lemons. The wall of abundance is not just for decorative purposes either – everything can be purchased and cooked at home.

Ashkelon Food Store 321 St Georges Rd Fitzroy North 4 HOT: Ashkelon Food Store, 321 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North

Then I cast my eye to the counter and spot the large ornate tiered setting filled with vanilla ice, Miss Louise cake (apparently a NZ favourite), freshly-made crusty-bread braised pork, apple and fennel slaw sandwiches. It’s time for lunch!

Ashkelon Food Store 321 St Georges Rd Fitzroy North 8 HOT: Ashkelon Food Store, 321 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North

Ashkelon Food Store 321 St Georges Rd Fitzroy North 7 HOT: Ashkelon Food Store, 321 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North

 

Ashkelon Food Store 321 St Georges Rd Fitzroy North 5 HOT: Ashkelon Food Store, 321 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North

There are flip-top glass jars with different mueslis and even a cast iron vessel full of organic walnuts for sale.

Ashkelon Food Store 321 St Georges Rd Fitzroy North 6 HOT: Ashkelon Food Store, 321 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North

Ashkelon Food Store 321 St Georges Rd Fitzroy North 2 HOT: Ashkelon Food Store, 321 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North

All that food is just so damn photogenic! And it’s all prepared in house with local, fresh and seasonal ingredients.

Ashkelon Food Store 321 St Georges Rd Fitzroy North 3 HOT: Ashkelon Food Store, 321 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North

I sit down and enjoy a mixed plate of salad ($12.90) with a combination of each of the three daily salads. There’s a light freekeh mix with roast sweet potato, another roast vegetable number with straggly little Dutch carrots that I love and my favourite, potatoes with white anchovies, artichokes and some herbaceous coriander pesto (which unfortunately is one of the few things that isn’t for separate sale at the moment). The lunch menu changes daily with a choice of ciabatta or sandwich, socca (a chickpea flour flatbread for those with gluten intolerances), salad, soup, savoury tart, pie and cake. Their coffee is a special blend made for them by Eureka.

For those on the run or with an empty pantry the fridge holds more wholesome takeaway meals. It is high end takeaway – a two person serving of say slow-cooked pork with beans will cost around $23, except for the surprisingly good value (and delicious) spring vegetable bake of zucchini, pumpkin, lentils and scarmoza which could easily feed 3 people for $13.80.

Ashkelon‘s online ordering system will be up and running soon and apparently in a few weeks they will be launching their delivery service so you can try their nutritious, slow-cooked food without leaving your home. Though that would almost be a shame, because a visit to Ashkelon is like a trip to your dream pantry – orderly, well-stocked, delicious, fresh, healthy and inspiring.

Ashkelon Food Store321 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North 0498 003 212
Mon–Fri 8am–7pm

minilink HOT: Ashkelon Food Store, 321 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North


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HOT: Lark Store, 94 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

Lark Store 94 Gertrude St Fitzroy 1 HOT: Lark Store, 94 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

Lark Store has been synonymous with cute homewares and party supplies since it opened its shopfront in Daylesford four years ago. They’ve now closed their Daylesford store and have decided to take the show on the road at various pop up locations, starting with a residency in Fitzroy until February 2014.

Lark Store 94 Gertrude St Fitzroy 4 HOT: Lark Store, 94 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

At Lark Fitzroy you’ll find a selection of covetable goodies from their online store – and anything that’s not in store physically can be bought online and collected for free at the store. Alternatively, you can buy in store and then have it giftwrapped and shipped direct to the gift recipient. Talk about seamless bricks-and-mortar/online service!

Lark Store 94 Gertrude St Fitzroy 5 HOT: Lark Store, 94 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

They even serve you fresh lemonade at the counter.

Some of my favourite items from the Fitzroy store include:

Lark Store 94 Gertrude St Fitzroy 2 HOT: Lark Store, 94 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

The mint green bike in the front window. OK so it’s not for sale but it is a Beg Bicycles bike from the UK which is rarely found in Australia (I particularly love the coolbox that goes with the bike).

Lark Store 94 Gertrude St Fitzroy 6 HOT: Lark Store, 94 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

Their range of party decor. Very helpful for those with zero styling credentials as it all matches and has a super cute/retro feel, from the paper straws down to the pom pom garlands.

