Cracking ideas at Maffra breakfast

IN a toast to the local economy, 95 of Maffra’s business owners and operators shared breakfast together last Wednesday, listening to eggscellent advice on how to bring home the bacon.

The eighth ‘Grow Your Business, Together’ breakfast from nine across Gippsland, Maffra provided the third largest turnout, behind Warragul and Traralgon — which are about three and five times the population of Maffra respectively.

The breakfast, held at Duart Homestead in Maffra, was aimed at providing the region’s business owners and operators with practical tips to help their businesses to thrive.

It provided an opportunity for people to network, learn strategies to boost their success and hear the value of a combined business voice for their towns.

The gathering heard from social media expert Erika McInerney, who explained the relevance of social media to modern business.

Maffra Business and Tourism Association president Marcus Stobie took attendees through the role of the committee, and encouraged those who hadn’t already joined to do so.

Small Business Commissioner Judy O’Connell explained the role of the authority: advocating on behalf of small businesses, dispute resolution, mediation monitoring and engagement.

Ms O’Connell beamed as she reported there was not a single no-show at the Maffra breakfast.

“If you’ve got a really strong business network in a town, the whole community seems to thrive — Maffra seems to be thriving,” she said.

“You can see by the amount of businesses that came out this morning that they’re really engaged, switched on and want to work together.

“It’s a united voice that you get — a united voice that you can then advocate to the local council or government, or whoever you need to advocate to, to get things happening for the business in town.”

Ms O’Connell said it was also important that businesses capitalise on tourism, which was growing in the area.

“It’s not only the cafés and the pubs that benefit from tourism, it’s all the business community … you sort of feed off each other,” she said.

Mr Stobie agreed, adding a lot had changed in the area in the past 20 years in terms of tourism.

“There’s a lot of things happening now in the area that are bringing people in,” he said.

“As we know, there’s been tough times around here … in the last two years in this area, we’ve had (issues with) dairy, timber, UGL, and further on down the line in the Latrobe Valley,” he said.

“The thing about communities like Maffra is people are positive, and they have a positive outlook … and that’s what we want to harness.”

Mr Stobie also pitched the concept of a new website, dedicated to the goings-on in the town — visitmaffra.com.au.

“The first four years of a committee is about building relationships with businesses and local council, and you get to the point where people know who you are, and then you have to say, ‘what are we going to do now and into the future?’,” he said.

“It’ll take a year or two to get legs, to get full traction, but it’s aimed at engaging and connecting the entire Maffra community, through business, community groups, sporting groups.”

Mr Stobie said the website would include a local events page or calendar to engage the community, and would mark a rebranding of Maffra.

“Local councils have their own branding, but I think it’s important for a town like Maffra to have their own brand, their own trademark and say this is what we stand for, this is what our vision is as a group of people,” he said.

Mr Stobie said a wave of incoming volunteers would breathe new life into the MBTA, which was always open to welcoming new committee members.

“You need that next wave of people coming through … so you’re not rotating the same people,” he said.

“Some people think if you say to them, come along to this meeting, they think, they’re going to walk in and we’ll say you need to do this job, this job and this job, but it’s not like that.

“You can give as much or as little time as you want.”

Those interested in getting involved with the MBTA should email maffrabta@gmail.com