Running your own business has many challenges and if you’re located in a rural or remote community then these challenges can be tougher than your city counterparts.
Lack of infrastructure, such as fast internet, distribution and resources can mean rural business owners have to work harder to be entrepreneurial.
A smaller pool of qualified staff to recruit from, plus less chance to access networking, mentors and training, adds to the normal business hurdles.
Despite this, in some regions, including rural areas in Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales, business owners make up over a quarter of income earners1.
Which means not only are rural entrepreneurs essential to the Australian economy, they’re also thriving.
Anna Walsh set up her retail bamboo clothing company, Bodypeace, in her home town of Byron Bay in 2009. She knows the rollercoaster of running a rural business very well.
“I wanted to start a business so that I could work and make money where I live – I love the lifestyle here. I had a background in retail fashion, so I thought why not do my own label?
I’d seen the bamboo fabric years before and saw its potential. It’s eco-friendly, natural, good for the environment and it feels so beautiful.
At that time I was a single mum and in a huge amount of credit card debt and I actually put myself more into debt to fly to China to get started."
For Anna, the main challenge has been staff issues - that she doesn’t have a qualified staff on tap.
"Trying to find skilled workers that I can afford to pay is tough. And sometimes I doubt myself as a boss or as a leader as I haven’t been formally trained.
Doing business online has also been difficult. We can’t use overnight express post from this area. So if a customer wants 24 hour delivery, it’s not possible.
I often need models for product shoots, and there’s no local model agency, which is ironic given we have the most stunning girls here.
Basically in the country you don’t have everyone or everything close by."
However, according to Anna, there are plenty of benefits of being a rural business owner.
" I find that country people have a lot of optimism and more lightness than they seem to in the city. I also have more flexibility in terms of lifestyle and I’m happier because I love where I live.
The city seems to be isolated, whereas networking is good here, I know so many people locally. It’s also cheaper to live here. I'm born and bred here, so I know a lot of people and I can make things happen.
The community side is more supportive and accessible - not everyone is so busy."
Up and down
Six years on Anna has have five shops, one hundred active wholesalers, and has grown into quite a company with sixteen employees.
"I was recently invited by my bank's Business Woman’s Network, for an all expenses paid four day business women conference and there was a lot of rural women there.
Business goes up and down. There are wonderful and terrible days. It’s important to stay steady through it all and enjoy it."
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1Perspectives on Regional Australia: Business Owners in Regions, 2011.
Disclaimer: This is not financial or professional advice. We recommend you obtain independent advice before making any financial or commercial decisions. To see if NRMA Business Insurance is right for you, always read the Product Disclosure Statement from the product issuer, Insurance Australia Limited ABN 11 000 016 722 trading as NRMA Insurance.