Sally and Keith Weetman emigrated to Australia over 16 years ago from South Africa. The Weetmans now live in Mansfield, Victoria, a picturesque town of over 4,000 people. It is located around 185 km north-east of Melbourne and is surrounded by the High Country (many people will remember the area from the film ‘The Man From Snowy River’).
Sally writes: Our first job (and only, before Mansfield) was managing a four star resort in Blackheath, Blue Mountains. Keith is third generation hotelier. We were there for ten and half years. We moved to Mansfield in July 2005, not knowing what we were going to do.
We came here originally to look at a cafe that was for sale; that didn’t work out but we loved Mansfield. Previous to coming here to look at the cafe, we did not even know where Mansfield was. We loved the town – it “talked” to us. We had built and sold a house in Bermagui – we had rented it out and sadly never stayed a night in it ourselves, had beautiful views over the sea, harbour and Montague Island, and had dreams of retiring there – but circumstances changed, and that did not happen.
We bought a house in Mansfield and rented it out for nearly two years until we were ready to move down. After moving continents, moving towns is pretty easy to do. Our business evolved because we realised that there was no-one in the town supplying the local hospitality industry and all goods were coming in from outside the area. We did not want to go back into hospitality, we had had enough of the hours and being on call 24/7, so decided to “change sides of the counter” as such! We started from our fourth bedroom, selling mainly toilet paper, napkins etc, and have grown to have a large showroom in Collopy Street, now selling everything from large commercial equipment to toilet paper, and everything in between.
Why did you select Mansfield?
We felt the warmth of the people in the town and we felt very comfortable and at home here.
What’s great about your location?
Everything! A wonderful country life. And, Melbourne is not far away should you feel the need to take in a bit of city life.
What activities are there in the area?
Fishing, walking, snow skiing, water sports, riding, cycling and many more activities. The Rail Trail from Mansfield to Tallarook is rapidly reaching completion.
What have been the challenges in establishing your business?
As we started from scratch, perhaps the biggest challenge was getting quality suppliers to recognise us for what we were, and supply us.
And the good things?
Getting the satisfaction of being able to help a customer and seeing them happy with the results.
How do you market yourself?
Word of mouth is perhaps our biggest marketer, quality website, signage on our van, street signage and limited newspaper advertising.