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Want to start your own business in Maitland, but aren’t sure where to begin? Check out these top tips from ETC’s Hunter Business Advisor, Kimberlie!

ETC Business Advisor, Kimberlie Clare-Campbell (based in the Hunter region of NSW), loves helping aspiring business owners across the Hunter region pursue their business dreams. As a successful business owner, she is passionate about supporting others in achieving their goals.

Find out more about the services offered at ETC Maitland >

Kimberlie’s 4 tips to start a business:

1. How can entrepreneurs gain inspiration and knowledge to grow their business?

Personally, I’m a passionate life-long learner, but I’m also short of time, so I try to make the best use of the time I have available while driving. This means podcasts are one of my favourite business learning tools because they don’t take up extra time. You can find podcasts on diverse topics from marketing, startup stories, SEO, e-commerce, business management, financial management, business strategies, email & social media marketing, customer experience, copywriting, launching, and so much more.

I’m also a fan of audiobooks and training. If there’s a topic I want to dive deep into, I’ll search for an audiobook, webinar or training course.

Talk with other business people, don’t be shy. My first big sale was from talking to people and sharing on socials. Attending business events and chatting with other small business owners is a fabulous way to make connections, learn new skills, see business from a different perspective and get inspired. I met my own business accountability buddy at a Women in Business conference. We’ve been working on holding each other accountable and sharing our skills to help each other grow our businesses for over 6 years.

2. What are your top tips for small business success?

Value your knowledge and expertise and charge accordingly.

Often, small business owners undervalue the years of learning, training, study, and practice that have gone into developing the skills and knowledge they’re turning into the products and services that they’re selling in their business.

By undervaluing themselves, they charge less than their worth. This makes it challenging to create a viable business.

I ask my small business customers to remember the journey they took to learn what they know. They’re often surprised at how long it took, how much they invested and how many “failures” they created to develop their final product/service. Once they remember the true story, they realise that not just anyone can offer what they do. No matter whether they’re a bookkeeper, gardener, carpenter, or a web designer – it has taken time, dedication, and perseverance to gain their knowledge and they need to charge accordingly.

I get really excited when my Workforce Australia – Self-Employment Assistance participants raise their prices to what they’re really worth. Their ideal client will value the skills they bring to their offering and be prepared to pay for it.

3. How can small business owners manage work/life balance?

I think the idea of work/life balance is a myth. Family and business both make demands of your time, but not usually equally and often not at the same time. In my own business, I’m busiest from August through to May. Business takes priority during those months; I’ll usually work at least one day on the weekend, so we make Sunday our family day. We get together for lunch, and if we have to work on the business, we work around our family lunch.

Ever since my son was about 7 years old, he’s been paid for working in my business. This taught him valuable life skills, work ethic and how to manage his time. He also learned that even though he was helping me put labels on bottles, we still had time to chat and be together – multitasking. Now he’s in his 20’s and I’m super proud that he is starting his own entrepreneurial journey utilising the skills he’s learned from working in our family business.

Being organised and systemised is the key to making the most of your time. My two essential business management tools are my diary and my Trello boards – these tools help me prioritise and keep track of my tasks, both business and family and ensure I allocate the time needed. Keeping our studio sorted by doing regular stocktakes helps keep chaos at bay and ensures I have everything I need to fulfil orders.

As soon as you can, outsource the bits you are not good at or don’t enjoy.  Pay for a bookkeeper, photographer or cleaner. Something that gives you more time to ‘work’ in your business doing the things you’re excellent at, which in turn will help your business grow. Remember, although you’ve outsourced business activities, you still need to control/manage your business. Your saved time can also be spent with your family helping you with that mythical work/life balance.

4. If someone had an idea for a business but was too scared to pursue it, what would your advice be for them?

It would depend on why they were scared. If they were worried about risking the family finances, I’d recommend developing a business and financial plan – this way, they can look at the potential of the business idea with real facts at hand. Is there a target market? How much would they pay, how often would they buy, and how much does it cost you to produce? Is the idea profitable? People who are eligible for the Self-Employment Assistance program can get assistance to develop their business and financial plan.

Some people want to run before they can walk. They take their first steps, get scared and start procrastinating. I work with these people to focus on the business planning process, bootstrapping the idea, starting off smaller and testing the market. This way, they can develop their business knowledge and skills without getting overwhelmed.

If they have the knowledge to offer their product or service but are scared because they don’t have the business skills, I’d recommend the Self-Employment Assistance program – they can learn all they need to know and get the support they need to be successful through our training and advisory services.

