Two things happened this week to make me feel inspired, enthused, and excited about small businesses and young entrepreneurs.

The first was being asked to be the keynote speaker at the La Trobe Uni VCE Business Forum in Bendigo. I presented to Year 11 business students.

Sharing small business stories to inspire budding entrepreneurs

Part of my presentation was about our two businesses (Mt Alexander Fruit Gardens, our organic orchard, and Grow Great Fruit, our online business). I also spoke about the project I ran as the RIRDC Rural Women’s Award winner for Victoria in 2015.

But it was also a great opportunity to share stories of some really inspirational young entrepreneurs that we’re connected with here on the farm.

You’ve no doubt heard of the lovely Gung Hoe Growers, who run a market garden on our farm.  It was a joy to share their story of how (and why) they got started, and their successes and failures.

Mel and Sas from the Gung Hoe Growers
Mel and Sas from the Gung Hoe Growers

I’d asked the Hoes beforehand what they’d say to young people starting out in business. So I took the chance to pass on their sage advice to the budding entrepreneurs in the audience.

I particularly liked their advice not to be afraid to start even if you don’t know everything, and that you can do a LOT more than you think you can.

But it was also fun to share the story of some other young businesspeople such as Grace. At the tender age of 20 Grace started her own fashion label called “Bedroom The Label”.

Grace at her sewing machine in the bedroom
Grace at her sewing machine in the bedroom

One year later she’d graduated out of the bedroom (where she literally started the business) into a studio in Collingwood (Melbourne). She’d taken on an intern, and started selling her popular clothes range overseas. You can follow Grace’s story (and see why she decided to close the business in 2019) here.

Small business in the family

I also shared Lina’s story, who at the time was in the throes of starting her own tattoo business called “Stick Around Tattoo”.

As Alina’s mum, I wasn’t hugely impressed when she bought a tattoo machine on eBay and started practising on herself! But several years later I was incredibly proud to see her enrol in a business course, negotiate the regulations required to open her own tattoo studio, and open her first business. Her business is still thriving, and you can follow her progress here.

Gifts from the Rural Women’s Award

It was also pretty humbling to find myself being asked to present the keynote address at a business forum. I can trace that directly back to having won the RIRDC Rural Women’s Award for Victoria in 2015. The experience gave me (amongst many other gifts) the experience and confidence to be able to take on this kind of challenge.

This leads me to the other great thing that happened this week. I attended the awards ceremony for this year’s Rural Women’s Award recipient on Wednesday. This year’s winner is Kirsten Abernethy (that’s her on the right in the photo).

2017 Rural Women's Award winner Kirsten Abernethy (on the RHS) with Cath Jenkins
2017 Rural Women’s Award winner Kirsten Abernethy (on the RHS) with Cath Jenkins

Kirsten has planned a fabulous project to help women in the fishing industry to find their voice. Of course, there was a field of incredible finalists as well, including Cath Jenkins (on the left).

I very much look forward to watching Kirsten’s progress and seeing the professional and personal development that I know from experience will come from her involvement with the awards.

Just one of the many ongoing gifts from being involved in the RIRDC Awards is being part of the alumni. It’s always a lot of fun to head to the alumni lunch after the awards. It’s a good chance to catch up with old friends and meet new people.

I always leave these gatherings feeling re-inspired to continue to grow in my business and personal life, and to make the most of every opportunity that comes my way.

2017 Rural Women's Award alumni lunch
2017 Rural Women’s Award alumni lunch


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