Queensland Small Business Week event a huge success

Airlie Beach has to become a ‘home’ town if it doesn’t want to become a ’clone’ town and die.

This was the message, loud and clear, from retail branding guru John Stanley at the Queensland Small Business Week Business Breakfast held last Thursday (May 30).

The audience of around 30 business people also heard how the town needs to embrace the millennials, be a bit “weird”, and “own our territory” at the inspiring event, held at Mantra Club Croc.

Organised by Whitsunday Coast Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with Whitsunday Regional Council, the special regional branding event was part of the Queensland Small Business Week celebrations.

Chamber President Allan Milostic said the Chamber was very fortunate to have secured an international expert such as John.

“We were lucky to have an International expert presenting such invaluable concepts and advice at a time when we really need to take some drastic action to pick up tourism numbers and business in the region,” he said.

“The feedback we have received about this event from members has been fantastic, which is very encouraging and affirms our belief that good speakers will draw the numbers.

“We look forward to holding more great business events and would encourage both members and non-members to attend future events and take advantage of this opportunity to hear experts in their field at a minimal cost (free for members).”

Mayor Andrew Willcox took the opportunity to announce the local results of council’s business start-up grants program targeting small business growth opportunities across the Whitsunday Region.

The funding recipients, from Airlie Beach and Cannonvale, also received a complimentary 12-month Chamber membership.

Mr Stanley, an internationally acclaimed speaker and retail branding expert, explained to the audience how there are only three retailing economies – price, driven by eg. Aldi and Walmart, convenience, driven by eg. Amazon, and experience - and this was where Airlie Beach needed to be.

“Provide an experience or get out of the way,” said Mr Stanley, who is also a producer of chestnut-fed pork, in Western Australia.

He then went on to say that there were three kinds of towns – ghost towns, who have given up, clone towns, who all look alike because the corporates have taken over, and home towns, which have soul and purpose.

“Home towns are the future,” he said, adding that some regions who had become clone towns had seen a 20 per cent drop in tourism numbers.

“Home towns attract people. We need to embrace the millennials, because they are the future, promote fresh, local food – one of the biggest drivers in tourism worldwide – grasp the technology available to us, and promote and support entrepreneurs. It’s not about money, it’s about creativity and ideas.”

Mr Stanley then provided the room with a list of pointers on how to be a home town, including holding regular festivals, which the Whitsundays is doing very well.

Other pointers included businesses working together with common goals and values, farmers markets and craft fairs, a “vibrant” coffee culture, and encouraging and promoting more “day makers” – people on the front line who make a customer’s day, rather than making them feel like they’re being processed.

“Own your territory, be unique, be weird! What is the ultimate Airlie Beach experience? You want customers to talk about you, rave about you, and post about their experience on Facebook!"

L-R: President Allan Milostic, John Stanley, Vice President Judy Porter and Treasurer Nick Haratsis. 

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