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Business Case Studies

Hear from businesses in the Adelaide Hills region on how they've partnered with the Council.

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Local business case studies

Hear how the Adelaide Hill Council partners with businesses in the region to grow, prosper, and achieve their goals.

Max Milan Stirling is a small yet unique menswear store located on the main street of Stirling on Mount Barker Road. They have a classy and eclectic range of men's fashion from clothing, accessories, skin care and footwear.

The Stirling Mall fire has impacted the nearby businesses including Max Milan. Their journey provides an important example of business continuity in the face of unexpected disruption.

What is your greatest business learning?

My biggest business learning is a mental one. I have to have the right attitude to be prepared to take risks and then be resilient enough to pick myself up and get on with the next thing is something doesn’t work out. The only certainty in a small business is that you will never be sure of what will definitely work.

What is your greatest business success?

My biggest success is actually surviving my first year as a 26-year-old with her first small business - particularly in a time where I have had to face the challenge of the massively reduced foot traffic as a result of the shopping centre burning down. I am also very pleased that during this quiet time I have been able to build my online platform. I had no experience in media, marketing or any E-com. I read and taught myself what I know. I still have lots to learn but I have really enjoyed doing it myself and am confident to keep growing my online business. Also finding other ways to promote my shop such as holding a late-night trade event and serve beverages and people bring friends along.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

When I took over Max Milan in December 2022, I was inexperienced, so this has been a very steep learning curve. I was a bit timid and frightened, but I have learnt over the year that trusting my intuition has brought me more success than failure. I have also learned that if I make a mistake that is the way I learn and grow. For me, making a mistake is a positive thing.

How do you stay up to date with the latest business information and trends?

Staying In my business where I try to have a bit of everything a man can need, I have to ensure that my shop has the right things - again, this is intuitive. In order to keep on trend, I follow the stores and stockists that I love on social media, and I also keep in close contact with my reps - these relationships are just so important. Also, every time I get a chance, I wander into similar stores to mine and contrast and compare.

Where have you sought business advice?

I am always seeking advice from as many people as I can. I have had wonderful support from friends and family and other Stirling business owners. The connection the local business have with each other is amazing and brilliantly supportive. Our local business owners are wonderful people who all have serving the hills community at the core of their business. I also get plenty of advice from my loyal locals! From many different people. I have sought advice locally from other fellow Stirling business owners.

What financial factors should be considered when wanting to grow a business?

When growing a business, you always have to consider how much money you have to put back into it to keep it fresh and vibrant. Of course, you need to make enough profit to support that growth and you need to ensure you have enough stock to keep that balance right (having too much stock is actually worse than having not enough). Cash flow is the key and I always ensure I have a reserve to cover rent, utilities and BAS, anything on top of that is my cash flow and the money I use to generate my profit.

What value do you place in business plans?

Having a plan or strategy is important to a small business as you will have days or weeks where to feel your goals are out of reach but having a plan to keep you going is helpful. I think it is important to be realistic in your given timeframe and to assess and refresh the plan every three months to ensure you are going in the right direction and you are achieving your performance goals.

What three things should someone consider before starting a business?

1. Passion & Purpose: Are you fired up about your idea and its impact? Passion fuels you, purpose guides you. Because your business will be your life especially in the beginning you’ll always be working and need to withhold the same passion all the way through.

2. Market & Money: Does your idea fill a need? Can you make it financially viable? Research and refine.

3. In my business, a love of people. To serve as an important part of the community I have to be connected and relevant, Max Milan has to be a nice place to visit and shop.


Iceberg Digital Marketing, founded amid the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic by Fiona Carvalho and Lilly Liu, seized the opportunity presented by the shift towards online business models.

Recognising this trend, we specialise in aiding businesses in harnessing digital efficiencies.

Our mission is to create custom digital marketing strategies that maximise results while minimising time, budget, and effort. Our clients benefit from an in-house marketing team and expert guidance under a fixed fee structure.

