Jesse Toniolo

Embracing your passion and a sense of courage and optimism are what drove Jesse Toniolo (Class of 2015) to start up his own business, retail company Push Pull Shop, in 2019. Despite being faced with much uncertainty, Jesse is continually shaping a brand that is sure to only grow into the future.


Caulfield Experience

Jesse’s most memorable Caulfield experience is summed up in the inclusiveness that the school embodies, a quality he will never forget. From the library enthusiasts who encouraged him to pull up a chair and study with peers, to sports coaches putting in endless hours to help improve skills, and the teachers staying back after class and taking late emails; he felt empowered to truly explore all avenues available to him. From his perspective, “those actions create a progressive and transcendent atmosphere that starts from the moment you walk in, to the moment you leave”. Jesse also looks back on the ANZAC Day March in 2014 and how much it meant to the veterans, being present in that moment marked an unforgettable experience and lesson for Jesse.


Coming away from Year 12, Jesse stepped into a full-time double degree of Business and Law at Victoria University. He found himself running around between Flinders St and Queen St campuses, immersing himself in public transport, university lectures and the hunt for a decent meal in between. During all this, he discovered the freedom and flexibility apparent in a post-high school life – that you can pursue anything you deem important.


An Entrepreneurial Journey

This discovery is what gave Jesse licence to make the decision to embark on an entrepreneurial journey with Push Pull Shop and create his own doorway before he put his foot through it. This journey has been one fraught with unknowns and he has had to make an abundant number of sacrifices.

For him, “currently, this is a raw process due to the short time frame I have operating this business”. It’s a process that is never easy and “at this stage every day is growing pains”, especially due to the emotional investment present in committing to your own creation.


Many factors that come into running a business take up arduous amounts of Jesse’s time, and he has discovered that time can be your biggest enemy when you’re an entrepreneur. Still, he truly has empowered himself as a young person in an industry and business typically dominated by those with decades of experience.


Two years since its inception, Push Pull Shop is thriving and growing more every day in a fashion market focused more and more on vintage and street-style garments. Jesse works with two close friends, and their days predominantly consist of planning, packing and content creation. Jesse loves that he gets to meet new people through his business (other business owners, models and their audiences) and adores the community he has created, finding this an incredibly fulfilling aspect of what he does. Jesse also loves to sell out of products and create photoshoots with people donning their latest garments. The planning, editing, thinking of captions and navigating Xero all fall under tasks he doesn’t enjoy quite as much.


Photo courtesy of Push Pull Shop

A Passion for Fashion

Jesse uncovered his passion for street fashion and sneakers during various trips around the globe, however specifically whilst in the USA. In 2017, he found himself studying business at Montclair University in the state of New Jersey. This experience was incredibly rewarding and eye opening, providing him with various skills and mindsets. The biggest learning of all was, if you want to achieve a goal, go get it – no excuses, accept the challenges! Jesse hopes to one day bring his dream full circle, back to the USA – he envisages standing with his two colleagues in a Push Pull Pop Up Shop in Chinatown, NYC in the future. However, this isn’t without sticking true to their origins.

“Just continuing to be our authentic selves, knowing where we started, at the markets, being those same kids that were selling $10 t-shirts. We don’t need to change too much from that, because that’s why we’re here, and that’s why we’ll be where we are in 5 or 10 years”.

As Jesse continues to work within the fashion industry, he hopes to see more communal encouragement that doesn’t just allow people to be creative, but promotes individuals to strive for creative dreams, especially from all walks of life. Running his own business at 23 brings no shortage of challenges, however he is looking forward to learning more about himself and for his knowledge to expand and grow. The forever changing nature of social media and clothing trends which “move faster than the Year 7 cohort at an athletics carnival” will always be present. He hangs on to the words of Heraclitus, that “the only thing constant is change”, and trusts that all these obstacles will generate more knowledge and learnings.


Photo courtesy of Push Pull Shop


From his own experience, Jesse truly believes that “if you apply every ounce of yourself to the area you love, you will end up somewhere special. Do what you love and love what you do”, and never sell yourself short, even when you hit bumps in the road – every failure is valuable. “Think of it like a maze in the newspaper. You draw a line into new barriers that work as signifiers. Each failure directs you to a new and potentially correct path”.


Watch the video interview with Jesse Toniolo now.

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This profile was written by a team of young Grammarians as part of our inaugural Young Alumni Tell Their Stories Week – a week of content (including a social media takeover) by young alumni for young alumni. This initiative forms part of our broader Young Alumni Ambassador Program (YAAP).

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