Of the 900 Hazelwood workers who lost jobs when the coal-fired power station shut, many have struggled to find permanent jobs with fewer than half fully employed almost three years later, according to a recent study.
Mark Ure took matters into his own hands, gradually building up a small business servicing coffee machines across Gippsland.
“I was a fitter by trade, and spent my whole life working towards being a power station operator. And and was lucky enough to get to that goal.
“Then, unfortunately, Hazelwood Power Station shut, which was out of my control.”
“I had been at Hazelwood for six years as an operator, and I had been working there on-and-off since I finished my apprenticeship,” Mark told SBS Small Business Secrets.
With a small payout and an idea, Mark turned his skills in a new direction, founding a small business repairing coffee machines.
His business has grown steadily through word of mouth and careful marketing and he now services cafes across the Gippsland region.
“The difference between other coffee [machine] people is that I am local, and there’s not many based in regional areas, they are all city based.
“Which means I am obviously quicker to get to when they need help.
“We [now] average about three jobs a week, up to eight or nine depending on the week.”
Mark’s business is run from his home in Traralgon, and he travels to a wide range of call-outs in a van fitted with tools and equipment.
“I like my coffee so that’s a start.
“The intricacies of the machines and fine details to make it work properly. I like details and problem-solving so it all appealed to me.”
For Mark, the biggest hurdle was learning business management.
“Accounting and marketing a business, I had never done that.
“So I did research and through Business Victoria and the local council I found out that they ran a course called Six Business Steps to Success.” www.business.vic.gov.au
Mark Ure said the course helped him overcome his biggest challenge, which was reaching out to new clients.
“To walk into a business cold-calling was so far outside my comfort zone,” he said.
“But we made a decision with the instructors in the Business Victoria course, that my best option was to put my face physically in front of owners and managers.
“Without their support I would have relied on traditional marketing, but it has worked every time, it really works” he said.
Jane Leslie is a workshop facilitator with Business Victoria, and has seen the results first hand.
“In the last 17 years Business Victoria has supported more than 60,000 participants in workshops across the state,” Ms Leslie said.
“[Small Business is] such an important part of the economy and employment base in Victoria,” she told SBS Small Business Secrets.
“These workshops provide practical tips and advice on key issues. So small business owners can get access to ready information to help them to grow their business and make their business profitable and sustainable.
Part of Mark’s training included spending time with a business mentor.
“I had one man who came out and helped with business plans,” Mark said.
“That was even more helpful than the course, because I had personal time to focus on what I needed to know.”
Mark Ure thanks Business Victoria for helping to grow his coffee machine repair business to the next level.
“When I first started we had only 5 clients, and now we are picking up new customers every week and it still growing, so there is a potential to become much bigger’.
He hopes soon to employ a small team to service a wider area.
“I am extremely proud of what I have achieved.
“To know I can go into someone’s café and fix their equipment and say this is going to work now. I love that.”
For more information about the Business Victoria courses visit www.business.vic.gov.au/