Lark Store 94 Gertrude St Fitzroy 10 HOT: Lark Store, 94 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

The pastel coloured carry tins, great for storing small items like bobbins and thread or little girl’s treasures.

Lark Store 94 Gertrude St Fitzroy 3 HOT: Lark Store, 94 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

The fire engine red metal bread box which I think is a bit of a bargain at $39.95. Even Allison, the owner, thought she’d get one for herself when she did a double-take of the price!

Lark Store 94 Gertrude St Fitzroy 8 HOT: Lark Store, 94 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

I might also return for the ‘Yay Biscuits!’ tin because that’s exactly what I think when I see biscuits.

Lark Store 94 Gertrude St Fitzroy 7 HOT: Lark Store, 94 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

I love these retro milk bottle holders – for me they evoke long summer days and garden parties. I really want one but can’t think of a single use for it!

Lark Store 94 Gertrude St Fitzroy 9 HOT: Lark Store, 94 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

For those on Instagram if you visit the store and Instagram a photo (tagging @larkstore and #larkstorefitzroy) then you’ll receive 10% off your purchase! So get snapping.

Lark Fitzroy, 94 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

Monday to Saturday, 11.00am to 4.00pm

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HOT: YumTable launch, St Jude’s Cellars, 381-391 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

DSC00413 HOT: YumTable launch, St Judes Cellars, 381 391 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

When you read my ‘About’ page, you’ll find out that amongst other things I like discount coupons :–) In fact, in my social circle I’m well known for whipping out a coupon for every occasion. Might be my Asian upbringing – why pay full price when you can pay half price?

That’s why the new service YumTable is right up my alley.

YumTable is a website and free iPhone App which offers last minute restaurant deals and instant call-free bookings with booking confirmation via SMS. The best thing is that you can find restaurants by location, time, cuisine and price, which means that if you’re out on the town and feel like a bite to eat, you can scan what’s available close to you and make a booking immediately. And it’s not just the local Indian takeaway joint that shows up – on a quick search I discovered that Melbourne institution Flower Drum is on board at the moment with a 4 course Autumn tasting lunch for $65.

YumTable is a very clever idea I think, combining social media’s ‘next big thing’ – location services – with Melbourne’s enthusiastic food culture and Melburnians’ constant search for new places to try.

DSC00417 HOT: YumTable launch, St Judes Cellars, 381 391 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

I attended a dinner celebrating the launch of the service at St Jude’s Cellars (which incidentally is one of the restaurants featured on the site) so the second half of this blog post is about the fabulous food that I had at the restaurant.

Despite living within walking distance of St Jude’s Cellars I’d never eaten there – such is the luxury of being spoilt for dining out options in inner-city Melbourne. Now that I’ve been once, I can’t wait to go back. The Spanish-inspired food that I sampled at the YumTable launch (most items feature in St Jude’s Cellars standard menu) was consistently well-cooked and well-presented. I also loved the openness of the restaurant’s pared-back warehouse dining space.

DSC00360 HOT: YumTable launch, St Judes Cellars, 381 391 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

To start, a wooden platter arranged with charcuterie and appetisers, including some crunchy radishes, charred corn croquettes with creamy Mahon cheese and surprisingly moreish walnuts wrapped in smokey bacon. A very pretty arrangement, don’t you think?

DSC00372 HOT: YumTable launch, St Judes Cellars, 381 391 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

A ramekin of pan seared calamari with jamon, chickpeas, tiny Dutch carrots and coriander. I would have been happy just to eat this dish all night – a hearty peasant dish evoking earth and sea.

DSC00380 HOT: YumTable launch, St Judes Cellars, 381 391 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

Chunky lamb ragout with thick strips of pappardelle paired with the sharp bite of chicory leaves.

DSC00390 HOT: YumTable launch, St Judes Cellars, 381 391 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

Free range suckling pig with braised lentils, a crunchy slaw and raclette potatoes. Cold weather comfort food at its best. But wait, it wasn’t time to sleep yet, more food awaited us….

DSC00402 HOT: YumTable launch, St Judes Cellars, 381 391 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

Another classic Spanish seafood dish, this time consisting of monkfish, clams, calamari and mussels stewed with tomato, fennel, white wine and almonds.  All those lovely pan juices cried out for some broth-soaking couscous but it’s probably a good thing that we were offered a side salad instead – all that grain would have just expanded in my already expanded stomach.

