September 9th, 2015
Published on January 16th, 2012 | by johnw0
Spreading my wings
I had established a regime at The Ballarat Woodcarving Academy.
I taught at the allocated times each week on Tuesdays-Thursdays and, in my spare time, I was enjoying hobbies of singing lessons, amateur theatre and socialising with the people in these circles.
I was ready to increase my work hours.
In 1985, I approached Bendigo TAFE with the view of teaching a couple of consecutive classes on a night each week, through their adult education course programme. Very similar to the WEA courses available today. They were obliging as they didn’t have a woodcarving course. It was something of a unique hobby back then.
On the allocated weeknight, I would stock up my Ford Lazer with tools, 3D models and furniture kits, and travel the 75 minutes from Ballarat to Bendigo. I would teach a 75 minute class, have a short break followed by a second 75 minute class.
It was a good arrangement in that TAFE did all the promotions. They simply added the course to their ongoing promo literature and advertising. They handled all the enquiries and payments, and paid me as a contractor.
I assisted in promoting these classes by having the occasional stall at the Bendigo (Royal) Show and a few trade expos.
I would create a display of finished furniture, as well as pieces in the various stages of their progress, for example a chair half-finished with one leg completed and the other just started. I had a vice attached to the trestle table (the event organisers supplied), and organised to have at any one time, a student carving a piece of furniture. This demonstration always attracted people, and the students demonstrating were always happy to chat away to enquiring people. Also on display were the 3D models of partially carved furniture indicating which gauges to use and the direction to carve. I’d have promotional material to hand out and was always ready to sell, sell, sell.
Later, when my business the (Leanne Hoad) Singing Studio had stalls at the Royal Adelaide Show, I had scripted spiels and non-confronting yet very effective ways to bring interested people towards the stall. I put suitable people with the right personalities into these roles, and we very effectively maximised quality interest. These tips of the trade to come!
Teaching at TAFE colleges meant overheads were low.
I realised low overheads were essential to making money when operating a small business. I remember a quote from either George or Harry from the long-standing and reputable Adelaide fashion label George Gross Harry Who. when asked “how do you manage be in the industry for so many years?”. His reply was something along the lines of:
We kept our expenses to a minimum. Where some would go all out and have flashy (and expensive) premises, we kept within our means, went simply were necessary and didn’t over capitilise
Due to the financial benefits (primarily due to low overheads) of teaching woodcarving in Bendigo, I did the same thing in Geelong and took two classes a night at a TAFE college there .
Geelong was only an hour from Ballarat but didn’t pan out to be as successful. I was at the mercy of the TAFE administration and their publicity. I didn’t always get two full classes, and I wasn’t guaranteed full class numbers. After a year of teaching in Geelong, I finished these classes and put my energies into the profitable avenues.
Melbourne was the next step.
One student travelled regularly from Melbourne with his two teenage boys to do lessons at the Ballarat Woodcarving Academy. The boys showed teaching potential so I trained one of them, and set him up teaching a few classes at a TAFE college in Melbourne. I can’t remember just how long this lasted or how successful these lessons were.
Looking back in hindsight, I didn’t enjoy the actual job of teaching woodcarving. In fact I knew I don’t enjoy working with timber or doing any form of woodwork for that matter. What I did enjoyed however was the prospect of the bigger picture-the opportunity to have a business and reap the benefits of self-employment.
I needed a business savvy, marketing skills and an understanding of what customers wanted.
I was too young to understand these. Instead I applied the little I new and what my parents showed me. They set me up in a venue, showed me how to teach carving and how to write a tax invoice. It wasn’t enough. It may have been all that was required for a successful business in Adelaide, but it wasn’t enough to reach the same heights in Victoria. It didn’t enter their mind to follow-up on my well being-not a consideration of their generation.
Without business skills or emotional support I was exposed to unnecessary stress. In addition, I didn’t know my physical limits and worked myself into a pit of exhaustion and anxiety. In 1988 a dear friend said to me “Leanne you have to get out of here, this isn’t doing you any good” Four and a half years later I made arrangements to return to Adelaide.
What I did achieve in these four and half years, when I wasn’t working, was the wonderful opportunities to continue with my singing and dancing training, and was involved in doing amateur music theatre productions. The experience I gained in these areas were immeasurable.
Ballarat’s performing arts community was of a high standard due to a handful of extremely talented people, and I made the most of these opportunities…