Big win for small firm

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News - BY SARAH SCULLY

Lead­ers of a Wim­mera man­u­fac­tur­ing suc­cess story with roots at Rain­bow hope a tri­umph in a pres­ti­gious statewide awards pro­gram will help pro­pel the com­pany into fur­ther in­ter­na­tional mar­kets.

Hor­sham ‘air-move­ment spe­cial­ists’ Smal­laire won run­ner-up hon­ours in the 2018 Vic­to­rian Man­u­fac­tur­ing Hall of Fame Awards at a gala din­ner at Mel­bourne’s Crown Pal­la­dium on Mon­day night.

Smal­laire direc­tor Lolita Small said she was thrilled the com­pany was a fi­nal­ist in the small busi­ness cat­e­gory.

“Last week we found out we were a fi­nal­ist, which was pretty amaz­ing, but we didn’t re­alise we were go­ing to be run­ner-up. It’s all hap­pen­ing at once – it’s re­ally ex­cit­ing,” she said.

“Mon­day night was amaz­ing. It was pretty full-on to be sur­rounded by so many peo­ple on the same page in terms of the man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try.

“We knew we were up against some high-cal­i­bre com­pe­ti­tion so at the end of the day we were thrilled to be a fi­nal­ist.”

Mel­bourne-based Os­teon Med­i­cal won the cat­e­gory.

Miss Small said en­trants had to com­plete an ex­ten­sive applicatio­n process.

“You have to talk about ev­ery an­gle of your busi­ness, be­cause you’re not just be­ing judged on your sales,” she said.

“It was a good re­flec­tion on the work that we do and what we’ve been through as a com­pany for the past 44 years.

“We talked about where we started and some of the hur­dles and chal­lenges we have faced, from re­ces­sions to nat­u­ral dis­as­ters such as fire, flood and drought. The process makes you re­alise that all of this has made us a stronger busi­ness.”

Hum­ble begin­nings

Miss Small’s fa­ther Gary Small started Smal­laire at Rain­bow in 1974.

“Dad was a tank man­u­fac­turer and peo­ple started to say to him that they wouldn’t mind an air-con­di­tioner, so he de­signed one,” she said.

“Once ev­ery­one at Rain­bow had an air-con­di­tioner we moved to Hor­sham.”

The busi­ness ad­vanced to cover agri­cul­ture, com­mer­cial, in­dus­try and do­mes­tic sec­tors.

“We started in agri­cul­ture af­ter farm­ers be­gan com­ing to us about prob­lems with their air-seed­ers,” Miss Small said.

“Now we ex­port our agri­cul­tural com­po­nents across Aus­tralia and world­wide.

“Farm­ers are very important to our busi­ness. When the farm­ing sec­tor isn’t do­ing well, it af­fects us too.”

Miss Small said the Vic­to­rian Man­u­fac­tur­ing Hall of Fame recog­ni­tion came at an ex­cit­ing time for the busi­ness, which re­cently re­ceived a Re­gional De­vel­op­ment Vic­to­ria grant to help with re­de­vel­op­ment and em­ploy­ment.

“We’re look­ing to ex­pand our busi­ness to build an­other shed for freight and lo­gis­tics,” she said.

“We’re also look­ing to ex­pand fur­ther over­seas. We’re try­ing to break into East­ern Europe, fo­cus­ing on Prague and War­saw. We’re also look­ing at the po­ten­tial to mar­ket our prod­ucts in Thai­land and Mex­ico City.”

Miss Small said Smal­laire was work­ing with Austrade – the Aus­tralian Trade and In­vest­ment Com­mis­sion – to fur­ther the com­pany’s pro­file over­seas.

She said Austrade rep­re­sen­ta­tives had been ne­go­ti­at­ing on Smal­laire’s be­half, ‘talk­ing to the right peo­ple’ in over­seas mar­ket.

“The gov­ern­ment has helped us a lot,” she said.

“I mean, we’re look­ing at cities like Prague. With­out their help, where would you even start?

“They’re help­ing connect us with the right peo­ple and mak­ing sure we com­ply with gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions from the other coun­tries, which are of­ten dif­fer­ent from our own.”

Smal­laire em­ploys 20 peo­ple, which Miss Small hopes to grow in the near fu­ture.

“We’re hop­ing to em­ploy an­other eight peo­ple in the next three years. Re­al­is­ti­cally it’s more like five, but we like to aim high,” she said.

Aim­ing high is a con­sis­tent theme for Smal­laire, which con­tin­ues to adapt to new tech­nolo­gies and cus­tomer de­mands.

“We’re pro­duc­ing new prod­ucts all of the time,” Miss Small said.

“When­ever some­one comes to us with an air-move­ment prob­lem we cus­tom-make a solution. We’re look­ing to con­tinue to grow our prod­uct of­fer­ings – you have to in or­der to sur­vive.

“That doesn’t mean we’re go­ing to stop pro­duc­ing what we’re al­ready pro­duc­ing, it just means we know we can’t af­ford to re­main stag­nant.

“You need to keep push­ing, oth­er­wise you get left be­hind.”

ACCOLADE: Smal­laire man­ag­ing direc­tor Gary Small, left, and direc­tor Lolita Small cel­e­brate the com­pany’s run­ner-up hon­ours in the small busi­ness cat­e­gory at the 2018 Vic­to­rian Man­u­fac­tur­ing Hall of Fame Awards in Mel­bourne on Mon­day night with...

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