Share your story

Sharing your authentic story as a rural business owner helps you to stand out in a competitive global market and gives customers the confidence to buy from you.

As a wordsmith I am constantly sharing stories. Stories that educate, inform, inspire and challenge deserve to be shared.  In my youth we relied on oral and print mediums. Today in a digital world the opportunities are much greater.

But why should a business allocate time and resources to articulating its story?

It all comes back to why should I purchase a good or service from your business?  Is it because it is so good?  But what if that same product or service is available from multiple businesses?  Why should I buy it from you?

Customers are becoming increasingly savvy to marketing ploys and, sadly, there is a growing perception with younger generations that business people are profit hungry and unethical.

Sharing your story can help explain who you are and what you stand for.  In a competitive and global market, effectively articulating your story can help customers decide who they want to do business with. 

As I wrote in my last blog, when Elise Brown of Fair Dinkum Dog Coats changed her wholesale business to an online one, she was faced with a huge challenge.  How could she help customers find her new website?  And then how could she convince them to buy her product instead of all the other choices on the market? 

Telling her personal story has been an important strategy. 

Through her website and social media Elise has been able to articulate how her business allows her to work and live in a rural community that she loves. Her followers have watched her two daughters grow up in the workshop and carrying their orders to the post office.  Through her posts they know her personal values on family, rural living, and caring for animals.  She also explains how her product is made and the benefits of using oil skin.

Notice how the product came second?

Sharing your authentic story and presenting a human face can also help change negative perceptions about the business sector in general.

Not only are we members of a community, we are parents and volunteers. As business owners we provide a valuable service, create employment and contribute taxes to support the essential government services depended on by many.

As we have recently evidenced, the public can be fickle and perceptions can rapidly change.  One minute they are applauding our sporting heroes and the next minute they are tearing them down.  Then, after hearing their personal remorse, they are once again defending them.

We need more people defending the business sector when it is wrongly portrayed in a negative light. The public needs more information to be able to carefully consider and weigh the evidence instead of making snap decisions.

Simple and genuine stories are extremely powerful.  They should be embedded on your website, in your marketing materials, and when speaking in public. 

Not everyone is a skilled communicator so, if required, seek professional assistance to help articulate your story in the most effective way.  A skilled communicator will not put words in your mouth or try and spin something into bigger than it should be.  They will understand that less is best and authenticity is your main advantage.  They will also remind you to think from a customer's perspective.

Then, just be yourself and let it shine through.


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

Fair Dinkum

At the young age of 19 Elise Brown purchased Fair Dinkum Dog Coats and has adapted the business to suit her lifestyle as she's become a mother to two daughters.

At the young age of 19 Elise Brown purchased Fair Dinkum Dog Coats and has adapted the business to suit her lifestyle as she's become a mother to two daughters.

With ‘Shop Local’ campaigns becoming popular, it is important to be reminded that many online businesses also successfully operate from rural towns. Whether a shop front or online business, Elise Brown of Fair Dinkum Dog Coats in Central Victoria is just one great example of why we need to articulate the story of our business, so customers can understand who they are supporting.

Labelled a ‘social butterfly’ by her parents and teachers, Elise Brown cruised through her school years without any accolades.  However, when her family looks back on her childhood, the signs of an entrepreneur in the making were clearly evident.  Always curious, Elise asked lots of questions, and was quick to recognise an opportunity. As a teenager with a strong self-belief she proved herself more than capable of creating her own income.  She trained young and difficult horses and sold them on to good homes for a healthy profit.

Every day is an opportunity to learn according to Elise, and significantly her best learning has been outside the education system.  While her friends went on to university, she started working in the equine industry, learning on the job, and continuing to ask lots of questions of everyone she met along the way.

Aged nineteen she was supported by her family to purchase a small part time business, Fair Dinkum Dog Coats, to complement her part time work.  Within six months Elise was so busy she had to leave her paid job. A year later, she was once again supported by her family to purchase a second business, Midland Stock & Poultry Store in Castlemaine, as a local retail outlet for her dog coats.

Over a five-year period as a retailer, Elise learnt many valuable skills including employing staff and balancing stock with cash flow.  She also learnt to handle the occasional difficult customer who tried to bully a young person for their own benefit.

Life got a bit more complex when a husband entered the scene and their first child was on the way.

‘Fair Dinkum Dog Coats started off as a nice part time business supplying wholesale customers, primarily pet shops, right across Australia,’ Elise explains. ‘But no matter how hard I worked in advance I couldn’t avoid the winter rush and found myself working long hours. It wasn’t fun any more,’ she admits.  Selling the retail store helped alleviated the problem but she still had to find a way to manage the workload for manufacturing the coats.

It was at that point that Elise had a light-bulb moment demonstrating a confidence in her own problem-solving abilities.

‘Despite everyone telling me I was crazy, I wrote to my wholesale customers and told them I was no longer supplying them. I decided to take my business totally online and sell direct to customers.’

Cutting off a stable source of income, investing in website development, and learning to manage new technology was a brave move that has fortunately paid off for Elise. By constantly sharing the story of her business and products via social media she has also effectively engaged with customers and avoided costly advertising.

‘Selling direct to the public online has been the best decision I’ve made, for me and my customers,’ Elise says. ‘Instead of having to produce large orders all at once, I now have a much steadier flow of individual orders that I can make to each dog’s unique measurements instead of off-the-rack generic sizes.’

Recognising a growing number of greyhounds and whippets becoming domestic pets, she has also designed a new range to suit their unique shape and this has become a significant proportion of her sales.

