Thinking of moving to the countryside and starting your own business?
Australia has seen the largest migration to the regions since records began.
It’s an important decision, but the pandemic has taught us, at the very least, that work-life balance is a high priority.
As employers warm to the idea of taking your office mobile, many see a regional move as the key to finding that happy medium, with fresh air, open spaces, a tight-knit community, affordable housing and a connection with nature.
So how do you conquer the country? Here is the best advice from those who did and survived – even thrived – to tell the story.
Trust your instincts and take the plunge
If Toni Barton was thinking inside the box, she would never have ended up in her own sheep station in Nulla Vale, Victoria.
“I worked for 17 years in marketing before deciding to move to the country,” she says.
“My career took me all the way to New York, so I worked on Wall Street for a while.
But life in the financial world during the height of the global financial crisis became increasingly difficult, when the company she worked for came under scrutiny.
“One day I was walking to work and all of a sudden I had two reporters come up to me, and they started asking me a bunch of questions about my business,” Toni says.
“I started to walk a little faster [and] before I knew it, I was running around Wall Street with my latte in my hand and I was like, “What am I doing? This is not where I want to be. ‘”
She packed her bags and returned to Melbourne, but it was while taking a country walk with her mother that she stumbled upon her future home.
“I had never crossed this region before,” she says.
“I drove on Lancefield-Tooborac Road and fell in love, totally in love.”
She started her new life as a sheep farmer, even though she didn’t know anything about sheep.
“I’ve always been very resourceful, and I think it was just about harnessing that skill and trying to find out as much as possible, so really tap into the experience in the area,” says -it.
“It’s so essential: to talk to all the older farmers around you who have been here for many generations and find out what they are doing and why they are doing it. “
After settling down with a small herd, she put her business acumen to work and created a new product: lamb bacon made from a scrap usually discarded.
Business exploded when it entered the Middle East market and secured $ 7 million in orders from Saudi Arabia.
He couldn’t be further from the Manhattan skyscrapers, but he filled his cup.
“I feel like you have to have a purpose when you do anything, and I probably didn’t know what that really meant when I was pursuing my corporate career,” she says.
Going down a rabbit hole can be a good thing
After quitting a pressured job in Brisbane, Brad Scott and his wife Narelle hit the road.
“Corporate life had found me a little jaded,” says Brad.
“We decided to sell everything, to drive south, to find jobs in motels.”
But after months of working and traveling, the small coastal town of Robe, South Australia, brought them to a halt.
“It must depend on the community, on the people,” said Narelle.
“You can have pretty views anywhere, but that feeling is something – it’s so hard to describe but it has to be the common thread of the community.”
The couple bought a shed in the city, out of sight, as they continued their journey, and quickly returned to the area to start a new life.
After settling in, Brad started looking for his next project and ended up going down a rabbit hole on YouTube.
“I came home like Jack and the Beanstalk with his Beansticks,” he says.
“I said, ‘I saw this thing on YouTube – this is what I’m going to do.’ She said ‘OK, no worries my dear.’
He had discovered a global recycling movement called Precious Plastics, and this inspired him to start a small business turning plastic bread labels into food-grade bowls.
Using his degree in chemistry, he set about making the necessary machines based on what he could learn online.
The couple devoted themselves full time to their fledgling business, and soon they had a few large retailers on board. They also partnered with the local Men’s Shed and an Adelaide charity.
For Brad, it’s a refreshing new chapter in his career.
“I’m probably seen in a different light than I should have just worked in the costume,” he says.
“You feel good, this is ethical work,” said Narelle.
“You feel like you’re doing good for the world. It might just be a small part, but you are doing it.”
Don’t let the fear of failure put you off
Queenslander Diane Rae yearned for the rugged beauty of Tasmania before she even went there.
“I just said to my partner at the time, ‘We have to go. There is something out there that concerns my past or my future.’”
They packed their bags and moved, with the intention of starting a vineyard.
“Although I was born and raised in Queensland, it was actually the only place where I really felt at home,” says Diane.
But when the business and relationship collapsed, she looked around to see what she could do next.
She eventually settled in a sheep dairy and was joined by her children, Nicole Gilliver and Ryan Hartshorn, to run the place.
Even with the extra hands, the family struggled to make ends meet.
“The business got to a point where we were selling everything we did, but we still didn’t have any money to show for it,” Ryan said.
But no one resigned. Instead, they found creative ways to branch out.
For Ryan, it was about incorporating his love of distillation into the family cheese business, creating the world’s first sheep whey vodka.
Nicole began to envision a new venture into skin care, using excess sheep’s milk that was unsuitable for making cheese and would otherwise be wasted.
For Diane, the pitfalls and hard work were made manageable thanks to her somewhat special colleagues.
“I am really lucky to work with two amazing humans,” she says.
“They are both amazing business people who bring incredible skills to the table.
“People keep telling me, ‘Oh my god, poor little one, you work with your family’ and it’s like, ‘This is my joy. This is my joy.'”
Watch the Movin ‘To The Country premiere on ABCTV at 7:30 p.m. on July 2.
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