With offices in the Adelaide Hills and Ontario, Canada, we remotely serve clients in North America and Australia, emphasising transparency and efficiency throughout our operations.

We utilise online platforms for streamlined process management, enhancing our lean company structure.

What is your greatest business learning?

Client Relationship Management is Key:

  • Proactively showcasing potential online revenue streams to clients.
  • Nurturing strong client relationships through communication, transparency, and consistent email, SEO, and social media reporting updates.
  • These reports serve as valuable data sources for campaign fine-tuning.

Invest in Talent Development and Retention:

  • Our success depends on the skills and expertise of our team members.
  • We prioritise employee engagement using online surveys and regular one-on-one meetings.
  • Talent development and retention are pivotal factors in our ongoing growth and achievement as an agency.

Stay Current with Industry Trends:

  • With AI integration in social media and content creation, the digital marketing landscape constantly evolves. Staying updated on the latest trends, technologies, and best practices is vital for campaign success.
  • We apply efficient budget management principles both for clients and in-house when selecting and implementing platforms.
  • Our approach involves absorbing new knowledge, adapting it to our workflows, and maximising platform capabilities for maximum value extraction.

What is your greatest business success?

A consistent cash flow has served as the bedrock of our business, providing the financial stability needed for growth and sustainability. We meticulously scrutinise each business decision, ensuring they align with our financial objectives and contribute to maintaining this vital cash flow. The underlying assumption is accurate financial data and job costing.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

For more effective scaling, foster greater self-confidence in tackling diverse business areas, including HR, finance, and crisis management. To paraphrase, "Have faith in your instincts and don't hesitate to seek clarification until you feel confident it aligns with your vision."

How do you stay up-to-date with the latest business information and trends?

We are getting regular and timely business and technology news updates from all news publications, business advisors, government newsletters, networking events/webinars, etc.

Where have you sought business advice?

While we've sought advice from different business advisors, our unique business model sets us apart from local digital marketing agencies because of our international clients, multiple offices, and a global talent pool. In many respects, as business owners, we have to research, network and lead these conversations on the best path forward.

What financial factors should be considered when wanting to grow a business?

Determine the areas in which we aim to expand and conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis. Afterwards, we can seek expert advice while relying on our instincts based on our gathered information.

What value do you place in business plans?

Business plans are important documents that outline our goals, strategies, and financial projections. These plans are a constant work and have evolved alongside our business growth. What started as a Word document was transformed into a comprehensive Excel spreadsheet. This single source of truth empowers data-driven choices, constructive discussions, and agreed outcomes.

What three things should someone consider before starting a business?

  1. Business Plan and Resources - Create a detailed business plan encompassing goals, strategies, budget, timeline, client acquisition, financial management, staffing, and scalability.
  2. Building a strong support network: Explore options like finding a suitable business partner, consulting experienced advisors, and engaging with local networking organisations.
  3. Legal and Regulatory Compliance: Ensure you understand the legal and regulatory requirements of running a business in your industry sector.

Operating since 2015, Warida Wholistic Wellness is an international Indigenous social enterprise based in the north-east Adelaide Hills on Kaurna Country in South Australia.

Bianca Stawiarski, Managing Director of Warida Wholistic Wellness founded the business through the recognition that communities needed something different to western clinical approaches to improve the growing mental health crisis around the world.

Warida works on two levels: the grassroots level through decolonising practices, empowering a diversity of women to reconnect to their inner fire and embrace healing on their own terms. On another level, Warida drive systems change approaches for corporates, government and organisations through trauma informed culturally integrated workshops, while supporting economic development through personal, executive, and business coaching for individuals and businesses in the early start-up phase.

Warida Wholistic Wellness is Supply Nation Indigenous certified and Social Traders certified social enterprise.

What is your greatest business learning?

