Tech trends mean that savvy small business owners are more confidently upping stakes and relocating to the country in search of a slower, smarter life, despite political uncertainty and fluctuating financial markets both in Australia and worldwide.
For the first time since the financial crisis, ABS migration data indicates that families (rather than baby boomers) are shifting to the country or the coast and taking their business ambitions with them.
It’s a case of enough is enough. Young and old(er) generations are no longer waiting for markets to settle or big business to forge more opportunities in the country. Instead, they are moving out of the cities and putting their trust in tech to create competition that could spark a regional business renaissance.
The Regional Australia Institute concurs, arguing that businesses in regional Australia can (and will) compete with their city cousins if they let technology, innovation and human capital drive them – and those on the ground agree.
Anita Sutherland, Regional Manager for Kimberley Small Business Support, works directly with a growing network of businesses in the Western Australian outback. “Many of our businesses have a pragmatic approach to tech that means they are often more digi-ready than most.”
“When you have branches that could be 150,000 kilometres apart you need to be prepared to take advantage of any technology available to not only operate your business, but also recruit the incredible talent that you might not otherwise be able to employ,” said Ms Sutherland.
Operating in the cloud and holding meetings on Skype or via video conference is par for the course for many of the businesses Kimberley Small Business Support deals with, while talking social media marketing is a constant hot topic for businesses aiming to bring customers beyond city borders.
‘Interestingly,” says Ms Sutherland, “doing business in the bush not only inspires a willingness to think more creatively, but can also lead to funding opportunities that city businesses don’t have available to them.”
Kimberley Small Business Support knows what it is talking about. A not-for-profit startup, the organisation was the recipient of an AusIndustry grant that enabled them to start up, and service, regional and remote businesses of all shapes and sizes across the Kimberley.
In regional Victoria, Jonai Farms – founded by a tree-changing family from Melbourne – recognised the same opportunities. Relying on their tech savvy to access crowdfunding to invest in infrastructure, they created an Australian farming first, when they raised nearly $40,000 on Pozible.
“Farming is one of the oldest industries around, but when we started Jonai Farms we knew that it was going to be our effective use of technology – both operationally, and in marketing – that would help us thrive,” said Mr Stuart Jonas, Farmer at Jonai Farms in Daylesford.
Anna Phillips, an interior designer operating out of a small rural town nearby, said the same.
“I don’t have to invest in expensive overheads that drive up my costs. Advances in software, easy use of mobile technology, and access to the cloud means I can offer my clients competitive rates as well as top quality designs,” said Ms Phillips.
“Meanwhile widespread adoption of social media means I can connect with clients without even leaving my home office,” she added.
Every day, tech from mobile to the cloud are now a basic part of any regional business’s operations, but what are the top 4 digi-tech trends to keep an eye on?