Sonder is defined as the realisation that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own – populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness. In a series of interviews, Arts student, Georgia Leak, aims to explore the lives of the colourful characters that call the ANU home.
If I asked you to make a list of the hobbies of students here at the ANU, how long would it take for you to say collecting, refurbishing and selling vintage typewriters? I’m sure it wouldn’t spring to mind as quickly as playing a team sports, or making music in a band, however, as uncommon as it may seem, second year Arts/Law student, Nick Wyche, has found himself restoring vestiges from the bygone worlds of The Great Gatsby, and Cold War espionage, into shiny, new typewriters ready to write in a new life.
My first experience with Nick’s pastime-turn-business-venture was actually many months ago on my eighteenth birthday. In some kind of stars-aligning, serendipitous conversation, a group of my friends heard about Nick’s eccentric endeavours as a typewriter rehomer and orchestrated what was, perhaps, the most incredible birthday surprise ever. It was beautifully presented in a timeless leather case with a hand-typed instruction manual tucked into it – Nick makes sure he gives each and every one of his customers a full insight into the colourful history of their newest vintage piece. “I love all my typewriters and the stories behind them,” Nick explained. “A lot of people who emigrated here from Europe after the Second World War brought their typewriters with them, so I have some pieces with fascinating histories.”
Asking if he had a favourite find, however, proved to be a difficult question. “That’s like asking a parent to pick their favourite child!” He laughed. Although, as anyone with siblings can tell you, and Nick’s next statement revealed, low-key family favouritism is never imagined. “I think for sheer beauty it’s hard to match my Optima (pictured above), which hails from East Germany. It’s a mint green colour that takes on this breathtaking lustre in direct sunlight.”
What began as a childhood fascination with a historical artefact in his Grandma’s flat, has now seen Nick hone his entrepreneurial skills and open up his own online Etsy store, PicaElite. On the horizon, he also sees an opportunity to “[start his] own e-commerce platform to sell typewriters and accessories like ink ribbons.” He’s also beginning to develop “some ideas to do with creating an online space where collectors and enthusiasts can have an easy-to-use and independent platform to sell items from their collections.”
According to Nick, Canberra is home to a fantastic network that supports young entrepreneurs in gaining skills, mentorship and much needed funding. “Last year I was fortunate enough to take part in the Innovation ACT competition. It’s a free-to-enter program that helps you develop the skills and networks to transform your ideas into viable business models. At the end, if your model is solid enough, you’ll have the opportunity to pitch to a judging panel for a chance at part of a $50,000 seed grant!” Registration is now open at innovationact.org and with no cost to enter you’ve got nothing to lose — so check it out!
In a fast-paced technology-driven world, it’s nice to see that some of us are still able to find a place where old and new can intertwine to create something unique. If you fancy yourself a blast from the past, a statement decor piece, the perfect gift for that special someone, or just a little piece of history to call your own, chuck Nick a Facebook message or go and give his Etsy store, PicaElite, some love.