Sometimes, people lack confidence in their ideas and themselves because they don’t have family or friends who believe in them. As a Business Advisor, I can be the person who keeps encouraging them and holds them accountable for their business idea.

I’ve had many clients who’ve come to me as a shy, quiet person with a great idea who’ve grown to become a confident small business owner through developing their business with our support. Small business is one of the best personal development courses around. You can’t be a successful business owner without growing from who you are into the type of person who runs a successful business.

Kimberlie’s Q&A

In this informative Q&A, learn about Kimberlie’s business background and experience, as well as how she helps participants through Workforce Australia – Self-Employment Assistance

How long have you lived in the Hunter region? Tell us about your background here.

I moved from the Central Coast to the Hunter as a Tai Chi Instructor in the 1990’s where I discovered many different areas in the Hunter while I taught classes locally.

Our family (my husband, our son, and I) have lived and worked in the Maitland area for the last 17 years. I love that we still have areas of bush and farms. Each morning, on my way to ETC’s Maitland office, I drive along the banks of the Hunter River. I see the kangaroos grazing in the paddocks, the birds flittering, the changing seasons, and the fluctuating height of the river. It’s an uplifting way to start the day.

I have been actively involved in local craft groups, sports with my son, arts organisations, community fundraising activities, business groups and chambers. For 5 years, I was a monthly guest on “Business the Law and You”, a business radio show on 2NUR FM, where I was able to share business information with the 20,0000 small business owners who tuned in live. I’ve also been a judge for several local Business Awards, including Singleton Business Awards and a sought-after guest speaker at business networking groups across the Hunter and Central Coast. I have owned a successful Maitland based craft business for over 17 years, and I have helped other small business owners when I was working for the old NEIS program (which is now Self-Employment Assistance).

What is your experience working in the business world?

As a hippie at heart, in the 1990’s I decided to start my own wellness business. Whilst I knew how to train my classes, I didn’t know the first thing about the back end of running a business. As a person who failed year 10 maths and feared bookkeeping, going into my own business wasn’t what people expected, especially as I was a quiet introvert who didn’t know anything about marketing or public speaking. However, I had the ambition to start my own business, and I applied for the government-funded NEIS program. I learned so much about running a business and valued the mentoring I received. This was a huge learning curve involving a lot of personal growth and becoming smart about running a business. I successfully ran that business for 9 years until the day before I gave birth to our son.

While our son was little, I took a business break to be a stay-at-home mum and to prioritise his needs. When he went to school, the business bug sought me out again. The Hippie in me was drawn to Tie Dye, and in 2006, I started a Tie Dye business, hand-dyeing clothing and accessories. At first, we did every weekend market (so I could still be mostly a stay-at-home mum) available to see which markets our ideal customers attended. We soon realised, sadly, there weren’t enough Tie Dye lovers like myself in the Hunter region to create a viable business… That’s when I knew we had to take the business online to reach all the other hippie-loving Tie dyers out there. At this time, an ecommerce site cost $20,000 to build, which was way beyond our budget. (This was in the days before WIX or Squarespace etc). To keep costs affordable, I taught myself how to code websites and I built our first few websites by hand, which was very basic but…. It took us three months to get our first online sale, and we were so excited we told everyone who’d listen!

After our online success, we still attended markets, but by this stage, we knew who our ideal customers were, so we made sure to attend markets they attended. By getting to know our ideal customers and listening to their suggestions, we found they became our biggest supporters and referrers; although they loved the quality of our Tie Dye products, they wanted the fun of making Tie Dye’s themselves. By listening to what our customers wanted, we could evolve the business from Tie Dye clothing to manufacturing Tie Dye kits so people could Tie Dye their own clothing. As we wanted to ship our kits all over Australia, the next step was to research transporting chemicals, shipping, and packaging.

Around this time, I started sharing my excitement and photos about the design process for our custom-made Tie Dye kit box on the new platform called “Facebook”.  This new social sharing led to a call from an old friend whose wife was into craft and wanted to have a chat. That chat led to a $35,000 order for Tie Dye kits to be shipped to schools around Australia within 3 months. And what an exciting, steep learning curve that was. Through the strong relationships we’d developed, I was able to tap into the vast knowledge of our suppliers. We learnt about bulk orders, logistics, and shipping. It also led to developing new products and a new customer base which, due to our reputation and quality, is still a major source of sales. I felt like a “proper” business owner for the first time.

From there, our business went on to win a prestigious Hunter Business Award.

