Guest post by Kerry Anderson, photos by Shayne Mostyn
Becoming a business owner doesn’t happen overnight, and often it can result from a collision between a hobby, accumulated skills, and destiny. How refreshing it was to recently learn more about Sarah Mostyn’s carefully staged journey with Windella Farm, a boutique dairy goat product business based in northern Victoria.
Windella Farm is an impressive rural based, online business that first caught my eye through some nifty social media marketing. By pure chance I called in on Sarah Mostyn at a significant milestone of her five-year journey to becoming a full-time business owner.
‘I’m really excited,’ she admitted in her first week of being completely self-employed. An accountant by profession, she has been progressively cutting back her paid work hours and putting more and more into the business as it has grown.
‘I’m conservative as far as risk goes,’ she admits, explaining why she has taken this staged approach. ‘It was important that I help meet our living requirements and pay my way.’ After working really hard the past five years to maintain both a job and her growing business, Sarah is now in the enviable position of being able to invest profits into a purpose built work shed and step full time into the business.
When you understand how Windella Farm came about then it makes perfect sense. Sarah and husband, Shayne, moved to Cohuna in 2012 for a lifestyle change. ‘We wanted a small farm of some kind, but it required huge capital to buy into a traditional dairy farm which is the most common industry around here. Everyone laughed at us when we decided on dairy goats but we wanted a fresh perspective and knew there was a demand.’
Starting off small they used the milk for themselves and bred milking goats for sale. When Sarah’s dance instructor asked if she made soap from the goat’s milk which is most effective for treating psoriasis, she decided to give it a go, purchasing a starters kit and learning from You Tube clips and Facebook groups.
According to Sarah’s systematic accountant brain, it was simply a matter of understanding the process, formulating the recipes, and tailoring the products for specific purposes. ‘Therein started a fairly addictive hobby,’ she laughs. ‘I was able to pay for my dance classes in soap and test the business as it developed.’
As with any small business it also had to adapt as circumstances required. During the 2017 drought they made the decision to destock and just keep a small breeding herd of five does, two bucks and four wethers. ‘We realised we couldn’t afford to buy the water to keep up the feed.’ Instead Sarah focussed on developing the skincare product range.
‘Initially I did everything myself to save money such as printing my own labels in black and white. It was all very homey,’ she admits. Engaging a graphic artist and building a website on a Squarespace platform was the first of many big changes. ‘I’m always looking to improve and move towards that more high-end look to match the quality of our products.’ Currently she is exploring Shopify as a potential platform for her growing range of natural, hand-made products.
Each day is full on, particularly when she is making soap. ‘I can make four batches per day, 200 bars in total, on top of milking the goats, feeding the kids, checking emails, and packing online orders.’
In a normal year Sarah also enjoys displaying and selling her wares at regional markets and events. Not so in 2020, almost 100 percent of her sales were online. Local customers had the option of picking up their orders from a purpose-built box at their property.
‘Events like Handmade Canberra and the Elmore Field Days are great for finding new customers,’ Sarah explains. ‘I view it as marketing. People buy small quantities to try, then later convert to online customers once they discover how much they like our products.’
One thing Sarah has been clear on right from the start of Windella Farm’s development. ‘I will not compromise when it comes to use of natural ingredients; they are so important for skin care. This consistency is what has built the brand.’
Sourcing as many ingredients as she can locally, Sarah has also developed a relationship with three major suppliers when it comes to the all-important base oils. With the new shed under construction and storage limitations about to be resolved she is happy to be able to order bigger quantities and be in a position to negotiate on price.
Sharing her story is something that she has come to accept. ‘Customers love to learn more about our farm, the goats, and how we make the products. I’m not a social media expert so I’m just focused on unpaid posts for the moment.’ Husband Shayne obliges with the photography and some filming when nominated for The Weekly Times’ SHINE Awards gave her some valuable media exposure.
‘I love working from home on the farm. Every day is “bring your dog to work” day,’ Sarah smiles. ‘And I can use both my creative and financial skills to grow the business even more. You get out what you put in and reap the rewards. I’m not answerable to anyone but myself.’
Words by Kerry Anderson, images by Shayne Mostyn
Check out Windella Farm at https://www.windellafarm.com.au/