Today we are introducing you to Ally who is the small business owner of Bespoke Fibre in Central SA.
Bespoke Fibre is a small business that processes raw and natural fibres such as wool, cotton and alpaca wool into yarn that buyers can use. Ally had spent most of her life working in wool classing, but an injury forced her to leave the industry. Bespoke Fibre is a way for Ally to financially support herself after her injury by doing something that she loves.
Initially, her business idea was to grow the business to be able to compete with large mills on the East coast, however, Ally has since found a niche market with demand for her homemade products and has decided to stick with her homemade yarn.
“I’m working with Penelope, my Many Rivers business coach, and she has been an absolute blast to work with. For someone who has never had their own business before, this is exactly the type of support that I needed. Penelope avoids jargon and ‘business speak’, she speaks plainly.’
Read more about Ally’s small business journey so far.
My business is a fibre processing business. I take raw natural fibres such as wool, cotton and alpaca wool, and I process it so that the owner can use it. I started the business about 18 months ago. I used to be a wool classer, worked in woolsheds and classed wool for sale. I had some health challenges, so I had to leave that job. I had been a hand spinner for over 20 years, and I saw another lady who had started her business. I thought that if she can do it, why can’t I?
Starting Her Business Journey
Initially, I did the NEIS course which was a good starting point but found that was more appropriate for brick-and-mortar businesses rather than services like what I offer. Additional to running my business, I also clean a hotel and a pub about 20 hours a week to support myself. I don’t like being on the dole. I wanted to support myself and I don’t want to be on government handouts.
I found out about Many Rivers while at my NEIS course. Many Rivers sits and works one-on-one with you to work on your business. It is a very different service to NEIS.
I didn’t get a Many Rivers loan, but I did look into it. This is one of the other things I love about Many Rivers! My business could not support any repayments. Penelope looked over my books and was very honest about it. She told me early on that a loan would not be right for me, but as soon as I am able to have a loan and make repayments, Many Rivers will be willing to offer me a loan which is more than any bank would do!
Originally, I wanted to get as big as I could to compete with mills on the East Coast. Now I have realised that my handmade products and my customers are different to these other companies. So that is what I am putting my focus on. If I get big, my service becomes generic but if I remain small, it is more personal. I like it like this. There are big suppliers on the east coast so customers that are looking for that can go there. The crazy thing is that a lot of my customers come from the East Coast looking for something more personal. It’s very much a niche market.
Working with Many Rivers
I’m working with Penelope at the moment, and she has been an absolute blast to work with. She helps me plan and work towards my goals. She keeps me on track and gives me a heads up for other things I need to think about. She will look over my figures and tell me where I am going wrong and what I can do to improve. She doesn’t do it for me, she helps me sort it out for myself.
For someone who has never had their own business before, this is exactly the type of support that I needed. I’m not digitally savvy and that has been the biggest challenge of all, so getting myself on social media with Penelope’s help has been priceless.
I have been recommending Many Rivers to anyone who will listen. The business coaches take it on a case-by-case basis, there is no blanket approach. It doesn’t matter if you have been in business for years, there is always ways that you can change and adapt. For example, we discovered that Facebook wasn’t working for my business, but Instagram does!
The business coaches are willing to meet face-to-face. Being able to do it face-to-face and look over everything together and figure out all the mess is the most valuable part. Zoom meetings are great but there is too much lost these days when we rely too heavily on technology.
Penelope avoids jargon and ‘business speak’, she speaks plainly. I get so lost in jargon, but she is very upfront and what you see is what you get. It’s just brilliant. She speaks very realistically and is very black and white about what I need to hear. She is very good at what she does and she is a brilliant coach. She knows how much information to give you and when to give you space. We have meetings once a month and that is all that I need now, which is perfect. I know that I can contact her via email at any other time too and she is always there. In my situation, she is perfect.
To date, the biggest challenge has been wrapping my head around the business. It is not something that I have ever done before. It does require a whole new way of thinking and it is a way of thinking that I haven’t done before. I knew that being recognised would take a bit of time, so it was just the ins and outs of business and training myself to be diligent.
Being able to do something that I love and having my hands in the wool! If it wasn’t for my health, I would still be in the woolshed. So much personal growth has come with it and there have been some freedoms that come with being a small business owner. The other thing is that I have met some great people like Penelope! We just get along so well.
Working from home is a big change. Balancing family life and work-life is a new challenge. My work isn’t all 9-5 but somehow, at the end of it all, it all works out! Life is a giggle!
Future Goals for Bespoke Fibre
My focus over the next few months is trying to get regular money coming in so that I can rely on a salary and eventually give up my part-time job. I want to get things working in such a way that I can rely on money coming in on a regular basis. That requires tweaking up how I operate. That way I can begin working on my business full-time. At the moment I am working on getting a more stable income stream for myself and keeping my outgoings to a minimum.
I would love to encourage folk who haven’t done this before to just do it! I was completely unskilled in business but what I did know how to do was processing fibre – I went from there! Here I am, 18 months down the track, and I haven’t cornered the market, but I don’t need to. I have enough happening and that is more than I dreamed of. I have met some amazing people along the way. Success or failure, you learn stuff as you go. You never know what you will get out of it.
Thanks, Ally, for sharing your business journey. Your story will inspire people who are looking to take their next step towards creating their own business. If you would like to stay updated with Ally and her journey as a small business owner, follow Bespoke Fibre on Facebook or Instagram.
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