Hands down, my biggest learning is the value of having a business agile enough to pivot when needed. This agility managed to save Warida following COVID downturns in income. Having a business that is diversified, can significantly reduce risks and improve financial viability. In addition, early on I realised the value of accessing congruent and authentically resonating business coaching. Having someone else to bounce ideas off, being accountable to, and seeing things through a different perspective is always a valuable asset in the early planning stages and beyond. I continue to access quality coaching as a successful business strategy.


What is your greatest business success?

Oh, we’ve had so many successes! I would have to say our biggest achievement is successfully creating services that are culturally safe, operate within a decolonised framework, which people from all over the world, regardless of background, want to access to support their healing journeys.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

Absolutely! I think the biggest thing that I would have changed would be to outsource professional services and many parts of Warida’s administration much earlier. As sole traders or small companies, the reality is that there is just not the human resources to do everything. To avoid burn out, especially in the early days, Founders need to be very strategic in how they operate.

How do you stay up-to-date with the latest business information and trends?

One of your biggest business assets will be developing strong networks. Whether this be with the SA Chamber of Commerce (Business SA), business centres (like the Adelaide Hills Business Centre), Entrepreneurial hubs (like The First Nations Entrepreneur hub), state or national organisations such as SA Woman Australia, Ausmumpreneur, Black Coffee – Indigenous Business Network, Indigenous Business Australia’s Strong Women Strong Business, International Women’s Forum, and so many more. I attend a myriad of conferences (World Business Forum, Social Enterprise World Forum, etc), have been part of business accelerator programs through Indigenous Business Australia / The Difference Incubator, Minderoo’s Dream Venture, and also another accelerator program that Business SA offers. I am also signed up on a few business information mailing lists. It is up to your area of interest, but at a minimum having a connection to Business SA would be beneficial.

Where have you sought business advice?

This is mainly covered in my previous comment, but I have also accessed business coaching support on a regular basis since I started my business journey in 2015, and more recently through the Commonwealth Government Strengthening Business Entrepreneurs’ Programme.

What financial factors should be considered when wanting to grow a business?

This comes back to business planning. How do you remain financial viable while growing your business? Before launching your product have you done research as to the market? What is the break even point for your product so that you price it accordingly? If money is tight, what are the business’s priorities – for example, you may launch a marketing campaign for a new product but you may need to be selective on where you are targeting your marketing depending on funds available. Do you have enough funds in reserve to maintain the business’s expenses while you are going through a growth period? For small businesses, limited funds availability is more than likely a restriction to growth.

What value do you place in business plans?

Without a strategic business plan, you have no direction in your business and may find that you are chasing off towards every new shining thing that comes across your path. Also, a business plan is a living document, not something to gather dust on a shelf! Business planning is an interesting way of driving priorities in your business, set your goals for the year while refining what you know about the people accessing your services / products etc. I use a one page business model canvas that I have printed out on A2 or A3, and spend time really looking at my business from an overall approach. This helps you clarify your offerings fully customised to your avatar. My advice – it is equally important to work on your business as it is in your business – allocate weekly time to review and explore your business planning in depth.

What three things should someone consider before starting a business?

1. Having a clear understanding of your vision, mission, purpose and goals. What makes you get out of bed when money is tight, and you are exhausted? How do you stay authentic in your offerings?
2. Establishing good business and governance practices right from the start. Develop your support networks and undertake your planning so you are completely clear.
3. Have a good understanding of the financial health and viability of your business, what are your break even points? Do you have enough funds to start and maintain your business until you build up a customer base?

What is your greatest business learning?

Hindsight has become my key word, I respect the meaning and how it demands to reflect and move forward in either a different way of doing business, responding patiently to situations and using what has happened to make better decisions in the future. I think by constantly evaluating how my business has operated I know I would have made different decisions, but this is what small business is about. The past few years have been a huge learning curve with constant change and adapting.

My greatest business success is starting the business from scratch, having an idea and nothing but determination, taking what essentially was a risk and taking the courage to do it.

Seeking out business advice has come from a few different sources and having an informal mentor has helped. I've found there are so many aspects to small business that everyone has something different to offer.

