Success stories for regional businesses, but internet speeds still a problem
As seen on ABC News, 4 December 2017
Ten successful regional businesses are in Sydney for a masterclass with global internet giant Google, but their stories show just how hard it can be to make money in the bush.
Google has partnered with the Regional Australia Institute to run the masterclass and competition to highlight regional businesses doing innovative things online.
But success depends largely on internet speed and connection.
Cathy Owen is just starting to turn a profit, four years after launching Garlicious Grown.
She produces black garlic at Braidwood in New South Wales.
“We take garlic that we grow and our neighbours grow and we hold it at low temperature and high humidity for thirty days which turns it black — it’s magic,” she said.
She has built a network of 90 retail outlets across Australia and there is a growing export market, but the business has been hamstrung by poor internet speeds.
“It’s hugely difficult,” she said.
It is a very different story in areas with access to the national broadband network (NBN).
Leanne Rogers runs The Lake House in Denmark in WA.
She is paying $100 month for access to the NBN, less than half of Cathy Owen’s internet bill, and high speed internet has made a big difference to her gourmet products business.
“It’s made a huge difference because I’ve been able to put everything on the cloud, whereas before I was on ADSL and it was so slow,” Ms Rogers said.
Edwina Sharrock is a midwife providing childbirth education to people in the bush, many of them farmers.
Based in Tamworth, she is connected to the NBN but many of her clients are not.
“A lot of people who live out in rural and regional areas can’t access hospital classes so we’re providing digital solutions,” she said.
To get the information out she has resorted to sending USB sticks with the modules in the post.
When it comes to success, this group highlights the importance of just backing yourself and getting started, and asking for help.
While the challenges are great and profits can be slow in coming, regional business owners such as Rob Knight say it is not always about the money.
He runs luxury three-day walking and camping tours on Bruny Island in Tasmanian and his aim is to “create a lifestyle that I wanted to live and doing positive things for the planet”.
The competition winner was Northern Territory fashion house Magpie Goose, started by welfare rights lawyer Maggie McGowan in Katherine.
It sells clothing online with Indigenous designs and is creating new economic opportunities for remote Indigenous communities.