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We made the papers :)

I remember seeing a photo of myself and my parents in the local newspaper when I was about 8. It was very dark and hard to see our faces, but I distinctly remember my dad looking at the camera (those who knew him will not be surprised!), my mum looking at me, with my head down doing school work. I don't actually remember what the article said. It may have been promoting Book Week, if Book Week was a thing back then. Fast forward a few decades, and my other local newspaper has published an article with photos of me, my mum and my late dad. This time the story is about my small business having the honour of winning an award, for which I am quite thrilled about. I showed it to my mum who was surprised and a little embarrassed. She doesn't like a fuss being made about her. Mind you, my dad would be telling everyone far and wide, such was his personality. Very proud of his girls and of the successes and achievements we've had over the years, whether they have been publicly acknowledged or not.

I tend to be on the reserved side, not wanting too much attention and happy to do the work regardless of the accolades. Side note, that's why my philosophy is "work to live, not live to work". And if that enjoyment goes beyond the self, to our customers – well, that's the cherry on top.

So I've not thought about entering awards. I've helped to organise them in the past. And I've attended award nights where our local business chamber won against very steep competition. It does give you a buzz. When Spend with Us sent me an email telling me I had been nominated for the 2023 Australian Rural Business Awards, I was taken aback. I remember hearing about the Buy from the Bush Marketplace which was originally created in line with the devastating bushfires of late 2019 and early 2020. At this time, I was very concerned about the possibility of bushfires at my property in Katoomba. Having bought the place in 1993, they seemed "remote" and not real, something that happened to others. One day, Frank, my trusty electrician, said the fires would be there by Christmas. He was rather casual in his tone, probably having lived through some in his time. I, on the other hand, looked at him blankly, in a terrified way, mouth open, and asked "so should I be packing up stuff?!"

Thankfully, the fires never directly impacted us but the downturn in visitors to the Blue Mountains was quickly felt, with the average person being very frightened by the media stories. Followed not long after by incredible rain which was graciously appreciated initially, only to become another nightmare in its own right, with heavy consistent rain ruining what was left of people's gardens, produce yards and farms. Our own "mini vineyards" took a heavy hit, bouncing back only recently. Can you imagine what farmers who depend on their crops have gone through? And then came the dreaded C word. Or in polite circles, the pandemic, which was extremely effective in wiping away anything that was left of travel plans, tourists and consumer confidence. What a breath of fresh air the Awards Night (via zoom) was, with the ladies who organised it in such great spirits and smiling faces. For us small businesses tuning in, the winners were all lost for words when they were announced. I'd say it's been awhile since something positive has happened, and we need to make a conscious effort to laugh or find joy. I'd say all of the small businesses, regardless of whether they made it to Finalist or Winner, have been too busy trying to stay afloat. So as the dust settles and we move further away from these extremely challenging years, I would like to raise my glass to all the small businesses out there including those who succumbed, to be proud of what we have all achieved. It doesn't take an award to tell us we've done a good job. But what a lovely "reward" it is when received – which just may give us the impetus to keep at it.

Thank you to the Spend with Us | Buy from the Bush team for all their incredible work they have done, solely for the benefit of small businesses in rural and regional Australia, of which my own little business is chuffed to be part of. Thank you also to Jennie Curtin from BM Gazette for publishing a story on our win. And a huge thank you to our customers who have helped us stay afloat. Not to mention my family, without whom, I would not have a business at all.

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