DSC00410 HOT: YumTable launch, St Judes Cellars, 381 391 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

Finally, a slice of beautifully moist fruit and frangipane tart served with vanilla custard. Now, I hate custard – it’s one of my irrational food fears and gives me the shudders along with tomato ketchup, artichokes and rissoles. However, the thick set, almost clotted cream consistency of this vanilla bean custard had me almost converted – it was the perfect partner for the almond-y tart.

Thank you to YumTable for inviting me to the launch.

minilink HOT: YumTable launch, St Judes Cellars, 381 391 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

Portabello Bride Boutique Wedding Market giveaway

P1060857 Portabello Bride Boutique Wedding Market giveaway

Happy Monday! What did you get up to on the weekend?

My weekend was full of weddings. On Sunday it was my one year wedding anniversary and RM and I had our first baby-free evening out, although we still had dinner at the parent-friendly hour of 6:30pm. Thank you Kat’s Cakes for our unexpectedly large one year anniversary cake too!

And in a nice turn of events, on Saturday we attended the wedding of a friend which was held in the same location as our own wedding a year before, the Portico Balcony of Melbourne Town Hall. Melbourne turned out a gorgeous sunny day, the bride and groom looked very happy and the father of the bride teared up. Oh I do love a good wedding :–)

So today’s giveaway is well-timed, as I reflect on my wedding and weddings in general. Portobello Bride is a website and blog that features wedding suppliers who are cool, unique and interesting rather than the frou frou and once a year they hold a boutique wedding market. While I have a fear of bridal expos generally, I know what it’s like to work full time, have a busy social life and still try and fit in wedding planning. The Portobello Bride Boutique Wedding Market contains a curated selection of 30 or so stallholders in one place who will hopefully provide you with some creative inspiration beyond the norm.

For brides (and grooms) to be out there, I have 5 free tickets for the market on Saturday 26 March 10am-5pm which is being held at St Kilda Town Hall (cnr Carlisle St and St Kilda Rd). All you have to do is leave a comment below and the first 5 responses will win. If you miss out you can still purchase tickets for Saturday or Sunday here or at the door. Good luck!

HOT Chat: Braeden Lord of Aussie Farmers Direct

Bizarre as it sounds, one of my hobbies is grocery shopping. I’m not talking about trawling the fluorescent aisles of a mega-supermarket, but rather poking around farmers markets, ethnic grocery stores and fancy providores.

However, given my recent lack of mobility due to pregnancy and a newborn baby, I’ve fully embraced the concept of online grocery delivery. After asking the Twitterverse for recommendations, the most common response was Aussie Farmers Direct. The business has their headquarters in Melbourne but they deliver fresh products all around Australia, and so far my orders have varied from their fruit and veg boxes (I like the ‘mystery box’ element it adds to my cooking), excellent salmon fillets, milk and bread staples and Glick’s bagels.

Braeden Lord FruitnVeg 270x300 HOT Chat: Braeden Lord of Aussie Farmers DirectToday’s HOT Chat is with Braeden Lord, the big boss of Aussie Farmers Direct. Thanks Braeden!

Braeden, tell me a bit more about your background and how you came to head up Aussie Farmers Direct?

Great fresh food has been my life, my career and my passion! I began my career sweeping the floors of a bakery as a young boy and worked my way up through the ranks.

My background in fresh food, franchising and national retailing meant that I had the experience needed to oversee the different aspects of the Aussie Farmers Direct business. This involves sourcing premium fresh food from around Australia which is then home delivered by milko franchisees in the major cities and regional areas across the country.

What makes Aussie Farmers Direct different from other grocery delivery companies in Australia?

Aussie Farmers Direct is 100% Australian. Our mantra is to support Australian farmers by delivering, to thousands of homes, a wide range of 100% Australian products including fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, milk and other fresh food essentials. Families love the ease and competitive value of the service.

Our product range is 100% Australian grown, made and owned and it’s fresh! For example much of our fruit and vegetables are delivered within 48 hours of being harvested.

