Just one step

BY KERRY ANDERSON

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The day that 22-year-old Brendan Earl decided that he wanted to take control of his own decision making was the day he decided to go into business for himself.  Fast forward seven years and this savvy young man from Collie in Western Australia is already specialising, expanding his business and has exciting plans for the future. This is just one step in his journey Brendan says.

Like many young men Brendan Earl prefers hands on learning and didn’t particularly like school. Fortunately, being raised in a small business family, he was better prepared for business than others. ‘As soon as I could push a wheelbarrow I was working weekends and school holidays for my father’s construction business,’ he recalls.

After finishing year 10 he took on an apprenticeship with a local firm, All Tech Plumbing. ‘I chose plumbing for the money,’ he admits. ‘At that time in my life I wanted to do a trade and people said that plumbers get paid the best out of all the trades, I really didn’t know any better.’

A talent for football (AFL) saw him playing in Perth for a few years which took him back to the family business. ‘Working with dad gave me the freedom to travel back and forwards from Perth several times a week,’ he explains.  A run of injuries put an end to his football career, so he became more focused and, in many ways, this setback helped to launch his business.

‘The day that I wanted to start taking control of my own decision making was the day that I decided to work for myself “become my own boss”,’ says Brendan. ‘To be honest, at that time in my life I had no real idea about business, so I pretty much winged it at the start and worked hard.’ He also found himself an accountant and a book keeper to set up everything for him. ‘We started with a MYOB accounting system, but I now have great admin support and we use Xero which is more efficient and easier.’

Brendan thought that being a local and having a good reputation would give him a head start in his business journey. He was wrong! He quickly discovered that a personal reputation and a business reputation are two complete different things and had to work hard to prove the value of his new business.  ‘It was always hard to get on to tradespeople in a mining boom, so I was on call 24/7 in the beginning trying to break into the market and not wanting to lose a job. It was a bit tough not knowing when your next job is going to be,’ he admits.

A lot has changed from those early years of being in business. With a drive to improve himself and work smarter in his business, Brendan continually learns from his mentors and attends numerous business and networking events.

‘I understand business a lot better now. I learned by my mistakes and the mistakes of others. It’s a great way to learn as I don’t have to make the same ones.’

Through his observations, and wanting to have a business model that works for him, Brendan noted that clean treated water was becoming more of a commodity. With people becoming a lot more health conscious the need for water filtration was becoming more apparent.  It was at this moment that Calybre Plumbing & Gas was transformed to Keip Filtration.

‘The goal with Keip Filtration was to build an asset and provide a service. For example, on a residential scale anyone can walk into Bunnings or a hardware store and buy a filter then get any plumber or handy man to install it. They don’t necessarily know the quality of the product or installer and end up paying top $ for it then it’s forgotten about,’ he explains, ‘but Keip filtration provides the full service.  We supply only top-quality products at great prices which are then installed and maintained by a specially trained and licensed plumber.’

By specialising Brendan has transformed his business in a number of positive ways. For a start he has expanded his business base across a wider region - providing water treatment for mines, vineyards and hospitals, wheatbelt farmers and a variety of domestic customers. In fact, this service is now going Australia wide.

Work has now dramatically changed for Brendan. He now has a lot more time to work on his business rather than in his business.  ‘When you are plumbing you are on call 24/7 but when you go into filtration you can schedule the work in, it’s not as urgent. This allows me more freedom to build the business exploring different business ideas and opportunities.'

This has also helped his cash flow as he has found that customers pay better. ‘If it’s a breakdown then it’s usually not budgeted for,’ he explains, ‘whereas generally if they decide they want their water treated they plan for it in their budget.’

Scheduling regular filter replacements provides additional customer service. ‘When a filter is installed the customer can forget about it. They automatically go on to an automated maintenance program which is ongoing, and I can schedule to suit both the business and the customer.’ This adds significant value to Brendan’s business. A database has more resale value than goodwill he astutely observes.

With a business partner Brendan is exploring a new water filtration project on a much grander scale, collaborating to bring new technology to Australia in 2019.  After reading an article about high levels of nitrate, uranium and arsenic in water, he is also starting a fund to raise money to treat water for remote aboriginal communities.

As a young indigenous man Brendan has never tapped into financial assistance. ‘I wasn’t aware of any financial assistance for indigenous businesses at the time I started,’ he admits, ‘but like everything else government funded, it’s not just handed to you, you have to jump through lots of hoops. Sometimes it just isn’t worth it.’

In fact, Brendan has been lucky enough – albeit through hard work and sacrifice - to self-fund his business right from the beginning not having to take out a loan of any kind. With new business plans he hopes to stick with this trend having business savings and a good revenue stream. Having seven years of a successful business makes all the difference.

Reflecting on his achievements to date Brendan says he is proud to be a young man in business. ‘In the beginning it was tough. My friends were making good money while I was just getting by day to day, but seven years down the track I’m in a good position.’

‘This is just one step in my journey,’ Brendan cautions. ‘Collie is where I love to live but the world is a small place. I’m always looking for the new ideas and big opportunities. I like change and I love a challenge.’

Brendan’s top business tips

  • Do your research.
  • Start
  • Set Goals
  • Give it a go.
  • Work hard
  • Stick at it.
  • Ride the roller coaster.
  • Surround yourself with like-minded people.
  • Never stop learning.
  • Fail Fast

www.keipfiltration.com

FOOTNOTE:  We are delighted that Brendan is involved in the Operation Next Gen Collie discussions exploring ways to strengthen his home town into the future. Congratulations Brendan on also being named a finalist in the South West Small Business Awards!


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

Wil's Way

BY KERRY ANDERSON

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Catching up with CEO and Founder of Youth Leadership Academy Australia, Wil Massara, takes some doing.  He is extremely time poor and there are only a few windows of opportunity.  But today we have come up with a mutually agreeable time and arranged to meet in the central park at Collie in the south-west region of Western Australia.

School has finished for the day and 15 year old Wil is up for a spearmint milkshake. I’m ready for a double shot espresso as I try to understand what is driving this ambitious young man.

Is this his first business I ask? 

‘Well, it’s my first legal business,’ he admits with a smile.  Straight away I'm intrigued ... and distracted. Where is this leading?

It turns out that Wil once ordered 100 pens from a promotional company but they failed to arrive on time so he got them for free.  Then he ordered another 100 pens and the same happened all over again. To cut a long story short Wil got 200 pens for free and sold them all at $2 each which made him a cool $400 profit. 

So, as this story has confirmed, Wil can immediately recognise an opportunity and go for it. Tick!

By now the milkshake is gone and I’ve barely started on my expresso. It’s time to get down to business, his new legal one that is.

The recent launch of the Youth Leadership Academy Australia has created much interest and Wil admits that he’s also been interviewed by the local newspaper.  ‘Why has he started it?’ is the question burning on everyone’s lips.

‘I saw a gap in the education system,’ Wil explains. ‘We’re not being taught the skills we need for the future, only for the jobs of today and the past. Young people are being trained to work for someone else and not focussing on the necessary life skills to be successful.’

Wil’s vision is to provide one to two day conferences, seminars and workshops especially for young people, aged 15 to 18 years, with nationally renowned speakers and life strategists.  The very first Western Australian Youth Conference is being planned for the 28 August and tickets are priced at the incredibly low price of $20 per person.  

‘I need 77 people to break even,’ he confirms when I ask about his budget. Even so I am still dubious, until he reveals that he is seeking corporate sponsorship to keep the costs down for students.  For instance, the speaker, Anna Richards, is flying to Perth and speaking pro bono as a very special favour to Wil. 

Sensing another opportunity, Wil quickly adds 'if anyone would like to sponsor the Youth Leadership Academy Australia, please email me at ylaaus@gmail.com.'

There could be many who doubt Wil’s capacity as a student to establish a successful business, however, he has had plenty of help along the way.  Let’s start with his mum who dropped him off for the interview.  I suggest that he may have to put her on staff but he is quick to dismiss that notion. Secretly I hope she reads this interview and commences negotiations!

Then, there is the Collie & Districts Community Branch of Bendigo Bank that sponsored him to attend the ‘Magic Moments’ event for young achievers in 2016.  Through the Magic Moments network Wil connected with his mentor, Andrew Daley from Singapore who helped him with the business plan.  He has also partnered up with a fellow delegate, 19 year old Maddy Hedderwick, who has taken on the role of Operations Manager as she works her way through a double major in Management and Sports Science at university.

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Utilising his own technology skills, Wil has established the business website. In short, he has only had to pay $88 to register the business and $100 to set up the website.  Hmm I can see where the $400 profit from his ‘first business’ has come in useful.

Time management is essential. ‘I have a very strict schedule,’ Wil reveals. ‘Set times for study, personal development and business.’  I assume this interview falls into the business timeslot.

Wil comes from a business orientated family and everything he is doing at school is aimed at building his business skills. He is studying Business Management and undertaking a Certificate III in Business.

