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Case Studies

Are you looking for some inspiration to grow your business? Read the following case studies.

Government grant assist Darwin business to grow

In 2005 Big Fish Graphics was literally operating out of Josh Ker's backyard. Several years on, Josh now has nine employees and the business has expanded to the point where the next step is taking on the world.

The Darwin-based niche design and manufacturing company is the biggest supplier of specialist fishing clothing in Australia, but Managing Director Josh Ker says it has been a steep learning curve to get where he is today.

For the first time since the company’s inception, Big Fish Graphics has accessed a grant through the Textile, Clothing and Footwear (TCF) Small Business Program which will provide it with constant mentoring to develop and implement a business strategy that will put in place improved manufacturing processes including installing printing and sewing machinery to increase production and efficiency.

With that expertise Josh expects the business will be able to reach its full potential and is expecting by the end of the year to double the number of people he employs.

"We made some enquiries about particular grants but were a little daunted by the application process, however we were placed on an email circular which kept us informed about what grants were available and how to apply," he said.

“As we got a little bigger and with some input about the process of applying this became quite an exciting process and really maps out our business as well as its projection into the future.”

Josh came to the clothing industry with a background in graphic design, but not as a designer for fabric and admits that learning the ins and outs of the industry was a tough call.

When Josh started Big Fish Graphics he made a conscious decision to use Australian manufacturers for his high-tech fabric although off shore suppliers would have been far less expensive.

“By encouraging the industry to become more competitive on the global scale it will help maintain the high quality for which Australian manufacturing is known.”

A paint retailer primed and ready to grow

For 51 years, family-owned retail group Paint Place CQ has sold paints and supplies in Central Queensland. Sharon Moore, personal assistant to Paint Place CQ's company director, Brett Morrison, explains how business.gov.au is helping the business expand into new markets.

When Paint Place CQ recognised the need for a business growth plan, I headed to the business.gov.au website to download a planning template. My background in training meant that I was familiar with the site, I knew the information was current and reliable and I felt confident in recommending it to Brett.

We sat down and used the free planning template to help develop a growth plan for Paint Place CQ. We knew this planned approach would help us make informed decisions about what market to expand into next. The template helped us to analyse potential locations and their market, and to think about what we could offer potential customers if we were to open a new store location. Our thorough research paid off-it helped us identify Gladstone as a suitable location for our newest warehouse.

Planning also assisted us in our marketing strategies, helping us to identify what was relevant and effective to reach our target market. For example, we now run adverts to suit the weather conditions, such as ads for products to remove mould in the cooler months, and in summertime we'll be looking to market products to help people re-do their decks. The planning template helped us to think more closely about these kinds of things.

business.gov.au has also helped us in training our staff. Brett did some online research into new sales techniques and found what he needed on the site. As a result we saved money on staff training by using a free resource, whereas as we estimate that a private training package could have cost us around $1,000.

One of the most appealing things about business.gov.au is that the tools, information and templates are right there at my fingertips. They're generalised enough for any business owner to use them and adapt as they see fit. Not only did the information on business.gov.au help us to make informed decisions about Paint Place CQ's business growth and training, but it saved us money and time in the process!

Like all good paint finishes, preparation has been the key to our success.

This case study was first published on the business.gov.au website.

Online nest egg pays off

Birdsnest went from an eclectic store in the NSW town of Cooma to a national fashion brand. Owner Jane Cay - aka 'Big Bird'- explains how finding an online niche helped her business reach new markets.

When I left regional Australia to attend university in Sydney, I thought I'd never look back. But as fate would have it, I fell in love with a farmer and somehow wound up returning to a country town.

I knew I wouldn't quite 'cut it' on the farm, but I still needed to do something that made me want to jump out of bed every morning. Having grown up in a family filled with small business owners, running my own business seemed like a natural step for me. After some research, I decided to buy an existing retail business in Cooma.

When I took over the business in 2004, it was an eclectic mix of saddlery, Akubra hats and women's fashion and employed five staff. After removing the outfitters merchandise and honing in on women's fashion, the business began to grow solidly at a rate of 10-20% per year. This was a great result for a small business in a regional town—I began to think "where to next?". The obvious decision would be to open another store somewhere, but it was 2006 and given the growth in online business, I made the decision to take Birdsnest online.

At the time, people were very skeptical of this approach—I was often told "nobody will buy clothes online", but coming from an IT background, I understood the kind of opportunities the Internet offered. As with everything in life, there was no guarantee that the online store would be successful—the bricks and mortar store in Cooma provided a safety blanket while we dreamt big.

One of the most important things about running a business is understanding your market and catering to its needs. This is even more so in the world of online business—you have to work out whose problem you're solving or you end up getting lost in the crowd. We quickly realised that we weren't in the business of selling dresses—we were in the business of solving a woman's wardrobe dilemma!

I did a lot of online research to get the website up and running and developing the brand was an important part of that phase. It was important to us that our online customers received the same high standard of customer service that our in-store customers received and our focus on customer service continues

Our thorough planning and commitment to the website and customer service has paid off: since birdsnest.com.au started, the business has grown to more than 100 birds (team members), the website records five million page views or 500 000 visits every month, and we now sell to people all over Australia and the world!

That's the best thing about running an online business-it doesn't matter whether you're in regional Australia or a big city, if you are the most relevant business, your online customers will find you.

This case study was first published on the business.gov.au website.