Embracing independence by doing what you love, for those you care about
“I took my Federal Government redundancy package and after about 18mths of working in various roles within the community, decided I no longer wanted to return to the Government and public service sector/work,” explains Leanne.
“I was always breaking out of the mould because I wanted to help more than what the target markers were,”
“I knew that I was restricted, and I was sick and tired of my ideas being taken by management who took all the credit.”
Starting Shop TIl I Drop
After an idea sparked in 2017, Leanne built a business from the services she was already offering voluntarily.
“I was already providing support in my community for free, whilst I was working,” shares Leanne.
“I was a bit like a human rolodex. Anyone needs a number, they ring me. For guidance or a referral, they ring me,”
“You see, I come from a small community. We’ve always rallied around anyone who needed help. So that was ingrained in me from my upbringing.”
Defying the status quo, Leanne stepped outside of her comfort zone and into the sole trader realm with her mainstream business; Shop Til I Drop Isa.
“I’m not your average business operator, I didn’t have a business plan, just an idea,” explains Leanne.
“I had a few thousand dollars of savings and I started with that, I didn’t even consider getting a business loan,”
“I just thought I’d start small and grow slowly.”
Six years in, and five years as a registered NDIS service provider, Shop Til I Drop Isa provides daily living support, core support services and capacity building.
“For our participants and clients, we offer shopping, cooking, home and yard maintenance, personal care support and support coordination,” says Leanne.
The Power of Community and Networks:
Having grown up in a family that actively supported and rallied around others in their community, Leanne understood the value of strong connections. Through her travels across Australia, she encountered different Aboriginal cultures, formed lifelong friendships, and developed a broader perspective of the world. This exposure taught Leanne the importance of stepping outside her small community, expanding her horizons, and building diverse networks. These connections would prove instrumental in Shop Til I Drop Isa’s future.
“I didn’t need to advertise because I had good networks, and solid relationships in my community,” explains Leanne.
“Seven months into my business and I was fully booked,”
“People knew my reputation and knew me from previous jobs, they knew that I was a high performer,”
Turning a passion into a business
Before Shop Til I Drop Isa registered as an NDIS service provider, it was a mainstream business that provided personal shopping, assistance and capacity building.
“I was always a mad shopper and I’ve always been shopping for people who needed the help,” says Leanne.
“I love shopping and now I provide that as a paid service.”
“Living in a rural area, there’s not a lot of access to shops, so I help people buy online and I also teach them how to make smart purchasing decisions.”
New Opportunities and Business Expansion
After its first year of operations, Shop Til I Drop was prepared for expansion and new horizons.
“I wasn’t familiar with the NDIS, but I saw it as a way to get more clients, through Government contracts,” explains Leanne.
“Registering was a minefield. It was hard to navigate the whole system back then and there wasn’t all the information readily available to guide me.”
“So, I worked through the process, learning the inside and out of the NDIS system so that I would be following the right procedures.”
Now, the business is ready for yet another expansion. This time into a new location.
“I’m now expanding into the Kimberley’s with contractors who will be engaged with the clients directly. This is a strategic decision that frees up my time and is beneficial to the contractors.”
“It’s not always about making money. I’m now spending money to buy back time and ensuring that we deliver high quality supports,”
Reflection and Business Advice
Although Leanne didn’t start with a business plan, she recommends that others at least understand the competitive nature of business, before venturing in.
“Whatever you decide to do, make sure the business is actually viable, not just a good idea,” explains Leanne.
“You need to stand out from the crowd and have a product or service that people want or need,”
“Even in this industry, you will find that it’s highly competitive and there’s a lot of organisational rivalry, so be prepared.”
Market research is crucial in the success of any business. Leanne’s advice is to look at existing service providers.
“You need to know who’s who in the zoo and who will buy your services,” shares Leanne.
“You don’t want to invest your time and money into a business, and nobody wants to buy your services. Don’t waste your time and money.”
However, at the heart of every successful business is a happy customer or client. Therefore, feedback is a very useful resource that can help refine, develop, and grow any business.
“Feedback guides my business growth,” shares Leanne.
“I have honest conversations with my clients after providing the supports. I ask for feedback so that I can improve, make changes, and ensure 100% satisfaction because that’s what I promise,”
Having satisfied customers and clients is what Leanne strives for and it returns two-fold.
“If you keep your clients happy, they will tell other people about your business. Most of my customer clientele is from word of mouth and that’s how I like to keep it.”