Financial factors are a biggie, especially in hospitality. Being a family business and starting from scratch I've learnt that I have to take baby steps and take more calculated risks with investments into the business.

Three things I would say about starting your own business:

1. Do you have the mental grit and determination to work harder than you ever had before

2. Access what areas of your life will change and do some self-reflection about why you want your own business and what you want from it

3. Be proud, be bold and be courageous

Data Effects is a South Australian technology company that is committed to providing positive social, economic and environmental outcomes for Australian communities. We work closely with government and private industry on a diverse range of technology-focussed agricultural and environmental research and development projects.

Data Effects specialises in project management, complex field data acquisition, development of real-time (IoT) sensing platforms, cloud data management, bespoke data communication/visualisation and automated systems. We passionately believe that data-driven decisions and integrated systems level management can help ensure sustainable social and economic prosperity.

What is your greatest business learning?

Firstly, having the best product is not enough. Two other key factors you need for success are:

  • A clear path to find your market (and/or enough money to advertise to the prospective market)
  • Making sure the people who are paying the bills are also the ones getting (at least some of) the benefit

Secondly, many products fail because they never make it to market. Getting a product in the market — even it is not your dream product - is important for cash flow and to garner feedback to help the product grow in ways that make it more valuable to the user.

What is your greatest business success?

Our greatest business success has been to build a reputation as a trusted adviser, and delivery partner to a range of State and Federal Government agencies. People want to work with us because they know we strive to bring success to every initiative that we undertake. It is our hard-earned reputation that has enabled us to bring together an impressive group of collaborators to help realise our most significant undertaking to date, the "Smart Catchment Project" (SCP) based in the Adelaide Hills (Cox Creek).

The SCP was born out of a vision to create a world-class outdoor laboratory for the development of new technologies, solutions and practices for the holistic and integrated management of catchments in Australia and globally.

The cornerstone of the project will be catchment-wide sensor, communication and data management infrastructure. These technologies will enable the deployment of cost-effective environmental, agricultural and water usage sensors to provide event-based, real-time management data. This will form a testbed for developing, demonstrating and adopting solutions for:

  • climate adaption
  • landscape restoration (weed and feral insect/animal eradication)
  • improved farm profitability
  • biosecurity
  • waterway health
  • disaster management (bushfires/flood)
  • peri-urban planning (in collaboration with local councils)
  • real-world learning

What we learn through this initiative will help us better understand the social and technical barriers that stand in the way of us sustainably managing catchments from Cox Creek to the Murray-Darling Basin.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

In the end you learn as much from your mistakes as much as you do from your successes. Hence, whilst it would be nice to avoid the pitfalls the reality is the hard times are an important part of the path to success.

How do you stay up-to-date with the latest business information and trends?

We involve ourselves in a collection of industry groups that discuss key technology areas that are of interest to us. Our model is to talk to as many people as possible!

Where have you sought business advice?

Everywhere we can find it:

  1. Other businesses people; from retired business people to young and keen entrepreneurs.
  2. Some books are famous for a reason so everyone should check out classics like "Scaling Up" & "Traction"

What financial factors should be considered when wanting to grow a business?

As the saying goes: Turnover is Vanity, Profit is Sanity but Cash is Reality. When you are looking to grow a business, keeping on top of your cash flow is crucial. In the tech industry, where we work, time to market is also important, so balancing investment against funding is the key challenge.

What value do you place in business plans?

When starting a new business you often see opportunities everywhere. Hence, it is easy to chase a lot of dreams all at once and there is the risk that you fail to deliver on all of them. The best way to make sure you keep focus on your objectives is to have a business plan. A Business Plan is also a key to managing your cash flow and foreseeing cash issues. Hence, a business plan is invaluable.

What three things should someone consider before starting a business?

  1. What is your point of difference (and is it sustainable)?
  2. Why would people give you money (and how much is your offering worth to them)?
  3. How are you going to engage with your market (i.e. how will your customers know you exist)?

