Jane Shelton

Your dream home business will still need clear-eyed, wide-awake branding. Here’s a few ideas.

Building and branding the dream home business

Jane Shelton

Last week I was down in Tassie and visited a couple battling to build an atypical home-based business. Being from the “north island” and an urbanite whose home-based business is less than 500 metres from the shops, I was exposed to a completely different perspective on the importance of branding – we’ll get to that later in this blog.

I was guided by Rosemary and Sean through threatened forest properties that will feel the impact of the Turnbull-approved Gunn’s mill as the alternative source of new wealth – home-based business in eco-tourism.

Rosemary is developing plans for a home-based business on 28 hectares of beautiful bushland in Jackeys Marsh in the shadow of Quamby Bluff near Deloraine in the north east of Tasmania.

Her business plan includes forest walks for 100 people annually from their property (two to three hours) and up to Quamby Bluff (eight hours return), and hosting the 25-year-old Forest Festival and an eco-friendly lodge yet to be built for visitors.  

The intention is to cater exclusively to Europeans who have never walked in a forest without a safe and secured footpath. Rosemary, as the development manager, has taken on responsibility for marketing, building the eco-lodge, website development and bookings for the existing on-site Tallahassee Cottage (circa 1901).

Sean is the chief cook and walking guide – requiring a level-one first aid certificate, satellite phone for emergencies and a lifetime’s expertise in botany and wilderness protection.

While talking our way through magnificent varieties of bush, Sean gives an unequalled interpretation of the changing terrain – geological changes through volcanic development of the area and the vegetation uniqueness of 300-year-old trees with the effects of previous fires in some areas and sawmilling. The easiest walk takes us past the old saw mill location and Aboriginal meeting grounds.

From a business perspective, this start-up forest walks team is traversing well-worn tracks through business planning, marketing strategy, pricing and targeting. Then it adds special relationship building requirements with state government planning approvals and linking up local and regional tourism initiatives.

The location of the site is not that far from the ferry terminal, relatively close to Launceston and the regional marketing initiative is known as the Great Western Tiers. Additional requirements for brand building success include applications to Tasmania Forestry and Heritage for walking approvals and building approvals for the eco-lodge from the local council.

Architectural design of the lodge is another key element of the brand value generation process. Rosemary and Sean plan to use solar panels (with a government grant), recycled timbers to minimise the impact of the development on the local area – and of course finance.

A local valuer was out at the property while I was there doing a valuation to make their dreams for their home-based business come true. The valuer says that this type of eco-friendly venture is representative of many entrepreneurial emerging small business opportunities building on the international interest in Tasmania’s remaining pristine wilderness.

This raised a key branding dilemma for this start-up. How do you communicate the uniqueness of the offer (when only 100 visitors can take up this special offer each year), while building a specialised brand identity for the fledgling internationalised business?

A brand needs to be instantly recognisable, an identity for the developing business and able to translate meaning to the viewer of the brand – so word of mouth, videos and outstanding experiences are essential elements of success.

This type of category-specific business needs an overarching brand for the site and then sub-brands for existing experiences (walks and the forest festival) and new ones developed in the future, such as an accommodation lodge and perhaps environmentally sensitive products.

Some of the ideas for brand development that Rosemary and Sean are considering include:

  • Great Western Tiers forest walks; piggy back off the existing regional brand, but this means sharing the value of the brand, as opposed to capturing brand value, not recommended for long term value.
  • Quamby Bluff forest walks; takes a regionally recognised iconic landmark and captures value for the home-based business, but who knows what a Quamby is unless you are a local (no it’s not an animal, it’s a mountain in the area).
  • Jackeys Marsh forest walks; locational area recognition and now colloquially spoken about.
  • Forest Walks Lodge; simple and the business currently has the website.

Any thoughts? Let them know: (Rosemary and Sean’s website is www.forestwalks.com.au).

Hopefully this has you thinking about your own brand plans and business strategy.


Dr Jane Shelton not only runs a business from home but is doing business research into people working from home. She is managing director of Marshall Place Associates, Melbourne’s independent think tank, and CEO (honourary) for ‘Life. Be in it.’ International. Shelton has a Doctorate in Business Administration at the Australian Graduate School of Entrepreneurship (AGSE) at Swinburne University of Technology after a Master of Arts in Public Policy at Melbourne University and a Bachelor of Business in banking and finance at Monash University.

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