While the Invisible Farmer project is currently helping to shine a light on women historically unrecognised for their contributions on the land, I am pleased to report that more and more women are becoming successful in their own right and helping to strengthen our rural towns. The stories of these visible women are truly inspiring.
In the process of writing my book, Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business, I had the privilege of interviewing a variety of business people across rural Australia, many of which were enterprising women.
For instance, Sarah Sammon returned to her home town of Swan Hill with a science degree but no career path. Combining forces with her mother they reinvented a declining property with 1000 rose bushes into the incredibly successful new business, Simply Rose Petals.
Naomi Ingleton brought an old butter factory in Myrtleford back to life capitalising on the surrounding dairy farms. King Valley Dairy now produces a range of specialist dairy products for our top restaurants and direct purchase by customers.
In Birchip, Andrea Harrison turned a problem into an opportunity. Recognising the difficulty for rural mothers to purchase quality children’s clothing and shoes, she started Kawaii Kids, a successful online company that now supplements their farm income.
Closer to home, my own daughter, Elise Brown, is owner of Fair Dinkum Dog Coats which are manufactured and sold Australia wide through her website. Her two children have grown up to the sound of an industrial machine and help deliver parcels to the post office in-between riding their ponies.
Recently I toured Melton, an 8500 hectare cattle station near Alpha in central Queensland. Rebecca Comiskey is a teacher by training but she has thrown herself full time in to this new challenge with husband David. She is learning her craft in infinite detail by monitoring everything from organic soil carbon to genetics and genomics. Effectively she is taking the business to a new level that David could not achieve on his own.
Jenni Finn of Cohuna recognised that she could get a better return on an industrial building that she and her husband own and were previously leasing out commercially. Factory and Field, a unique homeware store, was born in a rush and hasn’t looked back since becoming a popular destination in this dairy community.
Every one of these stories are helping to break the glass ceiling for women in rural Australia. They are far from invisible as they create new businesses and new ways of doing business but there is always room for more.
As the next generation of young women mature and enter the workforce, I am heartened that they will have the benefit of many great role models that are contributing to the future of rural Australia.
We can all do something positive by sharing their stories and making these women even more visible.
Kerry Anderson – www.kerryanderson.com.au – businesswoman, philanthropist and community advocate from Central Victoria who is passionate about rural and regional small business