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40 Under 40 winner of the day: Erin Fowler


Artist Erin Fowler’s talents are truly multi-disciplinary, spanning dance, film, music and theatre. The 30-year-old, who is artistically motivated by a love and respect for the natural world, has travelled the globe performing, teaching and studying a variety of pursuits including KungFu, Tai Chi and QiGong. Fowler is the co-founder and director of The Mill, a creative hub for Adelaide’s local artists from all disciplines, and was last month named a winner in the inaugural InDaily 40 Under 40 Awards.

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The Mill was initially established as a partnership with co-founder and co-director Amber Cronin in 2012 and is now a not-for-profit arts organisation based in Angas St in the Adelaide CBD.

Together, Cronin and Fowler have raised significant government, philanthropic and corporate support for The Mill and secured government funding from Arts South Australia in 2017 and 2018.

The Mill offers residencies, masterclasses, workshops, awards and opportunities that facilitate the development of new work and networking opportunities to promote sustainable career pathways for over 100 artists.

The organisation’s vision is focused on broadening the South Australian lens to look nationally and internationally with partnerships in Indonesia, Canada and Sweden.

We caught up with Fowler to ask her some more about doing business in South Australia.

What do you believe are the strengths of doing business in South Australia?

South Australia provides an incredibly supportive and tight-knit community to start a business. There are many opportunities, especially for emerging and entrepreneurial businesses to launch, especially with initiatives like Renew Adelaide. The cost of living in SA is much less than interstate, which allows new businesses to take greater risks. The smaller-sized industry also means you can really generate a lot of press coverage and exposure within local media quite easily, generating interest and support in your business. Partnerships and collaborations are also a wonderful aspect of doing business in SA – most people are really open and generous to these kinds of things.

What do you believe are the weak points of conducting business in South Australia?

Audience/customer base: it can be hard to generate significant audiences (especially in the arts, outside of festival times) as we just don’t have a large enough mass.

Conservative thinking: sometimes new and more ‘radical’ ideas can take time to really take hold in SA versus bigger international cities, for example, where artistic innovation and risk-taking ideas have greater structural and cultural support. This can lead to burn out for cultural leaders who struggle to get ideas through the more risk adverse red tape and bureaucracies in this state, despite leaders and government wanting these changes and ideas to occur.

If your business is focussed on young and emerging professionals, it can be hard to convince them to stay in the state. Often the best ones leave so we lose some of SA’s best.

Tall poppy syndrome: being a small city, it can still be hard to navigate some of the ‘internal politics’ of being a leader and entrepreneur as everything is much more interwoven and can be a little insular.

Do you see your future in South Australia?

I’d like to. I have always seen SA as my base, while also acknowledging that I need to travel outside of the state sometimes to keep inspired and fresh. I would love to keep SA as my home, but I guess it just depends on where the opportunities are for me – and especially in the arts, this may be overseas for some things.

How can the state encourage more of its young leaders to stay?

I’ve always been incredibly passionate about making sure young people at least have a choice to stay here to work, rather than being forced to move interstate – this is exactly why Amber Cronin and I created The Mill, to house local creatives in SA.

Adelaide, and how we see it, has shifted significantly since we started The Mill in 2012 and it’s encouraging to see more young people choosing and able to stay and work here. However, I still see us idolising our ‘older siblings’ Melbourne and Sydney, and it’s hard to ignore the fact that in some industries these cities just provide more opportunities for employment and business growth.

I think that we can support our young leaders to stay by helping them navigate the red tape and bureaucracy that can often get in the way of great ideas and initiatives here. Also, making sure that they are encouraged to seek inspiration and ideas interstate and overseas but that they are able to find viable opportunities to bring those back to the state, rather than not returning back to SA again.

More about 40 Under 40

An assessment panel representing the South Australian business community judged hundreds of nominees for the inaugural 40 Under 40 awards, which aim to identify and promote a new generation of local leaders under the age of 40.

The final 40 includes a hugely varied collection of South Australian talents, who are making a mark in fields such as health, technology, the media, property, social innovation, agriculture, finance, the law, and much more.

For the full list of 40 Under 40 winners go here.

40 Under 40 is an InDaily initiative supported by the following partners:

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