Simone says: Australians need to value digital content!

Prolific creative Simone Kain has just taken out the Agri-Futures Rural Woman's Award National Runner-Up for her amazing work with George The Farmer. She was featured on our Beating Around the Bush podcast earlier in the year.

But we also asked her some questions about the creation of her business.

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In her own words…..
What opportunity or gap did you see that inspired this business? 

At the age of 19, I started my first company which specialised in graphic design and website development. This was quite unique at the time. If you think back to 1999, most businesses, especially in rural locations didn’t even have the internet, let alone a website. The main mode of instantaneous communication was fax machine. Luckily for me, being 19, I didn’t overthink these minor issues and the company ended up being a success.

Ten years later, I merged with my now business partner, Ben Hood’s agency and we became a full creative agency also offering television commercials. Our company is called Hello Friday and we work with organisations across Australia who are predominately associated with primary industries or education such as the Primary Industries Education Foundation Australia.

In July 2012, I was lying on my bed one afternoon with my eldest son, George, who was two, stretching out my massive preggo belly - which was full of twin boys. I was trying to find some fun farming apps or books for George to keep him entertained when his new brothers arrived. He was obsessed with the farm and any opportunity that he had to go with my farming husband, Justin, or to look at magazines with trucks, harvesters or tractors, he’d jump at it.

All that I could find was American or English stories that used different terminology - such as barn instead of shed - or field instead of paddock - and there also wasn’t one character who was telling sequential stories about life on the land.

At this same time, our local economy was slowing due to the global financial crisis and Ben and I had been actively thinking of new ways to bring in additional revenue to sustain our business.

And I thought, wow, there could be an opportunity here. So after speaking with Ben, we decided to create our own farming character in-house utilising our creative and marketing skills.

I’d always wanted to try my hand at writing a children’s book and Ben was getting in to his illustrations at the time so we decided to write and illustrate a story to potentially inspire lots of little farming kids across the country - and if we created it as an interactive story app we could then use the app in our folio to try and gain future app clients for our creative agency.

It wasn’t long into researching the first story ideas, that I came across the statistics with regards to lack of food education with children in Australia and it was then that I thought, not only does George need to be inspirational, he needs to be educational.

George the Farmer is a colourful children’s character whose main aim is to educate children about farming practices along with how food and fibre is produced. This is done through fun picture books, toys, music, performance, interactive story apps, videos and free curriculum-aligned teacher’s guides.

Biggest challenge making it a reality? 

Developing the app was a lot more challenging than we thought it would be. From making sure the code was glitch-free to rendering out assets for every different size iPhone and iPad screen it has definitely been time consuming. Another challenge has also been the waiting time from submitting our app for approval or even just submitting for different updates. But I think the main challenge with app development is the fact consumers don’t value digital products. Although we’ve achieved success with being regularly featured in the top books category on the iTunes store due to downloads or being listed in the top educational apps in the technologies section for Australia and New Zealand, consumer’s still balk when an app costs any more than 99c. We retail our physical books which are printed in Australia for $17 each. Our app includes two interactive stories, three songs and two mini games for $4.50. Less than a cup of coffee. It’s cheap! And especially so for the cost of production. I’m not quite sure how we can change consumer perception on the value of digital products, but it’s something that needs to be worked upon. 

Most satisfying moment so far?

It would definitely be during our performances when we’re watching the kids faces light up when they see George and when they dance around with us to songs like ‘We Love Beef’, ‘Harvest Hop’ and ‘P-O-T-A-T-O’. You can tell that they’re really connecting and enjoying learning. Last year we had a teacher from a small Victorian school use one of our free curriculum-aligned guides in her classroom. A young pupil to date had only written six sentences for the whole four months of the current school year. After learning about George and Ruby, she was so inspired that she wrote six pages of text — and it was all on planting a wheat crop! That was really amazing! We love receiving feedback like that from parents, teachers and the kids themselves.

What’s your favourite tip/app/hack that you use to keep on track?  

Trello is a great online management tool to collaborate with others. It’s really handy for Ben and I to use across our creative agency, Hello Friday, as well as George the Farmer, especially as we both work from different locations.

If you could be anyone for a day, who would it be? 

Kayla Itsines. For those of you who don’t know her she’s a really young fitness guru from Adelaide. I think she’s pretty inspirational as she’s very dedicated to her body, health and brand. I’ve been feeling out of my fitness/health groove for awhile, so I think if I were Kayla for a day, it might help me get back on track. Either that or it would kill me!

