Starting a business

From Model to Merino Farmer

From Model to Merino Farmer

5 minutes
Listen to this episode of Mumbition The Podcast now!

From Model to Merino Farmer - with Vanessa Bell of Vanessa Bell

Women in rural Australia make up 30% of the business owning women demographic. Vanessa Bell describes herself as a global innovator, voice for women and entrepreneur. She is also one of the only women in the world with a major landholding more than twice the size of Paris! Based on a cattle property in New South Wales, Vanessa is on a mission to make forever fashion from a traceable, ethically processed yarn. 


We're passionate about telling women's stories, and you have a fabulous one. We would love to invite you to share yours.

I grew up in Sydney and had a really great childhood. At the tender age of 15, I was approached to be a model. My first job was for Harper's Bazaar, and my second job was for Vogue. And then my career took off. I worked for clients such as Armani, Valentino, Dior, Comme des Garcons and Anne Klein and did amazing shoots all over the world and runway collections. Then closer to home for the clients such as Carla Zampatti and Country Road. 

I came back home, ended up in finance, ended up issuing performance based bonds for the civil engineering market. I met my now gorgeous husband and didn't see that one coming! Never thought for a second that I'd end up marrying an Australian farmer, but that's what happened.

Then we had a beautiful boy, and I remember thinking out of need that I was looking for something to keep him really warm at night because we were living south of Goulburn, which is a very cold climate.So my mother handed me this absolutely gorgeous merino baby blanket that was knitted by my great grandmother back in 1940 and I just couldn't believe how beautiful it was!

It just dawned on me that no one was actually making these blankets. So I decided to put a notice in the local Gunning newsletter and literally overnight had an instant knitting team and we started working on prototypes and basically the entire business was born. I feel it's been very much a business built on love and longevity, a business that's encompassed nurturing talent for women that really do feel invisible. 
I've just launched our new website and we are now looking to sell our beautiful range of baby blankets into very high end stores as luxury items in the USA, the UK and Japan. I have positioned the brand as a luxury product because I think it's really important. 

How are you actually factoring risk into your journey?

I really think it's important to have a great legal team, have a really good accountancy team behind you, and have a business plan. I think there's a change in perspective about what it means to be a woman in business. Again, that's why I think it's important to change the narrative about what it means to be a woman in Ag and also around taking on risk. I think there's a mindset that having risk is a negative. I disagree. I think you've got to have an element of risk and really action that in a calculated way.

How much importance do you put on digital networking then to connect all the dots and to find your fellow businesswomen? What would you say is your favorite way of doing that?

The way I've gone about it is to have virtual coffee dates. I will have three coffee dates a week and it brings so much joy to me to be able to connect with people and to learn about their stories. I try to do that with someone in my tribe, someone that I can collaborate with and someone that's seriously out of my comfort zone. It's an audacious sort of thing. I’ll go and choose someone on LinkedIn that I think, “my goodness, there's way they’ll ever reply to me!” But inevitably they do. I think the important part of that is about energy exchange. 

Can you share three things that you do each week that inspire your ambition, nurtures your livelihood and protects your wellbeing?

I'm very much a fan of podcasts, so I do listen to an array of podcasts to encourage me to level up, look at different ways people are conducting their business.

I think it's important to really prioritise important relationships in my life. I'm doing that consistently every single day. I think that's really integral to how I work, attacking the problem and not the person, staying open minded and non-judgmental, because you never know what the other person on the other side of the fence is seeing, doing or experiencing, I think really imperative to follow through on commitments and to deliver value.

I think in terms of protecting my wellbeing, something that I hold really dear to me is meditation and being really connected to the earth. I'm very fortunate to live on one of the most pristine rivers anywhere in the world. I find it really therapeutic just to go and stand. 

Want to know more about how Vanessa Bell has revolutionised business in remote Australia?

Have you considered a sea change or tree change but wondered how you can sustain or start a business outside of the city? Curious about the profound impact community has when you live in a small town? Wondering if it really is possible to have it all outside of a capital city? 

Ready to harmonise your ambition, livelihood and wellbeing? Join Australia's most caring business network. You’ll find experts, business advice, member directory and events. Sign up to Mums & Co today