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Pride & Purpose: The Welcome to Country Story | #107

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Pride & Purpose: The Welcome to Country Story
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Nathan Bush is a director at eCommerce talent agency, eSuite. He has led eCommerce for businesses with revenue $100m+ and has been recognised as one of Australia’s Top 50 People in eCommerce four years in a row. You can contact Nathan on LinkedIn, Twitter or via email.

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Jason is CEO of Welcome to Country and brings a deep passion and experience in Indigenous affairs and is a proud Aboriginal man born and raised on Gunnai country in south-east Victoria. A highly skilled Senior Executive offering more than 15 years of senior management experience across the arts, tourism, native title, and strategic policy sectors within the not-for-profit, private and government industries. Results-focused and effectual leader with proven ability to manage multiple complex issues.

Welcome to Country is a marketplace with a purpose. CEO, Jason Eades, shares their vision in supporting Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander businesses.

In this episode of Add To Cart, we are joined by Jason Eades, CEO of Welcome To Country. Welcome To Country started as a marketplace to promote and sell Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experiences and tourism. However, over Covid they’ve evolved their business model to also be a marketplace for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander products including books, art, jewelry and food. In this episode, Jason shares how businesses like Kip & Co are developing meaningful and win win relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander businesses. He shares how their PayPal partnership came about and why he is hugely optimistic about the recognition and opportunities for Indigenous entrepreneurs. 

There’s a real growing momentum around empowerment and the emergence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses that I think is awesome to see.”

Jason Eades

Questions answered in this episode include
  • How and why did Welcome to Country expand to sell products?
  • How do you find new creators and retailers to join the marketplace?
  • How can businesses best support Indigenous artists and producers?

Welcome to Country – purpose-driven marketplace

“Our purpose is around creating employment and economic opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and as a part of that we saw tourism as one of the very few industries that, it doesn’t matter where you live in Australia, there’s ways in which you can access and participate. So from the remotest of communities, to the biggest of cities, there is something everywhere. And so what we saw missing was a marketplace for people to come together. 

So there’s lots of existing marketplaces around tourism, but none that was specifically dedicated to Aboriginal tourism, so that’s where we saw a gap, and a way that we could help build and strengthen the industry.

Along comes COVID. That’s where the second part of the business really started to emerge, and look, in some ways, it was in our minds, because tourism operators usually also sell some kind of products alongside that, and so we were always thinking about what’s the additional opportunity, and we started really slow.  Marcia Langton’s book, which is also called Welcome to Country.  We started to sell her book, because it’s also a travel guide of course. 

Within a week we sold a hundred copies, and so it was clear that there was an appetite for Aboriginal content, for Aboriginal books and products.  And so the store started to grow from there, and so we’ve also become this e-commerce store for Aboriginal product from across the country.”

Uplifting collaboration

“Over the last two years, it’s been really heartening to see the number of collaborations that have emerged, and I love for example, the Kip&Co partnership with the women from out of Arnhem Land, and they’ve been really upfront about how that’s all been developed, and there’s a 50% sharing of the profits. I mean, that is a real benchmark for how things could be done in a really positive way.  

The other thing that I’m particularly interested in, is how do we also uplift the Aboriginal artist or designer that is also trying to break into an industry, to not just do a collaboration, but actually to support them to develop a range, and it might be an exclusive range that is delivered by your e-Commerce platform, or what have you, but again it’s that empowerment piece around how do you work with people to help uplift them, and so they get to build themselves a mini brand as a result of it as well? And I can see that coming in the future.

Aboriginal businesses

“The other thing that I think that most people are not aware of, there’s a lot of Aboriginal businesses that are producing products that, for all intents and purposes, are not derivative, or out of something that is by its nature Aboriginal. And by that I mean, it’s not like the Aboriginal design on a t-shirt, or on a doona cover. I know of Aboriginal businesses that are in the supply chain making hand sanitizers and face masks, and all sorts of stuff that emerged during the pandemic.  They have the capacity and capability of supplying products that everyday people require, and it doesn’t need to be branded.

There’s the recent announcement out of Perth, of an Aboriginal business winning a $350 million contract in the mining sector. I mean, that’s huge. But equally there’s the smaller kind of things going on, that people don’t necessarily know about. There’s Aboriginal businesses doing work for defense for example, in construction. There’s a gin that’s produced out of Adelaide, that uses native ants.

I think that it takes a while for people to get their head around, and to understand just how much it’s been growing, but I think the part that we will really see, is when you can walk into a shop and actually can’t tell, necessarily, where those products are derived or supplied from, but in the back somewhere, someone’s reporting that there is at least a decent percentage of Aboriginal businesses in that supply chain.”

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