“All my life, I have been the connector.”
Felicity Brown is nothing short of vibrant when talking about her online platform, The Homestead Hub. “The platform connects rural, regional and remote Australia to suppliers who understand their needs”. Felicity is an internationally acclaimed milliner who runs the Broome-based business, Hats by Felicity and has exhibited at three New York Fashion Weeks. She also writes the Milliner on the move blog and operates a small accommodation bungalow and a project development business.
The Homestead Hub is the culmination of Felicity’s direct experiences as an Outback artist and business owner. It also focuses on her growing up on an NSW sheep property and several stints working on remote stock camps and cattle stations, in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, over the last 30 years.
Felicity came up with the idea for the homestead hub after she wanted to decrease the overwhelm of the internet causes, as many people struggle to find exactly what they want. During COVID lockdown, Felicity had some time on her hands after her two other businesses temporarily ceased trading. “It was the weirdest, fuzziest time, I was determined to not go under, and I knew I had another business in me”.
Having a lot of space-time (as we all did), Felicity worked on herself, thinking about what she had and how she could draw that out of herself. “I listened to lots of things that could potentially bring out an idea that could be seeded deep down.”
Eventually, the idea came “I was so excited because the idea just came out of me”, Felicity explains. Throwing some butchers paper on her Kitchen Bench, she began to draw out her idea and what it would look like. Thinking that this idea could become something more significant, Felicity knew she could create a website that would provide value for her target audience.
“Rural people want something they can understand, in a way that they have been dealt with”. Spending her time during Covid, executing the idea, Felicity Interviewed a variety of regional people asking potential suppliers and potential customers what they would want the site to look like.
“The platform is designed to be one-click,” Felicity wanted a stress-free, user-friendly site that allowed for regional people to be able to work together no matter how much physical distance there was, to find the right person for the job. Finding potential suppliers who were willing to list on the website, along with expectations, surround the town.
“Even though (in the beginning) there was no income coming in, the excitement was huge” When Felicity came out of lockdown, the first meeting that she had was with Regional Development Australia, with whom she presented her business plan (even bringing the original butchers’ paper).
Her “mini Google for Regional” aims to quickly link customers from rural and regional Australia with the people, products, services, experiences, and resources they are looking for.
The Homestead Hub has more than 20 convenient ‘rooms’ with supplier listings in different categories, including Retail; Building and Construction; Tourism; Real Estate; Meat & Produce; Regional Events; Employment; Training & Resources; Finance, Legal and Insurance; Health & Wellbeing; Marketing and Business Services; Coach and Mentors.
Once built, Felicity went back to those suppliers she had spoken to within the construction phase and said she had built it. It started to gain traction, and she planned to launch with 20 suppliers. However, she ended up launching with 30! Felicity acknowledges that often businesses didn’t fit into a particular category and said that it is important to provide opportunities for inclusivity within region businesses.
Helping her get the website off the ground, Felicity received the Highly Commended Award for Innovation at the Gen OffGrid 2021 Broome Business Excellence Awards. “It was an awesome kickstart for the business, especially in innovation was brilliant”. Felicity also said social media has been a huge part of the messaging and growth and aligning with Beyond Blue.
Juggling several different businesses has always been something that Felicity enjoys doing, and she is entirely prepared to see her other businesses go back to normal in 2022 with borders opening. “I am all about planning because you can’t manage time”. You have to be able to manage yourself and dedicate your time. Work-life balance is also something that Felicity is extremely passionate about “I have a self-care plan I have implemented now for 18 years”. Including Monday night being her dedicated ‘flic night’. “I don’t work on Monday evenings and take that time out for myself”. Having this self-care plan allows Felicity to regenerate. She also stated exercise including walking is important “Being active, particularly in the morning, is so important.” “It is also about surrounding yourself with the right people”. Even if that means surrounding yourself with an online tribe, Felicity says it is important to have people you can talk business with.
The Homestead Hub’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter sites have been building up a strong following in the months since the public launch of the web portal, which opened for business on 1st December 2020. Check the website out here https://thehomesteadhub.com.au/