How Grant Smillie went from Melbourne DJ to Hollywood hospitality wunderkind

Grant Smillie at E.P & L.P. Photo: Supplied

Grant Smillie at E.P & L.P. Photo: Supplied

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Success is measured differently for everyone. For Grant Smillie, Melbourne DJ and entrepreneur turned hospitality wunderkind, it’s about evolution. “Being able to grow yourself – both personally and professionally – is an important thing,” he says.

If that growth means avoiding emotional attachments to each and every project he works on, Grant believes that’s positive.

“Knowing when to move on and create a new challenge is an important thing to recognise,” he says. “That’s what happened with my musical career. Hospitality might not be where I want to be in the end, but it’s where I want to be right now.”

GRANT’S SUCCESS 101

  • There’s no substitute for hard work. Work harder than your competition and the results will follow.
  • There’s as much blood, sweat and tears in opening a big operation as a small one, so if you have the intestinal fortitude – go big.
  • Be passionate about what you do.
  • Don’t be afraid of the unknown; it’s what keeps you on your toes.

In the West Hollywood hot spot E.P & L.P, which Grant helped create and launch in 2015, that sense of “now” is the catapult that propels his most ambitious venture yet.

Together with his business partner and high school friend David Combes, Grant has created one of LA’s hottest hospitality venues, an audacious multilevel restaurant in the heart of the city’s design district, with a $5 million fitout and views across the Hollywood Hills from its achingly cool rooftop bar.

A post shared by E.P. & L.P. (@eplosangeles) on

The restaurant, which has room for more than 400 guests, is the first project for the dynamic duo’s Botanical Hospitality Group.

The company was formed in 2013 with one eye firmly on the lucrative US market and the bright idea to serve South-East Asian food with an Australian flavour to LA scenesters.

E.P. & L.P. opened with a splash two years ago, with a high-profile group of backers that included DJ Axwell from supergroup Swedish House Mafia and model Ashley Hart. It quickly became a go-to venue for regulars such as Harry Styles, Justin Bieber, Ruby Rose, Cody Simpson and Taylor Swift.

“We Aussies are not like the others. We don’t ring TMZ to try to blow up the publicity,” Grant says of the venue’s attitude to celebrities. “So they like it. We managed to hit that sweet spot.”

Grant Smillie at E.P & L.P. Photo: Supplied

Grant Smillie at E.P & L.P. Photo: Supplied

Before LA, the owners had honed their skills in Melbourne with Ponyfish Island (Grant) and Trunk (David). “I’ve never really worked for anyone properly,” Grant says.

He started early, after trying to get into a nightclub under-age. That sparked a conversation with a venue owner that ended with Grant working as the nightclub’s promoter. His entrepreneurial fire was lit.

“I thought, ‘why am I filling up this guy’s venue? – I could be filling my own’. Then I started playing other people’s music and I thought, ‘I should be playing my own’,” he says. “You have to create your own luck … if you wait for someone to come knocking on your door, you might be waiting for a long time.”

So far those opportunities have included his own record label, a PR agency and a brewery, to name a few of his ventures.

The decision to go to the US to open E.P & L.P was, he says, “in retrospect, the craziest thing I’ve done”. Now Grant has his sights on more US ventures.

Pretty pumped to announce our partnership with the MRC at The Caulfield Cup! See you in October! #CaulfieldCupxEPLP

A post shared by Grant Smillie (@smiles01) on

Melbourne is on the agenda, too, and Grant is looking forward to giving his hometown crowd a sense of what West Hollywood already loves when he brings a pop-up version of E.P & L.P to the Spring Racing Carnival at Caulfield.

The chance to catch up on some solid parental advice will be a bonus. “I jokingly call my mother the fun police,” Grant says. “While I am all gung-ho about the next idea, mum says, ‘have you done your due diligence?’. She’s all about making sure I’ve got something put away for a rainy day.”

At the moment, the sun is definitely shining.

OUR COVER \ Grant Smillie. Photo: Fairfax Media Archives

OUR COVER \ Grant Smillie. Photo: Fairfax Media Archives

 

 

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