Cool Clutch

Suzanne Carroll sells Cool Clutch women’s handbags, cool by name and cool by nature!

Suzanne Carroll sells Cool Clutch women’s handbags, cool by name and cool by nature!

Ever dreamed of starting a business? Suzanne Carroll of Gisborne in central Victoria woke up on the morning of 30 October 2015 and told her husband that she was going to start a business called Cool Clutch selling ‘cool by nature and cool by name’ handbags for women. And she did. True story!

One of the fastest growing sectors of entrepreneurs is that of middle-aged women and you can’t go past Suzanne of Cool Clutch for inspiration. Having stepped away from her previous marketing work in the corporate sector for health reasons, Suzanne had been searching for an idea.

‘I was too young to retire and too old to be employable. I wanted to sell something online so I could stay home in my PJ’s’ she laughs.

Nothing could be further from that vision. Instead of languishing at home in her PJ’s she has found herself totally out of her comfort zone, drawing down on her house mortgage to fund the start-up, travelling overseas to negotiate with manufacturers, diving into the alien and expensive world of patents, entering and winning a Pitchfest, and becoming the very visible public face of her unique product.

It has been a steep learning curve since waking up with her Cool Clutch dream and Suzanne understands the benefit of sharing her journey to help others. She attends as many business conferences and networking events as possible. ‘I’m always learning by listening to others,’ she explains, ‘everybody I listen to generates an idea.’

Not one to sit around, Suzanne registered the domain name ‘Cool Clutch’ that very first day. While it may seem impulsive, having previously seen a cooler bag that stored wine on its side instead of in the usual upright position, Suzanne had noted that there wasn’t one available in Australia and this idea had been bubbling away subconsciously for some time. Her idea was to create stylish handbags that could also discretely store and keep cool wine, lunches and even medications that deteriorate in hot temperatures. The patented distinction is a removable pocket that sits within the handbag.

‘I knew what I wanted to do but not how to do it.’

She contacted thirty-two manufacturers via China’s Alibaba website. Those that spoke good English were followed up. Three were short listed before Suzanne met with them in Hong Kong. After selecting one they worked together on the design. Suzanne paid thirty percent upon placing the order, and a further seventy percent when the first 2,500 handbags were ready to be shipped.

It should have been an exciting day when the container arrived in Melbourne, but it turns out that some manufacturers like to cut corners and a great proportion of the initial order were faulty.

With the benefit of hindsight, Suzanne would advise others to do it differently.

‘Yes, good English and being contactable by skype is crucial, but I would personally tour the factory before committing to a contract and would not allow the products to be shipped out of China without first being checked by a quality agent.’

With a sample of what she wanted to achieve and a list of questions to ask, Suzanne returned to China in August 2016 to negotiate with a new manufacturer and personally tour their factory plus engage a quality agent. Thankfully it was a much better outcome this time round.

Another valuable lesson has been to scale back the designs and colour choices.

‘At one point I had 83 different handbag designs and colours,’ Suzanne admits, ‘but I’m scaling back to just three styles with a total of about 25 handbags in total. I’ve learned not to listen to everybody because some ideas just don’t sell.’

Obviously a website is crucial for an online business. It took Suzanne three attempts and over a year to get a site that she is happy with using Wordpress and WooCommerce.

‘Your biggest investment is your shop front. Don’t go with the first “special offer” on a website design you see advertised on social media’ she advises. Once again she learned a valuable lesson and researched who had the skills to do the work to her satisfaction. Once established she was able to look after the website herself.

A Facebook community of 4,500 people has become a useful marketing tool for Cool Clutch’s direct sales. ‘I’m self-taught in social media,’ Suzanne admits but loves the fact that she can drill down into demographics when boosting posts for as little as $20.

She has also learnt the distinctions between different platforms. ‘When I’m on Facebook I talk like I do to my girlfriends, but when on Linked In, it is more business.’ But at the end of the day it is word of mouth that generates the most sales.

‘My biggest marketing is customers talking to their friends.’

Finding wholesalers for Cool Clutch has been another trial and error process. She began by attending the major gift and homeware expos but, having such a unique product, has realised that it is more effective to research the demographics and go into the stores personally.

While Suzanne looks after the sales in Victoria, she also has an agent in New South Wales, and is currently seeking agents for Queensland and South Australia. A recent visit to the Barossa Valley revealed that wineries are a great fit for her products.

Patenting the Cool Clutch concept world-wide is another significant investment that started within weeks of the new business being created. ‘Looking at my initial decisions, they were more about convenience,’ Suzanne reflects. ‘I googled Patent Attorneys and found one in a location that I was familiar with. I liked him but he turned out to be very expensive.’

More recently Suzanne has benefited from working with a business mentor who has helped her to understand her weaknesses and improve her business decision making. ‘Useful tips like learning to allocate a codeword to specific marketing campaigns allows you to monitor the return on investment,’ says Suzanne. Like every seasonal business she is also looking to overseas markets to ‘follow the sun.’

Entering and winning a Bendigo Pitchfest in November 2016 gave Suzanne a great confidence boost, as did being named in the Australian Top 50 People in eCommerce in early 2019. ‘It’s nice to be recognised,’ she admits.

Working from home has probably turned out a little differently than Suzanne initially imagined. Fortunately, with grown-up children who have left home, it has been easier to reallocate rooms to the business. The dining room is now the Board Room, the study is an office for Suzanne and a part time employee, and the garage is now used for picking and packing

‘We don’t have anyone come to dinner anymore,’ she smiles, ‘we go out.’

If Suzanne has one more dream, it is to grow the business up to a level where she can build a new office and warehouse with a child care centre so more women are empowered to work.

Now that’s a cool dream!

Suzanne’s top tips:

  • Engage a quality agent if you are manufacturing overseas

  • Get a business mentor to get you started

  • Network with other business people

www.coolclutch.net


KERRY ANDERSON: Founder of the Operation Next Gen program and author of Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business,’ Kerry works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. In 2018 she was named as one of Australia’s Top 50 Regional Agents of Change. READ MORE

Support Rural Towns

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As part of the Creative Innovation 2019 Asia Pacific Conference in Melbourne 1-3 April, Kerry Anderson’s mission was to remind everyone of the importance of our rural towns and share ideas on how we can all give our support regardless of where we live.

Regardless of where we live, Australia's rural towns are important for so many reasons, most notably for supporting the farmers that produce the food we eat every day - 93 percent of it to be exact, plus they export a further 60 percent overseas!

Rural towns provide important services and social hubs for all of our rural industries. They are great places to live and work and are home to some of the most innovative people I know. But so many of these towns are isolated and struggling to adapt in a rapidly changing world. Some are struggling to survive and others are missing out on exciting opportunities.

A strong and diverse business sector is such an important part of every rural town’s long-term future. A very wise man once told me that his greatest contribution to the community was being successful in business. The people he employs enables them to live in his rural town, support other local businesses, and send their kids to the local school. Every single person makes a huge difference to a rural town.

Operation Next Gen works with rural towns, encouraging them to have new conversations with new people in new places. By looking at existing landscapes with fresh eyes they can diversify and embrace new business opportunities in the digital era. We cannot physically work with every town, but with the help of our city friends and using technology, we can make these valuable resources available right across Australia to multiple towns at a time.

We’re looking for partners to help establish a dynamic digital platform – an interactive step-by-step program that will share the collective knowledge of Operation Next Gen and empower local communities to build their own collaborative entrepreneurial ecosystems – supported by online mentoring, and innovative support resources such as blogs and podcasts. Through technology we can link a growing network of rural towns to share their experiences and foster collaboration Australia wide.

And, most importantly, we will also be looking for entrepreneurs to share their stories and inspire others.

As highlighted by Lord Adair Turner this week at Ci2019, we cannot afford to ignore regional areas. We need rural towns to prosper.

Rural towns are important to us all. Here are seven ways that individuals, universities, and corporate entities can give their support:

#1 Be a customer

Stop off next time you drive through a rural town or browse online and find a rural based business to support. You will also find some wonderful gifts, many with a unique story attached.

#2 Be an Ambassador

Tell people about your purchases. Support posts on social media. Give a testimonial. Check in.

#3 Award rural scholarships and internships

Travel and accommodation can be expensive. Offer scholarship and discounts to rural people so they can more easily access your events and training programs. Or provide valuable experience through an internship.

#4 Offer your services

Got skills or knowledge that you are willing to share probono with rural businesses and communities? Offer to mentor or speak online through Operation Next Gen or another worthy organisation. Better still, spend some time in a rural town. Best holiday ever!

#5 Include a rural perspective

Be inclusive and invite rural speakers to your next event. Reimburse their time, travel and accommodation.

#6 Recruit remote contractors

In the digital age we can now live and work in a rural location. Recruit contract workers for your next project from a rural location giving valuable support to a rural family and bringing a fresh perspective to your venture.

#7 Establish a rural base

Rural towns are full of the most amazing creative spaces just waiting to be put to a new use, and they are so much cheaper not to mention the clean, green lifestyle! In a rural town every new resident and every new enterprise makes a huge difference to morale and the local economy.

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Contact Kerry Anderson if you want more information, are interested in supporting rural towns through Operation Next Gen, or want to engage an authentic rural speaker
for your next event.

Mob: 0418 553 719 Email: info@kerryanderson.com.au


KERRY ANDERSON: Founder of the Operation Next Gen program and author of Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business,’ Kerry works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. In 2018 she was named as one of Australia’s Top 50 Regional Agents of Change and, in 2019, was fortunate to be selected as one of eight scholarship recipients to present at the Creative Innovation 2019 Asia Pacific conference. READ MORE

Wine in a Glass

Managing Director of Wine in a Glass, Michelle Anderson-Sims

Managing Director of Wine in a Glass, Michelle Anderson-Sims

Managing Director of Wine in a Glass (WIAG), Michelle Anderson-Sims, is the first to admit that starting a business from an idea is a long, hard learning process. ‘I had lots of failures along the way but learnt from them all. Some lessons you pay a higher price to learn than others,’ she says. She can still recall the first $20 sale which seemed like such a huge milestone to reach at the time but five years on, she is rightfully satisfied with a significantly higher turnover that has reached six digits. This successful company has made its mark on the Australian wine and entertainment industries and is rapidly expanding throughout the world.

When I first tried to catch up with this enterprising businesswoman in 2018, she came up with the best excuse ever. The Commonwealth Games were in full swing and WIAG had been contracted to be the sole provider of 250,000 glasses of Australian wine at the event.

‘They’ve sold out,’ Michelle told me over the phone and texted me photos of the extra pallets they were preparing for a dash to the venues. It was worth the wait. I sat down with Michelle in February 2019 and was able to revisit her extraordinary story as well as get a hint about future developments.

Even if you didn’t get to the Commonwealth Games, chances are you’ve experienced this innovative product if you’ve attended a match at the GABBA or Etihad Stadiums or attended a Pink, Adele or Red Hot Summer Tour Concert. Effectively, WIAG has captured the events market with premium Australian wines pre measured and vacuum sealed in food grade, fully recyclable and reusable PET cups which provide an excellent alternative to glass.

‘We are filling a void,’ explains Michelle. ‘Speed of service at large events is paramount, and when you need to serve five thousand people in a fifteen-minute window, speed of service becomes critical and our portion-controlled wine can help to address this using our pre-packaged products.’

Even cinema, hospital, and aged care chains have recognised the value of WIAG products which are arthritically approved.

While some sales are made directly through their website, the majority are through distributors Australia and world-wide. Currently they are exporting to countries such as Malaysia, New Zealand, China, Japan, Korea, South America. With Michelle well versed in international trade, she is constantly extending this list.

The quality of the cups and the unique sealing process ensures that the products are tamper evident and have a long shelf life – eighteen months for white wines and two years for red wines. After use they can even be recycled. I’ve tucked my sample cups away for my next bush picnic and Michelle tells me that customers have posted pictures on the WIAG Facebook Page of lemon butter and jam in WIAG cups.

Touring the Echuca manufacturing plant, it becomes evident that this enterprise has required significant investment. Michelle has obtained the exclusive intellectual property from France to use the concept in Australia. It is an expensive exercise to bring a container of empty cups (140,000 pre manufactured and especially designed ‘Sims glass’ cups) from France to Echuca.

‘In-country logistics are a handicap on our business as we are some 2.5 hours from the port but we have factored these costs into our business model so we can maximise employment opportunities for local residents.’

