How did we get from a stella career in education and a successful wine business to picture framing?
THE KIDS LEAVE HOME – NARACOORTE COUNTRY SA
It’s true. When your teenage kids leave home you can find yourself morphing into grieving. You miss the daily routines of them coming home from school, the noise of their friends outside in the shed playing pool, or darts. You miss the big voices, the cricket balls smashing on the bat. Your heart breaks when you realise that the Jack Russell has finally given up bouncing across the paddock every afternoon at exactly 3.55pm to greet the boys after school. Being country kids, they left home after High School and moved to Adelaide to study. We’d lost them to the city at a relatively early age, one at 17 and our youngest son, only 16 years old.
Even though our house, which we’d built twenty years earlier was still contemporarily modern and with a sensational garden, it no longer felt like a home. It’s as if the house had lost its’ purpose. This was even more apparent as Rex and I worked away from Naracoorte: I was school Principal at Frances Primary School thirty minutes north of home, whilst Rex was a partner in Patrick of Coonawarra, thirty minutes south. Rex established the vineyards at Joanna and Wrattonbully for the late Patrick Tococui, who was his great mate and co-worker. We tended to meet in the middle, in our quiet house at the end of the day.
Our days and nights were filled with amazing people, winemakers, cellar door functions, fancy wining and dining and living the ‘high life” in capital cities promoting our wine. After seven enjoyable years of the demanding role as Principal in a small community school, I was becoming aware that I could not sustain happiness if we didn’t take a risk with something new. We figured there must be a place to live where we could re-invent ourselves with a new, challenging and exciting lifestyle.
It was time to explore our dream of living on the coast.
We’d been thinking about it for years after holidaying up on the Sunshine coast and Byron Bay. With sunshine, a new environment and somewhere accessible to Melbourne where both our boys now lived, it would be a better option than freezing cold, frosty winters, the onset of boredom and rarely seeing our kids who were a five hour drive away.
So the sea change journey began. It takes time to plan, organise, sell, and finalise things so that you can move away. We were leaving the community that Rex was born into. One that I had been part of for forty years. The thought of packing up and becoming anonomous in a totally new environment appealed to us. No more night time meetings, no clubs, no more commitments, no pressures from the community to be part of something, to organise something or contribute to another fundraiser when our energy levels were starting to diminish.
We were saying goodbye to our community groups such as the Drama Group the Aeroclub, (Rex is a pilot), The Local Regional Art Gallery, my photography business, my teaching and school leadership. Rex found it difficult to leave his vineyards, with scenic views over the western plains of the south east of South Australia and his hands on involvement in the wine industry. Our cellar door at Coonawarra was certainly hard to leave as we’d had many high rolling functions there, hosting people from all parts of the globe. Patrick was being noticed for his high quality, boutique wines, and with Luke, his son taking on the business, he continues to do so today.
We took off in our Toyota, Landcruiser Troop Carrier, the ‘Troopie’, for a ‘transitional’ three month trip around the outback of Australia, leaving our house on the market. Our house sold in the third week we were away and we finalised the legal work from the fax machine in small caravan park in Derby, WA. The owners begged us to stay and manage the busy caravan park but we were quick to decline!
It was an exciting time for us. The freedom to choose wherever we wanted to live and work. I was fifty three years old and Rex fifty six. We had our health, our motivation and enough energy in the tank to give something new a try. It was now or never.
Even tho’ our house had sold and settled, we continued to travel our three months as planned. Our last stop over was the glorious South Australian Flinders’ Rangers which was the perfect finale for moving on from SA. All we needed to do was pack up the things we were sending to Brisbane, including our real car, and say goodbyes to our friends, which ended up being several ‘farewell to Rex and Jen” events.
We both clearly remember the day we jumped into our Troopie and literally said – where to? We headed for Ballina and set sights on finding somewhere to settle between there and Noosa. The four criteria were: Vibrancy and energy with business potential, good services such as medical and health, near an airport and close to the beach.
How could we go past Casuarina in 2010?
We were staying in caravan parks with our “Troopie” having sent our other vehicle and goods to Brisbane via a shipping ‘container”.
It was expensive. We were looking for a base so that we could explore the coast. We approached David at Kingscliff Sales and Rentals, who were fabulous. We moved into a three bedroom Drift Apartment, top floor, Ocean views. We were starting to feel pretty pleased with ourselves.
