NEWS: Congratulations Kerry Anderson for the OAM (Medal of the Order of Australia) announcement:
‘For service to business, and community development’

Kerry Anderson’s new book is a refreshing and inspirational read! She addresses questions such as what is an entrepreneur?, what are the benefits of rural entrepreneurship? and what are the pitfalls and wins of rural entrepreneurship?

Plus, in ‘Australian Rural Entrepreneurs: Redefining the Future‘, there are real life stories of rural Australian entrepreneurs engaged in a variety of businesses. The book is full of information and written in an easy to read. There are also top business tips at the end of each chapter.

Did you know that ‘one of the fastest growing sectors of entrepreneurship is that of middle aged women’?

Kerry’s new book, also, shows that rural entrepreneurs are from all ages and backgrounds.

Many of you will know that we love talking and writing about Seniorpreneurship too. Kerry’s new book also shows that rural entrepreneurs are from all ages and backgrounds.

I asked Kerry about her new book:

Why did you write Australian Rural Entrepreneurs?

Everyone thinks of entrepreneurs as someone like Steve Jobs (he’s dead by the way) or some snotty nosed 20 year old driving a Ferrari in Silicon Valley.

It can’t be further from the truth! Entrepreneurs walk quietly amongst us here in Australia as well; they could be a neighbour, a family member or that kid that plays up in the classroom.

I particularly wanted to highlight the importance of entrepreneurs and small businesses to rural towns using all the inspiring stories I’ve gathered over the past five years. And what a wonderful time to be an entrepreneur in rural Australia! 

I wrote the book before COVID hit and it is even more relevant now with lots of people considering relocating out into the regions. Enjoy the clean, green lifestyle and create their own income in the process!

Are there entrepreneurs who have ‘pivoted’?  (made a ‘leap’)

In my book I discuss the ten attributes of an entrepreneur. Good business people also follow these principles. It has been a great privilege to hear the first hand accounts of entrepreneurs who have identified an opportunity or a problem to solve and bravely persevered to see that vision become a reality. Toni Barton making the leap from selling lamb cuts at Farmers Markets to creating a ground breaking new product, Lamb Bacon, is a wonderful example. 15 year old Wil Massara pursuing his vision of creating the Youth Leadership Australia Academy to address the inadequacies of the education system, another.

Female in white shirt and cream pants leaning on a rail outside a shearing shed with brown hills in background
Australian Rural Entrepreneurs: are Redefining The Future
Toni Barton, Photo Credit: Kerry Anderson

The reality is that everyone needs to be agile and adaptable in a rapidly changing world and this applies equally to small businesses that have been operating over a number of generations. When I interviewed the Bacchus Marsh Florist & Nursery it became evident that this family run business has had to adapt many times. No-one in business can be complacent and 2020 showed us who was prepared to be agile and who wasn’t. Even the highly successful Wine In A Glass business pivoted to making hand sanitiser and a modified range of products to better suit the domestic market.

Female sitting down among vines holding a white glass with three others on the brown timber table. Female is wearing a black and white checked top. Australian Rural Entrepreneurs: are Redefining The Future
Michelle Anderson-Sims, Photo Credit: Kerry Anderson

Are there differences between city and rural entrepreneurs?

I often get asked a question when I’m speaking. Are rural entrepreneurs better than city entrepreneurs? Hmmm. Depending on whom I’m talking to this is quite a dilemma because the reality is that an entrepreneur thrives wherever they are.

What I will say is that rural entrepreneurs are incredibly innovative and resourceful because they have to be. For instance, think about the tyranny of distance. If a part breaks on a machine or vehicle, it may take days if not weeks to get a replacement. If there is an alternative, you can guarantee that a rural entrepreneur will find one. They are particularly good at thinking outside the box and using their extended networks as well. Perhaps it is all that fresh air or time to think that helps them be this way?

I also think that rural entrepreneurs are more connected with their community and understand that their success is also impacting positively on those around them (or perhaps it is simply more visible in a rural community?).Even though Tom Smith from Pyramid Hill has contributed a great deal as a donor and volunteer to his local community, he told me that his greatest contribution was to be successful in business. His employees spend their money in town, send their kids to the local schools and volunteer in community groups. In a small rural town with a previously declining population, the success of Kia-Ora Piggeries has been a game changer.

In the case of Bakery on Broadway the business arose from a group of community members coming together to address a gap in their rural town of Wycheproof. The list goes on. of

What are some of the challenges rural entrepreneurs face (are they different to city entrepreneurs)?

Many previous challenges have diminished in a digital world. Previously it was hard for rural entrepreneurs to find their ‘tribe’ and stimulate ideas and thinking with likeminded people. Through improved communication channels including online platforms and social media, this is no longer the case although connectivity still presents its challenges in some remote areas. More than once I’ve had to drive to one corner of a paddock when visiting a friend just to get mobile service. We definitely learn to be more patient in a rural area!

The tyranny of distance still remains when transporting goods or delivering a physical service but one good outcome of COVID restrictions is that it has levelled the playing field to some extent. Michelle Anderson-Sims from Wine In A Glass told me that prior to COVID she was expected to travel to capital cities here and overseas for face to face meetings with clients. She is one of many hoping that zoom is here to stay. It is such a time saver when you have to jump in a car to travel for hours just to get to an airport.

