How to reinvent your business by moving

Margaret Paton

Could a new location boost your business? It worked for French homewares seller and café owner Joey Cunningham.

She’s seen her business, Le Billot de Boucher, boom since moving just over a year ago from the sleepy Central West NSW village of Carcoar to a thriving, larger village – Millthorpe – about half an hour’s drive away.

“Business has tripled since I moved. Millthorpe has a great vibe and demographic. It’s where I want to be,” says Cunningham, who taught hospitality at a Sydney TAFE for 20 years and enjoyed extended visits to France.

Her Carcoar store was a single room with no running water, and she served coffee and cake on a table and chairs on the footpath outside.

“I had to take the cups back home to wash. The café was a small part of the business. People liked to come into the shop because I had so many wares, but most of my sales were $10 to $40, not $2000 for the high end products such as a distressed leather couch.”

It’s been busy enough for me to put on two staff on weekends, while I run the business solo on three weekdays.

After two and a half years she was keen to move, and the Millthorpe rental offered an entire house with an “amazing kitchen” and a garden with “nothing in it” until spring arrived.

“I now have three rooms to exhibit the wares and a large dining area, plus outdoors – a total of 65 seats. It’s been busy enough for me to put on two staff on weekends, while I run the business solo on three weekdays.”

After nearly four years in business, Cunningham admits her savings have dwindled, but she’s covering her costs and making a small wage. A business coach friend has been intermittently mentoring Cunningham, who admits initially she “had no business nouse”. Bugbears for her have been dealing with landlords and the local council, as well as cash flow.

Two-thirds of her income now comes from her café. She also makes preserves from the garden’s abundant fruit harvest. Opening at nights and having live music are also on the cards.

Cunningham recommends that other small retailers thinking of moving consider why they want to move and, if it’s a good fit, that they choose a premises on a main road with access to adequate parking.

“The key to retail is investing in advertising. Customers are always telling me they’ve seen an advertisement or heard me on radio. I know it works for me,” she says.

Margaret Paton

Former Sunday Age staff journalist, Margaret Paton (formerly Jakovac) has written widely for corporations/government departments and more than 100 online/hard copy mastheads in regional NSW, Sydney, Melbourne and Europe.

Image: Martin Fisch, Flickr Creative Commons license