MAKES HER OWN RULES.
Emma Toshack put wine in a can.
But don't expect her to try and use a canned idea. The Aussie-entrepreneur is going her own way, which, not surprisingly is one of the songs she sings in the shower after a bad day.
But she's not one to let life get her down.
If there’s one thing that motivates law school dropout and former chef Emma Toshack, it’s that life is too short not to say yes. The Harvard MBA and Snapchat grad is the founder of free-spirited, art-based Nomadica Wines. Rooted in creativity and with a penchant for rule-breaking, Nomadica combats wine industry pretension by partnering with friends on beautiful, limited edition cans. If high-quality wine in low-brow packaging seems like an unlikely pairing, that’s exactly the intention. In the words of Nomadica’s multi-hyphenate founder, “Contradictions are what’s interesting.”
More from Emma below.
Name: Emma Toshack
Instagram Handle: @emtoshack
Business Instagram Handle: @nomadica
Where do your drive and passion come from?
The realization that life is so short. Two important people in my life died when I was 25. My girlfriend to suicide and my best guy friend in a road accident. My mom just wrapped up a four year battle with breast cancer. Life is too precious to not do something that fills you with excitement and energy every day.
The spirit of Nomadica really mirrors your career path. "It's unpretentious. It's unconstrained. It's fun." It's not afraid to leave Snapchat behind... Can you chat us through what was going through your head when it was time to launch on your own?
“It’s time.” Snapchat was a fascinating place to be at a moment of cultural zeitgeist, but it will always be Evan’s baby. I had a vision of a brand I wanted to create. I’ve always been a study in contradictions - law school, chef, MBA, dressage trainer, ripped jeans, vintage Chanel jacket. I think most people are. I wanted to create a brand that didn’t just embrace those contradictions but had them at its core. The contradictions are what’s interesting.
With an MBA from Harvard, why was wine the direction you decided to go?
Ha, that’s a great question. I joke I went to Harvard Business School and then became a parttime warehouse worker, part-time delivery driver. I knew there was an opportunity to shake up the wine industry. It’s so traditional, stuffy, sometimes pretentious. There are ‘relaxed’ wine brands, but they are mostly low quality. There are some super cool small producers doing great work and pushing the boundaries but they typically have a smaller reach and less scale. I wanted to take what’s best about small production, celebrate those winemakers, and build a brand that could take that renegade winemaking philosophy and make it global.
Do you think business is more about the numbers or going with your gut?
Both! It’s a delicate balance, especially when you’re trying to create something that breaks the rules and is fundamentally creative rather than utilitarian. In a world free of constraints, I’d release only limited edition wines, each with different art on the labels. But to work with the large retail stores and get our wines into more people’s hands, we have to have a more consistent product range. So the compromise is we might make 100 cases of the limited edition wine, but keep our four core SKUs consistent as the backbone of the business.I think of business strategy as creating an ecosystem so the numbers and gut must work in synch with each other. But that doesn’t mean they always agree, ha.
It's strange because you can really get a wine at any price point. But the wine world remains a little snobby sometimes. Was there resistance from friends, fam, other biz people to putting wine in a can?
TOTALLY! People initially had a strong knee-jerk reaction but as soon as people saw and held the cans, they got it. When they taste the wine for the first time they are surprised and delighted. Funnily enough, it was most often the established, well-respected professionals and sommeliers who thought it was an awesome idea.
Why was art an important part of the concept?
I think the world would be soooo boring without art. The brand is all about creativity and breaking the rules and going your own way, and artists embody that so it just made sense that every can would be a work of art. So we’re taking art off the walls and putting it into people’s hands.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
Honestly, not a lot annoys me. Maybe little things from when I was a chef - people salting food before they taste it. People using a cutting board without a wet towel underneath? Not big things! When you’re running a company you don’t have the time or mental capacity to have pet peeves and sweat the small stuff, you just x it out and move on.
What are your biggest fears about running a business?
Getting the timing right. So much of starting up is moving at the right speed and accelerating at the right time. But “fear” is a big word. I don’t really have any fears. I just make the best decisions I can with the information I have available and keep moving on.
What's something you'd like people to know about your job that they probably don’t?
IYO-- How can we stay original when we are so saturated with other people's work?
I say embrace the saturation. There are 6 billion people on the planet. Nothing one person does is ever truly ‘original.’ Humans creating new cool things by remixing or building on things that have gone before them. So absorb everything that’s out there, combine them in new ways, build on them, experiment, play, collaborate, break the rules, and you’ll come up with something that feels fresh and new and exciting, and that’s what people mean when they say ‘original.'
What about your career makes you feel the most complete?
That I’ve lived my actual life the way I’d have lived a video game version of it! I haven’t played it safe, I’ve gone on big crazy adventures.
If you had to trade jobs with anyone else in the world, who would it be and why?
I’ve had so many jobs. If I could I’d do 52 jobs - one a week - for a whole year and then write a book about it. People live such wildly different lives and we all mostly live in our little bubbles - and that’s not a bad thing, it’s largely necessity, but I’d get out of it and live in other people’s shoes for a year if I could.
At what point in your career did you find the confidence to really take charge and become the woman you are today?
I think it was more a point in my life than my career. When I woke up on my 30th birthday I thought “I can do whatever the F I want”. It was liberating. The second inflection point was when I went out on my own to run my company. When there’s nowhere to hide and everything is riding on you to step into it. It’s very empowering.
When I woke up on my 30th birthday I thought “I can do whatever the F I want.” It was liberating.
What's the best advice you've ever been given? Or your favorite piece of #realtalk?
Be yourself. Wear what you want. Speak your mind. Don’t try to be what you think people want you to be. Don’t try to impress people. Just be you. It’s so liberating, so much easier to just be yourself. And people like you better!.
When you hit a big bump in the road, how do you find a new road or a detour?
Just look around. There’s always a window if the door is closed. And if there isn’t, it’s ok to just sit in the room and work on what’s right there. Or bash down the wall. It depends on the situation and you have to trust your gut. Sometimes brute force is the answer, sometimes not. So if you hit a bump in the road, just keep going. If you find as much joy in the journey as the destination you’ll be much happier.
What song do you sing in the shower when you’ve had a bad day?
"Go Your Own Way" by Fleetwood Mac. Or the guitar riff from "Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin or "All Right Now" by Free, which is my mom’s favorite song. I have the musical tastes of a 60-year-old but I’m totally OK with that.
Photo Credit: @davisfactor