Katherine NT | June 2019
What is your business? How long has the business been operating?
What I am doing is taking an existing product and putting my own design on it. It’s not with a traditional aboriginal art design more modern.
I don’t have a specific technique or style yet, that’s something I’m still working on. At the moment, I have lots of stories from growing up and I’m trying them out on small canvases.
I’m still in the prep stage. I couldn’t bring any of my stock from my work for the dole activity, so even though I’ve been working on my art for a while, I had to start from scratch. If I had that stock I would have been up and at it!
I’m aiming for the next local market in 4 weeks. And by then I’ll have 60 odd items. About half are complete already, the others are at 50% ready. Some things just take time, it can take 2 days to properly varnish clapping sticks so they set properly.
On the sewing side, I’ve done a few ‘overnighter’ bags; nice good size carry bags. I made an sample and then did some market research, asked if people liked it.
Doing that has helped me cut costs, I don’t want to make something that doesn’t sell. Longer handles, shorter handles, I needed to talk to people to find out what they wanted.
I met Matt at the beginning of the year and have been focusing on my own business since the beginning of May, only a couple of months.
What were you doing before you made contact with Many Rivers? What was your previous work experience?
I was doing work for the dole (CDP). I had to go on that because of my youngest daughter.
I’m also in and out of studying a cert 3 in Business. I’m still finishing, hoping my business and the course will tie in together. She (CDP provider) always knew I had an interest in doing my own stuff, I talked about it for ages.
I always gave up because I thought ‘that’s too hard’, I didn’t know where to start.
Who referred you to Many Rivers? When?
One day I came home from Job Network, Many Rivers was visiting with a family member. And the convo turned into ‘if you want to know more here’s a card’. It flowed from there.
I held onto this business plan for years, but when I broke it down, I’d get stuck. I just found it on the internet and downloaded it, but I was thinking about my own business for a long time.
What services did you receive from Many Rivers? How did it help?
Apart from the motivation to keep persevering, there were days I didn’t want to do it and Matt said ‘hang in there!’
I also got a small business loan so I could get all the equipment to start on my own.
I like it, but that whole doing it solo and not bouncing things off others for ideas, it’s hard. Family also comes in handy. I get excited! That planning bit is the big thing at moment that Matt’s been helping me with.
What did you find the most useful about the assistance from Many Rivers?
Matt helped me to work out how to do this on my own.
Did you get a loan from MR? How did you use the loan?
Yes, I got financial help to get an overlocker, sewing machine, fabric paints, all the little paint bits and pieces. I had to go to Office Works and Spotlight and pay for products that I could put designs on and paint. Everything to get started.
Just getting the ball rolling, once you sit down and go ‘I have an idea’ that’s fine, but then you realise it’s my own stuff I need to use and pay for and I don’t want to waste it. It made me actually sit back and design something. Do more planning.
Now I’m thinking about what would make a tourist buy one thing over another. I look at a blank canvas and think ‘what would look nice on that? What would people like?’
What has been the biggest challenge to date?
The hardest part is time. And time management. I remember asking to get timed when I made my first bag, it took me 5 hours from start to finish. My second and third took me an hour and a half.
I’m taking my time at the beginning and then I can get better once I’m more confident.
I don’t get up and have a break, when I’m in that zone. Gotta get up and have a stretch and drink water. And because it’s all new, I’m still learning. I’ve only done it through the program. If I do it every day for them, I’m sure I can do it for myself at home.
What has been the biggest success to date?
The feedback, someone goes “oh wow did you make that? Oh my goodness really?!” Yes! And that word of mouth spreads like fire and I become overwhelmed. I’m really excited.
What has been the biggest change for you/your family since you started your business?
Working from home. Yes it’s awesome because I don’t have to get up and go somewhere, but the other part is I have friends, family, kids want to play now it’s the holidays. I’ve got to pack away, unpack start again. It’s not a problem, just a hiccup. As soon as school is back I’ll be able to go all day.
What do you hope to achieve in the future?
I’m excited, what I really want to do, is first master my style and then mass produce my prints on meterage. I could make things from the material and there are already a few interested people who’d buy my material.