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Georgia Chitty, Marty and Julie Chitty

Vines, wines and not enough time!

It was a love of fine wines that inspired one Canberra couple to start their own small business.

“Not only did we want to drink great wines, but we wanted to get involved in the process from the very beginning by planting a vineyard and growing excellent fruit,” Julie Chitty explained. And so it was that in 1997, Julie and Bob Furbank – together with another couple – purchased 300 acres of prime farming land in the heart of Canberra’s cool climate wine district, and over the next two years, began establishing 20 acres of vines.

With backgrounds in biology, plant science and research, they were able to source respected advice and tap into best practice models to help guide them along the way.  

Knowing how important creating a point of difference is for your small business, Julie and Bob also experimented with varieties that were not widely known let alone grown in the area.

Their gamble paid off; they are the only vineyard to have planted the relatively unknown French variety Petit verdot, from the Bordeaux region, which is proving to become quite the success story for Barton wines.

With two children aged 10 and 14, Julie and Bob - like most small business owners – find running their enterprise hard work.

“The reality is that this is a seven day a week enterprise which requires the commitment of the entire family and substantive inputs from ‘off farm’ income,” Julie said.

Julie and Bob are responsible for the entire chain of production from growing the grapes to actually selling the wine directly to the customer.  

“We are proud to offer quality estate-grown produce via an authentic personal experience at our cellar door – it is the fruition of our years of hard work,” Julie added.

When it comes to setting up your small business – particularly with others – Julie suggests giving careful consideration to the potential for a business partnership.

“When there are personal and aspirational life goals surrounding a rural property that has been bought specifically for a business outcome think carefully about business partnerships,” Julie cautioned.

If they knew then what they know now, would they have still considered going into business?

“For us, our business is more than a business; it’s a way of life. We love living here at the estate, we love Murrumbateman, the Canberra Region, the local wineries, and the characters who own, run and work in them. We love being a part of that community,” Julie said.