Declan Lee has certainly forged a unique life path. Whilst attempting to combine 2 rather disparate career paths as both a physiotherapist (specialising in hand injuries) and as a DJ in the early 90’s, it became clear his life trajectory was always going to be full of twists and turns. Soon after leaving his physio skills on hold, he was instrumental in the establishment of the world’s biggest electronic music brand in Australia – Ministry of Sound. Lee developed all aspects of the business from inception including touring, compilations and A&R (Artists and Repertoire). He then went on to establish himself as a serial entrepreneur in the world of electronic music as a club/festival promoter, artist manager, consultant and occasional journalist whilst continuing to DJ in Australia and around the world.
As an owner of ‘Sounds’ Lee put on some of the biggest music festivals in Australia for over 8 years. It’s during this time his digital and brand strategy skills were truly honed. As an early adopter of social media as a tool to build tribes, Lee adapted and applied his knowledge across various businesses and projects in the years to follow, including the prolific Gelato Messina brand. In recent times Messina has taken the concept of brand collaborations and co-creations to new levels.
Lee fell into the hospitality industry and became a restaurateur in 2007 opening ‘A Tavola’ and ‘Omerta’ – two successful and hatted restaurants in Darlinghurst which forged their reputation on the simple ethos of ‘quality’, using house made creations and ingredients. With the same partners, he opened the highly successful Thai eating house ‘Muum Maam’ in Surry Hills. His greatest achievement so far however is the rise and rise of Messina. Established in 2002, Gelato Messina is one of the most prolific food businesses of our time and their branding speaks for itself. With a prolific and incredibly engaged social media audience in the hundreds of thousands, it seems they are doing something right.
The Messina team are passionate (verging on obsessive) about the creative process and making amazing gelato with the best, real ingredients – whether it’s coming up with new flavours (there’s 35 available at all times plus 5 weekly specials), music playlists for the store or developing custom creations for weird and wonderful brand collaborations, the team throw themselves into it because that’s what they love. And all with a large pinch of humour, because it’s only gelato after all.