Over a two-year period WIAG undertook and achieved accreditation for HACCP certification. ‘It’s a big investment for a start-up,’ Michelle admits, ‘but a brilliant framework for our business and improved our production practices and quality output.’

Make no mistake. This is big business happening in a rural setting.

If, like me, you thought that Michelle came from a manufacturing or wine industry background, we are all mistaken. I ask about her journey to this point and it is quite inspiring.

First and foremost, Michelle is mother to four children ranging in ages from 22 years old down to 14 years old. It was during a family holiday in Europe that she first stumbled on the concept and realised the opportunity for the Australian market. To that point, with only a secretarial diploma to her credentials, she had been working in series of senior management corporate roles that had earned her the reputation of being good at getting things done, especially when there were difficulties.

Discovering the wine in a glass concept in Europe was an opportunity for her to fill a void in Australia and start her own business.

Michelle admits that her first mistake was in starting out using a similar product from the USA. ‘It was a failure because the market didn’t like the wines produced in the United States.’

She quickly backtracked to the French manufacturers and designed her own ‘Sims Cup’ with the intention of filling them with premium Australian wines. She started out by renting a portion of the premises of one of her wine suppliers, an Echuca based vineyard. She made the decision to purchase the entire property as WIAG rapidly grew, tripling its sales each year.

In the early days of the business Michelle took advantage of a mentoring service which proved to be most useful. Getting the right team around her has been crucial and she is the first to say how lucky she has been. ‘You have to surround yourself with positive people who share your passion and vision for the business.’ A lot of young people, particularly those in their GAP year, gravitate to work with WIAG’s core team who are committed to providing upskilling opportunities.

When it comes to marketing, Michelle admits that it is a handicap being a long way from Melbourne but says that LinkedIn and social media has helped the company to grow. ‘You just have to be creative.’

When it comes to advice for other business owners, Michelle has two key recommendations. ‘Share the vision of your business with staff and, if you see an opportunity, just grab it and run with it.’

https://wineinaglass.com.au/


KERRY ANDERSON: Founder of the Operation Next Gen program and author of Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business,’ Kerry works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. In 2018 she was named as one of Australia’s Top 50 Regional Agents of Change. READ MORE

Ground Breaking Technology

Grizzly Engineering’s directors, Kurt and Skye Poltrock with Wendy McAllister (centre)

Grizzly Engineering’s directors, Kurt and Skye Poltrock with Wendy McAllister (centre)

Who said manufacturing is dead in Australia? While it can be challenging in a global marketplace and extended dry seasons, Grizzly Engineering is living proof that long term success is possible. Their ground-breaking technology is made in Swan Hill from start to finish and they survived the 2002-2010 drought years with a bold initiative.

It’s an exciting day when I catch up with Grizzly’s three company directors in Swan Hill. This innovative business established in 1983 has such a great reputation and I’m very grateful to spend some time with Wendy McAllister and her two sons, Kurt and Skye Poltrock.

With Australia’s wages much higher than our agricultural competitors in Canada and the United States it has become difficult for some Australian companies to compete in a global market. But when it comes to competing with cheaper imports in the domestic marketplace, Skye who oversees sales and marketing, has no qualms about the reason for their continued success.

‘It’s all about quality manufacturing and backing it up with service. We listen to our customers.’

Kurt, who has stepped into the role of General Manager since the retirement of Wendy from day to day operations, adds that they have invested heavily in technology and design to meet customer needs and grow their sales. Their growing list of equipment meets a wide range of needs including no-till cropping and vineyard maintenance.

Getting the right employees is also crucial according to Kurt. Ninety percent of Grizzly’s employees are sourced locally, and adult apprenticeships are becoming more prevalent.

‘Inhouse training works well for us. We are prepared to put on unskilled people with the right attitude.’

When I suggest we get a photograph of all three directors together, Kurt leads us out on to the factory floor where a startled young man pauses from his welding to pose with the group.

‘I wanted you to see that we build our machinery from start to finish,’ he explains.

The factory floor is also where Kurt started his working life with the company in 2000. He started working in various roles on the assembly line, earning his welding certificate, and spending some time in the stores to get a good overview of the company.

When Wendy started to transition out of the day to day operations of the company, Kurt took a desk upstairs and the title of Acting General Manager until Wendy’s growing absence forced him to drop the “Acting”. At the same time employee numbers have grown from 27 to the current 42 indicating that he is doing well in the leading role.

Kurt is strong on process. ‘Everything needs a procedure,’ he explains. ‘Get it on paper and it makes it easier for everyone.’ He is a great fan of a Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP) system that controls their production and inventory as well as integrating accounts and payroll. ‘It’s a very powerful product and I can’t understand why other manufacturing companies don’t use these tools. We have full control of our costings.’

He also believes that procedures keep all the team members accountable. ‘We have good processes in place, so my job is really just to help everyone else do their job,’ he explains.

Skye recognises that he has very different strengths to Kurt.

‘I’m quite good at talking to customers,’ Skye says. ‘I love my job. There are so many variables. No two farmers want the same outcome and I get great satisfaction from selling quality machinery to meet their needs.’

Skye credits Kurt’s strong management that continues to keep the company on an even keel when everyone expects it to falter in such a tough marketplace.

I ask about the eight-year drought that saw many Victorian farms and businesses falter.

‘We noticed a gradual decline in sales 2002 onwards,’ Kurt explains, acknowledging the irony of the drought officially ending with extended flooding across the region in 2010. Clearly, they had to do something different to survive in the years between. Looking for a new market turned out to be a saviour.

Through Wendy’s involvement as Grizzly’s representative on the Australian Tractor & Machinery Association, she developed a contact in Russia, which ultimately sold 50 units of their Field Boss and helped them through this difficult period.

Skye joined the company in 2008, the last two years of the drought, and came to quickly came to appreciate the hard work that Wendy and the senior managers had put in to ensure that Grizzly could survive and retain their employees. He also got to travel to Russia. Despite the challenges of doing business in a foreign country, three sales became fifty and Grizzly Engineering staff were kept busy fulfilling the orders.

‘Russia was high risk, but the turnover got us through the drought,’ Kurt acknowledges.

Like all good businesses, success hinges on meeting your customer’s needs, adapting during tough times, and constantly looking towards the future.

https://grizzlyag.com.au/


KERRY ANDERSON: Founder of the Operation Next Gen program and author of ‘Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business,’ Kerry works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. In 2018 she was named as one of Australia’s Top 50 Regional Agents of Change. READ MORE

Celebrity Lamb Producer

Toni Barton of Lamb Bacon fame is fresh back from exploring new export market opportunities in Dubai. What she thought would be a simple name change has turned into a full rebranding with a suite of new products destined for the Middle East. She is also discovering how complex and costly preparing for export can be when it comes to a highly regulated food industry. But the biggest surprise of all was the celebrity status thrust upon her just for being an Australian lamb producer.

In February 2019 Toni travelled to Gulfood, the world’s largest food conference held in Dubai. She was part of the Victorian Government’s trade mission to explore the ‘appetite’ for her processed lamb products. Based on prior research, she had modest expectations for the four products on offer. But, as her fellow delegates headed off the pub each night, Toni was still in discussions and writing up orders. Her projections quickly escalated.

‘Provenance is very important in the export market and Australian meat has amazing equity. Middle Eastern countries love Australian lamb. My suite of products has been picked up by the five and six-star hotels and high-end supermarkets in Oman, Dubai, Qatar, and Kuwait,’ she explained.

Thanks to The Weekly Time’s Shine Awards, Toni has become used to publicity in recent months, but nothing prepared her for the reaction in Dubai.

‘Just because I’m a sheep farmer, I was made to feel like a celebrity. I’ve been totally overwhelmed by the response,’ she admitted.

Prior to her visit Toni was already aware that her iconic ‘Lamb Bacon’ brand was destined to remain on Australian soil. She had to clearly delineate her lamb products from pork in countries that adhere to strict Halal practices. A new name was required for export.

Her initial plan was to simply change the name from Lamb Bacon to Lamb Rashers, but Tony felt that it was still a bit dubious and there was also the consideration that she had a suite of products to sell.

‘In 48 hours just before I took off for Dubai, I did a total rebrand, printed labels, and created a new website – Barton’s Smallgoods, to avoid any confusion.’ She shakes her head. ‘It was crazy,’ but her marketing skills from a former corporate life came in very handy.

Thanks to a Meat Livestock Australia (MLA) Producer Led Innovation Grant, Toni has also received some financial assistance to navigate her way through the export process.

‘While there is a lot of information available through the government, no-one else is exporting processed lamb products so this is totally new. My role is to learn how to streamline the process and share my knowledge with other producers,’ she explained urging anyone with similar products to contact her. ‘I’m happy to answer questions.’

One by one Toni is dealing with multiple challenges to get her unique products export ready. She rattles of an extensive list of the licensing bodies to which she must submit paperwork, meet assessment, and pay fees. She estimates that it will require at least $100,000 before she even produces one product.

‘While Australia does already export a lot of meat to the middle east, it’s a complex environment made very difficult for small producers,’ she acknowledges. The engagement of HASSOP and Export consultants has been a necessity during the process.

‘My products involve meat, it’s processed meat, it’s lamb, and they’re brand new products that haven’t been done globally before. These all add layers of complexity. It isn’t just about getting your facility export ready and ensuring that you are using accredited export logistic organisations,’ cautions Toni. ‘You also need to consider that each individual product has to be certified by the government to where you are exporting to, as well as meeting Halal certification requirements.’

Toni has leased part of a former food factory in Geelong to become her export processing site. She is co-tenant with another food manufacturer making it an affordable option. A private loan has enabled her to fit the premises out.

Staff will be employed to run Barton’s Smallgoods as a separate entity to her existing farming enterprise at Nulla Vale near Lancefield in central Victoria. Given the high level of investment to become import ready, she is under no illusion that it will be at least a year before she will enjoy any personal financial benefit.

Preparing for export has been an extremely busy time for Toni, and particularly the next six weeks as she finalises all the paperwork and commissions the new factory processing plant. The first shipment of orders is scheduled for late-April.

She looks surprised when I ask her how she is dealing with the stress.

‘I used to be stressed in the corporate world but I’m exactly where I want to be now. I just go into problem solving mode,’ she responds. ‘You don’t plan to be an entrepreneur. I feel like everything I’ve done in my life has brought me to this moment.’

https://www.bartonssmallgoods.com/

READ part one of this article on Toni Barton’s entrepreneurial journey and the creation of Lamb Bacon


KERRY ANDERSON: Founder of the Operation Next Gen program and author of ‘Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business,’ Kerry works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. In 2018 she was named as one of Australia’s Top 50 Regional Agents of Change. READ MORE

Prized Lamb

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What was a Kelpie’s prized lamb dinner turned into a winning product for Nulla Vale lamb farmer Toni Barton. This enterprising creator of Lamb Bacon displays all the attributes of a typical entrepreneur. Some would say she is driven. Ideas are explored, problems solved, and opportunities taken. At the core of it all is Toni’s deliberate life-choice, to trade in an international marketing career for that of a hands-on farmer producing good quality meat.

Mondays aren’t Toni’s favourite day. She has a load of lambs to deliver to the abattoir. This is a task that she personally undertakes each week.

‘I take animal welfare seriously and have developed a good relationship with the abattoir in Kyneton,’ she explains. ‘Hardwicks are very good in supporting small producers.’

Another day she didn’t enjoy was discovering twenty dead and injured sheep in the paddock following a dog attack.

‘It was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life,’ she confides.

Welcome to the life of a farmer.

After a lot of soul searching, in 2016 Toni gave up her international lifestyle in corporate marketing to reinvent herself as a farmer. In preparation for the transition, she had purchased 60 hectares of prime grazing land at Nulla Vale near Lancefield and converted three big paddocks into 15 smaller ones for rotational grazing. She set it up as a three-tiered business – breeding and selling Australian White stud rams, producing lambs, and selling lamb meat products.

In her first year she processed 16 lambs for meat which was sold to family and friends. The following year it was 30 lambs. Four years on as a full-time farmer, she is processing 600 lambs annually with a profit of over $200 per lamb sold through customer centric distribution channels including online and Farmer’s Markets.

Such has the demand grown for her meat that she is now collaborating with four select sheep farmers who have taken on her breeding rams and share the same farming ethics of grass fed and animal husbandry.

‘One hundred percent grass fed and no chemicals,’ Toni explains. As a result, she has regular cutting and mulching of the paddocks on her long list of chores.

