Starting Business in Elcho Island
Today we are sharing Brenton Smith and Justin GaraWirtji’s story, about building a mechanical, tyre and glass business in East Arnhem, in the Northern Territory.
Brenton used to run a similar company under his own name, however as the only mechanical business on Elcho Island, he wanted to grow the business with a partner and set up Nhawe Enterprises with Justin. When he was introduced to Jarrod from Many Rivers, together they got a Section 19 lease and moved out of their backyard into secure premises. With 48 jobs waiting, the future looks positive.
Read on as Brenton shares his journey, learnings, challenges and the rewards of running your own business with Many Rivers’ support.
“Half the reason I’m in this is because I got sick of people coming and going. Places open and close because the mechanic or manager quit and so they pack up all their equipment and move out. I want to see them succeed and done the right way.”
The business idea
It wasn’t really a decision. I left my last job because of a few things that were going on in the workplace and decided I was just going to go fishing. My wife works for the school here so I was just going to do a bit of cleaning at the school after hours but the local school and police department asked me to fix up their cars so I started doing that. Then NT fleet started asking if I could do some of their cars. Basically, I got sucked into it but I like it. It gave me a bit of flexibility at first and I could have a day off here and there when I needed it but it’s crazy now. I’m basically working 7 days a week.
Building a team
I’m in partnership with Justin. He’s 50% owner. He actually did his internship for a Cert III under me while I was a manager at the old job. We have another mechanic and a Yolngu guy working as our assistant labourer. There’s another lad doing work for the dole activities for the next 4 weeks who just started with us. He used to work for me as a mechanic.
Biggest challenge and success to date
Getting the section 19 lease. That’s another area Jarrod really helped us.
They’re very hard to get and a lot of people quit before they get to the end of it. They make you go through hoops but we finally got there.
We used to work out of my backyard working on dirt in the sun. My wife was very patient. Now we have a yard where we can secure cars properly and we’re hoping to have power in the next few weeks.
Getting the yard and getting everything off my doorstep.
But really, I guess it’s that I haven’t been on a wage up until about 12 months ago. It’s been one of the biggest struggles. We’ve been pumping money into the business without wages. We had no tools or machines so you can imagine the amount of money we’ve had to outlay. We haven’t had a wage for about 4 years. Anything we made just went straight into the business to buy tools and get us to where we are now.
I suppose the next stage will be getting some infrastructure now. We’re working on a concrete slab in the sun if you can imagine that and we’re servicing the whole island. If I go out to my board I think we have about 48 jobs waiting at the moment.
Working with Many Rivers
Anytime I have a question, I ring Jarrod. He’s been helping with the business plan and setting me up for grants, showing us different grants we can apply for. The bloke really goes out of his way to help us. We basically wouldn’t be where we are without him to be honest. I’ve sucked in a couple thousand into the business and he’s told us how we can get around things, where we can get funding from and that kind of thing.
I’m a hands-on worker so have no idea about this kind of stuff. He’s switched on about it all though.
Thank you so much for sharing your story Brenton.
We want to encourage more and more people to take that first step towards building on their business ideas. We’re here to support you the whole way. Please take the Small Business Self Assessment and see if we are right for you.
Featured image: Justin GaraWirtji and Many Rivers Field Officer, Jarrod Ellis