Women driving Woodside: The unassuming industry leaders putting Woodside on the map

Women driving Woodside: The unassuming industry leaders putting Woodside on the map

The township of Woodside, nestled in the Adelaide Hills, is a popular attraction for both locals and tourists. But have you met the female entrepreneurs behind the community’s thriving businesses? (Image: Sophie Gauvin) 

By Sophie Gauvin | @sophgauvin

Being the eldest daughter to a “girl boss”, as my younger siblings label our mum, I have always consciously admired strong women. Subconsciously, I have always gravitated to workplaces, relationships and destinations that showcase the power of women.

There is something magical, almost terrifying, about witnessing an inspired woman grab life with both hands and make something extraordinary out of any situation she finds herself in.

Feeling grateful and somewhat sentimental, I suggested that Mum and I take a trip together – an opportunity to catch up and take a deep breath. Little did I know, taking this powerhouse with me would only act as a magnet to meet more unstoppable female forces.

For years the Adelaide Hills has been a destination for travellers from all over the globe, recognised for its endless vineyard rows and unbeatable local produce. 

Leaving our coastal home behind, Mum and I decided to embark on the leisurely drive through the hills to Simon & Garfunkel, just like our road trips before. Forgetting how close Woodside is to the Adelaide CBD, we nearly missed our turn-off resulting in a fit of laughter and some questionable driving techniques.

The view of stacked rows of vines, ancestral trees and the occasional farm animal became a blur of colour, like a Judy Cassab painting, as we carefully followed the roads that led us to the heart of Woodside.

As the speed limit was reduced and we slowly rolled around the bend, I found it hard to believe we were on the same main street that traffic flew by on. My assumption that the energetic start to our adventure would end as we reached the town could not have been more wrong.

We were shocked at the hundreds of people that crowded the streets of a place I had naively labelled as “sleepy”. Mum gave me a horrified look; the same one we usually share while searching for a parking space in the thick of Christmas shopping.

When considering the Adelaide Hills, Woodside rarely springs to my mind. But weaving our way along the main street’s cracked concrete path proved to be quite the challenge on a sunny winter’s morning. 

After making several laps and securing a spot, we decided to take the classic tourist approach and just walk along the main street – with the thought of a nice cup of coffee as the source of our motivation – to find out why people are flocking to Woodside.

Shannon Cornish Artisan Jewellers

Nestled in a historic stone building is Shannon Cornish Artisan Jewellers. Swinging open the antiquated door with a squeak and the ring of a bell, we were welcomed with a warm smile.

It was hard not to feel like I had been transported into the pages of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, seeing Shannon’s workbench and watching her ideas come to life.

“I ended up in the jewellery industry because I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and someone reminded me that maybe I should think about what I wanted to do as a child,” Shannon said.

Shannon at her workbench. (Image supplied by Shannon Cornish)

Standing in her workshop and hearing the different machines whir and bang as students worked away, I could easily see why a child would dream of pursuing such a career.

I could tell Shannon was soaking in the atmosphere, too, as she closed her eyes. “I can still remember the absolute buzz I felt when I came home from my first class after making a ring, and I got to show it off to my mum. That was just over 20 years ago”, she gushed.

There is no denying that Shannon has an eye for beautiful things. Inspired heavily by nature and the beauty of everyday life, Shannon strives to create unique and bespoke pieces. “I worked part-time at a jewellery factory, which was quite a soul-destroying experience as a creative person,” Shannon recalled.

“I opened my shop on an absolute whim! I sold my house, bought the store and renovated it with my partner. We dove in headfirst with no idea what to expect. Being in a small town, I didn’t know if there would be a market for it.

“Naturally, I feared failure. I contemplated throwing my dream of opening a store away, but then my mum asked me what failure looked like. When I couldn’t articulate what I was so scared of, I realised it wasn’t worth worrying about. So, I guess I owe my resilience to my mum.”

At that moment, my own mum playfully elbowed in the ribs, as if she had paid Shannon to say that!

“Our local community are so supportive, but we have so many people come from Adelaide that visit. Before COVID-19, we would have people commission pieces to take overseas or interstate. Hopefully with borders opening up, we can bring that joy back to people’s loved ones,” Shannon said.

Not only does Shannon and her team make jewellery and ornaments, they also offer classes. “I feel so blessed that I can educate other people and teach them in a setting outside of a traditional learning environment, learning skills that you can only observe on-site,” Shannon exclaimed.

We followed Shannon’s advice and popped in next door to grab the coffees we’d been craving before taking our adventure off the main strip.

