Growth of a business from lock down

Mary Heath, a long-time resident of the Central Coast, found herself in the fall out of COVID which dried up funding for her business venture which was developing chemical free technology to prevent infrastructure damage in agency, commercial and industrial buildings.

This time in lock down drew her back into gardening, a long-time love passed on from her grandmother whilst young. Watching the trend of macramé decorations see a resurgence in interior design, reminded Mary of indoor planter poles from the 80s. This combined with watching the growing trend of indoor plants for new generations brought back a long-term idea to develop handcrafted planter poles to display indoor plants without requiring permanent structure or damage to walls or ceilings.

She invested into the business idea and engaged a Sydney based professional design company engineer some prototypes. After growing frustrated with the disconnection from the design process and a desire to embrace locally sourced element into the product, she commenced a quest to be more hands on in this stage of the process.

Mary connected with local social enterprise and maker space Sparks EC at Somersby to further develop the prototype and touched base with a local Men’s Shed at Wyong who enthusiastically took on the work to create the first line.

A simple post on a gardening social media group brought in the first orders, which were then specially carved out of Tasmanian oak and shipped off to the first happy customers.

At this time, the Bigger Backyard initiative was born through the collaborative partnership of Business NSW (Central Coast), Central Coast Council and local Chambers of Commerce groups. Mary signed up to the initiative’s buy local campaign which also provided a networking connection to other entrepreneurs and mentoring support which helped further develop her business plans.

“There was an authentic commitment by the leaders and participants to discover, share and support each other – which encapsulates the spirit and generosity of the Central Coast business community and entrepreneurs,” Ms Heath said.

In addition, she also took part in Council’s Digital Activation program and online assessment tool to assess the businesses level of digital maturity and to help set a roadmap to take full advantage of digital technology and applications to boost the business. Despite having a high level of experience in digital technologies and background in businesses, Mary found she gained a lot of learning from the program.

Whilst at first it was overwhelming how many factors were to be considered, it helped to set clear step-by-step plan and provided the knowledge which increased my confidence in this area. From this I understood the importance of using data for business development and marketing, especially when working in high volume online business, plus I gained an understanding of security considerations and responsibilities when trading online, and how to take advantage of all social media platforms to boost business”, Ms Heath said.

“It’s so important to have digital maturity with business today because whether you like it or not it is how we as a society work, play and connect. If you fail to participate, you will be doomed to fail.

“Technology has enabled my customer to lead the growth of my business through an active campaign online to understand what they want. This has enabled me to make confident choices in stock, materials and direction for product development. It’s basically providing market research at my fingers and engaging the customers at the same time.”

“I would highly recommend business to jump online and take advantage of the free digital assessment tool to see where their digital weak spots may be and move towards the opportunities. I’m thankful that Council, the Central Coast’ Business NSW organisation and other business groups are banding together to help our region’s economic development and to support local entrepreneurs and businesses with opportunities to gain knowledge and vital networking connections.”

If you ask Mary what advice she would give a new start up it would be to just start, and the energy will come.

“Have a plan but make it organic so you can be flexible and adapt to unknown that as we know is just around the corner. And importantly to network! Network with confidence but allow your vulnerability to come out as that person you are talking to may just have the piece in the puzzle”.

Bigger Backyard Central Coast is about local businesses coming together for a stronger Central Coast. Bigger Backyard provides an online platform to showcase the myriad of businesses both small and large on the Coast and encourage businesses to source materials, resource and products locally. Bigger Backyard is a joint initiative of Business NSW (Central Coast), Central Coast Council and local Chambers of Commerce groups – Gosford/Erina, Wyong, The Peninsula and The Entrance.

For more information and to register, go to the Bigger Backyard website.

Digital Transformation online tool. There has never been a more important time for small businesses to become more resilient in fast changing economic landscape. One of the key tools to future proof your business is to digitally activate it. To begin, it’s important to understand where your businesses currently stands in its digital maturity before you can go down the path of transformation and remain relevant to your industry and customers.

Central Coast Council in partnership with NSW Government and The Fifth Element are providing a free on demand digital assessment tool to help small to medium sized businesses assess their digital maturity and help create a roadmap for their digital transformation.

To launch the free assessment tool, go to the digital transformation tool online.

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