By ordering with Aussie Farmers Direct you are supporting Australian farmers and your local milko, as well as reducing your carbon footprint as our products are all sourced within Australia. Plus less time shopping means more time with family.

MG 8172FinalL 1 300x201 HOT Chat: Braeden Lord of Aussie Farmers Direct

I notice that Aussie Farmers Direct has just established its own dairy. Where else do you source your produce from?

Most of our produce is sourced within the state that its delivered to and comes from major fruit and vegetable growing regions such as Victoria’s Yarra Valley and Goulburn Valley, the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area in New South Wales, plus a lot of our tropical fruit comes from Far North Queensland. Our apple juice comes from Tasmania, our yoghurts are made in Melbourne, most of our pork comes from an RSPCA approved farm in the Otway ranges in south-western Victoria… no matter what region our products are sourced from, you can be guaranteed EVERYTHING comes from Australia.

Since you started as CEO, what has been the most challenging issue you’ve faced?

Guaranteeing 100% Australian supply in everything we do is an ongoing challenge. We are committed to providing only Australian grown, made and owned products and as our customer base grows across the country there’s a real challenge in providing wholly Australian food in the quantities we need.

What are your next plans for Aussie Farmers Direct?

Crate sml 1 300x271 HOT Chat: Braeden Lord of Aussie Farmers Direct

This year our two main focuses are launching our dairy in Camperdown, which produces fresh, delicious milk that is 100% Australian owned, together with launching Aussie Farmers Foundation which is a not for profit provider that works to help farmers in need and improve the future of Australia’s agriculture industry. Both of these projects will bring us closer to the farming community.

In terms of new products, we’ve just launched hot cross buns and spreadable butter in time for Easter. We also have a new range of sliced deli meats available and Australian-grown tea is on the agenda.

Finally, where are your tips for HOT foodie places you like in Melbourne?

For a weekend breakfast you can’t beat Replete Providore (302 Barkers road, Hawthorn +61 3 9818 4448). It’s a friendly café run by a young couple which stands alone next to a 7/11. They have a great seasonal menu board of home-made breakfasts including my favourite home-made kidney and white ‘baked beans’. My kids love their range of muffins – the service and quality is great, the only hassle is that it’s hard to get in!

HOT: make Designed Objects, 194 Elgin St, Carlton

make HOT: make Designed Objects, 194 Elgin St, Carlton

Even though Christmas is over, there are another eleven months of the year where you might have a need to buy nifty, gifty things.

If that’s the case, drop into make Designed Objects. This two-storey converted cottage in Carlton is a treasure-trove of great design gadgets, ornaments and useful doodads from all over the world, with a strong leaning towards Scandinavian items. It’s kind of being able to visit the drool-worthy Design House Stockholm without actually having to get on a plane and to my delight I discovered many of the products that I carted back from overseas nestled in amongst the wall-to-ceiling shelves.

My initial reason for visiting make was to purchase a Flensted mobile. Mobile making is a traditional craft in Denmark and Flensted have been making modern, abstract and Alexander Calder-esque mobiles since 1954. Life & Thread is the one that is adorning our house.

Flensted HOT: make Designed Objects, 194 Elgin St, Carlton

I returned the next day for a further browse and walked out with a bamboo banana hanger. What can I say, I eat a lot of bananas :–)

banana HOT: make Designed Objects, 194 Elgin St, Carlton

Other items that caught my eye/made me giggle/things that I already own which I needn’t have schlepped home in my carry-on luggage.

Ninja Bread Men cookie cutters. ‘Everybody was Kung Fu fighting, those cats were fast as lightning.’

ninja HOT: make Designed Objects, 194 Elgin St, Carlton

Silicon foodloop – better than kitchen string, reuseable and washable. I use them for roasting meat mostly.

food loop 450x337 HOT: make Designed Objects, 194 Elgin St, Carlton

The elegant Side by Side teapot warmer. Side by Side is a collaboration of nine workshops, based around Germany, with a mission is to combine good design with useful, everyday objects whilst also providing meaningful employment for their for the intellectually and physically disabled.

twarmermain HOT: make Designed Objects, 194 Elgin St, Carlton

Kikkerland Clap-On Alarm Clock. Just clap and voila – the time appears. Hours of entertainment!

kikkerland HOT: make Designed Objects, 194 Elgin St, Carlton

make Designed Objects are currently having 15% off storewide until the end of January. If you can’t make it to Carlton, they have a comprehensive and easy-to-browse online store which is also on sale.

