Giving voice to bush businesses

Giving voice to bush businesses

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Up for a challenge: Samantha Meurant is a talented artist who is passionate about helping other rural business owners share their stories. Photo by Cameron Campbell, Red Road Studios.

Up for a challenge: Samantha Meurant is a talented artist who is passionate about helping other rural business owners share their stories. Photo by Cameron Campbell, Red Road Studios.

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Long before the awesome Buy from the Bush campaign, Cunnamulla's Samantha Meurant was trying to give voice to regional, rural and remote business women.

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So much has happened to Samantha Meurant in the past 12 months that the young artist-turned-podcaster barely knows where to begin.

As we sit in a shady park just off the main street of Cunnamulla in south west Queensland, Samantha explains that the "snowball" really started when she ran her first social art workshop in December 2018.

The day was such a success that she was offered a contract to run a series of art workshops as part of a drought relief project.

In six months she traveled over 8500 kilometers, delivering 35 art workshops across Queensland's central west and far west.

"At one stage I did seven workshops in six days with a one-year-old in tow," says the 26-year-old young mum.

"Now that was fun."

The relaxed social art workshops were designed to provide an outlet for farmers and local community members dealing with drought.

Samantha said it was heartening to watch people unwind in just the few hours they spent learning some new skills and making important social connections.

"It was common for people to tell me afterwards that they had been planning to pull out because they just had too much to do but that they felt so much better for coming along," she said. "That's the beauty of art."

As a professional artist who specialises in painting and drawing Australian animals, plants and homesteads, Samantha said the workshops not only provided a new source of income but, most importantly, inspiration for her next big project.

"There are all these amazing rural businesswomen doing incredible work in their local communities," she said.

"I decided I wanted to do a podcast to showcase them and give them a platform to share their stories."

Within just a few days of hatching the idea, Samantha was launching The Rural Compass, a podcast series dedicated to sharing the stories of inspiring rural and remote rural business women Australia wide.

Samantha at home in Cunnamulla, Queensland.

Samantha at home in Cunnamulla, Queensland.

"The podcast series is really a passion project that I started because I wanted to give rural women a voice," she said.

"I wanted to get the word out there about what they were doing. We've got people starting fashion labels in the middle of nowhere, marketing professionals running businesses from remote areas...it's incredible."

For Samantha, the end goal is ensuring these people stay connected to their rural towns to help drive local economic growth.

It was through her podcast series that Samantha connected with her new business partner Tori Kopke from the Western Australian wheatbelt

The pair have since co-founded Big Ideas Rural - a virtual space for rural women to network and access resources to develop and inspire their own 'big idea'.

The membership platform was launched on International Rural Women's Day on October 15 and Samantha is excited about what they might be able to achieve.

"We've already hosted a virtual summit which went really well and we've created a library of marketing resources to help other women develop their own business ideas," she said.

It's an issue close to Samantha's heart as she aims to revive the Cunnamulla Chamber of Commerce and develop her future goals for a business hub in the small town.

"I'd love to eventually create a gallery space and business hub in Cunnamulla with shared working spaces for both locals and travelers," she said.

"We have a great tourist season and a lot of locums who come out here - it would give them a space to do work and business and contribute locally.

"I think there's a lot of potential here in Cunnamulla.

"And with the internet it truly is possible to having a thriving businesses no matter your location so long as you know how to utlise it."

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