‘My aim is to benefit society,’ Wil explains; ‘but I also want to have a profitable business. If you only have enough money for yourself then you are selfish.’

That is probably the best explanation I’ve ever heard of why a business should be profitable, and I heard it from a 15 year old student in rural Australia!

Maybe our future is brighter than I thought.

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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

Celebrating Rural Women

  (L-R) Jenni Finn from Factory and Field in Cohuna, Lauren Mathers from Bundarra Berkshires in Barham, and Andrea Harrison from Kawaii Kids in Birchip, engaged in conversation with Kerry Anderson to celebrate the International Day of Rural Women on 15 October, 2017.

(L-R) Jenni Finn from Factory and Field in Cohuna, Lauren Mathers from Bundarra Berkshires in Barham, and Andrea Harrison from Kawaii Kids in Birchip, engaged in conversation with Kerry Anderson to celebrate the International Day of Rural Women on 15 October, 2017.

On 15 October, to celebrate the International Day of Rural Women, Kerry Anderson invited three female entrepreneurs to share their inspirational stories of starting a rural business.

What a pleasure and privilege to have these three dynamic and extremely busy women together in a room sharing their passion for starting a rural based business.  Their introductions alone were inspirational.

Jenni Finn: Factory and Field, Cohuna 

LINK TO FACEBOOK PAGE

When Cohuna teenager Jenni Finn got a casual job in an orange juice factory in the 1980’s she had no idea that one day she would own that historic building – originally a butter factory - and establish one of her home town’s most successful businesses in recent years.  Tucked away on a back road in an industrial estate, Factory and Field is not exactly where you’d expect to find a popular home wares and gift store and that is part of its charm.  Opened in somewhat of a rush in September 2013, Jenni’s vision is rushing ahead in leaps and bounds as she continues to bring her ideas into reality across the four acre industrial site.

Andrea Harrison: Kawaii Kids, Birchip 

LINK TO WEBSITE

What do you do when you live in an isolated rural community and can’t buy shoes for your toddler?  Well, if you’re Andrea Harrison from the agricultural town of Birchip, you start up your own online business, Kawaii Kids, importing children’s shoes and clothing.  Operating from the family home; clothes were stored in industrial containers in the back yard and a laptop on a small desk in the hallway acted as a business hub.  Fast forward a decade, Andrea has opened a retail store in Horsham and collaborated with retailers Australia wide to manufacture a specialist baby range. 

Lauren Mathers: Bundarra Berkshires, Barham 

LINK TO WEBSITE

In 2009 a lone Berkshire sow ‘Doris’ was the beginning of what Lauren Mathers envisioned as a whole herd of free roaming black heritage pigs rooting about improving the soil.  “Bundarra” is Lauren’s family free range Bio-dynamic farm on the Murray River just outside the small township of Barham in Southern NSW. The farm itself was dormant land that she and husband Lachlan saw potential in and, after years of patience, the farm was finally theirs.  Not content with just breeding, Lauren learned the skills of butchery and in 2013 started processing all meat onsite.

How did they gain the confidence to start a new business venture?

Research has shown than over 30 percent of people are more likely to go into business if they know someone in business, most often a family member or close friend.  In Jenni and Lauren’s case this happened to be their grandmothers who had also started businesses.

‘Nanna comes into Factory and Field and likes to remind me that it is all because of her,’ Jenni confided with a laugh.

Confidence is a huge impediment to anyone starting out in business especially for rural women with no formal business skills. 

A classic attribute of an entrepreneur is a quiet self-belief in themselves.  Rather than blindly take a leap of faith they avidly research to the point where they are both excited and confident that they have a great business idea.

All three women alluded to this as they spoke about their vision and the determination to bring their new businesses into reality.

‘You have to have an appetite to take a risk,’ Lauren admitted.

Andrea, who lays awake at night dreaming of all the things she would like to do, believes that you have to be passionate about what you do otherwise you wouldn’t do it.

Overcoming financial barriers.

One of the biggest hurdles in establishing a business is accessing finance, and right from the start it became evident for each of the women that a business loan from a bank is not the answer.

Jenni’s advice is ‘don’t accept the first no.’  Factory and Field was born in a bit of a rush; three months to be exact.  She made the decision in July, purchased stock at a trade fair in August and opened in September.  While the bank had been happy to support the purchase of the building, it wasn’t prepared to finance the business.  Undeterred Jenni gave the building a bit of a tidy up and used her personal credit card to purchase stock.  Thankfully she sold out on opening night and had the cash to stock up for the next influx.

Andrea and Lauren also found alternate ways of funding their business activities.

Andrea managed to self-fund the start of her business but recalls how a bank wouldn’t loan her money to expand despite the impressive cash flow figures she presented. Having no credit history was a bitter lesson.

Financial pressure can be felt every time there is a major investment in stock or improvement to the business.  Cashflow is crucial.  At times Andrea admitted to anxiously waiting for the EFTPOS sales to be deposited into her account just to cover her expenses.  While determined to keep the business separate from the family assets, at one point the family car was sold but thankfully it was a short term solution.

In 2014, a commercial kitchen was required when Lauren wanted to take her business a step further making traditionally cured pork products to sell online and at Farmers Markets. Cashing in on the great goodwill there is for free-range products, she used a crowd funding platform, Pozible, to successfully raise $18,000 ($3,000 more than required) for the project.

The panel agreed that it was worth looking at other short-term options such as a personal loan or through an online lender such as Prospa.  While the rates are higher, they are far more accessible.

Balancing business and family life.

With Lauren a mother of three, and Andrea a mother of four, they clearly rely on a lot of passion and drive to nurture a young family and business at the same time.  It’s not always easy but business does have some advantages over a 9 to 5 job.

‘I work every spare minute that I have,’ Lauren admitted. In addition to a little bit of child care relief, she often works into the night as and when the need arises. ‘It gets me ahead and puts me in a better place.’

Child care is also a lifeline for Andrea especially when she heads to the retail store in Horsham. Her time is much more flexible at home dealing with the online side of the business. 

‘I couldn’t do this without the support of Daniel my husband,’ she is quick to acknowledge. ‘And when he is busy with cropping on the farm I have to hold back on my business so he can concentrate on what he needs to do.’

Like many children of working parents their children grow up thinking it is normal to be in a work environment.  Their mothers are role models demonstrating that it is possible to control your own destiny in a rural town.

Jenni’s children were teenagers when she started her business giving her much more freedom to put in the long hours although she does admit that perhaps they were a little ignored. ‘I don’t think they really cared at that age,’ she smiles.

Already her 16-year-old daughter is working part time in the business and has developed valuable skills.  ‘My daughter is capable of running the business and has already done so when I can’t be here.’  There will be no shortage of opportunities as Jenni prepares to open another business, Factory and Field Waffles in the main street of Cohuna.

Despite the hard work and frequent frustrations, Jenni, Andrea and Lauren clearly love being in business.

‘The best thing about being in business for me is the satisfaction I get from people picking up my garments in store and loving them, without knowing that they were once only an idea in my head,’ explained Andrea.

It was of significance that this celebration was held at Factory and Field.  Four years ago, as part of an Operation Next Gen conversation, I brought a group of local leaders to this vacant building and challenged them to look at existing landscapes with fresh eyes.  Jenni did exactly that and, within six months, this old butter factory was experiencing another exciting chapter in its long history.  

With the vision, passion and determination of an entrepreneur anything is possible, especially with a supportive local community.

 

Kerry Anderson, author of Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business, works with rural towns all over Australia.

www.kerryanderson.com.au

5 Thought Starters

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Before our year gets too busy, it's a great time to think about how we want to make a positive difference in 2018. Here are five thought starters.

#1 Changing the narrative on 'small'

While some 'experts' try and tell us that density of population is required to succeed, there is growing evidence that quality not quantity is the real measure. With plenty of case studies to support this theory, let's start by changing the narrative for small business and communities.

What are shrink smart communities?

Are rural people more entrepreneurial?

#2 The future is already here!

We can't afford to be complacent in a fast changing world. There are so many opportunities but are we recognising them and taking advantage of them?

The 4 kinds of leaders who create the future

How future proof is your business and community?

#3 Equipping young people for a changing world

Learning essential skills and changing the conversation from job seeking to job creation is essential for our young people to succeed.

How education should build the future

Why are so many college graduates unemployed?

#4 Preparing rural towns for opportunity and growth

As our cities get more expensive and crowded there are many opportunities for rural and regional growth but how do you manage it?

Are you ready for a rural and regional influx?

Preparing for rural community growth

#5 Change doesn't happen overnight

Last year I was privileged to assist with a research project on the collective impact of grants distributed by the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) over a sixteen year period.  Measuring outcomes over the long rather than short term is so much more meaningful and something that we should all be building into the programs and projects we contribute to. The following story is a case in point.

What a great outcome that tourism has been significantly boosted over the past four years in Cohuna. It is far from coincidence that Operation Next Gen was launched four years ago and great recognition of the local community that, with strong support from the Gannawarra Shire, took control of its own destiny and created the #GetYourBacksideCreekside campaign.  WIN TV story via Facebook

I'm looking forward to collaborating with you in 2018 to see how we can create positive change for your rural community.