HOT Chat: Will Cook of Harvest Box

For a foodie like me, December is definitely the silly season. The lead-up to Christmas perfect excuse to eat lots of mince pies, pudding, chocolate and canapes – which means I have to be a little bit disciplined about what I eat in between.

Enter my newest discovery Harvest Box, a nifty service that delivers nuts and dried fruit packages to your office. Having these healthy snacks on hand means there’s less of a temptation to dip in to the biscuit tin and snack vending machine. You can choose your own mixes – I personally like By the Beach mix containing mango, macadamias, coconut and Brazil nuts. Today’s HOT Chat is with Will Cook, one of the founders of Harvest Box. Thanks Will!

PB192851 300x225 HOT Chat: Will Cook of Harvest BoxWill, tell me a bit more about your background and how you came to start your business Harvest Box?

I have worked in large corporations and have also run my own catering business, therefore I have experienced both sides of trying to eat better at work. I remember working for large organisations where you would often be stuck in meetings or working back late and all you had at work was biscuits, unhealthy vending machines or fruit that nobody else was prepared to eat!

After many discussions over many evenings myself and two other mates decided to stop complaining and actually do something about turning workplace snacking on its head. We decided to think about it from the busy workers point of view and provide a product that is healthy, delicious, convenient and never boring. We even decided to allow our customers to rate all our mixes to their own taste so we only send you mixes you like. We want you to look at Harvest Box as a delicious self preservation box that sits on your desk.

Also, we worked with Australia Post to design a box that could securely send 4 punnets of healthy snacks (from a range of 50 mixes) to any address in Australia. We have been around for two months and have already sent thousands of boxes around the country. We won’t be happy until every desk has a Harvest Box!

03 media image desk CR1 HOT Chat: Will Cook of Harvest Box

What are the benefits of snacking on dried fruit and nuts?

Snacking on healthy and natural foods between meals can help to regulate blood sugar levels for sustained energy throughout the day.

There has been a complete shift in attitude to nuts and dried fruit recently. It is now widely recognised that nuts are natures own little vitamin pill, they don’t contain trans fats, are cholesterol free and are a great source of fibre and protein. The high protein content of nuts quickly satisfies your hunger and over time the nuts slowly release energy into your blood stream to give you lasting vitality.

Dried fruits are a good source of fibre and roughage and retain most of the health benefits of fresh fruit. We make sure we use as much fruit that is naturally dried and not soaked in sugar that you commonly find in the market place.

Our 4 punnets contained in each box are potion controlled so that you only have a suitable amount. You definitely can have too much of a good thing!

Our mixes are designed be delicious and to make you eat better. We want Australian workers to have more healthy eating options at work so they can keep their energy up during the day. We feel by having a box arrive on your desk each week with a range of natural foods will allow you to always have that snack on hand.

Harvest Box Open CR 1 999x1024 HOT Chat: Will Cook of Harvest Box

Where do you source your ingredients from?

Wherever possible we have hunted down the best tasting local produce we can find. We think Australian produce is the best! Our dried apple is from Tasmania, our dried mango and pineapple comes from Queensland and our almonds are from Mildura to name just a few. Seasonal constraints may dictate that from time to time we need to use imported produce, but this will be the exception. Wherever possible our dried fruits, nuts and seeds are free from preservatives, sulphites additives and added sugar.

What has been the most challenging thing you’ve faced in starting up your own business? What advice would you give to a small business owner?

Finding enough hours in the day and prioritising your work load. There are so many jobs to do and so much you want to achieve you need to make sure you are being effective with your time. We have found so many people want to talk about our product. If you are passionate about your offering your customers will be to. Because Harvest Box is committed to providing our customers choice we are constantly looking for new ingredients. This is fun but does take time.

All three of us have young families and I have an 11 week old baby so we have to make sure we split our time as fairly as possible between work and family. Being able to send our Harvest Boxes home each day makes life a little easier!!

What are your next plans for Harvest Box?