Torque Wrench Calibration Services is a mobile checking, calibration & repair service of Torque Wrenches, Torque Screwdrivers & Torque Multipliers. Tom & Michele’s experience is spread over a range of market segments including Automotive Industries, Motor Vehicle Dealerships, New & Used Cars, Bus & Truck, Road & Rail, Manufacturing & Assembly, Heavy Industry, Construction & Engineering, Power Generation, Oil & Gas, Aviation....... basically anything with nuts & bolts. No industry is too big or small for us.

We purchased this business in 2014. With Tom’s master technician background, along with our combined industry knowledge and skills, has seen our reputation throughout the industry grow into a very successful mobile business. We come to you; our customers love that there is no downtime on the job, they don’t have to organise to send their tools offsite!

What is your greatest business learning?

Having great suppliers with good quality products. Knowing your product inside and out and having the technical knowledge makes it easier to talk to customers.

Treat customers the way you would expect to be treated - happy customers are loyal customers, and if you make a promise – keep it!

What is your greatest business success?

Designing a fit for purpose mobile van! Our van is Tom’s office and it’s had a huge impact on providing a fully equipped professional service to meet all of our customers needs. As we continue to grow our customer base, we will be adding another technician and van to our fleet very soon. We are very excited!

Is there anything you would have done differently?

Having a backup plan and or backup person sooner. When you first start up, cashflow does not always provide the flexibility you need to do more, we learn as we go, and we gain as we learn.

How do you stay up-to-date with the latest business information and trends?

Our suppliers and our customers are our most important asset. Staying in regular contact with our suppliers we learn about new products and competitors in the market. Listening to and learning from our customers helps us make better recommendations for various torque tools used in different applications.

Where have you sought business advice?

Mostly my accountant, but it’s actually hard to know where else small business owners can actively seek assistance and support from. We have been fortunate to have enough experience to have ventured into this business without much assistance at all, but I do see benefits in having someone you can just bounce things off.

Since the AHC Small Business Program was started in late 2021, we are already seeing the advantages in creating this network and have already started building some mutually beneficial relationships. It’s a great way to learn from each other, share our own experiences, ask for help or just seek out some advice.

What financial factors should be considered when wanting to grow a business?

Every business will have different growth factors, but for us at this point we need to think about the additional costs to:

  • Purchase and fit out another van
  • Employing another person
  • Purchase more testing equipment
  • Look at upgrading our software and accounting structures.

What value do you place in business plans?

We have a fairly straight forward business plan which has over recent times highlighted it’s now the right time to spend some money and put on another technician and van. This will help strengthen our financial position and allow us to expand in more ways than we had ever imagined.

What three things should someone consider before starting a business?

  1. Make sure you have the skills required. Determine your audience and do your research.
  2. Who are your competitors and how will your advertising be unique to them?
  3. Have a business plan to help map your finances and equipment needed.

Mt Lofty Ranges Vineyard is a 5-star rated winery and chef-hatted restaurant located in Lenswood.

Owners Sharon Pearson and Garry Sweeney bought the vineyard in 2009 and relocated from Sydney to set about building a cellar door and restaurant that would offer quality tourism experiences. Since then Lenswood has grown from a little-known hamlet to an award-winning tourism destination.

What is your greatest business learning?

Employ the best you possibly can, surround yourself with good people, and look after your staff. Even though we came from different industries before buying the vineyard and had no prior hospitality experience, we have found the same basic principles can be applied to all businesses.

What is your greatest business success?

Maintaining a 5-star winery rating with James Halliday for the past 10 consecutive years and earning a chef hat for the restaurant for the past seven. Not compromising on quality or deviating from our business plan to create a premium product has come at a cost, however the vineyard has won several Wine Show Trophies over the past 12 years which has made all the hard work worth it!

Is there anything you would have done differently?

Sometimes passion for your business and wanting to create the very best is often at odds with cash flow and financial decisions!

How do you stay up-to-date with the latest business information and trends?

