The curious tale of Kate Brew and Kenton Valley’s One Fat Emu
After Kate Brew’s family almost lost everything in the 2015 Adelaide Hills bushfires, she knew it was time to follow her dreams and finally start her own business.
With four children all under eight, Kate and her partner choose to evacuate as the fire approached, rather than stay and fight to protect their home in Cudlee Creek.
Their home was thankfully spared by the flames, but the fires set Kate’s family on a new path.
In the aftermath of the fires, they sold their home due to work commitments and moved to Ballan in Victoria. Within two years, they had returned to the Adelaide Hills and purchased Nether Hill Farm in Kenton Valley.
Located only 45 minutes from the Adelaide city centre, the Nether Hill Farm is part of the thriving business community. It’s one of South Australia’s oldest farms, dating back to the 1800s, and its stone homestead is framed by majestic trees and rambling gardens.
Related: Aussie SMB owners share their startup tips
A lesson in following your passions
While establishing Nether Hill Farm as a venue, Kate also followed another passion of hers. She founded an online handcrafts and homewares store and named it One Fat Emu. This new venture allowed her to reconnect with her lifelong love of textiles and craft – creating original handcrafted homewares and aged garden pieces made from found and foraged materials.
“I was at a crossroads in my life,” says Kate, who studied textiles after leaving high school but then went into business and marketing.
“Living so far from the city in the Adelaide Hills, it didn’t seem viable for me to go back to the workforce after we had our children.”
Through her love of the natural world, she drew inspiration from diverse sources — such as woodland areas and rusty farm sheds — to create new designs. Her pieces also reflect her strong love of foliage and flowers, while incorporating found objects and natural materials.
“I’d felt the lingering need to start a business of my own for a long time and it felt like the time was right to follow that dream.”
Job No. 1: update the farm’s online image
Nether Hill Farm already had a website, but it was “old-fashioned, clunky and ugly.” To update it, Kate decided to start from scratch using GoDaddy’s Website Builder tools. She wanted to create a basic website that showcased the farm and events people could book there (like weddings).
For One Fat Emu, Kate also built an eCommerce site that allowed her to easily create image galleries, sell items online and process payments. She also used GoDaddy’s domain name service, while taking advantage of Online Store tools to build her web store.
Taking these steps allowed her businesses to thrive. Without them, she would be limiting her market and opportunities to grow the businesses.
Today, Kate believes that, “… a professional-looking website helps establish your strong brand and credibility – even if you’re working from your kitchen table – while ensuring your customers that they’re in good hands.”
On the back end, One Fat Emu’s eCommerce features make it easy to record sales, reconcile payments and track the growth of the business.
“I’m still figuring out how to make the most of these features, but that’s okay because it’s all about building your skills over time. No-one expects you to be an expert overnight.”
Work from anywhere
Kate built GoDaddy websites for both of her businesses, taking advantage of the built-in social media tools to build an online profile. She used these tools to help spread word of mouth around the country and across the world.
Her hard work paid off. In four weeks she had her first two wedding bookings and noticed growing sales with One Fat Emu.
“My first One Fat Emu sale was to someone overseas in England and it just blew my mind – not just that people were interested in my work, but that I could work from home and easily sell my things internationally.”
With a new business website in place, Kate realized she could work from anywhere.“I don’t need to commute into the city and be at my desk by a particular time every morning.”
In some ways, Kate now works harder than ever. She often sends emails after her children have gone to bed and works on installations into the earlier hours of the morning.
“Sure it’s challenging – there’s no pressure like having to work towards ensuring a couple has the perfect wedding day – but I absolutely love what I do! I’ve never felt so content.”
Additionally, Kate also has the flexibility to play a greater part in the children’s lives. She has the freedom to take them to school and attend school concerts whenever she pleases, while still focusing on work projects she’s passionate about.
“People say ‘Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’ – that’s so true,” she says.
Tips on planning your site
When planning your business website, Kate recommends looking at other similar websites to see how they present themselves. “Don’t be afraid to borrow layout and design ideas,” she notes.
In the beginning, Kate made the mistake of trying to cram too much information onto each page. It wasn’t long until she discovered that less is often more.
“Initially, I tried to put too much content on each page of my site and it became very messy and cluttered – which isn’t good when you’re trying to convey a sense of elegance and simplicity.”
Put yourself in the shoes of new visitors to your website. Consider what brought them to the site, what they’re looking for and how they’ll move through the different pages. From there, decide where you want them to enter your website, what you want them to do next and the goals you want to achieve for your business.
Think about the tone you want to set and the message you want to convey about your business.
Another critical thing to consider is how images impact your businesses’ first impression. “You need high-quality images with a similar aesthetic to give your site a consistent look and feel, which helps sell your message,” says Kate.
Related: The DIY guide to good website photography
If you’re considering setting up a website for your business, Kate recommends taking the leap and learning as you go, rather than aiming for perfection on day one.
“Many people hold back because they’re nervous about the technology, but it can mean they never actually get their great idea off the ground. Don’t be scared – with the right tools at your disposal it’s easy to build a great website that brings your business to life.”