She also makes a point of paying premium prices to her fellow farmers, so they can maintain their sustainable farming practices and avoid the pressures of mass production and grain feeding regimes.

But it was her creation of the iconic Lamb Bacon in 2016 that really put Toni in the public eye, drawing close scrutiny from the Prime Safe authority and, just recently, winning her The Weekly Times Shine Award.

It was a classic problem-solving initiative that resulted in the creation of Lamb Bacon. Toni was perpetually annoyed by the fact that the lamb bellies were not being used. ‘Every Sunday I used to give kilos and kilos of lamb bellies to my neighbours to feed to their kelpies.’

On long road trips she would constantly challenge her brain to think of something new. And she did.

Who would have thought that bacon could be made from anything but pork? Experiments with her American friend and BBQ Pitmaster, Jon, meant that she could road test flavour profiles and cooking techniques.

‘As soon as I tasted it, I knew I was on to something,’ Toni smiles. Samples were shared with regular customers and some high-profile chefs readily endorsed it as a great alternate to traditional bacon made from pork bellies.

Toni fully understood her obligations of food safety and microbiological testing to ensure her duty of care to consumers, but with a new innovative product hitting the market there are many negative attitudes encountered.

‘If I had a dollar for the number of times I’ve heard: “You can’t do that!”

Top of the hurdle list would have to be a sudden directive from the Prime Safe, which regulates Australia’s meat industry, to immediately shut down production and recall all her Lamb Bacon products from sale.

‘I just sat in the paddock in total disbelief,’ Toni admits. She immediately rang her smokehouse instructing them to stop production but the ramifications of recalling hundreds of products already on supermarket shelves was catastrophic.

Moving into problem solving mode, Toni fought back the emotion and focussed on the process. Overnight she read through the Food Standards Act and researched the topic globally. She was able to determine that no one species, ie. pork, was defined as bacon in Australia.  In the early hours of the morning she sent a carefully composed email to Prime Safe outlining all of her findings. Much to her relief, a phone call from Prime Safe a few hours later reversed their decision and congratulated Toni on her initiative.

A big part of Toni’s role has been to educate regulators that it is possible to innovate

‘I made sure that alternate bacon options were approved by Prime Safe for the benefit of others in the future, including duck bacon and beef bacon.’ She also ensured that the Australian Meat Industry Council was made aware of the findings. ‘This is the challenge of food innovation, it’s so rare that you are constantly fighting an uphill battle to get the product accepted by industry and regulators.’

Transferring her skills to farming and food production has required considerable research.

An intensive 14 week accelerator program enabled her to become more strategic. As part of her start-up process she set up an advisory board of skilled and experienced professionals to offer her valuable guidance.

Her marketing skills allowed her to set up a website to sell direct to the public and social media to publicise her products. Recruiting quality staff and paying attention to detail have also been crucial.

‘People buy with their eyes so all my products need to be well presented, from the labelling to the pricing. Customers need certainty and it takes at least a year and lots of investment to develop a business and brand profile.’

All Toni’s skills have come to the fore in 2019 as she launches a new enterprise – Barton’s Smallgoods - to export new products to the Middle East and Asia. Rebranding was required in 48 hours as she prepared to fly to Dubai in February to participate in the Worlds largest food conference, Gulfood, as part of the Victorian Government’s Trade Mission. Currently she is commissioning a new smokehouse and packing facility in Geelong, as well as employing staff to run the export business. Already there are considerable orders with shipments scheduled to commence in late April.

‘You don’t plan to be an entrepreneur,’ she reflects. ‘I feel like everything I’ve done in my life has brought me to this moment.’

Toni admits that it can be lonely at times, but so far she has resisted taking on a business partner or a commercial loan. Her number one supporter until her death last year was her mum. She is particularly grateful to her dad who is called upon to do important jobs around the farm and neighbours who are always willing to help out. A Producer Led Innovation grant from Meat & Livestock Australia is providing valuable assistance to research and develop her new export business in return for sharing the outcomes with other red meat producers.

Her days are long and there are multiple decisions to be made while still taking care of the farm.

Until her export enterprise is up and running, Toni doesn’t have any time to work in her vegetable garden or enjoy her sweeping views overlooking Mt William. But she is confident that her efforts will soon be rewarded, and she will be back where she most loves to be.

‘This is why I started and where I want to stay. I want to grow food and give people access to good quality meat.’

For the Love of Lamb

READ the second part of this article on Toni’s preparing for export experiences.


KERRY ANDERSON: Founder of the Operation Next Gen program and author of ‘Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business,’ Kerry works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. In 2018 she was named as one of Australia’s Top 50 Regional Agents of Change. READ MORE

Sharing positive stories of rural and businesses and communities

Share Shop

As home-based businesses gather traction with their online retailing, another need emerges when customers start to seek access to a physical store front. Solving a problem for one such rural online business has resulted in a great outcome for the small town of Quambatook in the southern Mallee of Victoria.

Only a handful of businesses have survived in Quambatook with its small population of 249 (Census 2016) and surrounding agricultural communities. So it was with great celebration that the Quambatook & Districts Share Shop Inc. officially opened its doors on the 11th January 2019.

Barely a month later, and eleven separate home-based businesses now share a retail space showing and selling their wares. If not for the Share Shop, they would otherwise find it difficult to get exposure in a physical environment for their products.

It is a momentous day when I visit in early February. There is a small but steady stream of customers thanks to the Quamby Silo Cinema screening of The Merger later in the day. The Shop has also got its EFTPOs facilities up and running for the first time using a Square credit card reader. Now, this may not seem like much until you understand where the Share Shop has come from and how far it still has to go. For starters, there is NO power or running water to the building!

President of the Share Shop, Jodie Russ, recalls how she used to walk past the old store, the interior of which was hidden by black plastic across the windows. Previously it had been home to Ellis’s Hardware and Plumbing Supplies and Tom Hogan’s Grocery Store.

‘I moved to Quambatook ten years ago and never knew what lay behind those blacked out windows,’ Jodie admits. ‘It’s always a shame to see old buildings unused.’ So, it was logical when requests came from local and visiting customers to view Jodie’s products from her online retail business, Retro Vintage Period, that she started thinking of accessing a vacant store front.

‘I didn’t really want people coming to my home,’ she explains, ‘but there was no way I could afford to open a store all by myself. I started thinking that perhaps there were others in similar circumstances. Or they had a hobby business that would benefit from more exposure.’

While the Share Shop has only opened very recently, Jodie points out that a lot of research and preparation went on beforehand.

A group of local people expressed their interest in the joint enterprise including the owner of The Quambatook Stores who saw an opportunity to have her wares on sale over the weekend when she was closed for a much-needed rest.

Accessing a physical store front turned out to be the easiest of all their tasks. Owner Graeme Elliott, who had inherited the old building, was only too willing to agree to a peppercorn lease to help the group get on their feet.

‘I knocked on Graeme’s door and he was marvellous,’ Jodie recalls. ‘He is so generous in supporting us for the first year to let us accumulate some funds. The only stipulation was that we had to deal with what was behind the black plastic which turned out to be lots of old engines and car parts.’ A clearance sale was organised by a local auctioneer, and the majority of items were sold clearing the way for the new occupants.

The lack of power and water could be perceived as a barrier by most people I point out.

‘We weren’t going to let that stop us!’ Jodie exclaims. ‘We bring our own tank water in from home in buckets and have a gas ring to make a cuppa. And, on one of the hot days, the building owner hooked a car battery up to an inverter to run a fan for us.’ As backup Jodie also purchased a second-hand Generator from a Facebook Buy Swap Sell Site for $50. ‘Of course, we’d love to have power,’ Jodie admits, ‘but it will cost us $25,000 to get all the wiring upgraded so that is a battle for another day.’

Settling on a legal and financial model for the group required some further research but they realised that there was no need to reinvent the wheel. Assistance from the Gannawarra Shire and a mini bus trip to speak with existing cooperative groups in the nearby towns of Sea Lake and Wycheproof enabled them to make the decision to become an incorporated entity.

‘We have a yearly fee of $260 made up of $5 per week per business paid up front from the 1st of January or pro rata on entry to 31 December,’ explains Jodie moving into business mode. ‘Commission on goods sold is ten percent if you volunteer your time to serve in the shop or twenty percent if you can’t.’

While the overheads are minimal with no utilities connected, there is the peppercorn rent and insurance to be paid. ‘The enterprise is committed to generating funds to enable it to effectively market the shop, pay rent and improve facilities in its second year of operation, and keep it rolling for years to come,’ explains Jodie. For this reason, they have two fundraising coordinators as well as a treasurer to keep on top of their finances. ‘We need to build up our kitty and make this sustainable.’

Chatting with the team on duty, it becomes clear that there are many benefits far beyond the opportunity to generate income for local businesses.

I’m particularly interested in Zoe who is a year 12 student. ‘I’m just a floater,’ she tells me. It turns out that Sue, her mother, is one of the Share Shop members and Zoe is fulfilling the volunteering component. Her current task is to write out the EFTPOS instructions for all the volunteers which I’m sure will be gratefully received.

In fact, their very first EFTPOS sale takes place during our conversation to a couple from Portland in New South Wales who have been staying at the caravan park for the past week in eager anticipation of the silo cinema that evening.

Another of their volunteer members, Fiona Williams, operates the EFTPOs under the guidance of Jodie to complete the sale. ‘This is a wonderful opportunity to develop our technological skills,’ Jodie points out as Fiona nervously watches the transaction go through their newly purchased credit card reader.

By default, the Share Shop has also become an important social hub to this small community and their Secretary, Kathryn Robson, is a classic example.

‘Fiona and I were wondering what we were doing in the early days,’ Jodie admits, ‘then Kathryn just came in and asked how she could help.’ A district nurse by profession, Kathryn is a constant visitor to the store on her days off bringing her own unique enthusiasm, and what suspiciously appears to be a fetish for dressing up in the vintage clothing for their social media posts. During my visit she performs two super-fast clothing changes to model for the photographs.

‘The flow on effect of the Share Shop is immense,’ Jodie says. ‘It is so important for the town to have a drawcard and we can refer them to other businesses and places of interest. We took a gamble and it’s paying off,’ she concludes looking around with a very satisfied smile.

The Quambatook District Share Shop Inc is open
Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10am until 3pm or by appointment at other times
Call Jodie on 0417 306 214.

https://www.facebook.com/quambatookdistrictshareshopinc/

https://www.instagram.com/quambatookdistrictshareshopinc/

And for those of you wondering what is on offer here is a brief outline:

  • Jodie Russ – Retro Vintage Period Homewares & Props For Sale, Various Vintage Homewares, Collectibles  and Clothing

  • Angela Mazur – Bear and the Bees – Local Honey and Beeswax Products, such as Beeswax wraps, lip Balm, Foot Balm

  • Gen Trice – Mincha Munchies, Preserves, Jams, Pickles Relishes

  • Jim Treacy and Jan Gemmel – Natural Soaps, Children’s Clothing, Plants 

  • Fiona Williams – Homewares, Vintage and New, Craft, Handmade items, Succulent Wreaths

  • Zoe and Sue Bremner – Rustic Farm and Garden Wares, Craft, Books, Art, Plants

  • Jo Nalder – Soy Candles and Diffusers

  • Annie Tomlinson – Vintage Homewares

  • Toni- Maree Hoogendorn – Vintage Homewares, Fabric, Wallpaper, Toys, Recycled Handmade Items including Children’s Clothing 

  • Chelle Espagne – Handprinted Mugs, Coasters, Stubbie Holders, Metal Art, Reusable Printed Tote Bags, Cushions


You might also enjoy reading other stories from Quambatook: QUAMBY SILO CINEMA and TOWN CHANGERS

KERRY ANDERSON: Founder of the Operation Next Gen program and author of Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business,’ Kerry works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. In 2018 she was named as one of Australia’s Top 50 Regional Agents of Change. READ MORE

Town Changers

1-Quambatook_Sign.JPG

Like many rural towns, Quambatook in the Southern Mallee of Victoria is enjoying a reinvigoration of its community thanks to new comers bringing new ideas and extra hands to reinforce businesses and volunteer groups.

Long time Quambatook volunteers, Norma Bennett and Merrill Kelly, have been volunteering in Quambatook for more years than they can remember. Norma is a key driver of the Caravan Park and Merrill is on multiple committees. The Quambatook Tractor Pull has been a big draw card for their agricultural community for over forty years. This is what you do when you live in a rural town.