Research, research, research! We visit other wineries and restaurants in South Australia, interstate, and even overseas to see what our peers are doing and how we can do better. We also maintain memberships for associated industry bodies to stay on top of what is new. “Transform or die” is one of our business mottos.

What financial factors should be considered when wanting to grow a business?

Cash flow is king, and an effective business plan should be in place. Our business grew organically and went through a number of “growing pains”. We knew we had to expand for the business and brand to remain relevant and we needed a plan to be able to find the capital to make that happen.

What value do you place in business plans?

A comprehensive business plan is a key factor in working out your business strengths, opportunities and weakness. It highlights your unique selling points and how you might use these to your advantage. We put in place a strong business plan, which created an effective strategy for growth to determine our future needs, and strengthened our position for finance when we expanded our restaurant and cellar door.

What three things should someone consider before starting a business?

  1. Do your research and understand your target market and competition;
  2. Understand your own strengths and what you do well; and
  3. Surround yourself with good people.

Shop Local SA is located in Stirling in the Adelaide Hills, and our purpose is to support South Australian businesses to sell online in a supported way.

Businesses need to be selling online to meet consumer expectations, but there is the marketing challenge of getting consumers to find you. That's where Shop Local SA can help.

We have developed an online sales platform with a South Australian focus. Equipped with easy-to-use systems and built in marketing support, Shop Local SA provides a road map for businesses to embrace eCommerce, stay visible online, and connect with customers.

Shop Local SA offers local businesses their own full-featured online shop, with expert support to get setup and selling quickly. For businesses already selling online we offer a new distribution channel to reach more customers and drive sales.

Shop Local SA is South Australia's leading online marketplace designed to help local businesses embrace the "new normal" of digital business, all supported by a local team.

What is your greatest business learning?

Not all see your vision at first. It's important to take your clients on a journey to catch your vision and to do this collaboration is key. Seek out partners to help you on your business journey. It might be businesses along your street you can cross promote with, your local business group, or a networking group. The benefits of coming together to share ideas, market together and learn can be exponential. This is the philosophy we have built Shop Local SA on – not only do we all benefit from marketing collectively together, our vendor community are connected and can share ideas, come up with solutions and work together to promote our great state.

What is your greatest business success?

We have been involved in a number of businesses over many years. Our greatest business success is turning an idea into a commercial reality as we have done with Shop Local SA. It was a great day when we were able to turn our platform on live and feature our vendors who caught our vision early.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

Being involved in business is a lifelong journey of learning and continuous improvement. If we could start at the beginning knowing what we do now I am sure our path would have been more direct, but then we wouldn't have learned as much along the way. You need to keep your focus forward whilst utilising the knowledge you have gained.

How do you stay up-to-date with the latest business information and trends?

We use a few different avenues to keep up to date with the latest information and trends — some examples include subscribing to industry newsletters, attending networking events and seminars, listening to the ABC, and using social media groups on LinkedIn and Facebook. The digital space moves very quickly so this is really important to our business.

Where have you sought business advice?

We have a number of trusted advisors we work with directly in our business. We also actively pursue professional development opportunities to keep learning.

What financial factors should be considered when wanting to grow a business?

It is important to have flexibility in your financial model so that you can execute your growth strategy and take advantage of opportunities when they arise.

What value do you place in business plans?

We place a great deal of value in business plans, but they need to be working documents that are regularly used — there's not much point in creating a document that sits on a shelf. In smaller teams this can be a challenge, but it is important to find a workable option.

What three things should someone consider before starting a business?

Starting a business is exciting and daunting at the same time. As mentioned previously the planning is critical — spend time up front getting your business plan together.

The next element is finance — ensure you have a flexible financial model as this is important as you grow.

Finally, surround yourself with a team of support — this includes advisors, peers, and staff. Seek out networking groups to be a part of, they are a great to meet like minded business owners and often provide connections to professional development opportunities.

For more information or to discuss how Shop Local SA might help you, visit the Shop Local SA website or call 0422 907 467.

See video below.

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