Remarkably, despite working less hours and selling less coats, Elise has tripled her income with the profits coming direct to her instead of being shared with wholesalers.  And, most importantly as a young mother, Elise has also been able to dedicate herself to her two daughters aged three and five.

With the business ticking along nicely in the background, Elise is now preparing for when both girls are at school.  This year she is excited to be building a new work space ready to ramp up the business to a new level by tapping more into the international market and year-round sales.

Balancing work with family is important to Elise, as is maintaining Fair Dinkum’s brand and reputation. At the urging of industry advisers, she has explored outsourcing production and exporting options, but keeps coming back to what is important to her; supplying a quality product to her customers.

With many customers happy to share testimonials Elise says it is also important for the wider community to be educated.

‘When people talk about how bad shopping on the internet is, I’d like to remind them that many rural businesses like mine are benefiting from being online,’ Elise says. ‘Because of the internet I am able to live and work where I love.’

Elise understands the value of explaining who she is and what she stands for. Being nominated for and winning a Rural Community & Achievement Award in 2010 also gave her a platform to talk about the importance of young people being encouraged to become business owners.

Much to Elise’s amazement, she was invited to meet with Queen Elizabeth at Government House in Melbourne during her 2011 visit.  A girlfriend provided a quick makeover, but the ever practical Elise drew the line at changing her rubber soled work boots which were perfect for walking from Southern Cross Station to Government House.

By sharing Fair Dinkum stories, Elise’s customers know exactly who is making their dog coat when they place an order, and chances are that it will be posted by two small and very willing helpers who have the privilege of a rural lifestyle thanks to their enterprising mother.

http://www.fairdinkumdogs.com.au/

Elise’s top business tips:

  • Create a business that supports your family and lifestyle but understand that it’s only worth keeping if its profitable.
  • Invest in yourself to keep improving your business.
  • Utilise the power of social media to avoid costly advertising.

DISCLOSURE:  As many of you may already know, Elise is my daughter. I’m rather amazed that it has taken me this long to feature her in my 85th blog!


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

Capitalising on the Digital Era

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

Can your rural business afford not to be on the internet?  Elise Brown from Fair Dinkum Dog Coats will explain how she transformed her wholesale business into an online retail platform.


FAIR DINKUM DOG COATS

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

How to thank your supporters

AGED 19 Elise Brown bought her first business, Fair Dinkum Dog Coats; and two years later she purchased her second business, Midland Pet Supplies.  In 2010 she won the Trade and Career Achievement category in the Victorian Regional Achievement & Community Awards.  And, to top it all off, the following year she gave herself the day off to meet the Queen at a Government House reception!

Pretty impressive for a young woman from rural Victoria but Elise would be the first to admit that none of this would have been possible without the support of her family.  She would also acknowledge that her businesses flourished with the free publicity received as a result of the award.

Initially embarrassed to be nominated, Elise accepted all the good reasons given why she should put herself forward.  With assistance she put together an entry outlining all her achievements to date. Although Elise didn’t consider them all that significant she accepted that she could be a good role model for other young women wanting to live and work in their home towns, and that any publicity is good for business.

Lots of photographs were included with the entry which included her community role encouraging other young people in business at informal networking events.  Coached during the car ride to Ballarat for the Awards Dinner, this was what she chose to speak about during the interview of finalists on the night of the Awards.

Elise invited her four grandparents to the Awards Dinner determined to share the acknowledgement of being a finalist with them.  For her first business her paternal grandparents had provided much needed finance (a loan that was duly paid back) and her maternal grandparents had provided the premises rent free.  Her husband who put up with her long hours, her mother who provided finance for the second business, and one of her valued employees, were also present.

It was a night to celebrate especially when Elise, as one of the five finalists, was interviewed on stage.  Not a polished public speaker by any means, she spoke from the heart about encouraging other young people in business.

She was genuinely shocked when she had to return to the podium for a second time to receive the award sponsored by Regional Development Victoria.   A television advertisement on Prime Television was the prize and many radio interviews and newspaper articles followed including a superb photograph in The Weekly Times.  Customers were so delighted on Elise’s behalf and her retail shop became a hive of activity when the news broke.  

Yes, her youth may have been a factor in her being named the winner but she wasn’t the only young finalist.  Yes, she ran a good business, but that didn’t make her unique either.  Perhaps it was because she demonstrated a commitment to her community by encouraging other young people in business?  Only the judges will know for sure.

To be invited to meet the Queen during her Australian visit the following year was the icing on the cake.  Elise definitely wasn’t on any royal mailing list so could only assume that it was because she had won the award.

Maybe, just maybe, there is a good reason to enter an award, Elise now acknowledges.

Maybe this is also a good time to mention that I am Elise’s mother and yes, I am very proud of my daughter!

Elise’s top 3 reasons to enter an award are to:

#1           Thank the people who have supported you.

#2           Encourage other young rural people in business

#3           Get some free publicity for your business

Oh and number four would be to meet the Queen!

Not a normal day in the shop.  Elise farewells staff as she prepares to meet the Queen at Government House in 2011.

Not a normal day in the shop.  Elise farewells staff as she prepares to meet the Queen at Government House in 2011.

READ Kerry's top 3 reasons to enter an award.

READ more about Fair Dinkum Dog Coats

FREE WEBINAR: How to make a winning nomination

7.00 – 8.00pm Tuesday 28 June, 2016 Melbourne time.

Using the current Victorian Regional Achievement & Community Awards as a case study, please join me for some practical tips on how to make a winning nomination.  All that you need is access to a computer or smart device with internet and sound.  A link will be provided by email to those who request it via the contact box on this webpage
Email: info@kerryanderson.com.au

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 opportunities.

www.kerryanderson.com.au