Looking to the future is the best part of running your own business. We are focused on ensuring our product range for our current customers is the best it possibly can be in terms of taste, freshness and health. Communicating all the options available with Harvest Box is critical but we don’t want to send too much info across. Things like pausing your deliveries, rating new products and forwarding on our free boxes all need to be communicated in an efficient way.

We want to keep increasing the amount of mixes we offer but we are also looking at supplying cafes and supermarkets with our individual punnets. Not to mention large companies wanting bulk orders.

We are in an exciting development stage we just have to make sure we grow in a sustainable manner. We love people coming to us with ideas so if any of your readers like what we do and have any suggestions feel free to drop us a line through our online feedback form on our website.

Finally, where are your HOT places to visit or things to do in Melbourne?

Three Bags Full (56 Nicholson St, Abbotsford +61 3 9421 2732) A funky cafe in the middle of industrial Abbotsford. On the weekend you will be waiting for a table so you know it is good!

Picnic in the Botanical Gardens – in the middle of the city it is nice to surround yourself with nature.

Farmers Markets – I try and go to one every month. The produce and knowledge they have is fantastic. We have actually found some great suppliers by popping down to a local farmers market. They appear across many suburbs throughout the year.

If you’re interested in giving Harvest Box a go, Will has kindly provided blog readers with a promotional code.  Just enter 169BTG9RF to get the first box free and second box half price – there’s no expiry date.

HOT Chat: Joana Calado of The Beauty Club

If you walk into my bathroom, you can immediately tell that I have an obsession with Aesop. I love the functionality and aesthetics of their products and I think I own the majority of their skincare range! This obsession can be a rather expensive habit so I was interested to discover The Beauty Club, a members-only club that offers a wide selection of skincare and cosmetics brands (including Aesop) at lower-than-normal prices plus free delivery and giftwrapping.

On discovering my Aesop cleanser was running out, I jumped onto The Beauty Club for an emergency purchase and discovered that the business is actually based in Melbourne. I was interested to hear about how The Beauty Club got to where it is, so today’s HOT Chat is with Joana Calado, the Managing Director of The Beauty Club and mum to three kids. Thanks Joana!

joanacalado HOT Chat: Joana Calado of The Beauty ClubJoana, tell me a bit more about your background and how you came to start The Beauty Club?

After spending six years at university earning my degree in Criminology I then worked at the Children’s Hospital for a little while before falling pregnant. I was working with children who were severely abused and it was a great job up until I had my first child, then I saw it from a completely different angle. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to work with the same objectivity.

I was really happy as a stay-at-home mum, such a rewarding task in itself, but opportunity came knocking in 2006.

Discovering a network of 16,000 leading-brand cosmetics, skincare and fragrances at unbelievable prices was too good to pass up. With limited time and funds the web seemed like the most logical and affordable place to start the business and The Beauty Club was born.

What is unique about The Beauty Club compared to other cosmetic, skincare and fragrance online retailers?

Our aim with The Beauty Club was to make online shopping more personal, supported and involved. When you join a club you join a community and our community is all about health and beauty advice and support. Of course one of the main drivers of the club membership sign up is access to a huge number of brand name products, such as Clinique, Dior, Lanvin and Laura Mercier, often at cost price – this makes us very unique.

logo15 HOT Chat: Joana Calado of The Beauty Club

How have you selected which products to stock in The Beauty Club?

The first selection criteria is that they are a leading beauty brand, the second is that prices should be excellent and third is that they are products that are wanted by our members.

Where do you turn for makeup and skincare advice and inspiration?

My mother introduced me to Paula Begoun’s Don’t Go To The Cosmetic Counter Without Me several years ago and it has been a beauty staple ever since. Whenever I am in doubt about a product, I will turn to her book.

I also love to read reviews by real people, so I tend to read blogs. Wanting to know about a product before purchasing it has also led me to add a product review function on The Beauty Club, so that our members can learn off each others purchases, and give advice about whether the product really works, or not!

What has been the most challenging thing you’ve faced in starting up your own business? What advice would you give to a small business owner?

Combining family and work – finding a happy and healthy medium.

Web technology and jargon it can be confusing and frustrating.

Advice: Be prepared for long hours as your business only relies on you at the beginning, be committed and passionate, find good companies/people  (eg. Web designers, accountants etc.)

What are your next plans for The Beauty Club?

Growing membership levels is really important for us, the more members we have the better prices and product range we can offer.

