The Early Years no image

Published on January 19th, 2012 | by johnw


First Business Steps (part 1)

Leanne Waller, 2011

“Hoad Woodcarving Acdemy”, Lydiard St Nth, Ballarat in 1984, with Leanne’s Ford Lazer in carpark

I would lie awake most nights excited about the prospect of developing and growing the business. Only when I was exhausted, having no capacity to think anymore, did I fall into a deep contented sleep.

It was January 1984. I was 17, two months from my 18th birthday and I arrived in Ballarat, 100kms west of Melbourne in the Australian state of Victoria to establish a new branch of the family woodcarving business.

Mum and dad had been successfully running the business in Adelaide for 15 years when they felt ready to expand.

The next direction to set up another business, having saturated the Adelaide market, was east. Victoria was only 8 hours by car from Adelaide compared to 17 hours’ drive to Sydney in NSW, the next closest state.

It was too expensive to buy a property in Melbourne in the area required to service our market. They settled for Ballarat, a large regional centre an hour outside Melbourne heading towards Adelaide.

Mum and dad had sourced properties to house the business some months before. They came across a double storey 1918 blue-stone beauty close to the city centre on the better side of Ballarat. The only problem was who was going to run the business?

In late 1983, during a family road trip to Ballarat, they showed us the property, told us of their plans and asked who would be interested in running it.

I instantly put up my hand.

I couldn’t believe it, this was a dream come true. From the age of 11 I had my sights set on success and this was an opportunity to do something concrete to make it happen.

So the family business Hoad Woodcarving Academy at 211 Lydiard Street North, Ballarat became my passion for the next 4 1/2 years. It was 1984, and I was 17 years old.

211 Lydiard St. Nth., Ballarat in 1988Hairdressers bought building In 1988 after Academy closed

Leanne Hoad with brothers mark (left) & Shane (right) from showroom window of Ballarat Academy in 1984. i had just arrived in Ballarat and my family were helping me move in.

Dad and I spent the first month of that year setting up the Ballarat Academy.

The business had a workspace consisting of a series of large woodworking tables strategically placed in two rooms. Each table had a bench underneath it to hold the tools for that table. Each table and its tools were colour coded so tools didn’t go astray. The kitchen and bathroom were behind these two rooms. My bedroom, ensuite and living areas were upstairs. My bedroom doubled as a showroom, displaying finished pieces.

Dad stayed with me in Ballarat for 6 months until I could run the business by myself.

During this time he taught me the basics on how to carve each piece of furniture so I could teach the students. He taught me how to sharpen the gauges, write invoices and do the banking.

This was about the extent of my business training. The rest I learnt as I went along.

It later realised it was easy enough to make money in the 1980’s with its prosperous economy – you simply needed entrepreneurial flair and to be bold enough to give it a go. My parents rode this wave and prospered. It changed in the 1990’s, these ingredients alone were not enough and often translated to business failure. The business person of today has to be business savvy to survive. More about that later…(I can’t wait!)

I taught a few morning, afternoon and evening classes each week of up to 13 students in a class. When I wasn’t teaching, I did basic bookkeeping using paper and pencil. Computers weren’t a part of everyday life in 1984.

“Hoad Woodcarving Academy” wall mirror, hall table and bedroom chair (made by Leanne Hoad)


“Hoad Woodcarving Academy” dining table, ‘louis’ dining chair and chiffonnier

Hoad Woodcarving Academy, Ballarat, showroom

I also spent time promoting the business: in two primary ways.

I set up a display of finished articles of furniture, woodcarving demonstrations and promotional material to hand out, in the foyer of banks, trade fairs, markets and expos. I composed a sales spiel suitable for the particular event, and delivered it with a personable smile. When selling in the 1980’s I could be pushy. I changed my approach in the 1990’s as the public wanted sincerity and honestly. They were over the 80’s hype and a lot more discerning.

Leanne Hoad at stall, Ballarat Homeshow 1986

To advertise and promote the Academy, I also published articles in the pages of the local print media. Both are skills which I’ve used ever since.

Happily, I was invariably successful in getting articles published…

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