With the mission to make it “easier to better your wardrobe without compromising on style”, Emma Petterwood’s After Eight is not only a platform to shop sustainable fashion, but learn about the incredible history behind the brands you love most. Not only is the shop a curated edit of highly sought-after sustainably-minded brands online, After Eight is Hobart’s first sustainable, high-end boutique, sitting in the city’s iconic Salamanca Place — a feat Petterwood is extremely proud of. As part of HER BLACK BOOK’s Festival of Her, a shopping event to support female-founded businesses, Petterwood shares some insight into her business journey so far.

“When I moved from Melbourne to Hobart in 2016 I was really surprised by the lack of beautiful fashion available here. Over the last five to seven years, Hobart has really established itself as the go-to destination for the best and next in food, art and culture, so there was a perfect After Eight-shaped style gap to fill. It’s also well known that sustainability and Tasmania go hand-in-hand, so basing After Eight here just made a lot of sense — especially given it was Tassie’s natural beauty that got me thinking about sustainable fashion in the first place.”

“Mid last year I was on a Zoom call with the former CEO of Kmart, Guy Russo, who was sharing his story about stepping into the world of retail after leaving the top job at McDonalds. He said that one of the things he needed to do to turn Kmart around was to learn from others who had paved the way before him. He researched the top 10 businesses in the same industry and reached out to each of their CEOs. The one who he really wanted to meet with was Paul Marchant, CEO of Primark, as he wanted to understand the DNA of selling clothing of which Primark was the golden egg. Guy wrote to him every six months – but it wasn’t until the third year that he finally wrote back and said 'Let’s have breakfast tomorrow.'

“Guy got on a plane from Sydney that morning to make the breakfast meeting with Paul in London the following day. Paul had no idea Guy lived in Sydney and asked over breakfast 'So, where in London do you live?' The story goes on to be a great one but my key take away was to be persistent and learn from people who are smarter than you; those that have the secret sauce to what you are trying to achieve."

“I’m currently reading Profit First by Michael Michalowicz, and listening to Dare to Lead by Brene Brown on audiobook.”

“I’m really proud of all of it. Something that stands out to me is the calibre of brands I have brought to Hobart. It’s pretty significant; the designers you’ll find at After Eight are also stocked at luxury retailers including Matches Fashion and Net-a-Porter. I won’t lie though, starting a retail business in the middle of a pandemic was such an intense, interesting and challenging process. In fact, all of our brands' agents turned me away in the early stages of pitching!”

“Since launching After Eight, I’ve worked with incredible Tasmanian brands including the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and Francesca to bring their campaigns to life using sustainable fashion. We also collaborate with Tasmania winemakers, Frogmore Creek, who provide us with the sparkling that we serve complimentary to our guests. I see these as further examples of brands backing and believing that After Eight is part of the tapestry of the future Hobart.”

“There is no building businesses without several roadblocks. For me it was all about attitude, persistence, finding solutions and celebrating the wins when they come. Two roadblocks that come to mind are:

"Number one, each wholesaler I approached about the idea said great idea, come back when you have proven yourself… that was tough to hear repeatedly. My break came when I changed tact and instead of going for the wholesalers I pitched directly to the Founders/Designers. I felt that I could connect on that deeper, more personal level and I was right. The rest is history. The irony is I now work with every wholesale agent who said no to me.

"Number two, launching during a pandemic was an interesting play I must say. I, like many, thought it would be over in a year but then faced Delta, Omicron, etc, etc and continuous lockdowns. Our online offering was suffering but our in-person events in Hobart were thriving, so I jumped on that opportunity to open our flagship showroom in Hobart. It has been the biggest blessing and one that would not have happened if I weren’t faced with the challenge of a slow start.”