Despite their best efforts, along with many other long time residents, over the decades the number of businesses and volunteers has dwindled significantly leaving a handful to keep these important services going. Fortunately, there has been an influx of new people moving into town injecting new ideas and energy into the rural town they affectionately call Quamby. Recently I caught up some of these ‘newcomers’ for a chat.

Laura O’Dwyer and her husband, Paul, moved to Quambatook twelve years ago. A small agricultural town with a mere population of 249, ‘Quamby’ couldn’t be more different to their previous abode in the Melbourne suburb of Footscray but Laura says the move was a great decision. They’re still here so it must have been!

‘We were sick of paying Melbourne rent,’ Laura confides when asked what prompted the tree change. ‘We were able to buy a house in Quamby for $70,000 and turn it into our dream home.’

But why Quambatook? It turns out it was quite a strategic decision for Laura who is a cartographer by trade, a skill eagerly sought by shire councils. For Paul, a truck driver who is away a week at a time, the location was equally convenient.

‘We had a friend in the Mallee and had driven through Quamby a few times,’ she explains. ‘When we made the decision to move, this was the place that was central to three shire councils with the bigger towns of Wycheproof, Swan Hill and Kerang.’

All in all, the move has been a huge success. In addition to creating Laura’s dream home for a fraction of city prices, commuting to work is also a pleasure. ‘I used to drive one hour in Melbourne traffic to get to my workplace 12 kilometres away. Now I can get to work in half the time even though it’s a longer distance.’

Through her work in local government, Laura has also become heavily involved in her local community. As President of Quambatook Development Committee, she is helping to spear head initiatives to reinvigorate the town.

In one of the most recent success stories, Laura helps manage the Silo Cinema events that attract hundreds of visitors from the surrounding region to view classic films such as The Castle, Priscilla, and The Dressmaker in a classic rural setting.

Laura’s co-pilot for this project is Chelle Espagne, previously in the Australian Armed Forces and now owner of The Quambatook Stores and Post Office, who provides valuable support to the Silo Cinema.

But, without argument, the most crucial role falls to Laura. ‘I’ve tried but no-one else wants to operate the technology for the screening of the movies. It can be a bit stressful but once everything is up and running, I can relax and it is great to see everyone dressing up in theme and enjoying themselves. For Priscilla I organised for a couple of friends to come up from Melbourne and provide the pre-entertainment in drag. It was a great night that continued on in the Quamby pub afterwards.’

A screening of The Merger on 9 February 2019 resulted in their biggest ever turn up. 447 people effectively doubled Quamby’s population and raised revenue for the community groups that catered, as well as the caravan park, shops, and the pub.

Speaking of The Quamby Hotel, Laura is quick to point out that it has new owners and is currently being refurbished. I dutifully trot across the road to check it out.

Mick Doolan, one of the new publicans, moved to Quamby only eighteen months ago but is already looking very much at home behind the bar.

‘I found it was a perfect fit for me and my son, it’s a great place to raise kids,’ says Mick. ‘We love it. There’s good people, the football, and its affordable for a single parent.’

Ten-year old, Aiden is quick to agree. ‘I love the footy!’

In a joint venture with his parents, Wayne and Sandra, The Quamby Hotel was purchased at the start of December 2018. ‘I did my homework and checked it out by working for the previous owner first,’ Mick explains. The prior experience helped the Doolan’s get through the busy Christmas and New Year period. ‘Mum was determined to have a Christmas lunch to thank everyone for welcoming us into the community.’

Indicating just how much time Mick’s Sunbury based parents are spending in Quamby as publicans, his father Wayne has focussed on the refurbishments and proudly points out the new ceiling and rendered wall. More plans are underway to revamp the seven rooms that provide accommodation. And Mick is particularly excited about plans to bring some big bands to Quamby. ‘I’m using my old night club contacts,’ he confides.

Mick encourages anyone who is looking for a new start to consider a rural town but hastens to add that you have to be prepared to contribute to the community. ‘I joined the footy club and got to know people first. Now they’re my strongest supporters. They really like to give you a go.’

Just around the corner from the pub a delightful old church turned into a residence catches my eye. So does it colourful owner, Kathryn Robson; a district nurse by day and a Quamby volunteer on the weekends.

I bump into Kathryn chatting with visitors at the recently opened Quambatook District Share Shop Inc. It turns out that Kathryn is Secretary of the Share Shop and she asks me to wait a moment before I take a photograph of the organisers. Moments later with a beaming smile she emerges wearing one of the vintage outfits for sale. Later, when I’m distracted chatting, I turn around to find her in yet another outfit, a pink suit, posing elegantly with fine bone china under a circa 1960’s home hair dryer.

‘Kathryn has been such an injection of support and enthusiasm for this project,’ confides one of the Share Shop’s Fundraising Coordinators, Fiona Williams. ‘She enjoys being with people and we’ve become her family. She is such good fun and everybody loves her.’

Six months ago, when her rented home in Boort became unavailable, Kathryn heard about the old church for sale in Quamby and snapped it up. ‘I’d been wandering Australia for thirty years and this is the first time I’ve settled down and owned a property,’ she admits. ‘It’s a good base for my work around the region.’

Share Shop President, Jodie Russ, also moved to Quambatook ten years ago because of its affordability. ‘I was sick of Melbourne rent and purchased my house in Quambatook as a sole parent,’ Jodie says. ‘It had great proximity to nearby towns for employment opportunities if you’re flexible and more so if you’re able to work online from home.’

With a desire to grow her Retro-Vintage online retail business that she started running from home, it was Jodie who spotted the potential of a vacant store in Quamby’s main street.  ‘Quamby needed something open on weekends for visitors and I knew that there would be others like me with home businesses that would welcome access to a physical shop front.’ The Quambatook District Share Shop Inc. opened a month ago in January 2019 with ten share holders and I observed a small but regular stream of visitors over the weekend I was in town. ‘It’s so much less stressful and a much more relaxed lifestyle,’ Jodie tells me.

Everywhere I go I am hearing the positives of new people moving into Quamby, but I have to ask: What are the downsides of living in a small town?

‘The conservative politics can be a bit frustrating,’ Laura confides. Jodie quips ‘You might have to reinvent yourself’ as she did by setting up an online business. Mick comes up with a classic though. ‘Even when the pub is closed people ring me up and ask if I can open up for them to get some takeaway,’ he laughs. ‘They always seem to know when I’m close by or checking up on something, so it isn’t really a problem.’

Like many rural towns Australia wide, the good people of Quambatook work and volunteer tirelessly to make their community strong. While many refer to those who move from the city to the country as Tree Changers, I like to think of them as Town Changers. With a willingness to participate and contribute, there are many benefits to be found from living in a rural town.

READ MORE:

Quambatook Silo Cinemas

Quambatook District Share Shop Inc.

Quambatook General Stores (stay tuned)

FACEBOOK LINKS:

Quambatook Silo Cinema

The Quamby Hotel

Quambatook District Share Shop Inc.

Quambatook Tractor Pull

Quambatook Historic Centre

Quambatook Caravan Park


KERRY ANDERSON: Founder of the Operation Next Gen program and author of ‘Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business,’ Kerry works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. In 2018 she was named as one of Australia’s Top 50 Regional Agents of Change. READ MORE

Quamby Silo Cinema

What a privilege it was to experience Quamby’s Silo Cinema on Saturday 9 February 2019. With 447 guests viewing the iconic Australian film The Merger, they can claim that their town doubled in size overnight. A win-win for their caravan park, pub and stores. Well done to all the volunteers involved. And special thanks to Laura O’Dwyer who allowed me to interview her at a very busy time.

FACEBOOK: @QuambySiloCinema

More stories about Quambatook:

Town Changers

Share Shop


KERRY ANDERSON: Founder of the Operation Next Gen program and author of ‘Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business,’ Kerry works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. In 2018 she was named as one of Australia’s Top 50 Regional Agents of Change. READ MORE

Pick Pack Post

Usually it is the children that are encouraged to take on the family business, but in the case of Sunshine Iris Nursery near Lockhart in New South Wales, it was the opposite. What started as a logical step into the business world for agronomist trained Elissa Strong became problematic when she went back to study in 2017 leaving her mother Mandy to pick pack and post.

Much to my son’s delight I’ve been invited to lunch at the home of daredevil X-Games and freestyle motorcycle rider Jackson Strong, but the international superstar is not the purpose of my visit. I am here to catch up with Mandy Strong, Jackson’s quietly spoken mother and co-owner of Sunshine Iris Nursery.

Driving on to the Strong’s 20,000 acre cereal cropping farm near Lockhart in the Riverina district of New South Wales, I immediately spot two distinct differences to every other farming property I’ve visited. First and foremost, there is Jackson’s elaborate training track, adjacent to which there is a fenced paddock of flowering irises of all colours and descriptions. Quite by accident I’ve timed my visit in October, right in the middle of flowering season!

While she has always been a part of the family farming enterprise – and the ‘number two header driver’ until their eldest son Toby was old enough to take over – Mandy’s main profession was teaching. It was in 2013, around the time of her retirement, that her daughter Elissa spotted a nearby iris business for sale. With Elissa’s agronomist training and Mandy’s love of gardening it seemed like a good opportunity. ‘Let’s do this,’ Elissa told her mother. So they did.

‘My husband thought it was a ridiculous idea,’ Mandy admits, ‘but we’ve proven to him that it is a very profitable business.’

It is at this point that I am embarrassed to admit my lack of gardening knowledge so Mandy sets me straight. It turns out that there are over 600 varieties of irises which are drought resistant, disease free and multiply each year. Perfect for Australian gardens which is why Sunshine Irises has sales to every state and territory. Walking through the allotment I see firsthand how many different colours and sizes there are which makes it a collector’s paradise and brings them many repeat customers.

Mandy pulls out her smart phone and opens up the Shopify App that they use in their online business. Even though they advertise that they cannot process orders between September and November during the flowering season, there are already 108 orders logged and awaiting delivery. Each order is clearly identified by a photo of the iris being purchased and each iris in the allotment is carefully labelled making the selections easy.

‘Basically we pick, pack and post,’ Mandy explains. ‘Shopify is perfect for this type of business and prints all the reports we need.’ Prepaid bags are purchased and posted through their local post office in Lockhart.

Extra care needs to be taken with orders to Western Australia and Tasmania that have quarantine laws. ‘We treat them with a special spray and have to do some paperwork. It’s not hard to do once you’re in the system and being an agronomist Elissa did the initial setting up.’

Two years into the business and the daughter-mother duo purchased another iris collection, this time from Yarrawonga, adding significantly to their stock. They also introduced eighty varieties of Daylilies. The business was significantly growing.

While the actual bulb of the irises and lilies are the main product, the blooms are also sold during flowering season at a market in Wagga Wagga.

In 2017, when Elissa returned to study and found it impossible to actively contribute, Mandy took on the business but not without support. She approached her twin sister Margie, who resides in Canberra, and invited her to become the new partner.

‘I do all the physical stuff and Margie does the books, blogs for our website, social media, and behind the scenes stuff,’ says Mandy. They also have an employee – conveniently Mandy’s next-door neighbour – who comes and helps pack every Monday. University students assist with weeding on a seasonal basis.

And sometimes things just go in your favour when you are surrounded by equally motivated business people albeit for very different purposes. Mandy reports that water for the irises is plentiful, as Jackson’s new training track required extra dirt to be excavated from the dam providing it with a far greater storage capacity. An aerial video of the iris allotment for the Facebook page also came courtesy of her son’s drone.

Apart from when the business has the occasional Open Day during the flowering season it is a very solitary business but, well used to rural life, Mandy appears to relish it. The internet has opened up sales well beyond her patch of rural bliss and she remains active in her local community of Lockhart.

Showing a hint of why her son Jackson has become known as an innovator in the sporting world, Mandy believes that anyone can do well in business if they think outside the square and develop something that suits their interests and skills set.

‘I’ve always been a gardener and love growing things,’ she says.

Best of all the business also allows her to make an income independent of the farm, which apparently surprised a few people along the way.

Mandy’s top business tips:

  • Take the time to talk to your customers even those not tech savvy.

  • Take a chance - and work hard when you do!

  • Enjoy what you are doing and it doesn't become a chore.

 https://www.sunshineiris.com.au/

https://www.facebook.com/SunshineIrisNursery/


KERRY ANDERSON: Founder of the Operation Next Gen program and author of ‘Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business,’ Kerry works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. In 2018 she was named as one of Australia’s Top 50 Regional Agents of Change. READ MORE

Sheep Psychology

Charlie and Tana Webb after Back Up Charlie won the Machine of the Year Award at the 2016 Henty Field Days.

