Postcard from San Diego: Starting a Festival

In the lead up to the opening of the San Diego Spirits Festival, Liz Edwards, the Founder and Director, shared with Advance her journey from Adelaide to the USA, and how she ended up in San Diego running a festival.

Tell us a little bit about yourself…

I’m from Adelaide, although my parents originally immigrated here from Cyprus. Our family moved around a bit, from Sydney, to Melbourne and Brisbane, before finally settling down in Adelaide. My mother had eight children of which five survived; and my father was a builder who helped in the re-construction of Darwin after the devastation of cyclone Tracy in December 1974.

After being to a number of amazing places I could have seen myself settling in, I’ve now settled into the lovely community of La Jolla in San Diego. I don’t think I ever expected I would end up here, although I think the best part is I got here by trusting my gut and not setting my heart on expectations. I live here with my husband, Dr. Alan Edwards, and spend most of my time organising and running the San Diego Spirits Festival, which is coming up on 7 October! While it’s a lot of work each year, I love my new home and really strive to make each festival better than the last.

How did you end up in California?

My husband, Dr. Alan Edwards, founded a software company in Brisbane, primarily serving North America and Europe, so we already had multiple avenues to move overseas. Initially, our plan was to spend two years in California due to his frequent overseas travels, and then move to Europe before eventually returning to Australia. California, however, presented us with so many opportunities, we both eventually ended up in industries completely unrelated to software.

What sort of challenges have you faced?

One of the most significant challenges was building a dependable network of business relationships. Initially, Americans are often intrigued by my distinctive Adelaide accent, which opens the door to conversations. However, the Australian benefit only gets you so far. To succeed, you must cultivate trust, which can then evolve into a lasting, mutually beneficial, and honest partnership.

How did you create a network in your new home? Have you still managed to maintain your connections in Australia?

We have a home in La Jolla, nestled close to the ocean in San Diego. Gaining acceptance in this neighborhood, with its deep history of “old money,” has been tricky. Thankfully, the businesses I’ve pursued have been closely connected with new immigrants, particularly from Latin America, as well as fellow entrepreneurs from all across the US who are eager to establish their own brands.

These like-minded entrepreneurs appreciate the value-for-money proposition and the personal touch I tend to bring. Many have enjoyed the fact they can reach me directly on my phone, and they have come to expect my commitment to be genuine. 

I do also make a conscious effort to maintain my Australian roots. I head back home at least once a year to reconnect with my family and friends which always helps more than I expect it will. I think that these connections are what allow me to continue pursuing my goals over here, having that support network can sometimes be the difference between a bad and a good day.

What are the benefits of being a Global Australian?

It’s clear to me that Australians are inherently risk-takers and natural entrepreneurs. This trait is deeply ingrained in our national identity. What sets us apart is our global outlook — we have a strong desire to explore other cultures worldwide. This global perspective enables us to approach opportunities with fresh eyes, a skill that isn’t as common as some might think. Whether we’re back in Australia, contributing to our vibrant multiculturalism, or venturing into new business endeavors, our global perspective proves to be a valuable asset.

What should the Advance community know about the San Diego Spirits Festival?

San Diego Spirits Festival is THE major cocktail cultural extravaganza celebrated each year at the end of summer! We are celebrating the 14th annual festival on October 7th and 8th, 2023. Set at The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla, CA, it’s a prime opportunity for brands to engage with professionals, mixologists, and spirits enthusiasts. The festival attracts industry pros and enthusiasts nationwide and is a great place for Aussie expats to connect. One of the highlights is the International Bottle Competition, which showcases top brands. If you are in the area or want to plan a fun weekend, get your tickets for this highly anticipated spirits event! Check out the fun from 2022 👇

Connect with Liz Edwards and learn more about establishing the San Diego Spirits Festival.