How do you switch off when you go home? 

I work from a purpose built home-based office so I do find myself in the office at night after the kids are in bed. But I really do enjoy what I do so I’m fine with that. If I don’t feel like going in there, I love to have a glass of wine on the couch and kick back with a bit of Netflix! Socially, I love food and cooking so generally if I’m in relax mode, I’m hanging out with friends and family enjoying lots of delicious food and wine.

Best business advice anyone has ever given you? 

Have a go. There’s been a couple of times when I’ve really wanted to reach out to someone and ask for advice about what we’re doing or help from someone and a mentor said to me, ‘Why don’t you just ask them? What do you have to lose?’. And it’s true. The worst thing that can happen is that they say they’re not interested. It’s not the end of the world. But you’ll never know if you don’t ask. You move on or… you get persistent!

What’s your goal for the next 12 months? 

We want to keep broadening George the Farmer’s reach. We know that kids love him and Ruby when they meet them. We just need to give them the opportunity to connect. We’ve just started workshopping getting George and family on to television screens in a more permanent way in Australia - and abroad. My dream is for kids across the globe, when they think of food, they immediately associate this with agriculture. And through George and Ruby, Australia will then be known as the number one destination for beautiful, clean, green and safe produce. 

 

Simone and business partner Ben with George the Farmer. 

Simone and business partner Ben with George the Farmer. 

RBC Partners with Pointer Remote Roles

It's hard not to get excited when you meet people like Jo Palmer. There’s a buzz that surrounds people that are having a go at something adventurous, ambitious and so damn well needed. Pointer Remote Roles is one of those projects. The premise immediately clicked. Jo and I both know that the untapped skills and capability in the bush is staggering. Every town is filled with partners and friends that have followed on this journey to live in rural and remote Australia in search of giving their kids the country upbringing they had, or getting into the family farm, or trying a rural area as a way to jump up the ladder faster than what's possible in the city. Typically these sorts of decisions usually has what is called ‘the trailling spouse’. The one that goes with the partner for the move and then has to creatively rethink how their skills can be utilised.

Enter Pointer Remote Roles.

The modern day office is changing and the case for remote working is becoming clear. The rise of contract work or the ‘gig economy’ is also giving rise to what Jo Palmer sees as a new age of opportunity for people wanting to live in rural and remote Australia. Pointer Remote Roles aims to match roles that are suited for remote resourcing to the talented and skilled residents of small towns and farms Australia wide.

Rural Business Collective has a policy to recruit 100% of roles within rural, regional and remote Australia so I could immediately see the user case for my own business. It’s exciting to find somewhere I could find candidates that are specifically interested in working remotely. For the broader Rural Business Collective community, small businesses entering into any growth phase can tap into this pool of talents ranging from Social media through to bookkeeping, administration support and anything in between.

So we are excited to announce that RBC and Pointer have partnered to offer all Rural Business Collective members a special rate so you can try the Pointer experience to grow your team virtually risk free!

Here are some words from Pointer Remote Roles Founder, Jo Palmer on the offer for RBC members:

“Pointer aims to provide another avenue for employers to secure professional candidates for roles. We understand that startup stage and small business is tough and when you are ready to take the next step and engage or employ staff, it can get tricky.

We have established a rate to offer businesses who are in the early phases of business and are

looking to put on contractors, freelancers or part time staff. For a flat rate, you can advertise your role with Pointer and we will send you profiles of our candidates who meet the criteria. If we don’t have someone, we will find them! There is no commission to pay when you employ one of our candidates.”

  • Advertisement of role on Pointer until role is filled or 6 months

  • Pointer actively seeking candidates for roles

  • Unlimited candidate profiles (matching criteria) sent to client

  • One payment 

This is a great opportunity for RBC members. If you would like to know more please get in touch with either Fleur or Jo directly.

Fleur Anderson, Founder Rural Business Collective hello@ruralbusinesscollective.com.au

Jo Palmer, Founder Pointer Remote Roles jo@pointerremoteroles.com

 

Activating healthier rural communities

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Having many balls in the air is part of life for most small business owners. The moving parts of a business, as well as day to day life always has its challenges. But I have to have some extra admiration for Ginny Stevens.
She is the CEO of Active Farmers- a group aiming to build stronger and more resilient communities through better physical and mental health.