Who are some of the inspiring rural entrepreneurs?

My goodness, how much time do you have? Every one of the 50 stories I’ve included in the book has something inspiring and of value to share; from the exciting start-ups to the everyday businesses that quietly and continually innovate. In addition to the ones I’ve already mentioned, I admire Grant Sutton from AgCloud for investing so much personal time and capital to develop a NBN repeater station to overcome connectivity problems for remote farmers. When so many businesses are getting their goods manufactured overseas I have to take my hat off to Helenmary Macleod of Skibo Australia for scouring the streets of Melbourne to find a manufacturer willing to print and manufacture small runs of her skivvies. Then there are the two young mothers in Collie Western Australia that were inspired by a triple cake stacking canister to start Retrospection.

Because entrepreneurs are obsessed with working on their businesses, the harder I have to work to obtain an interview, usually the more inspirational the story is. They don’t think of themselves as anything special and certainly don’t like to call themselves ‘entrepreneurs’. I used it in the book title because it helps to get people’s attention.

Have you seen older people become entrepreneurs? (examples?)

There are so many wonderful examples of people in every rural town who finish, or have had enough of, their corporate careers and opt into business at a mature age or in semi-retirement. For instance, after she’d had enough of being an employee Margaret Mew of Quilt Station, in Elphinstone, successfully turned her passion into a part-time small business enabling her to travel the world. After losing her corporate job and in her fifties, Suzanne Carrol of Gisborne started Cool Clutch.

Older lady turning pages of a material book, scraps of fabric on table in front of her, quilt hanging on wall behind her.
Australian Rural Entrepreneurs: are Redefining The Future
Margaret Mew, Quilt Station, Photo Credit: Kerry Anderson

And then there are those who are farmers following comfortably in their family business footsteps that in later life suddenly become entrepreneurial and create new business opportunities. For example, pork grower Aeger Kingma created a multi million dollar company, Pentagon Feeds, with a group of fellow farmers to address rising feed costs in north-central Victoria.  A NSW Riverina sheep farmer, Charlie Webb, wanted to make life easier for himself so he designed Back Up Charlie.

Man in blue shirt and  fluro vest sitting in chair, behind him are four computer screens, a mobile phone, highlighter pens, two blue biros Australian Rural Entrepreneurs: are Redefining The Future
Aeger Kingma of Pentagon Feeds, Photo Credit: Shayne Mostyn Photography
Older man with dark blue shirt standing in a sale yards with a large tree behind him, brown paddock further behind him, Australian Rural Entrepreneurs: are Redefining The Future
Back Up Charlie Designer, Charlie Webb, Photo Credit: Kerry Anderson

Usually the family business is passed on to the children so it was a pleasant surprise to learn that the opposite occurred with Mandy Strong at Sunshine Iris Nursery, also in the NSW Riverina. After retiring as a teacher she took over her daughter’s business and invited her twin sister living in Canberra to be a co-owner!

female in straw hat kneeling down surrounded by flowers of pink, dark purple, light purple, rusty gate behind her Australian Rural Entrepreneurs: are Redefining The Future
Mandy Strong, Sunshine Iris Nursery, Photo Credit: Kerry Anderson

What are some suggestions you have for people in rural areas (and people wanting to move to rural areas) who want to become an entrepreneur?

Do your homework. Every good entrepreneur is good at research. Jump in your car. Take the time to talk to people in that community and get to know them. Look at existing landscapes with fresh eyes and explore what could be an opportunity in a digitally connected world. Don’t discount current business owners who might consider selling which may be an easier transition. Jump online. Understand the logistics and capital investment required for your business idea and make sure you have sufficient finance and commitment to see it through. Fortunately, one advantage of rural living is that land and buildings are much cheaper. And, if you engage with the local community they will be your number one customers and champions. When Simon Tol took over Mt Mitchell Homestead near Lexton he also became President of the local football club. In return the locals became his farming advisers, casual employees when there are events held, and even assisted his family during the 2020 bushfires. The footy club even won a premiership!

The best part about small business is that you can adapt it to suit your lifestyle. One gentleman in the tiny town of Minyip sets his shop hours to suit the golf competition and I have noticed many retail and service businesses have retained reduced opening hours since restrictions have been eased. Providing there is good communication customers easily adapt and they are doing the same level of business. If you choose carefully, a rural business can be both stimulating and flexible but I would remiss if I didn’t warn you that it can also become obsessive. A start-up in particular requires lots of time and energy.

My final piece of advice is to never stop learning and by this I don’t mean in an academic sense. There is always a great idea or a valuable tip to take away from reading about other businesses or participating in forums and conversations. My daughter, Elise Brown of Fair Dinkum Dogs, is a wonderful example of this. She strikes up conversations wherever she goes and listens avidly to podcasts while she is working. Almost every day she generates a new idea or a new way of doing something to improve her business and I’m quite convinced this will keep on happening until the day she dies!

female sitting at a sewing machine, on a dark high backed chair, with large black cotton reel in front of her
Australian Rural Entrepreneurs: are Redefining The Future
Elise Brown Photo Credit: Kerry Anderson

What can I say. Read the book and you will hopefully generate lots of your own ideas as well.

Take a look at Kerry’s book here

It’s published by Wakefield Press

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