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Family Business Day 2016

Working in our family business...what it means to me.

Working in a family business goes right back to my childhood when we (my sister Pippa and I) used to go to work with mum and dad after school at Jemalong Wool. Whilst this wasn't paid work, a spare office meant that we were able to play "offices" much fun when you're about 8!

When I was 14 we moved to "Torig Park", a small property 5km east of Forbes which, at the time, was a 10,000 tree stone and pome fruit orchard. This was the start of real employment within our family business - summer holidays consisted of long, hot days spent both picking and packing fruit to earn enough money to sustain us through a year of boarding school. 

When I finished school I spent a year working in and around Forbes, mostly for other family businesses - when you are in a rural community, most businesses are family owned and operated, so I gained an appreciation of what it is like to be "on the other side" - working inside someone else's family unit.

A few years at uni and my very short-lived career as a Registered Nurse began - I loved the work of helping people and taking care of them when they are at their most vulnerable, but I hated the bureaucracy of working in the public health system and the lack of control working for such a large, government owned organisation brought...a very different experience to working in small business!

The opportunity to work at Woolerina arose in 2009 when I was looking for something to "tide me over" till I worked out exactly what it was I wanted to do with my life...Dad needed some extra help every now and then, but the role very quickly grew into a full time job! Almost 8 years, 1 husband and 2 kids later, I'm still here.

When I started working at Woolerina I loved being able to take a problem, embrace it and work on an outcome, knowing that what I'd done was directly affecting me and our business. This is still one of the main reasons I love working at Woolerina and for our family.

My role at Woolerina is to manage the administrative side to our business, but the reality is that I do numerous and varied roles - a typical day might see me answer the phone, pack orders, bookkeeping, plan and execute our social media strategy, do the graphic design for an ad in a magazine, discuss product design and development AND clean the office! I know that working in small business, and family business in particular, is like this - you need to be a Jack (or Jill)-of-all-trades!

Now that I have my own family, the flexibility that working for our family business provides is amazing - I am able to work part time in the office, take work home and bring my kids with me if there's something that needs to be done at a particular time. Taking my girls to the office usually creates utter chaos as they raid fabric off-cut bins, pinch stationary and generally distract everyone from their work, however I believe that involving them in my working life enables them to see the importance of what I do and the value to hard work, just as I did back in the office at Jemalong, all those years ago...the cycle continues! 

Abby helping with orders Abby + Lucy, playing at Woolerina HQ Pippa + Sadie at a recent planning meeting


The down side to all this flexibility, and trying to juggle more work than I have the time to complete in the office, is that I never quite "switch off" - I'm always thinking about what needs to be done and wonder how I might fit extra work in around the rest of my busy life! We are so lucky to be blessed with so many opportunities for our products, however we don't necessarily have the staff to execute everything. 

I am so proud of the business that dad started and that we have been able to grow it together as a family; giving Pippa and I the opportunity to work alongside him, and now employ 3 other staff (who are amazing!), and that what we do as a team is really meaningful to us all. As with any job it presents challenges, but it's not just about earning an income, it's about being passionate and loving what you do - I am passionate about our products and our story - being able to work alongside my dad and sister is both an honour + a privilege. 

We'd love for you to share your family business story with us, either by commenting below or by using the #madebyourfamily on social media.

Happy Family Business Day!

Penny. x 

Sep 16, 2016

beautiful blog – beautiful family – brought tears to my eyes Pen xxx

Pippa Smith
Sep 16, 2016

That’s a lovely, beautifully written, post, Penny. You should be enormously proud of your achievements – both business and personal. x

Brien Coram

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