How future proof is your business and community?

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BY KERRY ANDERSON

If we don’t even bother to ask that question, there is potential for looming disaster.

Sitting in a predominantly young audience at a Pivot Summit held recently in Geelong, it suddenly occurred to me that this generation has no conception of a world pre-computers and the internet.

We were listening to Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak’s reminiscences of building a computer from scratch because it was the equivalent to the cost of a house to buy in the 1970’s.  Who would have thought that today we would have access to a mini computer courtesy of our smart phone! In fact, who would have thought we’d be carrying our own personal phone not connected by wire to a wall?

Times are changing so rapidly in this digital and technological age.  Every decade sees major innovation.  Not only new products being invented but the way we work and do everyday tasks is changing.

With the acceleration of driverless cars on to the market, there is a strong chance that the toddlers in our families will never need a driver’s license.  Instead there will be a market for recreational driving tracks, similar to riding schools for horses.  And cars will be fitted out with beds and luxury screens as customers book an overnight ride from Melbourne to Sydney.  Concert tickets may include a pick-up service.  The list is endless for discerning business people.

Which brings me to the question. How future proof is your business and community?

If we don’t even bother to ask that question, there is potential for looming disaster.  I see it time and time again. A disgruntled business owner closing their doors because they have kept doing the same old thing and wondering why their customers were disappearing. 

In my experience there are three good reasons for innovating your business: Growing profits, increasing safety and efficiency, and staying relevant.  If you don’t offer that new experience, product or service to your customers, someone else will.

It makes good sense to keep an eye on new trends and to give yourself the space to think creatively.  For some this comes naturally, for others it is a foreign language.  How can we get ourselves into this head space?

The gurus tell us that we should be reading a new book each week.  Hmmm. Well at least follow some interesting blogs on social media that you can skip through over a coffee.

As painful as it may be to take time out of the business, it is important to sign up for at least one interesting business-related event each year.  Choose something different. Even an online webinar with an obscure title!

For some a personal business coach may be the answer but it will depend on the quality of that coach as to what results you will get.

Some of the greatest insights come from everyday conversations and observations.  The idea for a McDonald’s drive through came from a bank installing a drive through night safe for its business customers.

My advice is to tear yourself away from your usual peer group.  Always be curious and make new conversations. 

And, from a community perspective the same applies. There are three reasons why rural communities need to pay attention.

#1  Traditional industries are struggling to be competitive in a global market

#2 The way we work is changing with technologies

#3 An ageing population is placing stress on our services

The trick is to anticipate change and explore alternatives well before that major industry your community relies on closes its doors and young people move away to places where new and exciting ideas are the norm.

It's your choice!


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

Valuing our entrepreneurs

Welcome to Global Entrepreneurship Week 2017. To celebrate we are offering 7 free webinars over 7 days tailored especially for rural Australia.

Valuing our entrepreneurs: What are the attributes of an entrepreneur?  Am I one or is someone I know? It could even be a student in my class? Why are they so important?


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 http://www.kerryanderson.com.au/about/

Are rural people more entrepreneurial?

BY KERRY ANDERSON

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During an entrepreneurship workshop I was recently facilitating for a dairy community in north-central Victoria, I was asked this interesting question.  Are rural people more entrepreneurial than in the city?

It was a great question and one that I have pondered many times over the past six years I’ve been exploring rural entrepreneurship here and overseas.  Instead of being compelled to argue with my city counterparts that rural entrepreneurs are also worthy of celebrating, I was being asked to judge whether they are, in fact, more entrepreneurial.

Here is what I think and I welcome your thoughts as well.

In a rural town there are fewer employment options hence I think that it is natural there is a higher interest in small business ownership and creation.

It is also no secret that adversity is a great breeding ground for entrepreneurs.  On top of all the economic downturns experienced by our city counterparts, rural Australian communities are routinely impacted by fire, flood and drought.

No matter where you live, as businesses close or staff levels are reduced due to automation, it is often a trigger for people with creative minds to ponder what opportunities they can create for themselves, often creating employment for others in the process.

Rural communities include some of the most innovative people I know.  Problem solving is a common attribute. Hours away from a spare parts depot, rural people are adept at banging up their own solution in the workshop. Some wonderful inventions have come out of rural industries and they continue to innovate all the time to remain competitive in a global market.

Through density of population there are clearly more job choices in cities and arguably customers.  However; for three reasons, I would argue that small business creation is more popular in the bush. 

1.       The cost of purchasing real estate and living in a rural town is far cheaper not to mention the benefit of enjoying a clean, green lifestyle.

2.       In what is being referred to as the digital age, there is an increasing mix of opportunities not to mention a global market, for online and remote businesses. 

3.       Rural communities value small business and are incredibly supportive as customers, mentors and investors.

While genuine entrepreneurs are few and far between, and they can be found in any city or rural town; my feeling is that through adversity entrepreneurs are compelled to act on their ideas more in rural areas.

What are your thoughts?


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

A Collaborative Culture

Increased connectivity and technology is heralding a new economic era with new opportunities and it is up to us (the people) to take advantage of it. Any community, no matter how big or small, has the capacity to develop an entrepreneur ecosystem if it can embrace a collaborative culture.  And, no, this is not just my opinion.  430 entrepreneurship advocates worldwide agree!

Given that I’ve long advocated that the key to strengthening our rural towns is a ‘whole of community conversation’ focussed on encouraging entrepreneurs, imagine my excitement when I was one of only two Australians invited to attend the inaugural E*SHIPSummit held in Kansas City on 21-23 June, 2017. 

Put 430 diverse entrepreneurship advocates in the room and you will get very different perspectives on what is most important in an entrepreneur ecosystem.  Like myself, a few were involved in broadly based programs, but most work in specialist roles that support start-ups or economic development.

Regardless, we could all agree on one thing.  Actively encouraging and supporting entrepreneurs in every city and town is important and there is not just one way to do it; it has to be a multi-faceted and collaborative approach.

We all had a mission at the summit. To help the Kauffman Foundation articulate why entrepreneur ecosystems are important and provide practical examples of how they can be fostered.

The framework that has resulted from research and discussions to date is delightfully simple and I can’t wait for the extended version to share because this is already a fantastic tool for us all to use.  I particularly fell in love with the graphic above because it aptly describes how an effective framework works and the value that every Pitchfest, start-up conference, and networking event contributes to developing a stronger ecosystem. 

People are undoubtedly the centre of an entrepreneurial ecosystem and where they are able to connect they naturally contribute to an ecosystem. But how do we get them to connect?  Sometimes it is through a program, an incubator, or networking events.  And they naturally gravitate towards each other because of common interests.  In a modern world of technology we can connect in the virtual world as well and I know many successful business people who develop ideas and partnerships through twitter hashtags, Facebook discussion groups and other mediums.

It is important to note that when we are talking about people we are including both the entrepreneurs and the people who support them – the very important champions and convenors. They are the enablers who help entrepreneurs in a variety of ways whether it be as advocates, mentors, investors, or customers. They are the people who influence policy that paves the way for ecosystems to develop.

Talent is another important factor. Nurturing the skills and talent required to drive the entrepreneurial business activities forward is essential. This is why business and educators need to work together so that talent supply and demand are efficiently matched.  In a fast paced world where many future careers haven’t been invented yet agile and adaptable skill sets such as critical thinking and data analysis are far more valuable than a defined career qualification.

In developing the framework we also talked about the need for onramps, an open door providing opportunities to grow networks and encourage new diverse talent to join the conversation.

Intersections was another important part of the framework; places where people can meet to develop ideas and fill gaps or talents.  Onramps and intersections are mostly aided by events bringing people together whether they be in person or in a virtual community.

As people gather together and collectively tell their story and articulate their dreams it makes it possible to articulate the community’s story and help shape your community’s future. Of course this will only be successful if we focus on the positive stories and leave the negatives ones behind.

There was no doubt that increased connectivity and technology is heralding a new economic era with new opportunities and new ways of operating.  It is up to us to take advantage of it.  In fact, with my novel Australian accent, I had the honour of informing the mostly USA delegates that America's old economic development model is officially dead! 

The reality in this modern world of technology is that any community, no matter how big or small, has the capacity to develop an entrepreneur ecosystem if it can embrace a collaborative culture.  Collaboration, cooperation, and trust will inspire people to advance their ideas more quickly, help each other, and be open to new and wonderful ideas never dreamed of before.

Yes, the framework is incredibly important, and if you get that in place along with these seven design principles, then everything else will flow more easily. 

#1Put entrepreneurs front and centre
#2 Foster conversations
#3 Enlist collaborators (everyone is invited!)
#4 Live the values
#5 Connect people (in every direction)
#6 Tell your community's authentic story
#7 Start and be patient

I am pleased to confirm that the Operation Next Gen program and its ‘whole of community conversation’ approachis on the right track when critiqued against these principles.

