Cabinetmaker builds thriving business
His small business comes up high on a Google search and things are on the up for Gold Coast Cabinet Maker Jim Wooding and Spacemaker Wardrobes.
“We struggled for about ten years until my son helped develop a website – on our first attempt we got about three calls,” he laughs. “But then we started using the internet to target areas that were in demand and we found that people wanted DIY cupboards.”
“My son is always looking to improve things and we developed better sites and now we get about 5,000 hits a day. That doesn’t mean 5,000 orders but it’s a good start.”
You would think you were listening to the trials and tribulations of most small businesses in Australia but Jim Wooding is a success story. He has beaten the odds in small business and he has beaten the odds for Indigenous workers.
Not that Jim thinks his Aboriginal heritage has anything to do with it.
“I can honestly say that when I struggled for work it wasn’t because I was Aboriginal. It never came into it,” he said. “At the time, work was scarce and others in the same trade were having the same problem.”
“There are no free rides and you get out of life what you put into it,” Jim says.
“I couldn’t find work. I moved and then realised I had to change trades from carpenter to cabinetmaker to finish my apprenticeship. And later, after one of the companies I worked for went bust, I finally decided to strike out on my own.”
“We struggled for 10 years and then we moved next to a shower screen mob who did their own cabinets and it wasn’t working for them so they came and saw me.”
“We then started to market DIY kitchens and cabinets. So we grew through hard work and trial and error. We were using the Web and we learned we needed to use it smarter.”
While the Dole was never an option for Jim, he does understand the problems of people being trapped in passive welfare. He grew up in Coonamble in NSW before trying Newcastle and the Gold Coast and many of his friends didn’t have the same benefit of growing up in family where work and jobs were encouraged.
“My Dad worked - until his crook back stopped him - and my mum always told us not to sit back and wait for handouts.”
“Joblessness and welfare, it’s a cycle and it traps you,” he said. I know this family, they rely on welfare and won’t get a job and they are trapped. It’s not good.”
Asked whether that family found it more difficult getting out of the cycle because they were Aboriginal, Jim replied:
“They’re white. It’s bad for everybody, Aboriginal or not.”
And he had this advice for jobseekers:
“Have respect for yourself. Make sure you turn up clean and tidy and ready to work.”
“I have had people come to me with really bad attitude, both black and white people,” he said. “You know, like the world owed them something and some wanted pay just for turning up to work and they didn’t care how good a job they were doing.”
And to Aboriginal kids, he says: “I learned a long time ago that most people don’t have an issue with Aboriginal people. The world was not against me, people just wanted me to do a good job, which is what I always try to do.”
“In the early days my wife said it might be better if I told people I was Greek. I never did. Most people didn’t ask and those who did had no problem I was Aboriginal.”
“They didn’t go and hide the jewellery or anything like that,” he laughed.
Jim had cautionary advice for people considering employing an Aboriginal person.
“Don’t do it for charity,” he said. “Do it because you need a worker and if the person can do the work and has the right attitude. Do it because it’s good for your business.”
“If we all do that it’s good for the young people, it is good for your business and it is good for the whole country. But don’t do it for charity. You have to expect the same standard as you would of anybody at the same level of training and experience.”
And for the person that gets that job: “If you get that break, take the opportunity and give your boss a fair work effort in return. It works for everybody then.”
The path hasn’t been easy for Jim Wooding, not because he is Indigenous but because small business is a challenge. Persistence and a steadfast belief that being trapped in welfare was the worst thing to do drove him on. He now employs one other person and at the time of writing has another vacancy advertised on his website.
He laughs when I describe him as a small business success story. “I don’t know about that, we’re just building up,” he said modestly.
He doesn’t see it as being at all remarkable that he is Aboriginal and from a family with three generations of workers. And that suits him just fine.