That something was Blue Ginger Picnics, a food tourism venture which stages upmarket alfresco events for groups of two or more. Picnickers are treated to premium local produce, minus the plastics and disposables.
Usher’s flair and business acumen saw her fledgling start-up beat off stiff competition from a string of established operators to net a prestigious Silver at the QANTAS Australian Tourism Awards. Here she discusses the ups and downs of her first year in business.
What prompted you to go into the food tourism business?
My family has always loved the outdoors and picnicking, going somewhere beautiful and making an occasion of it. Over the years, people have seen us doing it in our elaborate way and some of them started asking me whether it was something I did for others.
Is it easy to turn a personal passion into a viable business? How did you go about it?
Not necessarily. There’s no point thinking you’re going to do something you love if the market doesn’t want it. That’s a hobby, not a business. You need to validate your idea by determining whether it’s something people are actually willing to pay for. I didn’t make assumptions about that – I went out and asked people and staged some sample events before jumping in.
How long did it take you to get your first paying customer?
Not long – I was holding a test picnic for some friends on the beach at Kingscliff before I’d launched, and a guy walked past and admired what we were doing. I said, jokingly, “We can do anniversaries.” And he said, “My anniversary is tomorrow, can you do that?” I didn’t know how much I was charging at that stage, so I just blurted out a figure and he said, “Ok, no problems.” That was as crazy as it was.
What did you do to get the word out after you’d launched?
I posted some photos of that first event in a couple of local Facebook groups. Just from that, we got 350 likes, 100 comments and 60 enquiries. People shared it and a few people started making bookings. Then I aligned with some tourism bodies and we started getting media attention.
Featuring in Australian Traveller really raised our profile. Getting that exposure is so important for start-ups, and so is forming relationships with compatible businesses and organisations.