After an outstanding 40 years in business, award-winning Naracoorte company MiniJumbuk celebrated its long-running success with the launch of a commemorative book on Saturday night.
A gathering of 130 people, many of whom have had a long association with the company, congregated in the town hall for the official book launch to mark the momentous occasion.
Aptly named “Love Wool”, with a foreword by AFL great David Parkin, written by Alan Richardson and coordinated by Dee Nolan, the new publication encapsulates how the multi-million dollar enterprise came to fruition.
It also ties in the important history of the region and the significant role that local shearer Don Wray played in turning a humble business into a company worth $30 million.
MiniJumbuk was born when Naracoorte woman Isobel Miles noticed an absence of locally-produced souvenirs in town and decided with friends to create small woollen sheep models called “Mini Jumbuks”.
It was in the late 1970s that Mr Wray became involved in the company after seriously injuring his back while shearing.
“I was in the Mount Gambier Hospital for a month and the doctor said that if I kept on doing physical work I will end up in a wheelchair by the time I’m 40,” Mr Wray recalled.
When offered the chance to buy a share in MiniJumbuk, Mr Wray grabbed it with both hands, eventually becoming the sole owner of the company when he bought it off Ms Miles.
Over the years the company has endured countless highs and lows, but it is now the country's largest local manufacturer of woollen bedding with a turnover of about $30 million.
With a commitment to top-quality woollen products, MiniJumbuk continues to lead the way in processing wool to create quilts, pillows, underlays and blankets used by people all of all ages all over the globe.
After four decades, Mr Wray said the company still has the same management team he’s had since the very beginning.
Managing director Darren Turner started here in 1983 and he’s been responsible for pretty much all of the marketing of MiniJumbuk right from the word go.
“You have to sell something before you can make something – that’s the main thing. When I first started there was a $100,000 turnover when I bought it from Isobel Miles and by 1986 we had a $5 million turnover - that’s a massive growth.”
Managing director Darren Turner believes part of the company’s continued success is owed to retaining its Naracoorte roots.
“We just find that the sense of community and belonging to a community like Naracoorte actually flows through to the brand, so the people that work here have a great pride and a great passion in what they do,” he said.
“Making a product of nature’s great wool fibre and being in a wool growing area also gives the brand some real authenticity. It’s now very hard to find a textile product that is made in Australia – all the big brands have sold out and gone overseas or import goods from China.”
Mr Wray and Mr Turner both agreed that publishing a book was a perfect way to celebrate 40 years of MiniJumbuk as well as document some of the region’s important history.
“The book is a really good read – it’s a page turner and there’s lots of nice images,” they agreed.
“Alan Richardson was a terrific choice as the author, he really sunk his teeth into it, and Deidre Nolan did a terrific job of coordinating the book.
“The book illustrates the link between the shearing and the farm industry and how the company started here and has remained here – in a million years you would never get another company like this being operated in a country town, it’s just impossible.”
Despite the book just launching over the weekend, Mr Wray and Mr Turner said they had been taken aback by the huge interest surrounding “Love Wool”.
“We thought it would be something that we would sell 50 or so copies of, but there’s been an enormous amount of interest in the book,” they said.
“People that have worked on the book have said lots of people will want to read it – a big part of it was how did you do it, why did you start here and why are you still here – I guess that story is told in the book through capturing the history and interesting characters in this area.
“It’s a good promotion for Naracoorte – what’s good for Naracoorte is good for us and what’s good for us is good for Naracoorte. It’s a perfect fit.”
To purchase a copy of “Love Wool”, visit MiniJumbuk at 61 Smith St in Naracoorte or go to www.minijumbuk.com.au/book/story-minijumbuk.