And now is probably a good point at which I should confess my bias. Perhaps not everyone agrees that small rural communities have the capacity to develop a successful ecosystem of note but I am determined to change that thinking. What the rest of the world and my city colleagues have to understand is that even just one successful entrepreneur, supported by a collaborative culture, can reverse population decline and enable a small town to not only survive but thrive.  While we may not have the physical density of population, we have a vested interest - it is our future at stake.  Rural towns more than make up for lack of density with passion and can access an extended virtual support community.

My sincere thanks goes to the Kauffman Foundation for honouring me with an invitation to the summit and accessing their incredible resources to further this conversation. I look forward to continuing to collaborate with my expanded network of ecosystem builders here in Australia and the USA.

Operation Next Gen

BY KERRY ANDERSON

At some point in time every rural town faces major change. Like every good business the trick is to anticipate that change and explore alternatives well before it happens.  And sometimes, to save your town, it means the whole community has to work together.

"Losing 230 jobs in a town with a population of 2000 would be equivalent to losing 460,000 jobs in Melbourne," wrote Ed Gannon in The Weekly Times as he recently lamented the loss of the timber industry in his home town of Heyfield. He admits that the industry has been under threat and gradually declining over multiple decades but the final blow has still been devastating to the people involved.

Similarly, Morwell in the Latrobe Valley is reeling from the announced closure this month of the Hazelwood Power Station that employs 750 people. A huge impact on another community with a population of just over 13,000 as evidenced by a recent episode of Insight on SBS.

Heyfield and Morwell are far from isolated in this experience. Rural towns world wide are all having to reinvent themselves to survive which is why the Operation Next Gen Program was first developed in Australia to help communities look at existing landscapes with fresh eyes and understand the importance of encouraging and supporting entrepreneurs.

The key is to get the whole community on board and working cohesively together.  Yes, easier said than done, but it can be achieved with a bit of pre-planning, some enthusiastic community leadership, and a lot of good will. 

I have seen the evidence with my own eyes in rural Nebraska where organisations such as the Heartland Center and Center for Rural Entrepreneurship have been tackling the issue of declining rural communities for over 35 years. Building an entrepreneurial ecosystem is considered to be the solution to this widespread problem.

A great example of the success of this approach is the rural community of Ord in Valley County.  Ord has a rural population of 2,112 in the township, or 4,647 if you count the whole county.  This community worked strategically and cohesively to turn around huge issues similar to what we are experiencing in many rural towns here in Australia. 

When I spoke with Ord community leaders back in 2013 they had some pretty impressive results to report from their 12 year campaign.  During this period the Ord community had attracted $125 million of private and public investment and created 100 new businesses and 350 new jobs.  The benefits have been wide spread.  In addition to unemployment levels dropping and wages rising, there has been retail growth and the value of properties has risen.   Things are looking much brighter in Ord than they were 15 years ago when they were considering a particularly glum future.

Trust me, this success was not by accident.  A community wide economic plan was agreed upon and a Community Foundation was established specifically for the purpose of supporting new start-up businesses and business expansion.  The County (Shire Council), Chamber of Commerce, School and community leaders came together and all took responsibility to drive various initiatives to ensure the plan’s success.  A paid facilitator helped to keep the key partners informed and engaged.

Oh how I look forward to reporting on similar outcomes here in Australia as part of the Operation Next Gen Program that was first trialled with the rural towns of Birchip, Boort and Cohuna in 2013-14. 

But first we need to establish if a community is ready to successfully take on this challenge.  Here are a few of the key indicators that you can apply to your own community’s state of readiness.

Understanding of the challenges.   What if our community doesn’t understand the issues or the importance of them?  Then this is your number one priority as our political leaders recently discovered in the Federal election.  Don’t wait until you lose a major industry or your last bank or supermarket in town.  Being proactive in analysing the health of your community which is underpinned by the diversity of business and employment opportunities is essential, as is understanding that if business is doing well then so will the rest of your community.

Understanding of the opportunities.  One of our biggest inhibitors is thinking that we have to keep on doing the same old thing in the same old way.  News flash:  Times are changing!  We need to be able to look at existing landscapes with fresh eyes in the context of the technological revolution.  By all means celebrate tradition but don’t get bogged down in it if you want to survive.  The future is all about being adaptable and agile.

Engagement with entrepreneurs.  Understanding the needs and desires of entrepreneurs - both young people and those changing careers - and looking at ways that they can be assisted to build their businesses is essential.  They are our future and, even if they do leave town to study and travel, make them feel connected and know they will be supported upon their return.

Strong Leadership.  Not just in council or in our community and industry groups.  We need a network of leaders who proactively collaborate to come up with a big vision plan that has consistency across the whole community.  Invest in your leaders to ensure that they can be strong, positive, consistent and inclusive in their leadership style.

Inclusive.   I cannot stress enough the importance of involving everyone in your community in this discussion.  At the very least they will understand why these plans are important and hopefully they will provide creative input and take ownership of some of the activities.  Get over the silo approach and respect that everyone has different ways of thinking and processing.  Find the initiatives that you can agree on and run with them.  Success will breed success.

Prepared to commit to the long haul.  In what appears to be the era of instant gratification we need to understand that this won’t happen overnight.  We have to be prepared to celebrate the small milestones along the way and keep revisiting that big picture vision to remind ourselves of where our communities are heading.

Do you think your Australian rural town is in a state of readiness for positive change through an entrepreneurial ecosystem? If so, I’d love to hear from you.


KERRY ANDERSON:  A businesswoman, author, and community advocate from Central Victoria, Kerry is passionate about rural and regional Australia.  She works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. READ MORE

Entrepreneurship: It’s everybody’s businessBOOK

Era of the Entrepreneur

 Kerry Anderson is talking about changing the conversation from job seeking to job creation.

Kerry Anderson is talking about changing the conversation from job seeking to job creation.

OUR world is rapidly changing.  As connectivity improves, services that used to be provided by employees are now being contracted to freelancers.  An ageing population is stressing an economy that desperately needs more business creation. We need to start thinking of entrepreneurship and self-employment as a mainstream option, and to do this we need to change the conversation from job seeking to job creation.

Research any high profile entrepreneur and you will most likely hear about how they ‘hated school’ and ‘dropped out of college.’ This was a common story when I interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs across rural Australia for my book.  

While far from academically minded, entrepreneurs are resourceful people who love solving a problem by looking for a solution. As well as an ability to look at things differently, they have a quiet self-belief and the confidence to persevere.  And yes, they love to experiment and accept failure as part of their pathway to success.

So, when I hear an educator talk about a ‘disengaged student’ or a community member mentions a ‘dreamer’, it is music to my ears. These are the individuals who are most likely to be innovative and entrepreneurial. But who will recognise and support them?

Anyone who has a family member or close friend in business is over 30 percent more likely to go into business themselves. In the meantime there are countless students and the unemployed being channeled through a job seeking system.  How can we inspire them to take control of their own destiny?

Any activity or program designed to encourage entrepreneurs and support business has to fulfill three essential criteria.  To inspire people who want to lead, not follow, it has to be engaging, authentic and relevant.

Clearly, educators and employment consultants cannot achieve this on their own.  It is absolutely essential to forge strong partnerships with the business sector and community leaders.

Let’s change the conversation together. Quite simply, our future depends on it.


Kerry Anderson is author of Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business and has developed an engaging, authentic and relevant Be Your Own Boss program for schools and organisations to implement with their local community.

Why Business is Important

 

BY KERRY ANDERSON, author of Entrepreneurship: It's everybody's business.

Being successful in business is my greatest contribution to the community.’ - Tom Smith

My personal journey to talk up business and publish a book first began in 2010 when I accompanied a group of young farmers on a road tour to some amazing places to meet some amazing people. When I introduced them to Tom Smith, a pork grower from Yarrawalla in north-west Victoria, I asked Tom what I thought was a straight forward question and got an unexpected response.

Knowing of his long term community work, I asked Tom what he considered to be his most valuable contribution to the community. His simple but very clear answer has stayed with me to this day.

‘Being successful in business is my greatest contribution to the community,’ Tom replied. He quietly went on to explain that by being successful in business he was able to employ over 30 people which in turn allowed them and their families to live in the region, attend the local schools, and benefit the whole community in so many different ways.

Since listening to Tom, I’ve become more aware of just how negative our society is about business and how little we understand about the important role that business plays in our wellbeing overall.

‘Big business’ is constantly bucketed in the media and deemed ‘greedy’ and ‘unethical’ often without any real basis or analysis. Being successful can be subject to the ‘tall poppy syndrome’ treatment. ‘Social enterprise’ has become the preferred choice of terminology, almost as if an apology for it being a business.

None of this reflects all the wonderful business people I know that do so much for their communities.

Tom opened my eyes to why a healthy business sector should be the number one priority of every Australian, regardless of whether they reside in a rural town or a large city.

When it comes to understanding why entrepreneurs and business in general are so important, it comes down to two important points. The first is that we can’t all be employees otherwise who would employ us? The second is that we need a majority of our population contributing revenue through the tax system to provide all those essential government services such as health, education and welfare that our growing population relies on.