Ginny believes that people are healthier, including their mind, when they are active and eating well.

She’s a perfect example, agreeing to be interviewed by Fleur from the Wagga Wagga maternity ward with her two week old twins. I’m not going to lie- the thought of new born twins is exhausting enough- let alone answering questions about your business with a microphone in her face.

But it was perfect- listen here as Ginny talks about how she’s got up to 20 regions signing onto her program. And she’s desperate for more trainers to be involved in the rollout. Contact her via her website- www.activefarmers.com.au

Is your bank balance your indicator of business success?

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In this land of startup hustle, spending money to make money, and any other cliche that comes to mind it's easy to get distracted.

We are lead to believe that the game changer in your business is going to be your content, your launch strategy, your marketing, your UX design, your strategic partnerships, your unique value proposition, but at the end of the day the simple fact remains - the oxygen your business really needs - is cash. Or more than that, profit.

In the age of the entrepreneur it doesn't have the same ring to it - but good old-fashioned business rules still apply and being in control of your finances puts you at a better chance of being on the right side of the alarming small business failure rate. Small Business Advisor and RBC 30 Day Challenge Mentor Maurie Hill says ‘you’d be surprised how many businesses out there use their bank balance as their measurement of business performance’.

Being in control of your finances is true empowerment. It gives you confidence to make decisions and to put the important things first.

September is going to be the month when you can tackle all of these things head on with our next 30 Day Challenge. Our 30DC takes participants through four guided lessons on a selected topic with an expert. Rural Business Collective runs 4 30 Day Challenges for its members per year as part of their annual membership plan.

For this 30DC we have teamed up with Maurie Hill from the BusinessGP to deliver a 30DC on ‘Running Your Business By The Numbers’. Maurie has an amazing breadth of experience from multi-national corporates through to micro-businesses in the middle of the Northern Territory! Maurie has a true passion for helping people understand the fundamentals of what makes their business tick and the numbers to keep an eye on and the results that he gets from the businesses and families speak for themselves. As Maurie says ‘running a business this way is so natural to me now I don't know any other way!’ Throughout the 30 Day Challenge you will get insights into this method of running your business by the numbers and hear stories of the outcomes that he and his clients have achieved together.

The Challenge includes four audio lessons delivered along with a weekly worksheet. Each of these lessons will cover an aspect of business financial management, an activity to complete and then an opportunity to connect with others participating in the challenge to share questions and experiences.

The four lessons are:

WEEK 1 - WHY manage ‘BY THE NUMBERS’ – there are many reasons

WEEK 2 - All about PROFIT – fuels success and satisfaction

WEEK 3 - CASH is King – the oxygen of business

WEEK 4 - HOW to manage company finances – important and easier than you think

Each 30DC is valued at $199 and is included in our Annual Membership plan. Interested business owners and entrepreneurs wanting to participate are invited to join RBC before the commencement date of September 4 2017. Current members can opt in by RSVP on our member invitation or emailing hello@ruralbusinesscollective.com.au

Hatching a cracker of an idea

Kylie Stretton with some of her "girls". 

Kylie Stretton with some of her "girls". 

When you pull up in the Clancella Downs driveway, it’s obvious the owners, Kylie and Shane Stretton have put their heart and soul into the property.

Kylie has recently started a pastured egg business to run in conjunction with their beef operation. But it’s the benefits to the soil health of their property which is the main motivator.

The couple bought the 100 acre block outside Charters Towers around six years ago and by all accounts, it was in a pretty dire condition- everything from the pasture, to the house and the back lawn.

Besides running a livestock agency and, looking after their cattle that are spread around the North Queensland area on agistment, the Strettons are striving to make the most of their small acreage and improve all facets of it, down to the flower garden beds.

The Cllancella Downs egg brand has been Kylie’s project and she’s taken to it with gusto. She’s got 30 hens in a Chicken Caravan surrounded by an electric fence, that gets moved around the problems areas of the property. She knows it’s going to come with challenges, especially when summer rolls around and the temperature soars. But she has mitigated the risks, and it’s all systems go.

Anyway, their story is brilliant, and you should listen to it here, on our Beating Around the Bush podcast. The part where Kylie talks about the success she’s had with direct marketing and harnessing the magic of social media to play in her favour is particularly interesting.

