According to the ABS, regional businesses account for over 800,000 businesses. As part of our Regional Heroes campaign, we’re profiling some of these incredible small business owners, like Jane Robertson, to see what makes them (and their towns) tick!
What is the name of your business?
What is your website, Instagram and Facebook?
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/millwoodsshoes/ @millwoodsshoes
When did you start your small biz?
We officially started trading January 26 2018. Although there were about 2 years of research and testing before we got close to that point.
Why did you start it?
Initially I started my business cause I couldn’t find good quality leather shoes that my children could put on themselves, look good and be kids in. I was sick of buying shoes that I had to help my children with every time their foot fell out or they got a stone or a leaf in their shoe. I hated dressing them up to go out and then ruining an outfit by putting their runners on. If I did put them in other shoes, Oh the whining cause they weren’t comfortable or gave them blisters, or they just wouldn’t wear them.
Is it the only biz of its kind in your area?
Yes it is.
What do you love most about living where you live?
Accessibility. We live on a farm about 40km from Wagga Wagga and it is peaceful and uncluttered. Wagga is a fantastic regional town. It is large enough to feel like you aren’t in the country yet small enough to have the small town charm. Wagga is very unique in that it has a fantastic start up eco system and is very supportive of people who are saying yes to trying something new and backing themselves.
Having spent about 10 years living between Sydney and Melbourne after I left school, There are elements that I love and regularly miss about the cities but you can get your fix by visiting every few months.
How would you describe your client base?
Our client base continuously surprises me and is evolving. When we initially started out our clients were all based in regional and rural Australia. We are now seeing purchasers from various urban areas of Sydney and Melbourne and slowly coming along in Brisbane.
With the launch of our womens range, we have had fantastic pre-sale orders and again are tracking the changes in who our purchasers are.
We are in learning phase as when you set your target market who you think it is and who it ends up being can vary.
Who/what do you consider your biggest competitor?
Established shoe brands that have been around for years. Retail is a crowded space and there is a trend on fast fashion at the moment. We are trying to create a brand of classic shoes that are timeless and last the distance. This means we do things slightly differently and stand by our quality and designs.
How do most of your clients find you? Ie via website, word of mouth etc
More and more I think our clients are finding us by word of mouth. Being able to offer a product that is top quality and classic enables our shoes to last and be versatile across seasons and trends. People talk about good quality.
Do you network with other small biz in your area?
I do, but nowhere near as much as I should. I try to get to what I can, but I have made some tough choices over the past year to put time with my young family first, this means I go to what is critical.
What do you think is the greatest challenge your community/area/district faces right now?
Although Wagga is a larger regional centre, I think like other regional areas the largest challenge is creating an ecosystem that can operate and be profitable regardless of weather situations. As you are aware large portions of Australia are in drought, that means that the flow of money through the economy is not as great as it can be. The talent in regional areas needs to be taken seriously by larger business and invested in outside of the capital cities. Keeping the economies strong in regional areas is far greater than money. It is about mental health too, cause as periods such as drought or aging populations bite, there needs to be other mechanisms in place for people to turn to for work or support.
Who is your greatest support?
Definitely my family but I am exceptionally fortunate in that I have a fantastic cheer squad that I share an office with and work with in town. There are a few of us who all share an office and work for ourselves and to walk in and have their smiling faces there when you haven’t slept cause you’re stressing about an element of business certainly makes it easier.
What’s your biggest goal for the next 5 years?
Well we have just launched our first womens range of loafers and we are focusing on growing our range of available colours and styles. We are creating a brand of shoes that last, shoes that you will still have in your wardrobe in 5 years time, so ensuring the steady growth of our existing and new ranges will be our focus as we grow.
What is your biggest challenge in terms of growing your business?
There is a feeling that you need to keep up with the larger players. The need to continuously drop shipments of shoes to keep people coming back to your website. As much as this is where we want to be, I am focusing on smaller quantities and quality. Making sure that we listen to our customers and make the necessary design changes so we are able to have the most comfortable, durable and classic range of shoes on the market.
If there was one thing you could to make the biggest change to your business what would it be?
Experience. I have chosen to enter an industry that I know nothing about. Talk to me about corporate governance and events and I’m your gal, but manufacturing, importing, design way over my head. Well it was, Im pretty familiar with those things now. In saying that though it could be my greatest asset. I am building this business in a way that suits our family and building a client base that is loyal.
What/where is your favourite place in your town and why?
This is a tough one, I really enjoy being at home. I find the constant rushing between, the office, kids, schools errands hectic and the peacefulness of the farm is hands down the greatest asset in my life. In saying that though, being able to park out the front of myers or drive down the main street and get within 50m of where I need to be. Being able to jump on a plane and be in Sydney or Melbourne in an hour, there are so many positives to life in Wagga that I find it hard to just pick one place.
Vote for Jane in Kochie’s Business Builders Regional Heroes competition!
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