Since Covid, our Tie Dye business has evolved again. We no longer do markets; we are now an ecommerce only business. This was partly forced by the changes brought on through Covid and because I was excited about my other day job coaching other business owners, as you can imagine, my crafting tie dye business boomed during the lockdowns. While I was fortunate to have a very profitable business during Covid and could employ my husband, things have now slowed down, and he has gone back to what he loves, working with small business owners. As we both work fulltime outside of our business, we have systemised and streamlined every part of the business so we can still operate our family business and mix our purpose of helping other small businesses grow and have the fulfilment that you get running your own business.

Why did you choose a career path to become a Business Advisor?

Firstly, it was accidental. I became a Business Advisor because my business friends sought my advice. They saw my business thriving, winning awards and supporting our family, and they wanted to know what I was doing to be successful. I was happy to share what I’d learned with them to help them grow their own businesses.

To my surprise, I found that I enjoyed advising so much that 7 years ago, I applied for a part-time job as a NEIS Business Advisor. I started working full-time as a Digital Business Advisor and NEIS Mentor the following year.

You need a unique set of skills to be a successful Self-Employment Assistance Advisor. Some of our customers may have been long-term unemployed, have carer responsibilities, or health challenges that mean that a “normal” job doesn’t work for them, and starting their own business is the best pathway to independence and financial freedom. I know this from my experiences while being a stay-at-home mum when my son was little. As a Business Advisor, you need to have empathy, a mind that can see alternative pathways to achieving goals and hands-on current business experience. Our customers don’t have thousands of dollars for marketing campaigns. Usually, their business will be bootstrapped; as Advisors we need to offer real-life practical suggestions and support to help get their business started. I believe that the successful Business Advisors are the ones who can be a lighthouse during challenging times and an accountability buddy who helps keep the small business owner on track as they stretch their comfort zones and learn a whole heap of new skills in rapid succession.

What is the best part about your role as a Business Advisor?

I think that the best part about being a Business Advisor is giving people the tools and support to achieve their life and business goals. One of my customers sent me an email this week – “Thank you for all of your help and support in making my dream come true”.

Some of our business owners don’t have family support or people who believe in their dreams. I am their main support person while they are taking baby steps in their business. It is part of our job as advisors to be that wise guide who uses their knowledge to help problem solve and support so that our customers can grow their skills, develop their ideas into viable businesses and make their business dreams a reality.

Tell us about Self-Employment Assistance and why it’s such a great program.

I love the Self-Employment Assistance program because we can offer practical business skills to people who already have amazing skills for their business idea. They just lack the backend knowledge or a piece of the puzzle to make it a success.

The Exploring Self-Employment Workshops are one of my favourite parts of the program. It’s a perfect introduction to business for people who are thinking of turning their hobby into a full-time business, just as I did many years ago. It’s also a fantastic way for people who’ve never run a business before to understand what’s really involved instead of listening to well-meaning advice from people who don’t know anything about business. The Exploring Workshop gives our participants a head start to run a successful business on strong foundations.

Being able to coach a small business owner through those wobbly first years is an amazing part of the Self-Employment Assistance program. We are in it for the long term and are just as committed to our customers’ progress as they are. Experience shows that this is the time when businesses are most vulnerable. The 12-month Coaching program gives these brand-new business owners access to a team of business experts who are there to answer their questions. Their Business Coach can help the new business owner navigate any challenges and keep them on track when the going gets tough. As Coaches, we also get to celebrate their wins too.

I am very excited by the new additions to the Self Employment Assistance program, the Business Health Checks and Business Advice sessions. These are excellent programs because they mean we can continue supporting our small business startups into their second year, helping them finetune their business through the health check and keeping them on track with business advice.

Read tips and Q&A from ETC’s Hunter Business Trainer Julian >

Self-Employment Assistance

ETC has been helping people start their own business for more than 30 years and our passionate staff, like Kimberlie, enjoy supporting entrepreneurs in their journey to self-employment. Our focus is to support and develop your vision, turning it into a viable and thriving small business.

The service you can expect to receive from ETC:

  • Support and guidance from Business Trainers/Advisors who have both formal qualifications and experience in running successful businesses.
  • Our Trainers/Advisors have local knowledge, empathy and understanding of the ups and downs associated with starting your own business.
  • We care about your success and will support you through each step of the program
  • We offer small group settings with flexible delivery models available

Want to know more about the benefits? Visit our Workforce Australia Self-Employment Assistance page >

Do you want help reaching your self employment and business goals?

Call our friendly team on 1800 007 400 or fill out the Enquire Now form on this page.



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