With baby boomers reaching retirement age we are fast approaching a catastrophic imbalance, with far less revenue being contributed to support a growing population. Underpinning our entire country’s health and wellbeing is the ability for the majority of our population to be gainfully employed and this is where the business sector plays an important role.

The CSRIO’s 2016 ‘Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce’ is heralding the next 20 years as the era of the entrepreneur and we can only hope that many more will take up the challenge.

So, my advice is to be loud and proud if you are successful in business and know that by doing so you are helping your whole community.


KERRY ANDERSON:  A businesswoman, author, and community advocate from Central Victoria, Kerry is passionate about rural and regional Australia.  She works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. READ MORE

Excerpt from Entrepreneurship: It’s everybody’s business.

Solar Relief

BY KERRY ANDERSON

Cyclone Yasi’s destructive path in 2011 provided an opportunity for Trent Small, an enterprising Townsville businessman, to put his creative thinking and practical skills into action. Solar Relief, is being hailed as an important tool for disaster relief and is set to go world-wide with the assistance of investors.

In February 2011, when tropical Cyclone Yasi wreaked its devastation across the south pacific and made landfall in Townsville Queensland, Trent Small and his family were one of thousands affected by power outages for a number of days.

‘We were all rushing out to get ice and generators to try and save our food,’ recalls Trent. ‘At the same time I kept looking at my neighbour’s roof full of solar panels. It seemed crazy that no-one could access the power they were generating.’

With this challenge in mind, Trent set about solving a problem that has taken him in a life changing direction.

Having been through what he calls the ‘school of hard knocks’ Trent was well prepared for such a challenge.  ‘When I left school I started a traineeship with a steel company but I always wanted to start my own business so I also did some Law and Economics at University.’  By age 21 he was self-employed and hasn’t looked back.

When Cyclone Yasi hit, Trent was proprietor of an established business, Absolute Building Supplies, that helped immensely in his new quest to create a portable solar power solution.

Because of the Federal Government’s existing solar scheme, he already had a good understanding of solar technology.  ‘I’d already looked into it and educated myself,’ explains Trent who went on to sell a half dozen of the grid systems before deciding that it didn’t meet his vision for a sustainable future. ‘There were too many people and over-inflated prices with a smash and grab mentality,’ he shrugs. ‘I chose to walk away.’

Trent’s vision was now clearly focused on a portable solar product that could be quickly deployed anywhere in the world at times of natural disaster and crisis.

Almost every week since Yasi Trent continues to see instances where his portable solar power pack could make a difference. At the time of our interview world news was reporting on a power outage at a Uganda Hospital. ‘There were three deaths in three hours,’ recalls Trent. ‘This could be totally preventable.’

A crucial aspect of being portable was the storage of power.  He believed the answer was to develop a diverse product that could be charged in a number of different ways using solar and alternators off a car or generator, as well as be used as a UPS unit and off mains power. Even wind power was thrown into the mix.

In true Australian style he started experimenting with a battery box in an eskie, before progressing to custom manufacturing moulds with input provided by the Australian Defence Force and Emergency Services.

The non-reflective solar panels weigh four kilograms and fold down to 580x580 millimetres. The total weight of a patented PPS (portable power supply) unit starts at 40 kilograms.

Up until this point Trent has invested his own time and money into the product development while his original business, Absolute Building Supplies, is developing a complimentary product; fully recycled, lego style building materials to provide quick and ready shelter following a disaster.

Once Solar Relief hit the point of commercialisation and ticked all the stringent safety regulation standards, it became a separate company and is currently taking pre-orders.  Trent is also seeking investors and talking with potential partners such as the United Nations and Rotary International that can help take the product where it is most needed around the world.

Not only is he passionate about disaster relief, he has a vision for a clean sustainable future for third world countries.

‘I’ve got a product which I now believe is part of the solution to solve world energy poverty,’ he explains. ‘There’s over 2.6 billion who don’t have access to reliable electricity and another 1.3 billion people who don’t have any access to electricity.  We can take solar relief anywhere in the world and put down on the ground in a helicopter in any disaster area.’

Powering communication, lighting and medical devices in a disaster area can clearly save lives.  Not only that, poverty can be alleviated. Trent explains how he and some colleagues recently delivered three PPS units to schools and villages in remote Fiji devastated by cyclone Winston

‘Without power the school couldn’t even print out exams for the kids to do,’ Trent says incredulously. ‘Our Facebook site lights up every day with hits from all around the world, people are crying out for this product.’

Trent is understandably satisfied with his efforts and now wants to get it out to the world.

‘We’ve created something that can really solve a global issue.’


KERRY ANDERSON:  A businesswoman, author, and community advocate from Central Victoria, Kerry is passionate about rural and regional Australia.  She works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. READ MORE

Entrepreneurship: It’s everybody’s businessBOOK

The Dressmaker

More than a skewed small town fable ...

BY KERRY ANDERSON

VIEWING The Dressmaker for the second time last night (on this special occasion under the stars in outback Queensland) I had the opportunity to reflect on what lessons could be learned from this now iconic Australian movie.

Earlier in the day, author, Rosalie Ham, explained to delegates at the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association meeting in Alpha how she joined a literary course at TAFE and was instructed to write a story and go through the motions of publishing it.  Drawing on her somewhat skewed childhood memories of growing up in a town of 800 people with a seamstress mother, Rosalie inserted a murder, a cross dresser, a fiercely fought football game, hate, envy, and the obligatory love story into the story line. The Dressmaker was the end result. Not only did it get published, it was made into a movie!

When I first went to see the film it was for a number of different reasons.  It was Australian and filmed in rural Victoria near where I live, plus it featured a small rural town in the story line, albeit fictional. Most of all, it was because my mother, raised on a farm in Gippsland, was trained as a dressmaker.  We went to the movie together, along with my daughter who has also inherited her grandmother’s skills.

As an advocate for rural Australia I have to say that the depiction of Dungatar as a small town and the grating idiosyncrasies of its inhabitants in The Dressmaker was hardly ideal but of course we can’t be too precious about that. We all understand the need for drama and humour to entertain.

What I clearly saw of value in the movie, however, was a young woman able to be innovative and to create her own income in a rural town as did her mother before her.

Up until we left home as young adults my mother made all of our clothes. Often I was stopped by complete strangers and asked what brand my dress was. Leaving school and starting work in an office I had the snappiest wardrobe you could ever hope to have.  I never thought anything of it at the time other than it was an obvious cost saving for a rural family struggling to raise four children, pay off a mortgage, and establish an earthmoving business.

 I felt very smart in my red pantsuit made by my very talented dressmaker mother.

I felt very smart in my red pantsuit made by my very talented dressmaker mother.

Mum’s skills as a dressmaker also enabled her to create a small income to support the family budget.  Many a fitting for a wedding dress took place in our home with mum threatening blue murder if we dared to go near the precious folds of white material.  Like Rosalie we heard all the behind the scenes dramas of the nervous brides.

While I pursued a totally different career path, my daughter demonstrated hands on skills at an early age. For her twelfth birthday we gave her a second hand sewing machine to make saddle blankets for her horses.  After completing secondary college she purchased a small business named Fair Dinkum Dog Coats and began manufacturing oilskin dog coats with industrial sewing machines in her grandmother’s sewing shed.

It really was lovely to see grandmother and grand-daughter working together on orders to go Australia wide and overseas.  Mum has since retired but it won’t be long before the next generation, my daughter’s daughters, may be able to participate.

So, the moral of this story is that, whatever your skill, it can provide you with the capacity to work and live wherever you want including in rural towns. That's what I took away from The Dressmaker.

And, as Rosalie told us in Alpha, rural kids are innovative, progressive and modern. They can do ANYTHING!


KERRY ANDERSON:  A businesswoman, author, and community advocate from Central Victoria, Kerry is passionate about rural and regional Australia.  She works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. READ MORE

Entrepreneurship: It’s everybody’s businessBOOK 

Blooming Technology

BY KERRY ANDERSON

When Sarah Sammon helped reinvent her mother’s farm comprising 1,000 rose plants in 2004, no-one in the cut flower industry could have foreseen just how much this new business would change and bloom.

In what was initially perceived as a problem Sarah saw an opportunity.

Spurred on by her inability to get a job with a career focus upon returning to her home town of Swan Hill, Sarah put her science degree and entrepreneurial spirit to good use researching alternatives to a struggling cut flower industry. 

‘At this time traditional confetti started being frowned upon at wedding venues because it caused staining and was not biodegradable,’ explains Sarah. ‘We saw an opportunity and went for it.’

Simply Rose Petals was subsequently launched on an unsuspecting public by this dynamic mother daughter duo. And when I say launched, I mean it in every possible way including confetti cannons that shoot the petals up to 14 feet high and the product being featured on popular Australian television shows such as The Bachelor, X Factor, Dancing With The Stars, The Bachelorette and Big Brother!

