Young & Extraordinary Series – Steph Walker – Founder of EMMI

Steph Walker - founder of EMMI

Today is the second in our series of interviews with this years participants in Young and Extraordinary –  a joint initiative of the Foundation for Young Australians and Australian Youth Affairs Coalition celebrating young and extraordinary changemakers aged between 16-25 years. A huge shout out goes to Alissa Phillips for being the lead organiser of the inaugural event in Melbourne this year, and for putting these incredible young Australians in touch with Ideas Hoist.

The only real rule is that you’re passionate, the only other rule is that you can’t be a jerk.”

Steph Walker founded EMMI, a creative content website that also serves the community. The website assists as a forum for student run media ventures, a recruitment service for students and recent graduates as well as a media residence in cafes for emerging talent. EMMI stands for Emerging Media Makers’ Initiative and has been in planning since 2010. Additionally, Steph is an experienced writer, editor and designer and utilizes her abilities to work for a large number of organisations.

What are you working on right now?

I’ve been involved in the Australian community media sector since 2006 and created the Emerging Media Markers’ Initiative upon finishing my thesis, a handbook for editors of student publications (which you will find on EMMI, after I have the stomach to re-edit it).

EMMI has four major aspects:

  • Creative content/articles
  • A community/forum for student publications
  • Profiles of strangers around the world and
  • A media residence in cafes for emerging talents.

EMMI was founded in order to provide students and recent graduates with a platform to be published and in order to establish a community to showcase these talents. EMMI is supported by a growing team of collaborators, interns and emerging talents and has also morphed into a calling card for the young and talented, allowing occasional paid work for those involved.

We are a sister project with We Matter Media (Creative Director Jonathan Brown) – we have a similar ethos share the same values but publish different content.

How do you make ideas happen?

I work hard, make mistakes, and move on once I’ve learnt from my mistakes. I juggle many things, but at the end of the day, what I decide to focus on – is really what I should be doing, so I follow my instincts. I’m also very lucky to have a very unique group of peers who are devoted to their passions, we both help and challenge each other.

What does your typical day look like?

I sit in front of my gigantic desktop iMac and research, write, design, edit – it never feels like work.”

Most nights before I go to sleep I write a ‘to do’ list for the next day. Then I don’t go to sleep and spend hours researching great things – from media organisations, to people, to films – anything that could be a potential piece, or beneficial to my audience. I go to sleep at 2 or 3am, wake up late around 10 or 11 – which is lovely. I get up, make coffee and decide how to cross some items off my list. Sometimes I forget to eat lunch or dinner, I sit in front of my gigantic desktop iMac and research, write, design, edit – it never feels like work. I try to learn one new thing a day, which is usually how to design a graphic to compliment an article. If I have a break, I’m usually watching comedy, if you notice, EMMI has a habit of publishing pieces about comedy too. Also I dress and shower myself – rinse, repeat.

What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?

Sometimes you need someone to pat you on the back, give you a slap or have a different view point.”

Being alone with a big idea. Peers and colleagues are interested in EMMI, of course, but I am used to working literally next to someone else with the same idea. Sometimes you need someone to pat you on the back, give you a slap or have a different view point. It is challenging to work in such an insular environment.

What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?

You can have my rule which I use for life and work – leave everything a little bit nicer than when you found it. If you see someone with a map, ask them if they need help. If you have a talented yet underdeveloped writer work with them in the way you wish you’d be trained.

Actually this rule spurred on a section of my website – Stranger Profile. Same set of questions, only rule is that you can only interview strangers. We’ve had submissions from New York, Vancouver, Melbourne and Adelaide so far.

What people/companies/organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment?

What about internationally?

What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?

Raising awareness and aiding in the development of community is the first thing that comes to mind, but really, a business should lead by example if they wish to aid in social change.

Name 3 websites you would recommend to Idea’s Hoist readers?

Open Culture is a great site, finding free ways for you to learn, there are free textbooks and courses to take, language lessons, podcasts – also films and other entertainment. The other day I found Ginsberg’s Howl available as a free download.

Code Academy is a website that helps you to learn code, but it’s designed like a game. If you’re like me, and get frustrated when you don’t understand what you’re web developer is doing then Code Academy can help you bridge the gap.

The Daily What is the first website I check when I get up, because it’s just a collage of things happening in the world. New trailers, world news, interesting videos/projects – a bit of everything and it’s updated every couple hours.

Name 3 Australians we should follow on Twitter?

Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?

Yes, we are looking for all the things! The website is about the greater community so we’re very keen on working with everyone! The only real rule is that you’re passionate, the only other rule is that you can’t be a jerk. We always welcome new ideas and are particularly devoted to getting media students and recent graduates the experience that they crave in an environment that is supportive of their endeavors.  If you’re keen check out the EMMI website, you can see who’s involved at ‘who we are’ and you can enquire about contributing via the ‘contribute’ section!

Our readers are smart, creative, talented and good looking. Here’s your chance to ask them anything.

I’d like you to tell me what you’d like to ask a stranger. Don’t worry about the asking – that’s our problem, we’d just like to know what you’d like to find out.

What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?

When I studied at the University of Toronto there was a cafe halfway between my house and the campus called Future’s Cafe. It was huge, coffee was 85 cents a cup, they had student discounts on their food and every day they had roughly 20 cakes and pies to pick from – but like fancy ones guys! In winter I’d walk halfway to uni and then defrost at Futures. In Summer I would walk halfway home and stop for beers on the patio. It was perfection.

Here, at home, The Pantry cafe is my regular, their customer service is too lovely to pass up and their food is always varied and delicious.

We thought it would be cool to crowdsource an annual prize to award to the interviewee’s choice (each person interviewed gets one vote) winner for the year’s best interview. Are you willing to kick in a prize?

What a great idea! I’d be happy to. What can I offer…

If we can meet in person, a lunch date that I can then turn into an article about them sounds good to me.


They can pick 3 people and I’ll try to Stranger Profile one of them

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