How to combine your passions to create a business

Passion and business are a great combination, but have you ever wished you could combine your passions to create a great business?

 It was this kind of thought that inspired Daniel McManus to establish Mojo Record Bar in 2012. Located on York Street in Sydney’s busy CBD, Mojo is an irresistible combination of old school rock ’n’ roll and speakeasy glamour, and has become one of the most popular small bars in Sydney.

Source: Mojo Record Bar

Taking us through Mojo's challenges and successes, Daniel explains how he brought his passions together to create a viable, vinyl and vesper martini selling business.

“We thought it would be cool to set up a bar where they play the kind of music that we want to listen to”

Prior to opening Mojo, Daniel recalls working in a CBD office, highlighting “I used to hang out in a CD and vinyl store after work but then it occurred to me and a friend that we always ended up drinking in there just to listen to good music and that it would be cool if they set up a bar where they play the kind of music we want to listen to. So we gave it a bash.”

Source: Mojo Record Bar

Occupying the basement level of No. 73, Mojo Record Bar comprises of a shop stocked wall-to-wall with new and second-hand vinyl and the bar itself, which is decked out in classic red velvet and intriguing spirit bottles under low lighting. The bar feels like it has existed forever, evoking the atmosphere of the old dive bars you find in corners of Berlin and New York.

“Mojo Record Bar has a unique atmosphere in terms of the decor and the vibe”

With an aesthetic suited to the more arty and alternative parts of the city, the corporate, CBD location raises a few eyebrows.

“We chose the CBD rather than somewhere like Newtown or Erskineville because that’s where we felt things were beginning to happen,” Daniel explains. “You’ve got more and more going on in the city and people are starting to stay around after work because there’s more happening here.”

“The music is a big draw for people who really care about music”

Source: Mojo Record Bar

In addition to the bar, for true music lovers, Mojo Bar includes an attached record store near the entrance, in which the second hand vinyls are for sale.

Running a shop alongside a specialist bar may sound like a challenge, but Daniel makes it sound smoother than the Barry White records on repeat. “It’s a branding opportunity for the bar. It shows we’re a music bar and that we’re not pretending– we really know our stuff.” 

Drunken purchases seem to be one of the most effective selling strategies for Mojo records, as Daniel laughs, “it’s very good for business!”

As well as carefully-curated playlists, Mojo hosts live music in the form of a talented blues band on Saturday nights and spun vinyl from local DJs on Thursdays and Saturdays.

“Lots of people comment on the atmosphere and the friendliness of the staff whenever we get reviews or blog comments,” 

Though Mojo bar may stir the pot and cocktail glass with it’s rebellious, rocker charm, the friendly and knowledgeable staff are a huge factor in the business's success.

With staff selected largely by word of mouth, Daniel personally consults industry experts from the pool of around 100 bar tenders who are employed in the various successful cocktail bars around Sydney.

Source: Mojo Record Bar

“The way people find bar staff is through a small and tight knit community of bartenders,” explains Daniel. “A lot of them hang out together, drink together and do shifts at each other’s bars. This particular gang of people are all very knowledgeable and passionate and tend to be career bartenders”

“I made the decision before we opened to go 100% Australian made on the wine and beer front”

As well as expertly-made cocktails, Mojo has a fantastic selection of locally-supplied beers and wines. "It was a real point of difference. It's really rewarding keeping up relationships with small, independent brewers who are doing something similar in their chosen field to what we're trying to do here; it's a nice way of doing business."

Source: Mojo Record Bar

Combining his passions into a viable business was not without it's challenges though.

To get Mojo up and running, Daniel had to take licensing for both the shop, live music and alcohol into consideration. "It wasn't too onerous, but it can take a long time," he tells us. "There are a lot of rules and regulations you have to comply with and lots of filling in of forms, and getting in specialists to do reports, which is very expensive and time consuming. It's a major part of what you have to do as an owner, especially when you're combining business's."

For more on Mojo Bar visit their website or follow them on Instagram.

Bianca Farmakis