Secret Foodies Founder: Alex Adams

Alex Adams, also known as Ms Darlinghurst, is a passionate foodie, professional dinner party hostess, tour guide and presenter. Having studied journalism at Macquarie University Alex’s previous experience in public relations, sales and marketing was invaluable for starting her business at the age of 25.

Having established lifestyle blog, Eat Drink Play in 2009 under the alias of Ms Darlinghurst, Alex was looking for new ways to share her culinary adventures. In April 2010 she started Secret Foodies, a surprise dining experience. When she’s not hosting weekly dinners in secret locations across Sydney she’s helping create unique events for corporate clients and private events. In 2011 Ms D teamed up with Simon McGoram, the Booze Braggart to launch Sydney Bar Tours, Sydney’s first premium small bar tour.

A country girl originally, Alex has studied TV presenting at NIDA, loves beautiful shoes, French Bulldogs and running around Rushcutters Bay on a sunny day.

Describe yourself in 3 words:
Energetic, Motivated, Creative.

What is your life motto? “From little things big things grow.” I always let my mind race but live by this motto because it brings me back from the stars to reality to make things actually happen.

When did you start pursuing your career and how long did it take to become successful? I’ve always been a high achiever and career focused but it wasn’t until early 2009 that I started to realise what I really wanted to do with my career. I started a blog called in early 2009 and a year later quit my corporate job to start Secret Foodies. I’ve done a lot in that small amount of time and some would say I’ve been successful. From my perspective it’s the beginning, I can’t wait to see where I’m at in 5 years time.

How many hours did you dedicate to pursuing your dream? Anyone who runs a small business will know that you work 24/7. I am constantly working, even when it doesn’t look like work. My friends joke that all I do is go out and eat at great restaurants and attend events every night. I tell them I work double the hours they do, I just love my job more so it looks easier.

Describe how difficult the business really is? The first year I ran purely on adrenalin. There was a lot I hadn’t even thought about. Now in our second year things have completely changed, we’re twice as busy and that brings new challenges.

What is the mistake that taught you an extremely valuable lesson? Lack of planning in the beginning was my biggest mistake. I was so excited about this new concept that I jumped into it really quickly only to realise there were simpler ways of doing things.  

What is the best piece of advice you have been given to date? Don’t focus your time on the little things that don’t mean much and learn how to delegate. I would get really precious about things and not trust that anyone else could do things the correct way. I’ve learnt to let go now and trust in myself that I’ve chosen the right people around me to lean on.

In your mind, is formal training essential? For me university was all about gaining independence. I moved out of home and learnt how to look after myself. To be fair I spent most of my uni days cramming last minute, begging tutors for extensions and far too much time at the uni bar. It wasn’t until I hit the workforce that I learnt the real skills I needed to start my business. Working in sales-business development and key account management was the best training I ever had. 

Do you think having a mentor is important? How would you go about getting one for this industry? I definitely think surrounding yourself with positive people who you can learn from is really important. A mentor doesn’t necessarily have to be someone who’s older either. One of my mentors is 24 but knows more about social media and marketing than people 3 times his age. He’s inspiring, motivated and excited to share his knowledge with me. I think talking to as many people as possible is great and then honing in on relationships you think you can learn from and people you naturally connect with.

What are some steps emerging talent can take to start/further their career? Get on Twitter. Say yes to everything- go to as many networking events as possible. Sydney is such a small place you’ll be surprised how many opportunities arise from referrals of people you meet randomly at an event. 

What kept you going when you felt like giving up? A little bit of ego and a good support network. I have amazing friends and family who are always there to give me a pep talk on the odd occasion I feel doubtful. I also make lists and try to think big picture. Sometimes too many complicated little things can tie you down, push past them. Write your list of things you’re worried about then go to bed, in the morning you’ll have a better perspective on everything. 

Do you believe that ‘making it’ is about luck and being in the right place at the right time? It’s about being in the right place, right time and then actually following through to make things happen. I had so many people tell me they’d thought of the Secret Foodies concept before me but never got around to doing it. When an opportunity presents get ready to pounce.  

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