Charlie and Tana Webb after Back Up Charlie won the Machine of the Year Award at the 2016 Henty Field Days.

Whether it is fair or not, sheep are often referred to in derogatory terms when it comes to their intelligence; usually when they break away from the mob and make the lives of their handlers a misery. Charlie Webb, decided to delve into the psychology of sheep so that his life as a farmer, and his woolly charges, is made much easier. The result is Back Up Charlie.

When Back Up Charlie – a flexible lead up race for sheep handlers - was awarded Machine of the Year at the Henty Field Days in 2016, Charlie Webb felt very satisfied. He already knew that it was a winner because he’d invented it for his own use on the farm, but the public recognition made his task of marketing this new innovation to other farmers all the more easier. A subsequent award at Orange in 2017 confirmed that Back Up Charlie was on the road to success but naturally there was a lot of hard work that led up to this point.

To hear more about this award winning innovation, I caught up with Charlie Webb at his Lakeside property just outside Lockhart in New South Wales, on the day of his eldest daughter Philippa’s wedding. What was usually a working shearing shed had been transformed into a reception venue for the guests shortly due to arrive. A quick tour confirmed that I was talking to a man who likes to make things with his own hands and do them well.  A bar had been constructed by Charlie especially for the wedding and a tour of the shearing quarters revealed five-star luxury in terms of this traditionally rough and ready industry. Contrary to previous experiences of shearing sheds, I had no qualms about accepting a cup of coffee – complete with milk! – from the spotless kitchenette as we settled down for a chat.

In a classic story of problem solving, Charlie wanted to be able to handle his sheep more effectively when it came to the difficult task of moving sheep forward from the holding yard into automated sheep handlers, crutching plants and other sheep handling applications. No other systems he had tried seemed to work, no matter how much was invested.

‘I designed Back Up Charlie for myself,’ he admits up front, ‘it was about making our job easier. It’s faster, cuts down on labour and is kinder on the sheep. I knew it worked the day I was able to knock off early and go home to help Tana (his wife) in the garden.’

It was 2015 when Charlie disappeared into his shed over a period of four months to develop a prototype. ‘She asked what in the hell I’d been doing,’ he recalls with a grin.

Materials were challenging to source, and it was a matter of trial and error. A welding course at college and over forty years experience of sheep farming were put to good use. There was also a lot of thinking. ‘It was very much about animal psychology and how sheep react in stressful situations,’ he explains.

Charlie got to try it out the prototype for the first time with their eldest daughter Philippa. ‘We used to be exhausted pushing sheep in the yards from 7.00am until 6.00pm but even with Philippa, who is the least experienced on the farm, we made it home by 4.30pm. That’s when I knew it worked.’

Having discussed the inadequacy of previous systems with a livestock contractor friend, Charlie was quick to get on the phone to share the news. ‘He came down with a group to watch me demonstrate it and they didn’t say anything for a whole ten minutes,’ Charlie recalls. ‘We all knew I had a winner and didn’t want to let a great idea go to waste.’

With the help of his daughter Josephine, who has a Bachelor of Business in Agriculture and is actively working on the farm, Charlie started the process of setting a business to market and sell the new system which was subsequently branded Back Up Charlie. He already had a good accountant and sourced some marketing expertise which proved a little more challenging when it came to agreeing on the right wording and images.

As one himself, Charlie had no illusions that he was dealing in a tough market. ‘Selling product to farmers is a tough task!’

His other priority was to manufacture the units locally in Lockhart. ‘You have to share your success with the locals,’ he says. ‘You can’t beat people down on price in a small towns.’ Mark Schirmer, a local engineer, readily agreed and they were off and manufacturing. ‘We set our pricing based on the materials and the 70+ man-hours it takes to make a unit,’ Charlie explains.

Three years in the making has seen Back Up Charlie become established. ‘It’s been a process to get it out to the market. It helped that I’m a farmer. There is no point spending big dollars on something that doesn’t do the job which has been the case with so many other systems I’ve looked at over the years.’

The Henty and Orange Field Day Awards provided much needed publicity. ‘It was free advertising and helped to get the Back Up Charlie branding into people’s heads,’ Charlie says. ‘Over two years we’ve sold 30 units in New South Wales and across the borders into Victoria and South Australia.’ Facebook and Instagram Pages are maintained by Josephine helping to extend the brand.

When I ask Charlie about what he recommends to others who have invented a new product, he quickly responds ‘make sure you have a unique product and protect your idea.’ This includes applying patents if required. When it comes to finding experienced support, Charlie adds that you should always ask other experienced business people for recommendations and keep going until you find the right people to work with and that understand you and your business.

With the arrival of the crucial bridegroom and his family, heralded by plumes of dust advancing along the long driveway into Lakeside, I realise that my time is up with this talented backyard inventor and sheep psychologist. Sadly, it is time to go but I am extremely grateful to have heard another great rural business story.

Charlie’s top business tips:

  • Make sure your idea and product is unique

  • Get recommendations from other experienced business people

  • Ensure there is a market for your idea or product

  • Protect your idea and product

  • Follow your dreams

https://backupcharlie.com.au/


KERRY ANDERSON: Founder of the Operation Next Gen program and author of ‘Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business,’ Kerry works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. In 2018 she was named as one of Australia’s Top 50 Change-Makers. READ MORE

Retro Respection

Not many businesses can claim to have been instigated by a triple cake stacking canister, but this happens to be the case when it comes to Retro Respection, a quirky homeware, giftware and vintage lovers’ shop in Collie, Western Australia. Its two equally quirky business partners are an inspiration to all those young mums who may feel trapped at home.

With the newly opened Retro Respection store creating a buzz in Collie, I popped in to catch up with its two enterprising business partners, Storm Todhunter and Joleen Brown. As young mums, it was rare for them to both be present in the store at the same time. Straight away it became evident that both are passionate about their products, in the way they dress and what they stock in the store, sometimes purely for conversational purposes.

It also proved to be my most challenging and fun interview of 2018. Challenging because they tend to bounce off each other like rubber balls when it comes to conversation, and fun because they just are so determined to enjoy life to its fullest.

Yes, it is true that a triple cake stacking cannister caught Storm’s attention at playgroup way back in 2012. ‘A mother asked if anyone wanted one and I said “I’ll have that!”,’ recalls Storm. At the very start of her business journey she started selling vintage items on eBay as a hobby.

Joleen, another local young mother also interested in vintage goods and writing a blog – they laugh as they recall a particularly hideous tea set she had collected - soon caught Storm’s attention.

‘We had kids the same age and just hit it off,’ says Joleen, ‘and I had the blog,’ she adds knowingly.

‘Joleen kept buying stuff at garage sales putting us in direct competition, so it made perfect sense for us to team up,’ explains Storm pointedly ignoring the blog reference. ‘I love the history and do the research.’

‘Whereas I just jump in with random ideas,’ smiles Joleen.

‘Yes, Joleen likes to try new things,’ confirms Storm, ‘whereas I think things through. She relies on me to pull her back in. We make a great team.’

‘We never expected it to be an overnight success,’ admits Joleen.

‘We’re brought up to think that we can do anything but once you have kids the reality is that you don’t leave the house,’ adds Storm. ‘This business has been built all around family. We have set it up so we are always available for our kids.’

In 2012 Storm started selling online from her family home in Collie and took up lots of space for stock. When she joined forces with Joleen in 2014 they came up with the quirky name of Retro Respection. ‘It’s a wicked name,’ Joleen grins.

‘An important learning starting off the business was to leverage our circumstances,’ recalls Storm. ‘As a mum without a paid job, I couldn’t even get a credit card!’ Fortunately, a supportive aunt lent her money to get started and has been one of her biggest fans.

In a conscious choice, Storm and Joleen have worked without wages and poured their earnings directly back into the business which originally focussed on sales through eBay and ultimately their own website.

In September 2018 they took the unusual step of expanding their online business to a physical shop front in their home town of Collie. With a tight budget they asked around and got a six-month trial of a vacant shop at a reduced rent. In a brave step they also decided to open 7 days a week, one of very few businesses to do so in this working town but perhaps a forerunner to positive change.

Their calculated gamble paid off. With increased visibility and their range of stock expanded, sales immediately increased. ‘It’s been good for the locals,’ confirms Storm. ‘Sometimes people just come in for a chat and now there is something for visitors passing through town to browse on weekends.’

‘Our reputation is everything and we’ve been professional right from the beginning,’ says Storm, or maybe it was Joleen? (my head is spinning with these two dynamos!) ‘No shortcuts,’ it was agreed unanimously.

Without a budget for marketing they have relied on organic growth through Facebook and Instagram and paid careful attention to the statistics. ‘Every time we post “SALE” it goes crazy,’ Joleen happily shares.

Getting a point of sale system was a priority with the opening of their shop front. After much trial and error, they settled on neto which provides a basic do-it-yourself website template and, most importantly, synchronises their inventory and sales in the shop, and across the website and eBay platforms. ‘Once you learn a new system you get better each time and more adaptable,’ says Storm.

On the few occasions they are physically together in the same space, this dynamic duo spend time thinking strategically about what new lines to introduce. With a strong following of online collectors, brooches were quite successful when introduced. ‘Consumables such as lollies and dog treats also invite repeat buyers,’ says Storm. ‘And we’d love to get more sustainable products in.’

‘While we haven’t made any serious money yet, at least we enjoy what we’re doing,’ admits Storm. ‘Joleen and I are best buddies and each other’s biggest supporter.’

‘We’re taking it day by day and enjoying ourselves’ Joleen confirms.

At the end of a whirl wind interview, Storm announces that this is only the start of their grand plan. ‘We’re going to bed down this shop and make it a destination; refine the website, expand the shop space, expand the product lines, and maybe open a whole bunch of shops.’

Somehow, I think they just might!

Storm and Joleen have expanded their online business to include a shop front in Collie W.A.

Storm and Joleen have expanded their online business to include a shop front in Collie W.A.

Storm and Joleen’s top tips:

  • Be passionate about your products.

  • Be stubborn.

  • Don’t be afraid to take that leap.

  • Be a nimble bull.

www.retrorespection.com.au


KERRY ANDERSON: Founder of the Operation Next Gen program and author of ‘Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business,’ Kerry works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. In 2018 she was named as one of Australia’s Top 50 Change-Makers. READ MORE

Forging Ahead

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There is something about a corrugated iron shed that attracts the eye. Iconic markers on our rural landscape, they serve so many purposes, everything from shearing to hay storage and mechanical works. Regardless of searing heat and bitter cold they are places of shelter and productivity. But what takes place within those spaces is changing as indicated by The Old Workshop Café at Anakie between Geelong and Ballan. When my eyes were drawn to an old shed with a vibrant new look about it, I couldn’t help but stop off to find out more.

Good coffee and a social gathering place are an essential ingredient of any rural town and Anakie (population 690) is no exception. Local businesswoman Debbie Walker has put her accounting skills, chef daughter, and an old engineering shed to good use creating a quality café featuring organic produce for locals and travellers along the Geelong Ballan Road.

That’s the short version. In reality, it has been a much longer journey and, like every small business, fraught with its challenges. But at the end of the day Debbie is justifiably proud of her achievement and the opportunities it has brought to her small community.

For 25 years Debbie and husband Bob operated their engineering works on this site. As more equipment was acquired and they reached full capacity for electricity, it was time for a move. Adjacent land was purchased, new larger premises were purpose built for the engineering works, and suddenly, the old workshop was vacant.

Two years previously Debbie had already established a small café on the opposite side of the road. ‘I’ve always been passionate about producing my own food and cooking,’ explains Debbie. ‘When Krystal, our chef daughter and mother of four, started looking for some part time work it was perfect timing.’

The vacant old workshop promised more floor space, off-road parking and an opportunity to showcase organic vegetable beds and fruit trees as part of the café landscaping. With their existing café experience, Debbie’s planning skills, and Bob’s engineering expertise to fit it out, it should have been a simple transition. Like many small business owners caught in that time warp of investing large amounts of money and keen to get trading as soon as possible, Debbie discovered otherwise.