Sarah has constantly utilised technology to keep Simply Rose Petals ahead of the many competitors that subsequently scrambled to follow in their footsteps.

Specialised technology allows their rose petals to be freeze-dried, packaged and shipped to 15 countries around the world.   Such has been the demand, that they have expanded their number of rose plants from 1,000 to 6,000.

From her rural office surrounded by roses on the banks of the mighty Murray River, Sarah literally spends thousands of hours online each year researching ideas to keep taking the business forward. Social media has played a major factor. Scholarships and awards have also been useful tools.

In 2006 she received a Churchill Fellowship to travel to eleven countries exploring effective processing, packaging and storage techniques, and the latest mechanisation trends in the flower industry. With harvesting of rose petals the most labour intensive activity, Sarah had hoped to discover a way of mechanising this process during her Fellowship. 

‘Unfortunately I was unable to discover a machine that was capable of removing the petals without damaging or bruising them,’ she admits. She was, however, able to analyse the latest in air-drying versus freeze-drying technology to help make important decisions for their business.

Her quest for more knowledge is ongoing. Through a Nuffield Scholarship in 2014 Sarah explored further uses for rose petals including edible and organic rose petals in a growing ‘foodie’ culture, spurred on by cooking shows such as MasterChef.

‘Despite food certification challenges in Australia, the Nuffield tour convinced me that rose petals can be successfully produced organically and there is plenty of scope for creating specialty foods and nutritional supplements derived from rose petals,’ says Sarah.

With an insatiable curiosity and boundless enthusiasm driving her to continuously improve the business, it is no surprise that Sarah has been recognised as a finalist through the Telstra Businesswomen’s Awards and, in 2015, received the Veuve Clicquot New Generation Award for female Australian entrepreneur under 40.

Make no mistake. Constantly exploring opportunities to introduce new products, methods, and technologies, has been an integral part of this enterprising rural businesswoman’s journey.

Sarah’s top business tips:

1.   Every business requires a determination and persistence that can only be fuelled by passion and hard work. Make sure you are in it for the long haul and not the short financial gain.

2.   Innovation is achievable for everyone. It can be as simple as reinventing what's already out there or creating new packaging for your product that makes it easier for your customers to use.

3.   You can't expect your business to be healthy if you don't take care of yourself first. The health, fitness and mental wellbeing of the entrepreneur is crucial.

Simply Rose Petals Website

Churchill Trust Report   

Nuffield Report   


KERRY ANDERSON:  A businesswoman, author, and community advocate from Central Victoria, Kerry is passionate about rural and regional Australia.  She works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. READ MORE

Entrepreneurship: It’s everybody’s businessBOOK

An Entrepreneur's Journey

BY KERRY ANDERSON

Founded in 2010 to great accolades, The Butter Factory has responded to a need for growth by moving to larger premises at Moyhu in the north-east of Victoria, and rebranding itself as King Valley Dairy under a company structure with shareholders.  This latest milestone is testimony to the vision and determination of Naomi Ingleton who has enjoyed an interesting journey to finally find “her thing in life.” 

Starting at a very early age Naomi showed entrepreneurial tendencies.

“During the summer I would make ice-cream in an old wooden vat and then sit at the top of the track and sell ice-cream to the farmers passing by,” says Naomi recalling school holidays on her father’s potato farm in Gippsland.  “Then, while I was in the city living with mum, a friend and I would make chocolates and sell them outside her father’s barber shop.”

After training as a chef and travelling the world, Naomi returned to Australia and wanted to work on the farm despite being discouraged by her father who was contemplating retirement.  A visit to a friend in north-east Victoria during 2000, however, dramatically changed her direction.

While visiting, Brown Brothers offered Naomi three weeks work in their vineyard at Milawa.   After the short stint in hospitality finished she moved into vintage and started to expand her skills into other roles.  It didn’t take long for Naomi to purchase 80 acres of grazing land and decide this was where she was staying. 

“Gardening and horticulture are a passion of mine so I went and studied horticulture then did a Diploma of Agriculture at Dookie so I could learn a bit more about farm management.”

This led to a call from Stephanie Alexander who asked Naomi to help set up a kitchen garden in Wangaratta at the very first regional school outside Melbourne to participate in the pilot program.

Delighted with this new challenge Naomi spent a lot of time over the next year driving around the district getting in touch with farmers and food producers. Ultimately this led to another significant deviation in her entrepreneurial journey.

“I kept driving past this beautiful old empty building in Myrtleford,” recalls Naomi, “and thinking this is crazy, someone should do something with that!”

That ‘someone’ was obviously meant to be Naomi who succumbed to a whim and rang the real estate agent.  Three weeks later she had secured the lease to an old butter factory and started setting it up as a café.

In 2008 Naomi had her first child so it was a relief when her mother moved from the city the following year to help her out in the café at a particularly difficult time.

“In 2009 we had the bushfires, followed by the floods in 2010, and the global financial crisis.  High petrol prices were keeping the tourists away and we went for over three months with no business.  We just couldn’t rely on the local population to sustain the business.”

It was clear that something had to change and being someone who doesn’t like to give up, Naomi was ready for the challenge.  Recalling her father’s advice to “always stick to the staples,” she contemplated what else they could offer in the large space available to them.  It came to her one day while she was working in the kitchen preparing food.

“Here I was in an old butter factory, surrounded by dairy farms, and making a batch of butter for my customers.  It was a light bulb moment!”

Like many Australian chefs dissatisfied with the quality of commercial butter produced in Australia, Naomi was either making her own butter or purchasing it from France. 

As a result of Naomi’s light bulb moment, The Butter Factory was born in 2010 but it took a good twelve months for her to develop the idea and overcome a few barriers.

Sourcing the equipment was a major hurdle given that batch butter making on a commercial scale is no longer a common process undertaken in Australia.  Luck was with her when the local food safety inspector was sent a photograph of an unidentified object in a scrap yard.  Realising it was a 500 litre butter churn he immediately contacted Naomi who was only too happy to give it a home.

Converting from small to large scale production was another challenge.

“I’d never seen naturally cultured butter made on a commercial scale before and no-one was doing it here in Australia so I had to do a lot of research on google.”

Dairy Australia and the National Centre for Dairy Education were only too happy to help when contacted by Naomi for information but it came down to a lot of trial and error in the early days.  Eventually she applied for a Churchill Fellowship and, after the birth of her second child, travelled to France in 2012 to get advice from the masters.  Aware of the privilege of being invited into their inner sanctum, Naomi found it fascinating that they could maintain the quality on such a large scale.

“I got to ask in my very bad ‘Frenglish’ how they did it,” Naomi laughs.  “They replied ‘We’ve been doing this for 100 years and we don’t deviate’.”

With the benefit of her trip to France, Naomi returned to The Old Butter Factory, “tweaked a few things,” and started winning awards for the products being turned out.  A trophy was snared from the “big boys” at the Royal Melbourne Show followed by a bronze medal at the International Cheese Awards in the United Kingdom up against all the European entries.

Gaining a lot of confidence through this successful benchmarking, Naomi used it to every advantage in marketing The Butter Factory.  In addition to online sales, regular customers were gained through top end restaurant chains and resorts Australia wide.  It wasn’t long before getting up at 3.00am every Saturday morning to attend a Farmer’s Market with two babies in tow was a thing of the past.

However, with success comes the new challenge of not being able to meet market demand.  Naomi couldn’t keep up with the orders and found herself spending a lot of time dealing with customers instead of making butter.

“We decided that it might be best if we put our wholesale business with a distributor to manage the customers so that we could concentrate on making the product.”

What was a good decision at the time suddenly turned sour when the distribution company went into receivership three months later.  Back at square one, Naomi once again had to consider how to best manage the business through massive growth.

“We believed that this business could be big and it could be amazing,” explained Naomi “but we needed to move the factory to a bigger space, and doing the sums, we knew we needed a financial partner.”

While the new site, an old dairy factory, at Moyhu was quickly found, raising venture capital was unknown territory for Naomi and her partner David.

As well as signing up for an entrepreneurship mentoring program, she sought out the richest friends she knew for advice and access to a network of entrepreneurs and potential investors.  A friend with a venture capitalist background mentored her through the process.

Becoming a company has been another turning point in her journey.

“I’ve not had to be accountable to anyone before.  Now I’ve got a fancy job title of Managing Director and CEO.”

In addition to ramping production up from 2,000 litres to 16,000 litres a week, Naomi also has to produce shareholder reports and manage more staff.

With just a hint of relief in her voice Naomi is pleased to report that just about everything is in place now.  Production is already underway and they are on track to open up for visitors in the next few months despite a few hiccups with the local shire.

“Just because it says so doesn’t mean it is so,” retorts Naomi when recalling stringent requirements for city standard car parking in a rural setting.  Common sense prevailed when the alternative given by Naomi was to not open to the public.

“The whole business is focused just as much on tourism as it is manufacturing,” she says.  “We’re in such a beautiful area and it’s important to show people what we’re doing.”

