Tamworth Evening CWA recently invited me to speak to their group for CWA Awareness Week. This is a summary of my speech and I hope it helps women in small business, one of the themes of CWA Awareness Week 2017.
Firstly, I have great appreciation for the CWA having been a member of the Nundle Branch of the CWA when our sons attended Nundle CWA Pre-School (celebrating its 50th birthday with a bush dance this month). Nundle CWA funds and maintains the building housing the pre-school, Hunter New England Health community health nurse, and once a week visiting doctor. Its major fundraiser is the Nundle CWA Art Exhibition, to be held on November 10, 11 & 12, 2017 at Nundle Memorial Hall.
So how did I come to be living in Nundle going to bush dances and art exhibitions? In 1997 I was working as deputy editor for Country Style magazine and visited Tamworth to research a story on the regional city. Our fashion editor suggested I visit a guest house that recently opened at Nundle, Jenkins Street Guest House. The guest house, established by Peter and Judy Howarth, was a benchmark for contemporary country hospitality and went on to be awarded a The Sydney Morning Herald Hat under chef Nick Cummins. I still write for Country Style, most recently in the July 2017 issue with a story on Goonoo Goonoo Station, Tamworth.
Duncan and I returned to Nundle so I could write a story on the guest house and the rural revival of Nundle. We were looking to move out of Sydney and kept returning to Nundle for its physical beauty, welcoming community, and distance from Sydney (meaning we would need to commit). After two years of saving and contemplating, we established an art gallery in the former Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores building. It soon became clear that people were more interested in the building. We sought inspiration from original handwritten and typed invoices, statements and ledgers to stock the original packing case shelves and return to its purpose as a general merchant.
After our second son was born in 2009, we started an online store, complementing the physical store. It took a lot of time to set up and in the beginning the photography, layout and usability were sub-ideal. Angela Lavender of Country Culture suggested I start an Instagram account. Suddenly I was exposed to ordinary people taking high level photography and I realised we needed to ramp up our standards of photography, graphic design and web layout.
In 2012, leading up to the rollout of the National Broadband Network, Tamworth Chamber of Commerce and the Federal Government brought marketing consultant Greg Alder to Tamworth to teach social media, encouraging businesses to build their online presence through blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.
The Nundle Business Tourism Marketing Group Inc, co-operatively funded by 26 members representing businesses, community groups and individuals, brought Greg to Nundle to complete a Nundle DNA. This involved surveying the community and ultimately developed a Nundle brand (Instagram and Facebook @nundlensw #nundlensw and website nundle.com.au). Greg asked us to think about Nundle's point of difference, its colours, sounds, tastes, textures, and smells. With the help of graphic designer Dan Phelan of Safety Pin Design and Luke Farrugia of Farbox Creative, we rebranded the Nundle website and brochure.
We were also able to think about our own businesses and work on our own branding. For Odgers and McClelland that involved developing a logo, new website (exchangestores.com.au) and brochure design, again with Safety Pin Design and Farbox Creative. We launched a seasonal email marketing e-journal, and communicate with customers using Instagram, Facebook (@exchangestoresnundle #exchangestoresnundle) and our blog. This has involved seeking online learning opportunities in blogging, food photography, styling, photography post production software, movie making, and recipe writing. They all have a common theme of story telling. Just photographing product is not enough. We aim to tell the authentic story behind why we do what we do, whether it is the country childhood for our children, growing fresh vegetables to eat, butchering our own lamb, bushwalking, kayaking, paddock picnics, fishing, boating, or community events.
Social media is also an opportunity to find your tribe and be social. For me that’s foodies, photographers, writers, retailers, country people, Destination Tamworth (#tamworthnsw @tamworthnsw), Tamworth regional businesses, and events. It has lead to opportunities to teach writing at workshops, work on cookbooks, and form interesting connections. You never know who’s watching. The Australian Women’s Weekly included me in a story on Country women in the online sphere, Sunrise presenter Edwina Bartholomew is a great fan and posted a boomerang of a boot jack, viewed 24,000 times, for a while I was on ABC New England North West talking to Anna Moulder about food, and last year after writing a story on Tamworth for Country Style I took over the Country Style Instagram account for a week, posting twice a day. Customers post photographs using our products, like a wire soap saver, suds maker, which can lead to a jump in followers of 100 in a day. It is also a way of connecting with new suppliers. It is how I found Jack Massey who makes wooden spoons, andSasha Jury Radford collaborated on a ceramic tea strainer. For Nundle using the #NundleNSW has been a source of meeting amazing photographers, and I repost and sometimes purchase photographs for use in brochures and social media.
What has this done for us? Online now represents half of our turnover. Past year turnover grew 21%, we have 8,580 followers on Instagram, 2,450 followers on Facebook, and annual website traffic is up 18.8%. On the Nundle front, Nundle Woollen Mill attracts 35,000 visitors annually and nundle.com.au had 16K users in the past year, 66% being from Sydney. Not bad for a town of 300 people. Such is the power of story telling for women in small business.
My Open Kitchen podcasts, workshops, and e-course
Local is Lovely, blog, recipes, and workshops by Sophie Hansen
The Photo School with Kate Berry
Meet Me At Mikes, Pip Lincolne Blog School
Make Films online video course by Xanthe Berkley
Ufocus, photography and Lightroom post production software training, with Digby Brown, Tamworth, NSW