When Michelle Badenhorst and her husband Pieter were looking for a piece of land in western Victoria, the property they settled on just happened to have two and a half acres of Pinot Noir conveniently growing on it. The tiny town of MacArthur, halfway between Hamilton and Port Fairy, is now home to their business, Suffoir Vineyard & Brewery. They moved in on a Thursday and started picking grapes on the Saturday.While running a winery happened by chance, they soon opened a cellar door to take advantage of traffic to and from Mount Eccles Lake and Budj Bim National Park. They’ve been expanding their product line ever since, and have looked to technological solutions for their marketing and merchant services.
‘Technology was always going to play a huge role, simply because of how far your dollar stretches within the social media realm,’ Michelle says. ‘Conventional forms of advertising are quite costly for a start-up. From the beginning, we invested in social media such as Instagram and Facebook, a website, and an online merchant system, allowing us to go cashless at markets if needed. This has been a wise decision. Although I do not consider myself an expert, I try and stay up-to-date by attending workshops on social media hosted by our local shire. Most platforms offer great insights on your post or ad’s performance, but monitoring word of mouth is just as effective.’
Running the business is not without its challenges, especially when it comes to shipping products to their customers at a price that is affordable for all parties. ‘Transport will always be a challenge in our line of business,’ Michelle explains. ‘In both Australia and overseas, transport is such a costly add-on when having to move only a small number of products at a time, compared with the bigger players or those situated in larger cities.’
Running a business has long been a dream for Michelle, but she was always waiting for the right moment to go full time. That moment came when she lost her job and found herself pregnant: ‘I had no choice but to push full steam ahead.’ Through starting the business, Michelle has also discovered that she enjoys coming up with new products, such as the recent launch of their craft beer range. She is currently working on a cider.
‘In the future, we hope to grow the business and develop a greater following online, allowing us to interact more with our customers and have them feel that they are truly part of our story.’ And about living in MacArthur, Michelle says: ‘The internet does drop out occasionally, but overall, we have a good run. I would not want to be anywhere else!’
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