Home ground advantage

Home ground advantage

Posted 26 June 2015

Mitchell (Mitch) Barwick established his own web and brand development company Nativ (formerly Artefact Atelier) in 2010.

Many companies within this creative industry establish their businesses within major urban centres. Mitch - a proud Gamilaroi man from the Hunter Valley region of NSW - has deliberately chosen instead to live and work out of the rural area where his family has lived for generations.

Mitch specialises in designing and building reliable, accessible websites tailored to his customers business objectives. He is committed to improving the technical know-how of his customers and their staff - even those who he says may not be "technically-minded" - so as to build their capacity and confidence in managing and evolving their website presence.

Over the past five years Mitch has been servicing local community organisations and businesses, while also positioning Nativ on the procurement radar of larger corporate and government agencies.

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Mitchell Barwick, Director of Nativ a website and brand development company. Image courtesy of Brooke Spence.

Mitchell Barwick, Director of Nativ, a web and brand development company. Image courtesy of Brooke Spence.

As a business owner I'm most proud of: the handful of projects I have going at the moment which are third and fourth generations of websites I launched five years ago.

Repeat business - especially when the client comes back with even bigger and more innovative ideas - means that I’m doing my job right. To me, it shows these business owners not only trust me with their brand, but also see the time and resources they pour into our projects as a fruitful investment.

The best thing about being a business owner is: having a chance to chase down projects that interest me personally.

Even when I'm getting work of all types, it’s generally the jobs that excite me that I put in my portfolio. As a result, over time I've started to attract more of that type of work. I've found my experience has developed in the areas I'm passionate about, and my body of work reflects that. In turn I end up attracting customers who need the kind of work I'm experienced with. Over time I've naturally carved out a niche for myself in an area where every job is interesting and exciting for me.

My biggest challenge (and opportunity) in being a sole trader is: achieving steady business growth, which is always a positive, but inevitably leads to a point where I have too much work for myself, yet not enough for two people.

There’s a whole new world of risk and management associated with becoming an employer or even subcontracting labour. Not to mention the trust it requires to let someone produce work on behalf of a business I've spent years building.

It’s a challenge, but at the end of the day it’s something all business owners face if they want their business to become bigger than themselves.

The best piece of business advice I can share is: to innovate, but don’t be afraid to imitate. Especially in creative fields, up and comers want to be unique. This is a necessary trait for creative and adventurous people, but we sometimes forget that imitation is just as powerful a tool.

Find people who inspire you and hound them with questions. Follow them on social media, find out who inspires them and analyse those people too. Practice your craft by copying others. Be open to learning from their experience to avoid the potholes you would have otherwise landed in.

Running my home based business, there's a challenge: that in my line of work, the demand increases the closer you get to major cities. Running a web design business from a rural town is neither conventional or easy, but it’s something I’ve tried to commit to as I want to remain in the region my family has lived in for generations.

This is a struggle for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people, torn between the temptation of moving where the work is or remaining in their traditional homeland. So that’s the challenge right now.

For many people, poor infrastructure makes it an impossible prospect. However, I’m hopeful that technology will continue to extend its reach and be embraced by upcoming generations.

This is the real opportunity I see for young business owners of the future, to maintain their heritage whilst communicating and doing business with the rest of Australia.

Find out more about Nativ Design and IBA's Business Development and Assistance Program.