We signed a lease for six months and stayed three years.( In the thirteen years we have been on the coast, we have lived at 3 places in Casuarina, one in Tweed Heads on the harbour and now Terranora).
Prior to leaving SA, I managed to extend my teaching registration to Victoria, NSW and Queensland – just in case.
We began enjoying the days walking on the beach, swimming, eating icecreams and acting like tourists. Eventually, I went off to work relief teaching at Pottsville, Bogangar, Kingscliff and Fingal Head. Rex stayed home and half-heartedly looked for work. I wasn’t impressed because as a relief teacher in NSW, I was paid as a new graduate without any of my experience or leadership skills being recognised, unless there was an extra yard duty to do or a behaviour problem that needed to be sorted out. It was super easy for me to get work, but the idea of relief teaching was wearing off very quickly.
Here on the coast, Rex soon began to realise that he was either needing to be self employed or unemployed. With the absence of vineyards here in the Tweed Region, it seemed logical to start looking to have our own business.
At the time, we’d noticed a business “Coastal Framing and Design” listed for sale. I’d spotted it several months earlier on the internet and hadn’t given it much more thought. The long story short is that we purchased the business in November, 2010.
WHY COASTAL FRAMING AND DESIGN?
Rex and I had always supported the Arts in our small country town. I had my hobby job of photography, specialising in children’s portraiture. Rex had framed my images in our home shed which we’d set up as a dark room and a framing showroom. We had networks in the industry, suppliers and skill and knowledge that was easy to translate to a more serious business. In addition, we had knowledge of art and a passion to support the arts. Rex was an experienced and successful businessman from way back from his early days in his family Nursery and the wine industry.
For the first time in our life, Rex and I were working together.
There was a lot to learn. For starters, no one knew us. Banks didn’t want to know us. No suppliers wanted to know us. Our idea of being annonomous in a community was not really the ideal when you needed finance to kick start a business.
Fortunately, the BOQ recognised our potential and backed us to develop our business. We engaged solicitors, business coach, book keepers and an accountant, and managed to convince suppliers in Queensland, that we were the same people who were their clients back in SA. Determination and persistence were key to establishing these key stakeholders in our business.
Over the next five years, Rex and I worked solo to grow the business 400% and in 2018, we relocated our shop and workshop from 4/25 Industry Drive, to 5/25 Industry Drive. We were employing one other local framer at this time.
This warehouse was an empty canvas, having been a gym, so we were able to design the interior of the warehouse to suit us – Gallery, Workshop and Print Studio. Our Landlord was generous and built the mezzanine to our specifications, so that we could include a print studio.
Over the years we have built our client base from 400 to 2854. We now employ two framers, Chad and Shayne and Abbie, who assists with front of house and work flow.
We feel that we are no longer anonomous. We now understand that anomoninity has it’s limitations and we prefer identity once again, as we grow older.
Our sons and their families both moved to the Gold Coast and Brisbane during COVID. Melbourne brought little joy to them, with kids out of school, work being risky and life unpredictable.
The boys are back!
We now have our four Grandchildren here on the coast with us. We still wake up every morning and look forward to our day and pinch ourselves. We have never worked weekends up here as we value family and spending time relaxing, enjoying our beautiful location and getting ready for the week ahead.
We are also fortunate that both of our sons, and our daughter in laws support us with our business. Whether it’s moral support, financial or general business advice, both boys are experts in their own field of business management.
Today, we have survived COVID, floods, family crisis, global impacts, cost of living and all the things that small businesses have to deal with. We work with artists, photographers, needleworkers, corporate and office clients, interior designers, home decorators, travellers, memorabilia collectors, Indigenous artists and collectors……Our stories are many, our connections extensive and our business is strong.
Our hard work, skills and business knowledge, our good reputation and acknowledging the investment we have in ourselves has ensured we keep going. And we never lose sight of our focus – to provide a quality service in printing and framing for the people here on the coast.
GRATITUDE AND CELEBRATION
After 13 years, we are grateful for the community we have found in our business. Rex and I are resilient and always practice gratitude for the things we have – not dwell on the things we don’t have. We have lots of laughs, don’t take things too seriously and always strive to please our customers with what we deliver. We are ‘Living the Dream…”
Past, present and future……..amazing stories captured in custom framing to be shared and enjoyed for years to come.