‘Dealing with council without a doubt,’ Debbie says when asked what their biggest challenge has been. ‘We expected help because we were encouraging employment and attracting tourists,’ says Debbie, ‘but couldn’t get a straight answer when setting up the disabled toilet. It took 12 weeks to find out where a handrail should go.’ She soon discovered that it was quicker to get information from other sources. ‘After two years of fighting and having spent too much time, effort, and money, I just couldn’t back down.’

Debbie’s analytical mind found the Health Department much easier to deal with. Proudly she shows me behind the scenes in their spotless kitchen and cool room. ‘The department has stringent health and safety guidelines which we gladly adhere to. We have one of the cleanest commercial kitchens, a fully trained chef, and all of our staff undertake a food handling course. When things go quiet with customers everyone knows without asking to scrub under the benches and check behind the doors.’

Ten casual staff are employed by the café which opens Friday to Sunday. ‘They (staff members) come from near and far,’ Debbie says. She translates that to ‘some live just up the road while others travel up to 15 kilometres away.’

Working in hospitality is not for everyone she cautions. ‘I have to be careful to maintain relationships in a small town and encourage potential employees to come and talk first.’ For those who do have people skills it is a great training opportunity.

It goes without saying that customer service is paramount in hospitality and Debbie is constantly thinking of ways to make to make customers feel more comfortable in an open shed environment. ‘We get the fire going when it’s cold, and on hot days use lots of ice, cool the glasses in the fridge, and bring out the big fans. People realise that we’re trying to make them as comfortable as possible.’

‘It’s a tough industry,’ she admits. It can go from no customers to ten cars pulling up simultaneously. ‘One day it was so hot and we were absolutely dead business wise but still had to have full staff. We cleaned out the storeroom, tried out some new recipes and made a big batch of beetroot relish. Even though we had few customers we got so much done.’

Being a part of a small community brings many benefits. While the café provides an important space for locals to gather and socialise, it also provides an outlet for local producers of flowers, honey, olive oil, and even handmade glass necklaces. ‘It enhances our business, so we don’t charge them anything to display and sell their goods. My only stipulation is that they have to make it themselves,’ explains Debbie.

With an accounting background and 30 years of experience in the family engineering business, Debbie has no illusions when it comes to investment. ‘You have to spend money to make money,’ she advises, ‘and you can’t expect to retrieve your investment in the first year.’ As is often the case, the best of budgets and time schedules can blow out, but the Walkers keep forging ahead regardless. In one extreme example a sewerage plant was budgeted at $5,000 but cost $28,000. ‘It means that our decking has to wait a bit longer,’ she shrugs philosophically.

As The Old Workshop Cafe enters its second year of trading, Debbie is feeling very satisfied with their achievements. Their customer base has grown requiring an overflow car park to be introduced. ‘Not a bad problem to have,’ she smiles. Likewise, the garden has grown significantly. ‘It’s a great pleasure to give the menu a twist on a regular basis to incorporate the seasonal produce from the garden.’ Recently they have applied for a liquor license and are patiently waiting on council to respond.

‘We always have plans for more to be done but the staff, service and food are exactly where I’m happy with,’ says Debbie. ‘We’re not big business, we are very much part of the community.’

Debbie’s top business tips:

  • Don’t borrow.

  • Be brave. Don’t be scared to make a decision.

  • Enjoy what you do. If you love it, it’s not work.

  • Be a part of your community.

GOOGLE MAPS The Old Workshop, Ballan Road, Anakie (open Friday to Sunday)

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/dashfoodstore/


KERRY ANDERSON: Founder of the Operation Next Gen program and author of ‘Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business,’ Kerry works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. In 2018 she was named as one of Australia’s Top 50 Change-Makers. READ MORE

A Learning Christmas

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When do young people start learning?  From the day they are born. So why do we buy them so much useless *crap* at Christmas time? Learning can be life changing and as simple as a book, a tool, or an experience that will help set them up with life-long skills.

With three little ones in my extended family I am constantly being confronted by mermaids and princesses in never ending items of merchandise they desperately NEED to possess. Surprise, surprise, a National Geographic bug catcher can also be fun! As part of the deal, a drive into the bush for a picnic was an absolute highlight. We tracked animals and identified different types of poo. They keep asking: When we are going again?

For all ages an experience is definitely a great way to go. At the age of 22 my son was lucky enough to get a berth on the Young Endeavour and came back a much more mature young man. What he thought was going to be a sailing adventure was; and so much more in terms of team building and leadership.

Currently Wil Massara, an enterprising young man in Western Australia who is part of my Operation Next Gen team in Collie and CEO of Youth Leadership Academy Australia, is promoting a one-day learning experience in March 2019 in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and the Gold Coast. Now wouldn’t that be an awesome gift for a young person aged 13-18 years?

As a parent there are two challenges. We don’t want to hand everything to them on a plate and we also need to challenge gender bias with our gifts.

Children should learn about patience, the process of working towards a goal, and valuing what it costs to purchase something of significance. A technique we used when our children were young was to give them exactly half the money they needed to purchase that much wanted bike or pony. It was up to them to earn the other half and it was incredible how resourceful they became in the process, now that was excellent life skills learning!

Why should a male toddler get a toy toolbox and a female toddler a barbie doll? Which one would be more useful building life skills?

At the risk of being labelled the Grinch, I wish everyone a NO *crap* Christmas!


And something else I am very passionate about … Shop RURAL this Christmas!

AMPLIFTS

BY KERRY ANDERSON

2018 is a big year for Brendan Murphy. Just 18 years of age and living in the tiny town of Allanson in southwest Western Australia, Brendan is midway through Year 12 at nearby Collie Senior High School … and he’s launched his first business!

When the school bell rings Brendan is the first one out the door to catch the bus home. But instead of sitting and watching television or playing the video games that he used to be addicted to, he is rushing home to work on his online fitness program and coaching business at AMPLIFTS.com

In collaboration with Adam Peeler, another young fitness fanatic in the United States, Brendan has capitalised on modern technology to create a passive income before he has even left school. I’m impressed when I check out the website. The technology is good, the copyright snappy, and both Brendan and Adam present themselves extremely professionally.

‘It has been hard to find the time to work on the business,’ Brendan admits ‘but I made a lot of progress during the school holidays.’

But how did he learn how to do all this I wonder?

‘The content is based on maximising my own results,’ explains Brendan. ‘I got involved in fitness, bodybuilding and powerlifting and really studied the science behind it.’ Adam, who has a major in exercise science, became one of Brendan’s trusted sources as he scoured the internet for articles and tutorials.

After messaging Adam via a Facebook community, the two hit it off immediately and a business partnership was formed. ‘Adam was already a big name in the industry over in the United States so it was good to have his endorsement and for him to be part of the business. A lot of people claim to know everything but can’t back up what they say with facts,’ says Brendan. ‘What we follow is the science behind training and nutrition and strive to apply that when we create programs for natural lifters that aren’t on steroids.’

With the business still in its infancy they are only just starting to make money and have an agreed 40/60 split of the profits with the majority going to Brendan who looks after the website. With the benefits of digital technology, they converse daily via Facebook messenger having worked out the time differences between Collie, Western Australia and Utah in the United States.

In essence, Brendan and Adam provide their own testimonials that obviously would most appeal to their primary audience, young men. Both talk about how they transitioned from insecure young men into confident ones through their fitness regimes and they aren’t afraid of sharing positive stories about self-esteem and mental health via social media and You Tube. They’ve also showcased the incredible results their clients have achieved through the use of their programs on the website.

When it came to establishing a website Brendan did what every good business person should do. He invested in Squarespace, a well-known software platform and customised it so it had a totally fresh look. He also checked out competitor websites. ‘I took what they do and did it better. It was important for my website to be user friendly because some are just too confusing.’ Having an interest in web development and coding – self taught of course – he found it an easy task to undertake.

As an online business AMPLIFTS’s customers can be located anywhere in the world. Capitalising on their social media presence, marketing so far has been via Facebook and Instagram plus some Google advertisements. ‘We’ve been getting three to five percent click through on our ads but the challenge is to convert them into sales,’ Brendan says.

Recently AMPLIFTS received a welcome boost when Adam stayed with a popular You Tuber in the United States who has over 100,000 followers. ‘We received a few sales out of that,’ Brendan notes gratefully.

When time permits Brendan is looking forward to developing an app so that their customers can access their programs offline and track their progress.

In the meantime, there is school, I remind him cheerfully. ‘Yeah’ Brendan acknowledges dolefully. When asked why he is doing Year 12 he admits that it is to get an ATAR score, and, I assume, to meet university admission requirements. However, Brendan is quick to assure me that university is not his intended future.

‘I will be working AMPLIFTS full time and hopefully collaborating with Adam in person over in the United States,’ he says with much more enthusiasm.

Now that’s an exciting plan for a young man and one full of possibilities!

https://www.amplifts.com/

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When you can't wait to get home

to work on your business!

Get your free tickets to hear what Brendan thinks about the future hot spots for career and business in rural communities on Thursday 16 August in Collie WA. Will he agree with the other panel members twice his age? MORE INFO


KERRY ANDERSON: Founder of the Operation Next Gen program and author of Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business,’ Kerry works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. READ MORE

Bundarra Berkshires

Looking back at how Bundarra Berkshires evolved Lauren Mathers defines it as ‘madness’ given that she has given birth to three children in the midst of becoming a free-range farmer and exemplifying the paddock to plate dream. Displaying the attributes of a true entrepreneur, it all started when she saw a problem that could be turned into an opportunity. And history keeps repeating itself.

Arriving at the Mathers property near Barham in New South Wales early one brisk Saturday morning mid-winter, it comes as no surprise that bacon and eggs are on the menu. The kids are sleeping in and Lachlan and Lauren are planning their weekend ahead. No football. No socialising. Weekends are the best time for the couple to do the hands-on work required to care for their 400 plus Berkshire pigs.

‘It’s madness when I look back. I used to do it all, but Lachlan stepped in and shared the responsibilities as the children came along,’ explains Lauren. A transport driver for his parents’ company during the week, Lachlan has been pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable it has been to get involved in the business that has now built up to become their main source of income. ‘I’m trucks by day and pigs by day, night and weekends,’ he smiles. ‘Dad and husband is in there somewhere as well.’ All jokes aside he adds that he is enjoying his new role.

‘Lachlan is a great salesman and loves chatting with the customers and fellow stallholders,’ Lauren chips in. ‘Until he started coming to the markets with me he’d never seen that side of the business.’

With our plates empty I chat with Lauren over coffee as Lachlan deals with the waking kids. It quickly becomes apparent how her brain operates. Constantly. Very fast. And, there is no doubt, she is a problem solver. ‘If I think of a good idea I just run with it,’ she admits.

OPPORTUNITY #1 Sourcing local quality pork

As a partner in the successful The Long Paddock restaurant established in 2008 at nearby Koondrook on the Victorian side of the Murray River, Lauren had her first experience of small business. The restaurant’s reputation was built on an ethos of sourcing local quality foods but she was having trouble finding tasty pork. This is how Doris first came on the scene.

‘A bloke down the road had a Berkshire pig that he didn’t want any more,’ Lauren explains, ‘so I reckoned I would have a go at breeding my own pork.’ Being raised on a beef cattle farm, however, was of no use whatsoever when it came to collecting the founding member of her breeding stock. With the owner absent Lauren tried to herd the pig – later named Doris - on to the trailer. ‘She was like a wild dog,’ Lauren recalls. ‘My first lesson was in how to bribe pigs with food and make it a positive experience.’

While Doris failed to have any produce for some time, ironically Lauren fell pregnant with her first child. Undeterred, the seed of an idea just grew and grew, fuelled by a bursary as a Rural Ambassador to visit France and see how farmers there sold their produce at markets and the relationship between consumer and farmer.

Eight years since establishing the herd, Lauren now has over 100 sows and 300 piglets at any given time to care for. And, for those of you who are wondering, Doris lived on despite her shortcomings, eventually passing away from natural causes.

OPPORTUNITY #2 Finding customers

‘It was clear when I came back from my trip to France that we needed a local market so I helped to set up Red Gum Group and Farmers’ Market,’ Lauren explains. ‘Now there are lots of Farmers Markets which everyone loves. Until recently we regularly attended the Melbourne markets and will continue to attend the Castlemaine market each month and possibly get back into Melbourne once a month now that Mum and Dad are here to help out.’

In 2011 Lauren started selling the pork and by late 2011 was selling gourmet pork products to retail outlets and at farmers markets. ‘Winning a Delicious Product Award in 2013 was a great kick start,’ she acknowledges.

