OG Jessica Locarnini (Class of 1991) - an Inspiring Journey into Marketing and the World of a Honey Sommelier

Meet OG Jessica Locarnini (Class of 1991) - an inspiring and personal account of creating your own opportunities. We are pleased to share her fascinating journey in the world of marketing and becoming a honey sommelier. Her sense of humour always evident in embracing both success and challenges.

Jessica recalls her time in Somerville House Boarding in 1990 and 1991 fondly, "We became like family really quickly. It was my first time living away from home, and it was exciting, fun and scary all at the same time. Of course, the head of the boarding house was Mary Davis who in hindsight, I would give her a standing ovation for managing to keep us all in check. At the time, she was a force to be reckoned with if you stepped out of line. I know I challenged her more than most during my time there.  As for day teachers, Miss Davenport was my favourite. Her passion for teaching and archeology was incredible. Her smile was infectious, and she was so loved by all of us. I would always think of her and thank the knowledge she gave me when I was living overseas and visited places like Greece or Italy. I could imagine her carefully digging out some artifacts from the ruins."


When asked about her inspiration to head into the world of Marketing, Jessica humourously recalls "I used to want to be a Forensic Scientist when I was growing up. I fancied myself as a bit of a true crime mystery solver. Thank god I didn't get the grades for the course or pursue that avenue. The reality of the job is far from what I saw on TV." She elaborates on the twists and turns her journey took to overcome obstacles and create an opportunity to enter marketing. "I researched jobs for a careers project when I was in year 8. I remember writing a paper about my future career as an 'Account Manager'. It sounded like a pretty good fit for me. I was always very creative, also could talk underwater with a mouth-full of marbles and they made the ads on TV, which I loved. When I left school, I tried to get into do a course in graphic design, as my grades weren't high enough to do a marketing degree. My folio wasn't developed enough, so that fell through as an option as well. Luckily I found a job as an office junior in one of the biggest agencies in Melbourne, and was able to learn on the job and at TAFE at night. I packed my things up, bought a one way ticket to Melbourne and worked my way up from answering phones and managing the mail room. I was willing to do the dirty jobs to gain the experience, skills and contacts needed to get me up to one of the core roles. It was a lot of fun too, I worked with some really interesting characters back then. A big eye opener for a 17 year old from the Gold Coast." 

"Interestingly, before I had the 'big jobs' in marketing, I was a flight attendant for Emirates in Dubai. After working hard at the agency and weekend jobs to make ends meet, I got to 24 and was burnt out. I saw the ad for cabin crew in the paper and applied, convinced there was no way they would take me, but the joke was on me. I was offered a 3 year contract to live in Dubai and work on their flights across the world. I had never travelled overseas before, not even to Bali, and didn't know where Dubai was, but I said yes! It was incredibly frightening to get on an international flight by myself not knowing what to expect at the other end. It was like my 'gap year' I was paid to travel the world and talk to people (which I loved). I met some more incredible women that became like a second family while I was there, I'm still close to them today. I also met a nice Welsh man who I ended up eloping with and got married in Las Vegas when I was 26. After September 11, things changed in Dubai, especially working for an airline. My husband worked in an advertising agency in Dubai. To get experience, I worked for free on my days off, helping the Account Managers with pitches. It paid off, and the CEO said there were jobs for both of us at their London agency. We were ready to leave. I had always thought I would come home, but I ended up moving to London!"

Cabin Crew days in Dubai

Over Jessica's career she has had extraordinary opportunities to work with some incredible brands and work alongside some incredibly inspriational people. During her time in London she "worked for some smaller companies who specialised in the new 'tech-fad' mobile phones, something that was very 'un-cool' at the time, but I was curious about what the tech companies were doing and how quickly the devices were getting more and more advanced. My first foray into games and big brands was with Namco Bandai where I looked after their Pac-Man products on mobile phones for Europe. I then moved to SEGA and again, led their mobile games marketing and business development for Europe. I then did several years at Vodafone Global, again in mobile games roles. Next, I went to Xbox and looked after their downloadable games catalogue on the Xbox360 console for Europe. Next it was to Samsung, where I was a senior marketer for their games, music and movies business. By this stage, my marriage had run it's course, and I wanted to come home. I'd been living in London for nearly 15 years, and even had a soft UK accent. It was time." 

Presenting an award on behalf of SEGA at the European Mobile Entertainment Awards

Helped out at London Fashion Week while working with sponsor Vodafone

Working on a press stint for Lara Croft game in London

When Jessica came home, it took a few months of applying and getting lots of rejections, but she persisted and got a role at The Walt Disney Company as a maternity leave cover in Melbourne, where she currently resides. "I did get to go on set with Thor and meet Chris Hemsworth and Taika Waititi while I was there. I worked on some incredible movies in the year I was there, but going on set and meeting them was one of the big highlights. I have to confess though, I didn't have my glasses on, and was with a colleague staring at who we thought was Chris on the other side of the clearing. Our press lead then came up to us from the other direction with Chris and Taika in tow. We'd been checking out his stunt double the whole time! "

Working in Disney, Australia

Following this Jessica did a short stint at Holden, and ended up finding a job in Byron Bay working for Flow Hive, an Australian company who make innovative beehives. "I've been a beekeeper since about 2005, and helped manage the hives on Hampstead Heath when I was in London, so this was a great opportunity to follow a passion. I was their Head of Marketing for a couple of years working in the Byron Hinterland near Newrybar. I was surrounded by bees and honey every day. It was tough to integrate into the local scene though. Even with all the bees, I was pretty lonely and homesick for Melbourne so came back. Since then I've picked up a few consulting jobs and more recently had a permanent role at MYOB. A few months ago I was headhunted by ANZ, and am now settling into my new marketing role on their Home Loans team here at their HQ in Docklands."