I've done all the dumb things - reflections on the first year of RBC

I've done all the dumb things - reflections on the first year of RBC

When you launch a business via a crowdfunding campaign it's almost in reverse. You have to go public and start rolling a little bit before you normally would. I was lining up for the leap but someone gave me a little push. I heard it being likened to throwing yourself off a cliff and making the parachute as you go down. Couldn’t agree more!

As I think about the past 12 months there are some smart things and some really dumb things I have done.... 

RBC welcomes Advisory Board members

The RBC Team is growing. This week we have appointed our Advisory Board. As a business owner I have always been a big advocate for having a group of advisors and getting some outside perspective on your business. And in what can sometimes be a lonely pursuit, two heads are always better than one. I have always enlisted the support of business coaches and mentors to help me keep on course and stretch further than I thought I could reach.

For Rural Business Collective, this is certainly true and a big part of appointing an Advisory Board was to keep us thinking big. It’s pretty easy to get bogged down in the day to day of creating content and websites, which payment wall to use, responding to member requests, pitching member stories and the list goes on. However, if we are going to achieve what we set out to achieve and that’s to make a significant difference in creating a culture of entrepreneurship in the bush and become Australia’s leading community for rural and remote entrepreneurs, we need to make sure we are looking to the big picture. I think most business owners can appreciate this and in one way or another have a similar function in their business.

The second reason that I have enlisted the support of this amazing group of business brains is to broaden the voice of RBC. When I start to plan out the five to 10 year vision for Rural Business Collective it becomes something that has a life beyond me as a business owner and founder. It becomes property of the community. The Advisory Board is a way of engaging the community as the army of architects and advocates that will help us reach into the far corners of rural and remote Australia to find amazing stories, entrepreneurs and communities.

After nearly 40 applications we have selected a team of nine to take us through this first term of the Advisory Board and we are really pleased with the mix of skills and experience on the Board. We set out to enlist a good mix of big thinkers, rural community understanding and small business experience and we have got all that and more!!

The Advisory Board will receive a report from me each quarter against some of our key goals and milestones and twice a year we will meet face to face to spend a day working on Rural Business Collective strategy and getting input and valuable discussion from the group. Our first meeting will be the end of August.

I sincerely welcome our new team and you can read more about each member on the Advisory Board page.

Cherry picking for last minute presents!

RBC's Jayne Cuddihy with Fiona McFarlane from cherrygift.com

RBC's Jayne Cuddihy with Fiona McFarlane from cherrygift.com

Fiona McFarlane is a poster girl for self-motivation.  

Featured in this week’s Beating Around the Bush podcast, Fiona’s already running the family media and marketing business, is the national chair of the Skal tourism body and is incredibly active in the Cairns community as a business mentor and public figure.  

So of course she started another business, cherrygift.com, an SMS gift voucher service.

I laughed when she said her startup was born out of guilt (she had forgotten a friend’s birthday and wanted something to send to her as soon as possible) but she’s tapped into an incredible market of online gift giving available on SMS.

In this podcast, Fiona talks about her business, the importance of networking and the tricks of the trade when it comes to working from home.

Listen here to our conversation.

Regional Australia in ABC's Life Matters' spotlight

RBC's Fleur Anderson was a guest on ABC Radio National's Life Matters program this morning- highlighting the exciting new era for small businesses in the bush. 

If you missed it, listen here. 

She was joined by the inspiring Joanna Palmer from Pointer Remote Roles. Jo is based out of rural NSW and has recently started a business matching recruiters and employers with the best candidate for the job, regardless of where they live. 

Interviewed by Amanda Smith, Jo and Fleur make a wonderful team on the airwaves, and it's worth a listen.

Rebel's Blooming Success!

Imagine arriving in your new town of Lightening Ridge in New South Wales, in 50 degree heat and realising there’s no air conditioning in your apartment. And the windows wouldn’t open.

Then starting work at your new job as the local newspaper editor, with no previous journalism experience. And as it was in the days where the photos for the paper needed to be developed off film, realising that for your very first paper, someone had lost the photos, and you had to drive the 354km in the pouring rain to Dubbo to make deadline.

Not only did Rebel Black take all of that in her stride, but she fell in love, put roots down, successfully started five businesses, and has travelled the country as a healthy living/ raw food advocate and motivational speaker.

