Strategy

How Emily McWaters manages her Sydney-based business from Kangaroo Island

Emily McWaters /

The Hamper Emporium

The Hamper Emporium founder and chief executive officer Emily McWaters. Source: Supplied.

With the rise of communication tools and technology, it’s never been easier to maintain contact and keep up to date, regardless of your location. As a result, it’s now possible for business owners to relocate away from their company headquarters and manage their business from afar — just like I have.

I moved from Sydney to Kangaroo Island in 2015 to be closer to my parents and fell in love with the island. Kangaroo Island is known as a gourmet food destination, and since living here, I’ve learnt the importance of making the most of my surroundings to not only differentiate my business from competitors, but to also give my customers the best available products. I also seem to have my best ideas here, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Rather than looking at distance as a challenge or a disadvantage, I would recommend managing a business from afar, particularly if it allows small-business owners to make the most of their location to improve their company’s offerings.

To get started, here are a few things I’ve learnt along the way.

Integrate your surroundings into your product or service

Across Australia and internationally, there are new, unique products and services being introduced almost every day.  It’s important for small businesses to support each other, so if you’re able to build relationships with local businesses and include their offerings in your product or service, take the opportunity to do so.

I’ve found a balance between partnering with large well-known international brands as well as featuring local artisan produce in our hampers. Kangaroo Island is known for its gourmet food and exquisite wine and our aim is to build sustainable, long-term relationships with these local suppliers.  Through strong relationships, we can continue to give our customers access to exclusive and unique products.

We get our organic olives from a company who also happen to be our neighbours at Nepean Bay. They grow the best olives I’ve ever tasted — literally nothing compares. It is amazing what opportunities you can find right on your doorstep once you start looking.

Whether it be handmade jewellery or homegrown produce, every location seemingly has a wide variety of local businesses which may be interested in partnering with your brand.  You can also reach out to other small businesses in your community and see if they’re interested in showcasing and selling your product. For instance, your local café may want to have your products on their front counter for customers to see while ordering.

Utilise your location

Not only can you integrate other local businesses in your product or service, but you can also leverage your location to broaden what your business offers.

Whether it’s moving to a rural area or relocating to a city, there are opportunities everywhere to differentiate yourself from competitors and offer a unique product or experience — it’s simply a matter of finding what works for your business.

Since moving to Kangaroo Island, we’ve incorporated Ligurian Honey into our hampers. Kangaroo Island is the only sanctuary left in the world for the Ligurian bees. But rather than simply offering it as a raw product we have included it as an ingredient in our Artisan Crackers along with Single Origin Kangaroo Island Wheat. It is the origins of the ingredients in these crackers that make them unique.   

If your area is known for its gourmet seafood or fresh produce and your business is in the food industry, incorporate this into your cooking, but find a unique way to do this to set yourself apart from competitors.

Plan ahead

We’ve planted 3.6 acres of truffle trees specifically to make products for our hampers in three to four years’ time. Though we don’t expect truffles until 2023, it’s still important to plan ahead and look at business goals in the long term.

Preparation can mean the difference between a new product being a success or failure. Starting early is particularly important when the process is being managed from afar.  

Make the most of available technology 

With the increase of technology and in particular communication platforms, it’s now easier than ever to maintain regular contact with your team. 

In my business, we utilise the full G Suite offering to organise our team communication, from email and calendar functions and Google Docs, to Hangouts chat and video conferences. The team can reach out if they need within an instant. 

Task management software also means you know what your team needs to complete and the time they’re taking to do these tasks. This can help keep them accountable when you’re not in the office. This is a balance though, as trust is important. 

For instance, assign tasks such as putting together a proposal, designing a new landing page for your website or completing a particular project, but don’t create a task for everything. Trust your team are completing their follow-ups and usual work on a daily basis.

Technology can also be used to prioritise your time when you’re with your team. Rather than showing them images of new branding or potential new products which can be shared online from afar, utilise your face-to-face time to have them taste-test produce or smell new fragrances or try on items — anything which would benefit from in-person discussion. This will allow you to prioritise tasks as well as limit how often you need to travel between locations.

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Emily McWaters

Emily is founder and chief executive officer at The Hamper Emporium, and chief executive officer at SOL Group. Emily lives on a 100-acre property on Kangaroo Island where she farms Black Angus cattle and truffles.

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