Woodside Cheese Wrights

After immersing ourselves in the bustle of the main street, we jumped back in the car to head a little further up the road and visit the Woodside Cheese Wrights factory, owned and operated by world-famous cheesemaker, Kris Lloyd.

Located next to a South Australian favourite, Melba’s Chocolates, Woodside Cheese Wrights is a hidden gem on the town’s outskirts. The humble store has a range of products available: cheese, honey, chutney, the list goes on. It’s all locally sourced – and delicious.

The variety of produce available at Woodside Cheese Wrights. (Image: Sophie Gauvin)

“I am self-taught, but my somewhat accidental career as a cheesemaker has allowed me to experience an amazing tapestry of cheese across the world,” Kris said.

Kris and her passionate team produce a range of quality goat and cow milk products sold nationally, and have won a string of awards both locally and overseas.

Like many in the Adelaide Hills, Kris’s business was affected by the 2019 Cudlee Creek bushfires. She lost a mass of her cheese stock, but instead of accepting defeat, Kris felt inspired by the old saying “there’s no point crying over spilt milk”, and the team set out to make a new cheese with what stock they still had.

Kris collaborated with Sparkke at the Whitmore, another iconic business headed by women in an industry historically dominated by men, and together they produced a cider-washed cheese aptly named ‘Spilt Milk’.

“I wanted people to enjoy our product with friends and family with a good drink and belly laughs rather than feeling sorry for us. I figured the name would at least be a conversation starter,” Kris jested.

Not only is Kris an internationally recognised cheesemaker and director of an award-winning company, she is also the founder of the well-known CheeseFest Australia.

Established in 2006, CheeseFest is now recognised as the largest cheese festival in Australia, showcasing the finest local cheeses, beverages, food producers, and chefs across Australia.

“I feel incredibly passionate about my cheesemaking, commitment to innovation, and exciting cheese lovers with new and interesting cheeses,” Kris said.

Kris said that her desire to learn and collaborate is never fully satisfied, attributing most of her success to always seizing opportunities.

“I don’t think I ever imagined myself making cheese or even running a company, but I have never looked back,” Kris reflected.

“As a business, we have felt so much support from the Woodside community in the past two years, which is why we continue to make and sell our products here.”

Looking to the future, Kris hopes to continue creating combinations and collaborating with other industry leaders to keep Woodside on the map as the must-go destination for unmissable produce.


Woodside Cheese Wrights staff preparing a cheese board for customers. (Image: Sophie Gauvin)

ArtWine

Proudly poised at the apex of Woodside sits ArtWine. The panoramic views, enjoyed with an award-winning glass of wine and the soft winter sun, is something everyone needs to experience at least once.

The winery is owned and operated by Judy and Glen Kelly; however, Glen is the first to admit that the property and business is Judy’s baby. “I am more of a cheerleader these days, but I’m always happy to help taste-test the product,” Glen chuckled.

“We believe that art and wine go hand in hand. When I met my husband, I was the artistic and creative side, and he had the vines and an analytical mind. That’s where the name ArtWine came from,” Judy revealed.

Known for their alternative varieties, Judy explains that she has always had an interest in wine. Still, it wasn’t until she travelled later in life that she discovered her passion for unique Mediterranean varieties.

ArtWine has a strong focus on sustainability within the wine industry. Judy said they invest heavily back into the land and the industry, aiming to create vineyards that operate effectively and with little intervention.

“We hope to leave a legacy of beautifully managed and sustainable vineyards with one of the largest plantings of alternative varieties in Australia,” Judy said.

Bespoke art and hand-crafted furniture adorns the ArtWine cellar door. (Image: Sophie Gauvin)

Walking through the rooms of the cellar door, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful design elements. Somehow the space feels like an art gallery with a touch of home. We gazed in awe until Judy interrupted the daydreaming to add, “I used to be an interior designer, you know”. 

“The inspiration for our cellar door came from the incredible views that we are so lucky to have. It is our major feature, and I didn’t want to block it in any way,” Judy said.

Judy highlighted the importance of visitors, saying the opportunity to showcase their unique varieties and create an unforgettable experience for guests inspires her to keep creating beautiful blends.

“It isn’t work when you enjoy it this much! If I have learnt anything in life, it is to surround [my]self with things that I love and to use them daily. Always eat, drink, and most importantly, be the best you can,” Judy said.

Driving home that afternoon, bellies and hearts full, I couldn’t help but feel inspired. I knew it was a girls trip neither of us would forget for a long time.

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