The majority of us grow up being indoctrinated into the belief that strong economic opportunities only exist in the city, and the idea of a sea change (or tree change) is reserved solely for retirees, hemp-wearing hippies, or mysterious tech billionaires.
Yet we are seeing more and more examples of savvy, innovative change-makers ditching the city grind to make a go of life (and business) in regional Australia, and—despite the naysayers—succeeding.
Jess Jones, Founder of Soar Collective—an organisation driven to help connect regional businesswomen—knows firsthand that the dream is achievable. Fresh off the back of a successful regional road trip, Jones and her team brought business innovators together for a collection of networking events across regional Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland and was buoyed by what she identified as a groundswell of support between female entrepreneurs in regional settings.
“You don’t have to live in a city to run a successful business. There is a talented network of capable, switched-on women who are creating thriving businesses outside of the metropolitan areas and it’s humbling to see how motivated this group is to support and uplift other women,” says Jones.
Tina Tower, one of Soar Collective’s guest speakers, and winner of a prestigious Telstra Businesswomen Award, moved her family and her business to Pottsville in regional NSW in 2013. At the time, many questioned her ability to effectively run her business, Begin Bright, a national children’s education provider, without a metro head office. Their doubts were firmly put at ease in the first year of the relocation.
“The company achieved higher revenue during my first year with a head office surrounded by trees, based out of my rural farm, than any while located in Sydney,” says Tower.
Despite the success stories, there is a common thread connecting the experience of many rural and regional female business owners—a lack of recognition of their success and expertise. Almost all feel a sense of continually needing to justify their existence and prove their worth to others in the business community.
“Many of our attendees lamented the fact that local events still source their expert speakers from the closest capital city, despite the fact they have a wealth of local, valuable knowledge at their doorstep,” says Jones.
So, how do women in rural and regional Australia shake off these misconceptions to conquer their market and create sustainable growth?
Add your voice to the chorus
Tower believes in the power of the story to combat the perception of regional businesswomen as less successful or knowledgeable than their urban counterparts.
“It’s about spreading the word and sharing the stories of regional businesses that are doing really well and making waves in their industry, or trying to. We need to increase the awareness about these businesses and the communities they support and contribute to.”
Join the co-working revolution
Global projections forecast more than 1 million people will be utilising co-working spaces by the end of 2017, and regional locations are an ideal place to jump aboard the co-working train.
“Not only is it practical—we all know how unreliable rural internet connections can be—but it’s also such a great way to stay connected with local entrepreneurs and break up that feeling of isolation you can experience when working solely from home. In my experience, you get far more done too!” says Jones.
Build your tribe
Digital tools give rural and regional businesswomen from all over Australia the chance to support, mentor and champion each other. Find like-minded peers and mentors to connect with via social media, online communities or forums and to be supported throughout your business journey.
On the flipside, it’s also crucial to create strong connections with your local community. Working with local leaders to drive regional goals helps you, your business, and your hometown.
“Connecting with your community helps to validate the importance of your business and ensures you grow alongside your neighbours. As a regional businesswomen I feel like there is an added responsibility to work not only for the success of your business, but to work towards the success of your region,” says Tower.
Never stop learning
Learning is vital for your business and your own development, and we’re lucky to have access to such a wealth of online information and resources—a rural or regional location doesn’t preclude you from accessing high quality education. There are a host of free online learning sites that collate top content from the world’s best universities—try www.coursera.org, www.edx.org, or www.code.org if you’re looking for a challenge!
3 more of the same. Read how to network to your advantage:
1. 5 secrets of successful networking
2. How to network in your local community
3. Public speaking tips to make the most of networking