Rebranding as King Valley Dairy in conjunction with the move to Moyhu has been a conscious decision to enable the business to develop other innovative and naturally cultured dairy products.

“We’re currently working with dairy farms in the area to explore a new yogurt product line,” says Naomi.  Her partner David’s training as a pharmacist is proving to be most useful in this process.

When asked what her advice is to other business people, Naomi immediately says “be confident you can do it,” adding that “often women have way too much self-doubt.”

Right from her early days Naomi has always found ways to earn an income and support herself.  Even when working for others she had a little business on the side but always felt that she was looking for more. 

“I have spent my life wondering if I will find something that I’m really good at and I’ve finally found my thing.”

CLICK HERE for more information about King Valley Dairy.


KERRY ANDERSON:  A businesswoman, philanthropist and community advocate from Central Victoria, Kerry Anderson is passionate about rural and regional Australia.  She works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. READ MORE

Entrepreneurship: It's everybody's business - BOOK

The Shoe Dilemma

What do you do when you live in an isolated rural community and can’t find shoes for your toddler?  Well, if you’re Andrea Harrison from Birchip, you start up your own online business importing children’s shoes and clothing.  Then you start manufacturing your own lines, collaborate on a specialist baby range with selected retail stores and introduce an upmarket point of sale system to cater for even more growth. And that’s just in the first nine years!

It all began when Andrea, a young mother and wife of a dryland farmer, wrestled with the shoe dilemma. 

“I started thinking that probably many other parents in rural areas were also experiencing the same issues,” says Andrea who didn’t just stop at sourcing shoes.  After experimenting with eBay, in 2007 she launched her online business, Kawaii Kids, selling children’s clothing and accessories imported from Japan, Korea and China. 

At this period in time online businesses in the rural sector were a rarity and won her a local business award as well as a Victorian Regional Achievement & Community Award in 2011.

Operating from the family home, clothes were stored in industrial containers in the back yard and a laptop on a small desk in the hallway acted as her business hub.  Birchip’s post office suddenly had a lot more throughput.  Recognising she was on a winner, Andrea started planning for growth when she was barely 12 months into the business.

Much has been achieved in almost a decade since launching her business career.

Her next step was to free up the family home by opening a retail store in Birchip.  A few years later it was relocated to the larger regional city of Horsham.  After being approached by a new shopping centre developer, Kawaii Kids then moved into the brand new Gateway Shopping Centre in Horsham in prime position next to Target.

“I was aware that it takes people 18 months to change their shopping habits and our landlord helped in many ways to us get through that initial period in the shopping centre,” says Andrea.

During this period she also worked a lot of days in the store to save on wages which gave her great insight into the shopping habits of customers.

“One big lesson I learned in retail was to stop listening to what people say and go with my own gut which is generally right,” she says.  “Shoppers are really savvy now and compare your products with online prices.  The big chain stores have copied a lot of the designer brands and saturated them online making it hard for the smaller stores.  My strategy is to stock brands that don’t have a big online presence. That is my main point of difference.”

As part of that point of difference Andrea has also started manufacturing her own line of children’s clothing under the Curious Wonderland brand which required her to take on a second lease when the adjacent store space became available.  Removal of the dividing wall allowed staff to service both businesses.

As always Andrea put a lot of thought and research into her new venture making the decision to rebrand away from Kawaii Kids so that either of the businesses could be sold separately in the future.

After being approached by one of her contacts in China about the possibility of manufacturing her own line of clothing, Andrea quickly leapt at the opportunity but it did come with some challenges, the first being finance. 

Instead of just buying a certain number of items off the rack she now had to commit to large quantities to make it viable.  Without a credit history – she had self-funded all her business activities to date – the banks would not consider a business loan despite the impressive cash flow figures she presented to them.  It was a bitter lesson for someone who had worked hard to prove her worth in the business world.

“We had to sell everything we possibly could, including the family car, to fund it. We really jumped in the deep end.”

Ironically, 12 months on with the new business proving its worth, the banks are finally starting to show interest.

The Curious Wonderland line was successfully launched at the Sydney Trade Show in February 2015 picking up 23 retailers on the spot.  It was a huge relief to Andrea who had considered the possibility that her own children may have to wear these clothes forever!

Another challenge was the uncertainty of whether customers would like what Andrea designed.  Based on her own children’s preferences (by now she had three) and following her own gut instincts, Andrea sketched out her own designs before passing them on to a graphic designer to prepare for the manufacturing stage.  Attention to detail on the Pantene colours and interpretation of the smaller design details were crucial.  Samples were scrutinised and evaluated by the ever vigilant Andrea.

“I’m very fussy and what I’m doing is very different to what everyone else is doing.  They’re getting to know me,” she laughs.

As always Andrea relentlessly researched every aspect of manufacturing in China during the lead up.

“I just hopped online to do my own research and joined retail groups on Facebook. I asked lots of questions about labeling and manufacturing,” says Andrea.  “You have to be aware of what chemicals are used in China that aren’t allowed in Australia. It would be devastating to have it pulled up in Customs.”

Despite being a great success overall, there has been a few expensive lessons along the way.  In Andrea’s words, “it’s been a huge learning curve.”

 A line of denim clothing ordered through a separate manufacturer was delayed by extended Chinese holidays missing delivery for the last winter season and resulting in cancelled orders. 

“I remember driving down to the docks in pouring rain aware that I had just thrown $55,000 down the toilet despite putting my heart and soul into it,” Andrea admits.  “I learnt the value of staying with just the one production run.”  She now understands the Chinese holiday system a bit better as well.

In her latest project manufacturing a range of baby clothes, Andrea has opted to minimise the risk by sharing the cost with seven other retailers who will get to exclusively stock the products.

“We’ve all agreed on the designs and prepared to try it out.  It’s not so risky and we don’t have to commit to such high quantities when the order is split between seven of us.  So far, so good.”

Andrea was strategic about who she invited into this collaboration, asking for expressions of interest through an online retail forum.  Selected store owners from Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria have agreed to pool their ideas and knowledge.

With growth in mind Andrea has also committed to Retail Express, a point of sale system that has the capacity to track inventory over multiple businesses, both instore and online.

“It will bring everything together and allow me to oversee all my businesses from home.”

Balancing family and seasonal farm priorities has been an ongoing challenge for Andrea who is grateful to have the support of her partner, Daniel.

“I’ve got so much I want to do,” she admits with a hint of frustration.  “My business is now contributing to the family income which is a relief given the number of dry years we’ve had.  It’s good not to have all our eggs in the one basket. I just have to be flexible and fit in with when Daniel is available to help out.”

With the latest arrival in April of Ava, their fourth child, one could be forgiven for thinking that Andrea has slowed down but this appears not to be the case.

“I wish I was wired differently and could sit down and relax. I really envy people who can do that,” she admits.

Fortunately with three trusted staff to run the two combined Horsham stores, Andrea has the flexibility of running the online sales and monitoring the store from her laptop on the kitchen bench.

It goes without saying that she is also exploring new ideas. 

“I research everything I want to do just in case I can do it one day,” she says with a hint of defiance. 

Knowing Andrea, she probably will.

Andrea’s top business tips:

  • Be proactive and stay ahead of your competitors.  Find a point of difference.
  • Ask for referrals and interview other customers before committing to large cost items or services for your business.
  • Understand overseas cultures and potential impact on your production and delivery processes.
  • Research, research, research!

BREAKING NEWS!

Andrea Harrison is one of our guest speakers celebrating International Rural Women's Day in Cohuna on Sunday 15 October, 2017.  Please join us for a great conversation.  MORE INFORMATION

Kawaii Kids Website 

Curious Wonderland Website 

KERRY ANDERSON:  A businesswoman, philanthropist and community advocate from Central Victoria, Kerry Anderson is passionate about rural and regional Australia.  She works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. READ MORE


From Boort to Dubai

BY KERRY ANDERSON

A LOVE of sharing knowledge and an ability to problem solve led to a unique business opportunity for Jarrod Robinson who is inspiring physical education teachers world-wide to get better results for their students through use of technology.  Known as The PE Geek, Jarrod has just returned from a six month world tour and is now preparing for a global conference to be held in Dubai in October 2016.

Jarrod’s exciting diversion into business kicked off in 2012 while he was teaching Year 12 students in physical education at Boort, a P-12 school that services a small agricultural region in regional Victoria. 

Growing up in a similar rural community in the Goulburn Valley, Jarrod had been encouraged by his hard working parents from a young age to be resourceful. 

Long before “tech was cool” and, despite no formal ICT training, he recognised the value of technology and, sitting on his couch at home of an evening, designed a mobile app complete with podcasts, videos, articles and social elements to better engage his students for their Victorian Curriculum Exam.   In the first year this free app was downloaded over 15,000 times by VCE students’ state wide indicating that Jarrod had hit on a winner.

“This success inspired me to build on the app suite venturing into all areas of education,” says Jarrod.  While his first app was built using a web platform called Appmakr he soon had to outsource the more complicated apps with overseas programmers, eventually employing a developer in the Ukraine with whom he works closely.

