Business baby steps

BUSINESS: Andrea Harrison, left, Jenni Finn, Lauren Mathers, and Kerry Anderson.

BUSINESS: Andrea Harrison, left, Jenni Finn, Lauren Mathers, and Kerry Anderson.

ANDREA Harrison sold off "everything but the children" to keep her new business, children's clothing retailer Kawaii Kids afloat. 

Ms Harrison told the story at an International Day of Rural Women event of how she had her first baby and couldn't find any suitable shoes in the area, so she made her own. 

Plunging head first into a children's clothing business with no prior retail experience, one of Ms Harrison's first challenges was being denied a business loan because she had no credit history.

But she sold what she could, forged on, and now owns a successful retail business. 

The event, held at Factory and Field, Cohuna, was hosted by Kerry Anderson, author of 'Entrepreneurship: It's everybody's business' and founder of the Operation Next Gen program.

Featuring a panel of three local businesswomen, the day focused on discussions surrounding rural women taking control of their destinies by starting their own businesses.

The panel included Jenni Finn, the owner of Factory and Field, Bundarra Berkshires biodynamic piggery founder Lauren Mathers, and Kawaii Kids founder Andrea Harrison.

All three women started their businesses with little more than drive and a vision but now own successful businesses that each has built from the ground up.

As Ms Anderson put it, they were three women who didn't know what they were doing when they started, but they did it anyway.

Lauren Mathers learned how to slaughter a pig while her six month old baby wriggled nearby. 

Ms Mathers had a farming background but had never dealt with pigs and started with just one in her own backyard.

"I don't think too far ahead," she said.

Eventually she did acquire land and more pigs and now fills what she saw as a niche opportunity for local biodynamic pork products.

The panel discussed who or what they were inspired by, the practical ins and outs of financing a business, and the personal challenges each of them faced.

The event was opened by Gannawarra shire councilor, Sonia Wright who said that Operation Next Gen was all about helping small rural towns take control of their own destinies through encouraging entrepreneurship.

Ms Anderson said the day was about sharing knowledge with other women in business.

There was significance to holding the event at Factory and Field according to Ms Anderson. 

Owner Ms Finn worked in it as a young girl when it was an orange juice factory but it had sat abandoned for some time. 

In just six months Ms Finn turned the space into a store and cafe. 

By the time she was ready to open Ms Finn had just $23 in the bank but the store sold out of stock on opening night, to Ms Finn's own surprise - and relief!

Part of Ms Anderson's Operation Next Gen is about reinvigorating these spaces through entrepreneurship. 

"It is a celebration of rural space," she said.

Light refreshments, a lunch, and plenty of networking opportunities completed the day. 

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