Inspirer: Sancho Murphy
From photographer to art student to young entrepreneur, Sancho has done amazing things for the local art and streetwear scene. Her store, Sancho’s Dirty Laundry and Bar Lowbrow have brought new life into the fashion and music scene. With an extensive list of designers and artists backing her venture, I wanted to know how this all came to be.
What got you into art and design?
I started studying Journalism at UC. The premise was I wanted to get into music journalism but it wasn’t the written aspect of it that interested me, it was the photographic side of it. I wanted to be the person that went to gigs and took photos. I was doing it as a hobby and one day someone said why don’t you just formalise it and get into the industry. That’s why I started doing journalism.
I remember your Lonsdale St Traders popup at the time it was something new and refreshing. There were a lot of local art and designs too. How did that come to be?
Lonsdale St Traders happened when someone linked me to one of their posts. It was a competition on Facebook where you would post your idea and the one with the most likes wins a two-week rent free pop up space. I looked at it and saw that the space was manageable. They were small, intimate but not cramped. There was a wide diversity of shopfronts and it was like a little community. I wanted to be a part of it. I did that and spammed all my friends and then won.
I got valuable feedback from my customers and people would come in and give me suggestions about what I could do in the future. During that pop up, I met heaps of street artists and graffiti artists who I now work with in future projects. They’re people who donated a lot of their time in to the shop to help me build it into what it is today so when there’s an opportunity that I can repay the favour, I do. These aren’t people that I’m giving biased opportunities to either. They’re all super talented people that have all connected through the shop and that has been a good part of it.
During that two-week rent-free pop up, a permanent shop space became available across the way and my husband and friends encouraged me to apply for it. I used the money I made from sales from the pop up to put down a deposit for it. At that time, I had split the responsibility with another business Shredders Board Store.
Was it a good experience?
It taught me a lot about myself and letting go of control. I came out of that with some solid lessons and good advice. I made some rad working relationships with people who are now involved in this current space. It was a full on ‘deep end’ experience and I’m glad I did it. It was hands on, troubleshooting & situational learning. It gave me more confidence to take a chance. It has also opened my eyes to embracing challenges and failure. At the time we hit the delays for opening the venue, I thought I had made a bad judgment call on the whole project, that I was losing all this money and time on something temporary but you do gain something else. It’s an exchange. It was a priceless experience that I then used to build a finer version of what I wanted to do next. It was good.
That sounded like a lot of work to stay afloat. You managed to gain the upper hand though and have now got a successful new shopfront and bar, Lowbrow. What did you do after Chop Shop to get where you are now?
I started working from home doing freelance graphic design, screen printing and lots of cumulative small jobs. I just saved and saved. Coming out of that, all I wanted was my shop. I wanted to be as independent as possible and not rely on anyone. I’ve always taken a ‘elf and the shoemaker’ business approach, keeping things manageable and not getting ahead of myself. Making my own way.
Jimmy, the marketing manager that was working for Beach Burrito at the time, told me about this space and that it was empty. It was just this idea in the back of my head. When I had little left after Chop Shop, I just thought I had nothing to lose so I wrote them a proposal, did some budget costings and a six month calendar of events saying can we try this trial period and see how it goes. Jimmy pretty much made it happen. If it wasn’t for Jimmy, I think I’d still be working from home, trying to save up a deposit.
When someone invests emotionally into you, I feel like I can’t let them down. I work like a woman possessed because I don’t want to let my friends down. They’ve trusted in me. I’ll make it happen. I’ll work and go beyond.
Do people apply to get their designs in your shop?
Anyone can apply. I try to source local as much as possible and ethically made. The stock rotates, once we sell out of stuff, I generally don’t get it in again. It must fit in with what I’m curating and fit in with the vibe and aesthetic. Funnily enough I do a lot of my product sourcing on the toilet and flick through my Instagram. Scrolling through any trending hashtags and if there is an artist that I like I might go through who they’re following and likes. Often, I’ll just send them an email or direct message. People are generally keen, sometimes they are not, no biggie.
What motivates and drives you?
I’ve chilled out quite a bit over the last year and a half. I do get inspired a lot by younger people and their fiery determination, they keep the rose tint in my glasses when at times I get a bit jaded by business politics and generally getting older. I enjoy working with young artists who are super optimistic and have a lot of energy. When you surround yourself with positive people, it rubs off on you.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Don’t be scared to fail. Don’t be a dick to people! It’s not what you’re asking for but how you’re asking. It’s very good to be humble. Please and thankyou goes a long way. I’ve had people ask me for some wild stuff but they’ve been so polite about it with their wild ideas and I’ve given them a chance and it’s been good.
The power of no is a good thing as well. I’ve said a yes to a lot. Know the value in your work and own time. I think I said yes to a lot of things when I was younger that ended wasting my own time. Time management and knowing when to say no to things. People feel like they’re afraid to say no especially in Canberra because the scene can get small and interconnected. They feel like if they say no to one person it may affect something else you may do with another person. It doesn’t.