“It’s been a great relationship.  He handles the heavy lifting, is paid for his services, and as a result is now able to afford a university education and travel.”

Jarrod soon attracted a large following world-wide through his The PE Geek blog and website.  He started travelling the world every school holiday break conducting workshops.

With the challenge of balancing his love of teaching, the growing demands of his business, and his own health and fitness taking a back seat, something had to change.  In early 2015 Jarrod made the decision to take leave from his teaching position enabling him to restructure and grow the business to an entirely new level under his new company, ConnectedPE.

Most importantly, there have been significant changes as to how he does business.

Jarrod now works on the 80/20 principle with him focusing on what he is most effective at, the workshops, training and professional development for teachers.  A six month world tour took him to ten countries focussing on the workshops.  With the assistance of partner Amy, who also left her job so she can travel with him, Jarrod is now planning for a global conference to be held in Dubai in October 2016.

From a #nolife hashtag Jarrod is now working less hours for more return by focussing on what he does best and outsourcing all other tasks, even the ones he is capable of doing himself, to freelance professionals.  Essentially he has tapped into a global talent pool. 

“I use sites like upwork.com or ask other entrepreneurs for referrals,” he explains.  “For example I can send them the raw audio footage and they can do the editing for my podcast.”

Essential for every business to grow, his all-important marketing is also outsourced and Jarrod pulls out his smart phone to demonstrate how a Slack tool can distribute work through multiple channels to various team members.

Instead of working harder to get more clients, Jarrod has embraced the philosophy of reverse marketing. 

“Ninety percent of our content is free,” he explains.  “We put content out through the newsletter, podcast, blog and social media explaining what we do and ultimately drawing clients to us whether it is a workshop or the mentoring program.  Social media is the key.”

Keeping his audience engaged and building an ongoing relationship is an important part of his strategy.  “I know who my customers are, where they live, and what they like.”

Back in Central Victoria for a break between engagements, Jarrod is clearly excited about what is happening in the technical world.

“We’re seeing the start of a big disruption,” he says.  “It’s not about government creating change, it is up to us.”

He believes that technology will have a much bigger role in the coming years.  “Artificial intelligence is currently seen as a gimmick but when developed further it will have a massive impact in the classroom.”

In case you haven’t worked it out by now, Jarrod doesn’t consider himself to be a traditional teacher. 

“I don’t do chalk, it’s not my style.” He prefers encouraging students in active learning and self-discovery.  In the privileged position of being able to observe changes in education on a global scale, Jarrod is at the cutting edge of education. 

“Teachers think that content delivery is the most important but it’s not.  We’re best at developing relationships and creating a learning environment for students.”

According to Jarrod, transferring to working with students to adults hasn’t been all that difficult.  “It’s easy to work on a core idea with adults, you just have to be aware of the learning intent in the room.”

Viewing online videos of Jarrod’s presentations and listening to his podcasts it becomes evident how he engages so well with his audiences.  Utilising his love of physical interaction with a passion for technology and new ideas, he is clearly genuine about sharing his knowledge.

Thank you Jarrod for sharing with us.

JARROD’S TOP 5 BUSINESS TIPS:

1.      Turn off all your bad projects and focus on what you’re best at.

2.      Outsource the tasks that others can do for you.

3.      Identify your good customers and work with them.

4.      Look for leveraged solutions to get more value.

5.      Consider automated and segmented systems to be more efficient.


POSTSCRIPT:  The Dubai Conference is done and dusted. It was a great success with over 150 educators attending from 15 countries.  Well done Jarrod!

For more information about Jarrod and his business go to: 

ConnectedPE

ThePEGeek


KERRY ANDERSON:  A businesswoman, philanthropist and community advocate from Central Victoria, Kerry Anderson is passionate about rural and regional Australia.  She works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. READ MORE

MEET KERRY IN PERSON:  During August Kerry is sharing her knowledge on entrepreneurship as part of the Small Business Festival in Melbourne (8 Aug), Geelong (19 Aug) and Bendigo (31 Aug).  READ MORE

A commmunity collaboration success story

BY KERRY ANDERSON

What impact would 20 young professionals have moving into your town?  In 2013 I saw first hand the benefits of a community collaborating on a long term strategic plan to strengthen business.  It didn't happen by accident!

Ord in Valley County, Nebraska is frequently cited as a great example of what a community can achieve and for good reason. This rural town of 2,112 people (total county population 4,647) has strategically worked together to create long lasting benefits. Not by accident they did they attract 20 young professionals within four years of their Community Foundation being established.  This is a resourceful community led by a cross section of dynamic community leaders.

Where progress happens every day

Rural role model: that’s just one name Ord has been called in the past five years. Ord exemplifies a rural community with a vibrant future. Since 2000, the Ord area has experienced over $125 million of private and public investment in our community. Also in that time, Ord and Valley County have witnessed the creation of over 100 new businesses, 350 new jobs, a return to pre-recession unemployment levels, strong per-capita wage growth, retail growth and property valuation increases. Out here in Ord we carry a boot-strap mentality: we build a bright future for ourselves.
Ord is more than just the rural standard when it comes to economic growth. Working in Ord also brings the best aspects of living in a small town: zero commute, a low cost of living and high civic engagement. You have the time, resources and community connections which can truly  make you happy. It doesn’t hurt that Ord is located on the eastern edge of the Nebraska Sandhills, one of the most beautiful places in all of the Great Plains.
Whether you choose to be a business owner or work in our community, you’ll find Ord is a small town that exemplifies the Best of the Good Life.
Careers in Ord and Valley County has a strong need for workers in  specific  industries. Careers can be found in professional services, skilled trades, renewable energy, agriculture, manufacturing and retail to name a few.
2013 excerpt from: www.ordnebraska.com

How do they fund it?

Sales Tax Program for Economic Development: The Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act (LB 840) was approved by Ord voters in 2001 for to create our sales tax program for economic development, a financing tool to fund existing business needs, the development of new business start-ups and economic develop- ment site improvements. One major program feature includes a low-interest loan business program for business lending throughout Valley County. To date, over $2 million dollars have been loaned out to over 40 local businesses in Ord and the surrounding communities.

Valley County Community Foundation: Established in 2000 as an off shoot of the Nebraska Community Foundation, the Valley Foundation focusses on the four pillars of:

LEADERSHIP

PHILANTHROPY

ENTREPRENEURSHIP

YOUTH

Attracting the support of local donors, grants and bequests, the foundation has built up to just over $500,000. In one year alone (2012) it distributed $45,000 of assistance to community activities aligned with the four pillars.

What do they do?

Start simple and build on it seems to be the philosophy of this community.  Here are just a few examples:

Young Professionals Group: Regular social outings to help engage and retain those young people that they have worked so hard to attract.

Entrepreneurship Innovation Camp: During the summer break an annual four day camp is offered to 40 youth free of charge enabling them to develop and launch their business ideas. At the conclusion of the camp they sell or promote their wares at an open market day.

Youth Business Discovery Day: An annual day conducted jointly by the schools and local businesses to highlight business as a career pathway.

Youth Entrepreneur Showcase: The inaugural Y.E.S. event was conducted in 2013 with an impressive list of activities being offered for students to develop and showcase business ideas.

Scholarships: The Fund offers three $100.00 scholarships to young leaders residing in the area to attend an annual youth leadership summit to encourage leadership development and local engagement and civic service.

Ord Area ChamberBucks: Personal cheques that can be spent at any member business.

Who drives it?

 The Ord Chamber of Commerce celebrates every new enterprise with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

The Ord Chamber of Commerce celebrates every new enterprise with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

Chamber of Commerce:  Much like our Progress Associations, the Valley Chamber membership comprises of businesses, service organisations and groups alike; everybody from the health service to the Rotary Club; even individuals.  Membership starts at $25 for youth, $100 for home based businesses and then scales up to $1,000 for the big corporates. Apart from the usual benefits, some of the incentives include 0% loans for store front improvements and virtual store fronts. Ribbon cutting ceremonies support new openings. The list goes on ...

Economic Development Board:  The Valley County Economic Development Board serves as the primary facilitative organization for economic growth and development. Ord is Nebraska’s first Certified Economic Development Community. Eight finance options are available to startups and businesses wishing to make improvements or expand.

“The connection between our business community and our youth is imperative to our continued success in growing our economy and creating opportunities for our youth to return home after college to raise their families and begin their careers or start a business.” Bob Stowell - Valley County Community Foundation Fund Chairman

READ:  Is your community ready to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem? by Kerry Anderson on LinkedIn 

ORD WEBSITE

KERRY ANDERSON:  A businesswoman, philanthropist and community advocate from Central Victoria, Kerry Anderson is passionate about rural and regional Australia.  She works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. READ MORE

MEET KERRY IN PERSON:  During August Kerry is sharing her knowledge on entrepreneurship as part of the Small Business Festival in Melbourne (8 Aug), Geelong (19 Aug) and Bendigo (31 Aug).  READ MORE