In the latest Beating Around the Bush podcast, Fleur Anderson uncovers some of Rebel’s best kept business secrets and an amusing and honest insight into what happens behind the scenes when you become addicted to starting small businesses.

Rebel’s latest venture is The Rural Woman, a virtual online marketplace for women in regional and rural parts of Australia to showcase their skills and products. ‘Bloom Where You are Planted’ is her catchcry, which of course should resonate with all Rural Business Collective members. Be sure to have a listen wherever you get your favourite podcasts.

Tall Poppies take centre stage at PitchFest

The Tall Poppies breakfast at PitchFest always draws a crowd, this year's Toowoomba event not being an exception. The panel, facilitated by Australia Post's Rebecca Burrows included Diana Somerville from Regional Pitchfest, Joy Taylor from Canvas Coworking and our very own Fleur Anderson. They discussed everything from seeking out investors, maintaining relationships with mentors and how to successfully run a business in regional and remote areas. 

Deciphering the corporate speak with Bronwyn

 
 

When you start a business, generally your enthusiasm is at peak level- you love what you do and are sure other people will as well.

The reality is that sometimes that fades, you change direction, or you move onto other things.

Or sometimes you don’t and your business can continue to thrive. Bronwyn Reid and her husband, Ian Rankine have been in business for 30 years, and when I spoke to her recently for our podcast Beating Around the Bush, her passion for what she does and the industries they service hasn’t dwindled in the least.

Bronwyn and Ian are environmental consultants and after a stint overseas, returned to Emerald in Central Queensland to service the agricultural, gas and mining industries on concepts that really were ahead of their time.

They rode the ebb and flows of the various markets and gained a huge knowledge of working with big companies and corporations which are vital to small businesses. Listen here to get some of her tips! 

Or better yet, why not make contact with Bronwyn on her blog?

Sprouting AgTech’s most promising innovators

I met Sam Trethewey at the amazing 400M forum recently in Toowoomba. The forum brought together a huge cross-section of people from the AgTech community- innovators, farmers, bankers, technology gurus- it was almost overwhelming. But more on that later. 

Sam is the General Manager of Sprout X AgTech Australia, the first accelerator program for this industry in Australia. Their mission statement is to ‘identify, fund and accelerate AgTech’s leading startups’. 

You can’t help but get excited when you talk to Sam- he’s very passionate about what he does and excited about the kinds of startups they are producing. 

Listen to our interview here. 

Check out the latest Outback Magazine!

Have you picked up your copy of Outback Magazine yet? The latest edition showcases our members Ainsley McArthur and Rob and Rebecca Lomman of Seed and Sprout! And there’s a nice cameo om Agmech Services, Genevieve Gleeson, Gray Street Vet Clinic, Lucy Blish, Steven Bliss, Michelle Hartwig, Hartmor Cattle, Horses and Dogs and Carly Burnham. 390,000 sets of eyeballs will run over this article this month!!

This is what the cover looks like, so look out for it on the stands!

Thank goodness for other people’s expertise

Thank goodness for other people’s expertise

As you may have picked up from some of my previous posts, the financial planning part of a business is not my favourite. 

But speaking to Brian Costello from Financial Grace for this week’s podcast, I realised just how fantastic it is that there are people out there who live and breathe it. 

Brian has a diverse and interesting background, including a long career as a bush pilot before turning to financial services. 

He prides himself on putting the ‘service’ back into Financial Services and is very passionate about his rural companies and their success at having secure finances now and into the future. 

Mark Sowerby- Queensland’s Chief Entrepreneur

Mark Sowerby- Queensland’s Chief Entrepreneur

Mark Sowerby is Queensland’s Chief Entrepreneur- what an amazing job!

He was pretty reluctant to take on the role because he’s one of those incredibly energised people that take on a million things at a time and nail them all- not least his own brain child- Blue Sky- an alternative investment business and swimming the English Channel (to take a mental break !?) and being a family man as well. 

Managing Energy Saves Time

Managing Energy Saves Time

Despite spending years trying, I can’t make more time in the day! 

Luckily there are people who spend their professional lives trying to perfect ways to better manage time. 

Like Jill Rigney, featured on this week’s Beating Around Bush podcast!

Jill has spent most of her career training people in regional and rural areas on time management through her business The Right Mind. http://www.therightmind.com.au/ourpeople