Bundarra Berkshires has its own website and Farm Shop page outlining products that can either be purchased at one of the listed stockists or delivered through their courier service. Hogfest, held each September, promotes the ‘paddock to plate’ concept and connect customers with their products. Social media has clearly been a winner with a healthy following on Facebook and Instagram. Quality photography assists Lauren to clearly articulate their love of animals and a rural family lifestyle.

‘There are now a lot more micro businesses operating in this field,’ Lauren admits, ‘so now we have to work hard to stay ahead of the game. Over the past two years we have been constantly tweaking our targets. Our space is clean eating so nitrate free and preservative free is where we concentrate our energy on. You have to pick an area and own it,’ she advises.

OPPORTUNITY #3 Controlling supply

While many businesses are transitioning to a lean balance sheet through outsourcing, Lauren believes that agriculture is moving in the opposite direction especially when it comes to clean, green, and ethically produced food. ‘There is too much uncertainty if we don’t,’ she explains.

Keen to know her business every step of the way, she started by helping her preferred butcher at Gunbower to pack her pork products. ‘Tom showed me all the different parts and how to bone out a shoulder. Lucy, our eldest child, was in a pram at the time,’ she recalls. Soon the logistics of taking Lucy to the butchers and struggling to find other butchers to do smoking and sausages for her became stressful and time consuming. Just as their second child, Frida, was born in 2013, Lauren recognised what many would perceive to be a problem as an opportunity. ‘I decided to take control of our own supply.’ Subsequently the shed was cleaned out and a cutting room and smokehouse installed. A year after that a commercial kitchen and air-drying room was added.

Before you start thinking this is all too easy, finance did prove problematic for this second phase of the business so Lauren tried out a Crowd Funding campaign by offering produce in return for advance payments to help fit out the new facilities. ‘The campaign raised more than we aimed for, but I probably wouldn’t do it again,’ she admits.

To help get her started, a friend spent a day instructing Lauren on the different cuts for meat. “For the first three years I butchered on my own with a handsaw which kept costs really low.’ As the demand for product grew a butcher was employed in late 2015, perfect timing to assist with the Christmas rush and, by my calculations, to aid Lauren who was pregnant with George, child number three!

‘To begin with we used what buildings we had but we are outgrowing ourselves now.’ Another problem and/or opportunity for her to think about.

Humane slaughter of the pigs is something that Lauren also feels passionate about especially in the current climate where many abattoirs are closing or denying micro producers access.  After a series of abattoir closures and an increase in road miles impacting on their transport costs of ten pigs each week, Lauren is once again taking a lead in providing a solution. ‘Ideally we’d like to slaughter 15 pigs a week but the logistics are against us because of the truck size.’

In her latest quest, Lauren is part of a group of like-minded farmers in the process of establishing a local cooperative to set up their own micro abattoir. Her vision is shared with the group for it to be staffed with highly skilled personnel operating under an ethos of humane treatment of animals. ‘Offal is another big opportunity to create new products from waste and, as a cooperative, we will also be able to put back into the community,’ Lauren says with a sparkle in her eye.

Much to Lauren’s frustration, problem #4 is still in the process of being turned into an opportunity as the effects of an impending drought start to make their mark. ‘Usually we are knee deep in pasture this time of the year but we’ve had no rain and we’re at the mercy of a feed company. The price of feed has just gone up $100 per tonne.’ Sourcing feed with no animal base has been quite a difficult process so there is no quick fix to this one but I have no doubt that Lauren will keep thinking on it. Expanding their 65-acre farm is one strategy and she has already sub-contracted her parents on a nearby property to grow out pigs for her.

‘I am a thinker,’ Lauren acknowledges. ‘The challenges are what I love. I strive to get it better and stay ahead. As a society we are still so disconnected from our food, but Bundarra Berkshires is pure paddock to plate. It’s pretty amazing.’

Lauren’s top business tips:

  • Have a clear vision of what you want to achieve and stick to it.
  • At the same time, be aware of new opportunities to improve your business and be prepared to change and adapt.
  • Don’t do it if you don’t love it.

http://bundarraberkshires.com.au/


KERRY ANDERSON: Founder of Operation Next Gen and author of Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business,’ Kerry works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. READ MORE

Vets All Natural

Twenty-five years ago, Dr Bruce Syme, a young veterinarian fresh out of university, developed a new raw food-based diet in response to the epidemic proportions of skin diseases and allergies presenting in cats and dogs. Determined to take a holistic approach he relocated his pet food business and set up his own practice in central Victoria. Today Vets All Natural products can be found on pet supply shelves in multiple countries.

Catching up with Bruce for a coffee at Guildford on his day off, we reminisced about how much has changed since 1999 when I drove out into the bush to interview him the first time. Having just moved from Melbourne to start his own practice in a more receptive community, he had rented rooms behind a dog kennel business at Muckleford, a rural community between Castlemaine and Maldon. It was quite a challenging mud map I had to draw for the photographer to find him later that week with a creek crossing being the major landmark.

I remember writing that Bruce was ‘a new breed of vet with a passion.’ His focus was on keeping pets healthy instead of treating the disease. That hasn’t changed but much else has. For a start we are both older and wiser, the single vet practice has grown significantly, and there are now many more competitor brands on the shelves of retail outlets emulating the Vets All Natural products.

‘I started on a wing and a prayer, just flying by the seat of my pants,’ Bruce admits reflecting on both his practice and pet food manufacturing business. ‘Things just grew and grew.’

Two years after his move to central Victoria, he was able to buy out an existing practice in nearby Castlemaine and farewell his remote location. As his pet-food business gained traction he also built a shed and rented a second one. ‘It was quite rapid growth. I took on another vet and the head nurse as partners and we employed another full-time vet and support staff. I had to focus on the practice and relied on employees to look after the food manufacturing.’

When it came to finances, in the early days Bruce admits that he was a novice. ‘I wasn’t financially motivated. If there was money in the bank I thought that things were going good.’ His sounding board was a best friend who had studied commerce. As a young vet still with a student debt, the banks weren’t interested when he first approached them to set up his own business. His father provided a loan which Bruce is quick to clarify has been repaid including interest.

Bruce surmises that there were three trigger points that forced him to study his business finances more closely.

Starting a family at the same time he bought the Castlemaine practice in 2000 was the first trigger point, both bringing with them more financial responsibilities. Second was the realisation that his pet-food manufacturing business was creating 80 percent of his income from a 20 percent output. ‘I started paying more interest then,’ he says. And, lastly taking out a $1 million loan to build a new home for the growing practice with a fully equipped veterinary hospital in 2014.

Bruce admits that the veterinary industry is not as profitable as many would like to think. ‘It’s a rewarding but a tough industry. In comparison to a doctor’s surgery, the overheads are massive. As a clinic we provide everything including two surgical theatres, and all modern equipment including in house blood testing, ultrasound, endoscopy and radiology.’

‘I knew I couldn’t muck around anymore,’ says Bruce who took on a business mentor and coach and signed up for a business management course. While it was important to understand his businesses Bruce also found it frustrating that ‘best practice’ as prescribed by the expert trainers was focussed on getting maximum profit. ‘My ethics are not very profitable,’ he admits. ‘There is this horrible thing called integrity and emotional health.’ While many vets are now refusing to visit properties for large animals because it is not profitable, Bruce believes it is part of their community service and he gets to enjoy the beautiful countryside in the process.

On the bright side, as a result of all the training, he now knows exactly how much it costs to run the practice on an hourly basis and how much he has to earn to cover his debts.  And, while it was important for him to remain hands-on in the rebranded as the Healthy Pets Veterinary Clinic, it was equally important for him to nurture the more lucrative Vets All Natural business and reassess his role in it.

‘It’s all about effort and return. I started analysing the retail pet market around the time of the big corporate mergers and realised that it was important to get involved with the franchises. We started by getting our products into 15 stores through one franchise and now it is 120 stores.’

When it came to marketing Bruce sponsored many cat and dog shows and, in the early days, spent a good deal of time on the lecture circuit, talking to fellow vets, animal breeders and owners. ‘We targeted the key influencers and developed some core believers,’ he explains, and it worked beautifully. He recalls that once a dog owner drove all the way to the Castlemaine practice from Melbourne after a passer-by noticed her dog scratching and recommended that they google Vets All Natural and go see Dr Bruce Syme!

The irony of being successful is that your competitors quickly follow. ‘For the first 15 years of my business I spent more time convincing people that raw food is an option; now it is about which brand is best,’ says Bruce. All along he has paid attention to what customers need. Handling raw meat on its own was problematic so a line of dry grain mix products was introduced. New styles of packaging including a peel and serve option also helped keep Vets All Natural ahead of its competitors.

The dilemma of any business owner and parent is getting the right work-life balance, and on reflection Bruce suspects that he could have done better. Developing new product lines also required big investment.

As a result, Vets All Natural has changed significantly as a business. It is now a company with shareholders and operates from a head office in St Kilda Road Melbourne under the guidance of a General Manager. Manufacturing is outsourced to three other businesses leaving the company to manage warehousing and distribution. ‘Brand and intellectual property are our biggest assets,’ Bruce says. ‘We distribute nationwide and overseas to Japan and Singapore. Currently we are going into China with a massive deal; clean and green products are very big there.’

Surrounding himself with smart people has paid dividends for Bruce who continues to hold the position of Executive Director. ‘I handed over a business with a $1 million annual turnover and they’ve increased it four times over.’

‘One of the hardest things was letting go and trusting other people,’ he admits; however there have been many advantages. ‘I was able to pull back from the marketing which I wasn’t very good at and focus on the science.’ He also drives a lot less miles and can spend three quality days a week in his veterinary practice where it is important that he has a presence.

Finally, Bruce has hit his perfect work-life balance.

Dr Bruce Syme outside his veterinary clinic in Castlemaine, central Victoria.

Dr Bruce Syme outside his veterinary clinic in Castlemaine, central Victoria.

Bruce’s top business tips:

  • Choose something that you enjoy.
  • Do your homework and understand that the environment rapidly changes.
  • Don’t become blind to something you are passionate about. If you have a great idea, challenge it and get other people to challenge it as well.
  • Get advice from people who know what they are doing.
  • Take care of your physical and mental health.

http://healthypetsvc.com.au/

https://vetsallnatural.com.au/


KERRY ANDERSON: Founder of Operation Next Gen and author of ‘Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business,’ Kerry works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. READ MORE http://www.kerryanderson.com.au/about/

15 Acres

We’ve all heard the saying that it takes a village to raise a child, however the Cohuna-Leitchville district in northern Victoria has taken it a step further. They are nurturing and encouraging young entrepreneurs!

January 14, 2018 was a special day for the Taylor family at Leitchville. Not only was it their pop’s birthday, it was the launch of Cooper (12) and Bailey (15) Taylor’s business, 15 Acres.

Their mother Kellie recalls the day that Cooper came home and announced that he had bought a business. ‘You haven’t,’ was her reply. He had. And, after spending some time with Cooper, it is easy to understand how. This gregarious pre-teen doesn’t lack in confidence and I have no doubt that he could sell ice to the Eskimos if required.

For some time prior Cooper had been earning his own pocket money by selling eggs from the twenty chooks he kept at his family home but it was proving to be problematic. ‘People wanted heaps of eggs and I didn’t have enough.’

Having received lots of advice from a ‘mate’ on a nearby property who also produced eggs but on a much larger scale, Cooper was wildly excited when the mate said that he was selling up. When Cooper was offered 160 chooks, two Maremma guard dogs, and two caravans he had no hesitation in saying yes which brings us back to a sudden announcement to his parents that he’d bought a business. ‘Well I haven’t actually paid him yet,’ admits Cooper. ‘But I will one day. He just wanted someone to love the chooks as much as he did. I don’t like factory farms, that is my pet hate.’

At the same time his older brother, Bailey, had been seeking a part time job, not always easy when you live some distance out of town and don’t have a license. This new business presented an opportunity for both brothers. It was then up to the boys to come to an agreement on what their responsibilities would be in the business.

‘Bailey isn’t a morning person,’ Cooper is quick to share. ‘I do the morning chores and most of the infrastructure stuff.’

The much more quietly spoken sibling, Bailey, explains that his role is to collect the eggs at night and look after the larger chooks and dogs. Cooper has been responsible for growing 200 chickens that are about to graduate to free range in the paddock. A bit of disagreement breaks into the conversation at this point. Cooper wants to dispute who is responsible for what. You know; that normal sibling rivalry stuff.