Bee work with Costa from Gardening Australia

On becoming a Honey Sommelier Jessica says "It flowed on from my beekeeping. Beekeeping gives you a great connection to nature. You've got a heightened sense of the seasons and what's in flower around you at different times of the year. When you harvest honey, the colour, smell and flavour changes throughout the year and your location. I heard about the American Honey Tasting Society a few years ago. They have a course that teaches the same way to appreciate and analyse honey as they do in Italy, but offered a course in English. My brother lives in Chicago with his family, and I travel over to see them every US Summer. I aligned my visit with the next student intake and completed my certification initially out of curiosity back in 2019. It was amazing. I loved every minute of it, and when I came back to Australia, I couldn't think of anything else. I'd set up my side business Honey Merchant a year before with the intention of supporting Australian beekeepers to promote and sell their honey. This fit in perfectly with that and has since taken a priority to the marketing side of the business. It's an EXTREMELY niche skill, but also a lot of fun. Honey is like wine, gin, coffee or other things we assess for their sensory characteristics. When I work with beekeepers or foodies and run honey tastings, I love to see the surprise on people's faces when they taste different varieties and realise honey doesn't just taste 'sweet'. Honey should be celebrated, it's an incredible product of nature. Hopefully I help educate people how to celebrate it in a simple, but enjoyable way and draw more attention to the great work beekeepers all across Australia are doing to help bring us such a unique product. Australian honey is so different to European or American honey. We have such a diverse and extreme landscape. You can taste that in our honey." 

Honey Merchant - featured in Good Food Australia shoot

When asked what Jessica consider to be the biggest barriers she had to overcome in her career, she reflects "I think, like many of us, I'm my own worst critic. Even when I was told how great I was doing by friends, it was common for me to suffer from a bit of 'imposter syndrome' along the way. Over the years, I've learned to manage it, and be much kinder to myself. On one hand, it was helpful, as I've always been driven, on the other hand, it was challenging to really celebrate the wins along the way. With the work I do, you need to be like a moving rock. You can't afford to learn marketing and then 'just know'. The whole industry is constantly evolving, so even though I got my main accreditation 20 years ago, I'm constantly upskilling. Last year,  I finished a Digital Marketing Strategy Course at RMIT and just last week, I submitted my final exam for a Mini MBA in Marketing. You need to keep learning to keep growing." 

On the other hand Jessica's most memorable moments "are often the ones I've been the most terrified of. Like moving to Dubai, or coming back to Australia. When you've started from scratch and manage to swim, not sink and it's all from your hard work, it's pretty rewarding. 

"My most recent greatest achievement though is Honey Merchant (http://honeymerchant.com.au) which was born in my crazy head. I really want to make a difference in peoples' understanding and appreciation of Australian honey and the beekeepers behind it." Thanks to the recent media coverage in the Age, Good Food (LINK TO ARTICLE) and on ABC Radio, Jessica has been able to gain the right attention and looks forward to growing this into "something big".


Jessica offers the following sage advice to others who may be looking at pursuing a different career path;

  • Always keep your eyes open for opportunities. They don't always come to you with flashing lights announcing they've arrived. You need to trust your gut and be brave. Have the courage to put yourself forward. What's the worst thing that can happen? You get a rejection, and you're still in the same place you started. You haven't lost anything, right? You're writing your life story right now. You're in charge of what happens next. Be brave and put yourself out there.
  • Be kind to yourself. You are amazing, and there's only one you. If anything starts to make you doubt yourself or knock your confidence, learn to recognise it quickly and change the channel.
  • Network!! It's true, it's not what you know, it's who you know in so many situations. It's not uncommon for great jobs to not get advertised widely, and the team is asked whether they know anyone who would be a good fit. Skills can be taught, but cultural fit with the team is just as, if not more important.
  • Be prepared to work from the bottom up. There's no shame in being a small fish in a big pond, if it's the right pond. It's a great way to gain experience and start building up your skills and network with the companies you admire and want to be part of.


So what lies next in store for OG Jessica Locarnini?

"I've been setting the foundations for Honey Merchant's expansion. I hope that in the next 6 - 12 months I'll have some exciting announcements there that take it from a 'passion project' to a successful side-business. Work-wise, I'm still settling into ANZ. It's a great company to work for, and I'm working on some very cool projects. I'd love to continue to grow within the business.


Upcoming presentations/events by Jessica Locarnini

  • Melbourne Honey Tasting: COVID has been tricky to navigate. I'm planning a series of smaller tastings here in Melbourne from next month, but unable to have 20 guests in a room for the workshop. I'll rework the dates and share them on my website (http://honeymerchant.com.au) and socials (https://www.facebook.com/thehoneymerchant/).
  • I'm in talks with a boutique apiary in South Australia that has ties to a Cheese and Wine Marker. Looking longer term, there could be some exciting pairing events coming up over there. Again, more to be shared on my posts. 


We love to share stories of the different journey's our Old Girls embark on - share with us at connect@somervillehouseoga.com.au.

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