One of the most exciting strategies we have underway at The Beauty Club is supporting some amazing women’s initiatives. We will be donating product or providing financial support to these intiatives over the long term (some of them include The Tiara Project, Bizness Babes and Look Good Feel Better) and building strong relationships with them.

Finally, where are your HOT places to visit or things to do in Melbourne?

MoVida, Bar Lourinha, Collins Street (I could walk up and down visiting the boutiques all day! If only I had the time)  and the Melbourne Museum (keeps both parents and kids educationed and entertained!).

HOT: The Bitch is Back, 100A Barkly St, St Kilda

P1000628v1 HOT: The Bitch is Back, 100A Barkly St, St Kilda

Now that RM and I finally have a place to call home (and from which we don’t have to move from a very long time) we’re starting to get mightily excited about furnishings.

Our new unit is a curious mix of Art Deco/21st century modern and so I’ve started haunting eBay for vintage items like old wooden desks, as well as shiny metal modern pieces like an Arco floor lamp. We’ve also morphed into middle-aged retired couple persons and taken to browsing vintage furniture shops on our weekend.

The strangely named The Bitch is Back is well-known in interior design circles as a shop stocking vintage mid-century furniture in excellent condition with some new, retro-inspired pieces dotted amongst the display. The front corner room was particularly exciting for me – lots of gasp-inducing statement lamps and chandeliers  (I have a real thing for lamps at the moment). As you pick your way through the first room the shop extends back to about three rooms, piled high with cupboards, wooden tables, smooth Danish designed chairs and bric-a-brac such as old scales, radios and vases.

While there was lots to love in the shop (and the friendly owner told us that their online catalogue changes with new stock all the time) in the end, RM and I agreed on only a single item that suited our needs and budget – a bird lamp for the nursery for $99.

P1000627v1 HOT: The Bitch is Back, 100A Barkly St, St Kilda

For more retro furniture goodness, check out Lost and Found Market, Chapel Street Bazaar, 84 Smith Street and Angelucci. I’d love to know about your recommendations too!

  • The Bitch is Back, 100A Barkly St, St Kilda +61 3 9534 8025

HOT: Flexicar

DSC05454v11 1024x896 HOT: Flexicar

People are often surprised to discover that I don’t own a car. Well, ever since I moved to Melbourne I’ve never needed one – I’ve always lived in the inner city and worked in the CBD, cycled or caught public transport to get to most destinations, and cabs and rental cars have filled in the gap where necessary.

However, now that I run a small business which sometimes involves hauling a stack of cycling gear from one location to another, it makes sense for me to have a car. Sort of.

I joined up to car-sharing program Flexicar a few months ago (they are in Melbourne and Sydney) and I’ve found it to be a really good service. You may or may not have seen that I’m Flexicar‘s Member of the Month (thank you!) but this post is not sponsored by Flexicar in any way – I genuinely believe it’s a cheap, eco-friendly and convenient way to have access to a car when I need it and it which works well for my needs.

How does Flexicar work? Well, you sign up to a monthly usage plan depending on how much you estimate you’ll have to drive. I have the ‘Biz-Starter’ plan which means I pay $12.95 per hour ($75 daily rate), prepaid monthly credit of $25, 100km of driving and all fuel costs included.

Why do I love it? Firstly, there are quite a few cars within walking distance from my house. The most convenient is literally around the corner (Flexicar‘s slogan is ‘cars around the corner, around the clock’) and seems to have good availability even on weekends.  Secondly, there’s no queuing and paperwork like normal car rental. The website is easy to navigate for information and bookings and every car has an easy swipe lock-unlock mechanism to begin and end your booking, so you can just jump in and get going!

The cars are all automatic, so no fiddling with clutches and hill starts, are in good condition from what I’ve seen and there are a good variety of car sizes – I’ve used the small car, the Honda Jazz, to the largest car, the Subaru Forrester. Fuel cards are provided if you need to top up the tank.

Plus I like their attitude – everyone I’ve dealt with at Flexicar has been friendly and helpful and the website has a slightly quirky, irreverent tone. They are keen to support other environmentally friendly businesses and Melbourne events.

It’s great to see that local councils are supporting Flexicar too – clearly it’s a good idea that deserves to spread!