Quickly moving on, I ask: Why call their business 15 Acres? ‘Well the previous business was called 400 Acres,’ Cooper clarifies successfully distracted. So, no need to ask how big their property is then!

Kept safe by the two Maremma dogs, Falcor and Jane, the chooks free range in the paddock while roosting and laying in the caravans that have been converted for their exclusive use by the boys’ Pa. It seems that a number of additional caravans have been donated by various people around the district. A heat lamp was also provided free of charge and another local businessman has offered to build them a website. ‘People are really nice and willing to help,’ Cooper acknowledges.

Everything he has learnt about caring for chooks and preparing eggs for market has been from his mate and from watching videos on You Tube. ‘I haven’t read any books,’ Cooper admits.

Just coming out of the moulting season with reduced eggs to sell, he says that this is a challenge when supplying their customers that includes six local eateries and the Farmers & Made in Cohuna Market on the fourth Sunday of every month. ‘We’ve been offered another caravan that we hope to use for the markets; we just need time to convert it,’ Cooper says. Pa must be busy is what I'm hearing.

Time is definitely a challenge even for teenagers. ‘I’ve got eight hours at school each day including bus travel, and then I’ve got sport as well.’ Cooper glances at the clock as he is due to leave for a football match playing for Leitchville Gunbower Under 12’s very shortly. Sport is extremely important in a rural community.

Let’s talk money I suggest and ask Bailey if it has been worthwhile. ‘I’m glad that I did get involved,’ he says. ‘It’s going well at the moment and we should do well in the future as the layers pick up.’ Usually on a Sunday the boys convene at the kitchen table to assess their cash flow. The profits are split up while leaving a set amount in kitty to cover change and feed costs.

At this point Cooper cuts in to accuse his mother of helping herself to a bit of petty cash on a few occasions. ‘She treats it as an ATM,’ he claims. This argument suddenly falls flat when I ask how much they pay her to cover the transport expenses of delivering the eggs, going to the markets, and collecting the chook feed supplies. 66 cents per kilometre is the going rate I helpfully point as Kellie chuckles in the background. Cooper is momentarily silent.

With another successful diversion in place I wonder how they established their retail price?  ‘We started at $5 per dozen but put it up to $6 for the market,’ Cooper bounces back. He is clear on what their expenses are. ‘It costs $450 to fill the big container,’ he explains. ‘If we bought 20kg bags it would cost a lot more so we buy in bulk which reduces the cost per kilo.’

Kellie has helped the boys to establish a business page on Facebook and a business card; however, it seems that word of mouth is pretty much doing the job for them.

It would appear that everyone in the district is keen to nurture more young people to experience and develop business skills, and these two enterprising brothers are only too happy to take up the challenge.


KERRY ANDERSON: Founder of Operation Next Gen and author ofEntrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business,Kerry works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. READ MORE

OPERATION NEXT GEN COHUNA:  Read on if you'd like to know more about how you can establish your own collaborative entrepreneurial ecosystem.  READ MORE

Small Towns

BY KERRY ANDERSON

Grit, determination, and innovation to problem solve issues common to small towns came through loud and strong at the inaugural Small Town Show and Tell mini conference held in Cohuna on Friday 13 July, 2018.

So what did I hear in the room?

Small towns are important

1.8 million people live in small towns (under 5,000 population) across Australia which is the equivalent of the city of Perth. ‘Small towns are important,’ Jack Archer, CEO of the Regional Australia Institute stressed. He encouraged us to use the INsight data and research generated by RAI to assist with evidence in our submissions.

Encourage the entrepreneurs

It comes as no surprise that this was the thrust of my presentation and it was backed up by Jack Archer. For this reason we need to fight for improved technology so that more people can live and work in small towns. With a growing ‘gig’ economy where more people are self employed and contracted to perform services for the big corporations, there is a great opportunity for small towns to attract people away from the cities. I also shared some recent research from the Kauffman Foundation in the U.S.A. that has discovered that for every one percent increase in new business, there is a two percent decrease in poverty.  Business is important!

Be inclusive and form partnerships

Small towns don’t have to do it alone. Jan Smith spoke about how the small community of Girgarre has achieved so much because they have shared both the work and the benefits with all their local groups. They’ve also welcomed visitors into their town inspiring them to help out with various events and activities. I shared a project currently unfolding in Warracknabeal at the court house which is managed by the Working Heritage board on which I serve. A partnership with the local community and Monash University has eventuated in grand plans to establish an artistic hub. Bakery on Broadway revealed that they had received assistance from the Rotary Club of Keilor in sourcing equipment for their bakery. City people love to help a rural community to succeed.

Young people like growing up in a small town 

Secondary college student Taitum Mason took some time out of her school holidays to come and share her thoughts on being a young person growing up in a small town. She listed a whole range of events that young people love to attend including The Big Cohuna Festival, an initiative of Operation Next Gen. ‘I don’t feel like I miss out event though Cohuna is a small town,’ she said. ‘I’m proud to be a part of this community.’ This supports the findings of research undertaken by Operation Next Gen through a survey of over 2,000 students.

Migrants are a life line

This message came through repeatedly through Tom Smith from Kia-Ora Piggery near Pyramid Hill, Ann Durie from Bakery on Broadway in Wycheproof, and Jack Archer, CEO of the Regional Australia Institute.  The benefits are undeniable and Tom is lobbying hard for better conditions to assist migrants to gain stability when moving to rural areas. This includes extended visas as a pathway to citizenship including for extended family members; recognition of prior qualifications and fast tracking assessment and skills upgrades; and understanding that we need hands on people to migrate, not just academics.

An abundant resource

Gen Barlow from Newstead talked about opportunities for small towns to take advantage of the sun and create renewable energy. During Newstead's community consultations they discovered that not everyone was interested in renewable energy but they were interested in reducing their energy costs.  Discussions have been ongoing and persistent to get across the various regulation and service provider barriers that have presented along the way. ‘The big corporates find it hard to understand that small communities can do this,’ said Gen.

Housing is important

Cohuna’s Emily Wood presented the findings of a research project that highlighted some important points. Professionals attracted to a small town like to rent before buying to ensure that they are a good fit for that community, however, there is a lack of suitable accommodation available for rent to meet their needs. Investment opportunities to be explored for Cohuna in particular included building two four bedroom homes to be rented to professionals for 3-6 month periods, and two to four small units suitable for retirees coming in from the farms. Financial incentives for young people to purchase and renovate old homes was another recommendation.

Learn to ask

Jan Smith shared the story of how Girgarre turned a negative into a positive. When the Heinz Factory was being closed they refused a cash offer and asked instead for land which came with water rights. In effect this turned out to be far higher value that the initial $50,000 offered and is enabling them to build a $12 million botanical gardens. ‘Learn to ask,’ Jan advised.

Build a ‘war chest’

Jan’s other piece of valuable advice was to ‘build a war chest.’ She acknowledged a canny treasurer who kept putting money aside from each of their markets for when it was needed. It helped the community to save its kindergarten.  As someone who has served on both philanthropic and government bodies administering grants, I reiterated that it is important to demonstrate what your community is prepared to contribute, or already has. If you are not prepared to invest in yourself, why should anyone else?

Measure your local spend

Kathryn Lanyon explained how Boort’s Shop Local campaign has had a positive outcome for their business community over the past five years.  Coupons enable the committee to measure what is spent locally over an 8 week period - $350,000 - $400,000 through 25 businesses alone. ‘Each year the participating business owners are inspired by the results and it is good for the community to understand how much money can be spent in our town,’ Kathryn said. ‘We need to embed a culture of shopping local in every business, club and organisation all year round.’

Arts and Culture connect people

Tanya Black from Cohuna Neighbourhood House spoke about the newly formed Gannawarra Arts Culture and Entertainment Club (the ACE Club) where members come together to attend various arts and cultural events being rotated around the small towns helping to connect people. 'Many Melbourne based performances are being presented and supported by small rural communities, bringing life back into their community halls,' Tanya explained. 'It's a great way to meet new people, and you can be assured of a lovely country spread for supper.'


Congratulations to the Cohuna Neighbourhood House for this great initiative, funded by Regional Development Victoria as part of a larger project, 'This is Cohuna - Celebrating Our Heritage & Unique Neighbourhood Assets.'

Will it be a one off? Given how well it was received I think that another town may well take up the challenge to host this event in the future. Which town will it be I wonder?

WATCH RECORDINGS OF ALL THE PRESENTATIONS (coming soon)

And some more reading that may interest you:

Bakery on Broadway: Wycheproof

Rural Towns Fighting Back: COHUNA

Rural Towns Fighting Back: GIRGARRE

 

RAI How to end regional population decline

Tom Smith - Kia-Ora Piggery


KERRY ANDERSON: Founder of the Operation Next Gen program and author of ‘Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business,’ Kerry works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. READ MORE

An artful business

Sobrane in her Broome WA studio

Sobrane in her Broome WA studio

Rural Australia is increasingly becoming home to artists that are bringing a vibrancy to rural towns. They are bravely forging a lifestyle that encompasses their passion, but how do they successfully make a living Kerry Anderson ponders?

All too often we hear that artists are struggling and having to supplement their incomes elsewhere. Regardless of what genre, how can they make a reasonable living from what is often perceived as a hobby? Most creative minded people are not renowned for their business acumen and yet there are many examples of successful artists operating at a high level.  If artists want to be seriously considered and earn a reasonable income, they do need to apply some business rigour. There are some difficult questions that should be asked and conscious decisions made if they want to financially survive and thrive. How do they value an item? How do they value their time? How do they value their brand?

Apart from the serious collectors who go by a whole different set of criteria; when it comes to valuing an item that old saying ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ rings true. To whomever this piece speaks, it is considered the most valuable. I have never bought a piece of art without considering two things first. Do I like it? And secondly, do I have a suitable space for it to be displayed? If the answer to those two questions is yes, then I finally ask myself: Can I afford it?

So, you first have to consider who your art will appeal to and know their price range. Central Victorian sculptor Trevor Prest’s work mostly comprises of large heavy pieces most suited to big spaces. It goes without saying that an art gallery, or a company or university wanting to make an impact in their entry foyer, will pay considerably more than the average home collector. Having said that, I loved his work so much that I did buy a piece and managed to squeeze it in to my house.

But how on earth can an artist value their time when they are doing something that they love? Like farmers who choose a lifestyle, this may be just too hard a question to answer. Perhaps a better question is to ask: What total income do you need to live comfortably? Then, it is a simple matter of working backwards and thinking about cash flow, what types of items bring in the best results, and how many you have to sell at what price to meet your target income. Your best-selling and most profitable items must come first. Afterwards you can indulge in your passion. As a starting base you should think about how much it costs to produce (materials etc), not forgetting all those small hidden costs like studio rental or services, advertising, packaging, and transport that quickly add up.

And, when it comes to your personal time in marketing your work, make sure you are spending it where it counts. An artist at a Farmer’s Market recently mentioned to me that he was about to stop attending the markets as his items were becoming too highly priced for this type of audience. Good decision as he will not only save on his personal time but also the cost of travel. Lucky, I made my purchase beforehand.

Before you start thinking that I buy everything I see, I recently visited Sobrane’s studio in Broome, Western Australia, and left with only a greeting card; mainly because my suitcase wasn’t big enough. It was interesting to see how she has positioned herself as an artist and diversified her products to create a steady flow of income. In addition to the big priced pieces of artwork for serious collectors, there were lots of smaller items that browsing tourists could happily purchase; for instance, cushion covers, cards and smaller unframed art works. Sobrane has also embraced the latest trend where street artists are employed through community grants to paint silos and other large buildings in rural communities creating tourist attractions.

Branding is king no matter what industry you work in. If you portray yourself as a struggling artist selling whatever you can, then buyers will expect low prices. Valuing yourself and knowing the worth of your artwork is just so crucial in sending out the right message. It all comes down to perception and how it is presented, from the sales venue right down to the artistic quality of the price tag. In the digital era with capacity for online marketing and sales, there is a much wider reach and audience for artists who can create a strong brand.

No business person has every skill required to be successful. The key is to ask the hard questions, recognise your strengths and weaknesses, seek professional advice when required, and surround yourself with a team when taking your business to the next level.

A final word of advice from someone who unfortunately doesn’t have a creative bone in her body. It also helps if you’re good at what you do!


KERRY ANDERSON: Author of ‘Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business,’ Kerry works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. READ MORE