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Alice Nivison (Fr 2006)

Fresh Prince is a design and build studio based in Sydney, Australia. Since its establishment in 2016, Fresh Prince has brought to life hundreds of unique plant and architectural concepts, and developed a reputation as a dependable, dynamic practice. The Director and one half of the creative brains behind each Fresh Prince project is St Andrew’s alumna, Alice Nivison (Fr 2006). Alice shared with us her experiences in starting and managing a business, what her time at College and university was like, and her advice to young Androvians wanting to start their own business:

Please tell us a bit about yourself: Where are you from, and why did you choose to reside at St Andrew’s College?

I grew up just outside of Walcha, in the New England Highlands of NSW. I chose to live at St Andrew’s College because I had heard great things about the inclusiveness and spirit of St Andrews, and wanted a co-ed living experience.

What parts of College life were you involved in?

At College, I was Fresher rep with Leesa Hamilton aka Beans, and co-Athletics captain.

What was your favourite part/s about being at St Andrew’s?

I loved the informal hangouts in the Glen and the unique college events like mothers and fathers dinners and Victory Dinners. I studied Architecture so living with other students going through the same course was also a huge help. The College offered a really strong support network, in terms of peer tutelage and resources, cozy places to study, and good distractions when we needed a break from studying!

Why did you decide to do a Masters in Architecture?

I grew up in a creative family, and was always interested in science, the environment and art. Architecture seemed like an interesting overlap of these different worlds.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far – career or otherwise?

One singular event is really hard to define, there are lots of seemingly small accomplishments that have built one upon the next, and without realising or celebrating these small wins, when you look back you realise how much we have achieved. Building our first off-grid cabin at Fresh Prince was definitely a very exciting accomplishment.

How did the idea behind Fresh Prince come about?

My partner, Richie Northcott, also in my year at college, started Fresh Prince in 2014 as a business focused on teaching people to grow their own food using self-watering planters. This quickly morphed into providing planter box solutions for cafes, bars and offices. I gradually spent more and more time working on Fresh Prince plant designs and eventually Richie and I incorporated the business in 2016. The name was all Richie, his sense of humour and enjoyment surrounding plants and woodworking.

What is like being Director of Fresh Prince? What are some of the pros and maybe even cons of your job?

It’s extremely liberating, getting to steer our own ship and work on such diverse and creative projects. I love the variety and the spontaneity, particularly being able to learn so much about construction, and learn by building, which is not usually part of the job for a female Architect. Having our own workshop means we can constantly experiment, and design-and-build is a conversation between Richie and myself. We recently built an off-grid sauna on the banks of the Yarra River for a collective we’re part of called Studio Rain, and have had so many exciting and challenging experiences, it’s hard to believe this is ‘work’ sometimes.

That said there are definitely days when I feel like I’m treading water to keep up – owning our own business means the pressure can be stressful, particularly as we’re a relatively small company and wear a lot of hats. Making sure we separate work and life is particularly challenging!

Where would you like to see Fresh Prince in the future?

We have always grown and changed organically, so it’s hard to answer this, but our trajectory in taking on larger scale fit-out and landscaping work in the commercial space is definitely part of our future vision. Alongside this, we want to take on our own micro-developments, particularly in the off-grid rural retreat space.

And, how are you managing at the moment during the COVID-19 pandemic? (We hope you are doing OK!)

It’s hard to tell yet as the dust is still settling, but in the great scheme of things we are OK. We have decided to use any down time in the next few months to implement ideas that were on the back burner and embark on the design and build of our home on Scotland Island.

What do you like to get up to when you’re not working? 

I love being in nature with my friends, camping and fishing, as well as traveling to other parts of the world and immersing myself in the architecture and culture of a place I’ve never been to – I find being in a foreign or natural environment both inspiring and relaxing.

What words of advice would you give to young Androvians who have an idea and might want to start a business?

Just get started as soon as you can – being “ready” is an illusion, if you begin you are already further ahead than if you were still dreaming about your idea. Also, loving and enjoying what you do really helps to motivate you through the challenging times.