“I wish someone had told me that”: Rachel Power

For entrepreneur and cafe owner Rachel Power, relying on passion and the ability to learn as you go are the keys to success

At a glance

Here’s a snapshot of the insights from our interviewee:

  • Don’t think you need to stick to what you know. If you have the passion, you can learn.
  • Make contacts in the industry you’re thinking of working in; they can be a great support for new ideas.
  • Support your local community and they will support you, especially in regional areas.
  • It can pay to get a second opinion for financial moves.

‘I wish someone had told me that’ series, we speak with seasoned small business owners to hear their advice on growing a business and what they wish they were told along the way. Click here to read the rest of the ‘I wish someone had told me that’ series. 

Rachel Power, the founder of several businesses including the Great Aussie Road Trip, Waterfalls Cafe & Gallery and the newly-opened Mt Field Retreat, has never let a lack of experience in a venture hold her back.

She shared what she wishes she’d known about working in tourism and retail.

Follow your passion

“My husband and I are both born and bred Canberrans, but it was starting to get a bit too busy and we weren’t enjoying it that much. In 2008 my husband, who’s a photographer, said he wanted to travel Australia. We didn’t know how to finance it, but as I’d been to a few home-based business expos and knew that sponsorship can be very lucrative, we turned our holiday into a sponsored project. Canon came on as the title sponsor and covered the cost of our car and tent. That was the beginning of our achieving things that were pretty random and involved thinking outside the box.

“On one of the trips, we came down to Tassie and straight away decided to move. The decision came at a distinct moment: I was sitting at a tourism dinner talking to an older couple who had once been school teachers, then owned a sawmill, later owned a vineyard, and were about to start travelling. It was a revelation to me: I didn’t have to have one career.”

Create the right atmosphere

“Knowing we wanted a gallery of Greg’s work, we put new walls into the space to allow for this. We also sold all the cheap knick knacks we didn’t want to stock.

“What we didn’t expect was how the gallery increased the perceived value of items. Suddenly, with fewer cheap items and more wonderful artworks, we saw an increase in sales of higher priced items. The beautiful timber bowls at a premium price were selling after months of sitting on display. They were now next to beautiful artwork, not cheap plastic. People saw the value in the items, not the price.

“After eight years in the cafe and a huge increase in visitation, the customer flow wasn’t working any longer. During lockdown we employed professionals and it was the best thing we did. But we were so close to our business we couldn’t find the solutions anymore.

“Having an outsider look at the problems with fresh eyes was amazing. We removed our gallery walls, painted the space and built new beautiful display tables. We opened the space and I started creating more of my own merchandise. We increased the local content. When we reopened after COVID, we saw a 30% increase in gallery sales.”

Watch and learn

“The biggest piece of advice I was given was to sit back, watch how a business runs and bring in your changes, because then it’s an educated change. The same with industry groups: sit back, watch, and work out where your value is and what you can get back.

“I also wish someone had told me that a very good accountant is worth their weight in gold, especially in relation to staff management; 90% of the problems with any business with staff is the staff. However if you invest in the right people, it comes back tenfold.

“Someone said to us, ‘You’re going into a country town. Stay local. Use local produce, use local people.’ We’ve stuck to that whole time.”

Seek a second opinion

“I wish someone had told us to get a second opinion in finance. Bad advice really set us back. When we wanted to fund Mt Field Retreat, the bank told us to sell our house in Canberra and pay off all our debts. We did that, but then the bank wouldn’t lend to us because we didn’t have any cash.

“We don’t have big business behind us – it’s just us and the cafe funding everything. If we’d had that money, there were a lot of things that we would have done that would have been beneficial now.

“If you love it, you can learn it. People aren’t employed for their skills, they are employed for their passion. You can always learn skills.”

Looking to fund a strategic initiative? Consider how a Prospa Business Line of Credit can help boost cash flow for businesses intending to grow.

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