Kylee Tindale-Smith Owner of Gidgee Smith Bags and Gidgee’s Bush Camp, started her successful ecommerce business manufacturing and selling heavy duty PVC work, saddle and gear bags 17 years ago. Based in very remote, drought affected Morvern in South West Queensland, Gidgee’s Bush Camp offers a tranquil outback setting for weary travellers, with pet friendly camping facilities and a coffee shop.
Kylee was born in Morvern, and grew up in Charleville. Soon after finishing school, she moved to South Australia to become a Wool Classer, and was the only woman in the shearing shed. It was a tough industry for a female trailblazer, and one Kylee loved and spent years working in, eventually moving back to Quilpie in outback Queensland to run her own shearing operation. When she and her husband sold their shearing business, they started Gidgee’s Bush Camp providing accommodation to families exploring the historic areas of rural Queensland.
Kylee is a keen artist, and runs regular wire art workshops for visitors and also her local community, using art as a platform to promote important conversations focussing on rural mental health and wellness.
Why do people all over Australia love your handmade bags straight from the bush?
It is the quality in the products we use to make the bags, and the quality in the way in which the bags are made. We have a 3 day turn around with online orders, and always let our clients know if there could be a delay with materials to make a bag. Also, the extent of our product range. We stand behind our products and have great after sales customer service.
If a mistake is made with an order, we replace the bag without question, and we usually give the client an in-store credit or gift to go with the returned bag.
We continue to come up with new ideas and designs, and have now started to have our own fabric printed. You can order a custom colour combination bag online, with as few or as many options as you like.
Tell us about your bush camp and what people can expect when they visit?
The bush camp in set is a peaceful location that is away from the highway and traffic. Clients can go off and leave their van without fear of outsiders being able to come onto the grounds. We have a beautiful lawned area, where we have begun to landscape, along with a camp kitchen, camp oven shed and pizza oven.
There are lots of quirky steel and wire sculpture around the park for our clients to enjoy. We are about the extend our dam, to enhance the view, and to hopefully cut down our water charges. We have a play area for the kids, with lots of wide open spaces for them to run around. Guests can interact with the sheep, goats, chickens and turkeys, and help out with poddy feeding when we have to hand feed the babies.
Guests can enjoy the 2km nature work, and learn the names of the trees that are local to the area. Our little coffee shop used to be the old slaughter houses that belonged to the butcher shop in town and have been repurposed. We’ve created an atmosphere that is relaxing, inspiring and nostalgic all in one.
We also run wire workshops at the bush camp, and other workshops with invited expert tutors.
Guests can also go bag shopping in the workshop!
You were the first female wool classer in your region. How did you help pave the way for other women?
I had to deal with men who thought it was inappropriate that women work in the shearing industry, unless they wanted to be a cook. There was all levels of abuse, boring and unspeakable behaviour. Thank god this has changed slowly over time, and now women are accepted to do all roles in the shearing industry, and wives and children are now able to travel from shed to shed with their husbands, which is a great improvement for family life.
It was hard work and I had to set a very high standards. I set high expectations for myself and the shed hands who worked for me. I had to have the courage to stand up and shut a shed down if things were not getting done properly, or there were issues with unclutched or wet sheep.
I created a wool program that gave the growers a full breakdown of wool cuts, mob and age breakups and averages, selling cost and transportation costs. It showed which sheep were the most profitable, and which paddocks produced that best wool. The program showed where the wool grower was ranked in comparison to other farmers that I worked for.
It also gave the woolgrower information they needed to better manage their flock and to obtain better prices for selling, sampling and transportation costs. It helped to explain to them the benefits in supplementally feeding sheep to avoid mid breaks in the wool, which in return increased profits when the wool was sold. And it was a great tool in convincing growers to crutch their sheep, reducing the risk of stain contamination as well losing good wool in with the stain crutchings.
What do rural people need to support their mental health and how does your business help rural communities?
They need an opportunity to come together, but most importantly they need to be in a safe environment that will allow them to engage in conversation and learn a few simple tools to help combat and deal with depression, for themselves and the people that they look after.
We run workshops that are set up in a particular way, and we always talk about rural mental health at the start of the workshop. Everything is provided in the workshop, all tools and materials, so they do not have to spend time and energy looking for what they need to do the workshop.
We work with a medium that is cheap to obtain and can also incorporate recycled objects. So many workshop are held where the materials cost a fortune, and people who are struggling mentally and financially often can’t afford to do the craft, or if they do, they feel guilty for spending the money. We hold 1 day workshops, as that is what time people in stressful situations are prepared to take away from their family or their business.
We try to have a counsellor in the workshops wherever possible, so people get to put a name to a face. It also gives the counsellor the opportunity to network with people in the community. They can then do follow ups after the event to have the second conversion with someone who we may have recognised in the workshop might need some extra time and care.
I talk about my journey with depression, and I talk about THINKING RED instead of black all the time.
R – Recognise that you or someone else has depression, and most importantly recognise what your triggers are. Most people have no idea what a trigger is, and if they don’t learn to deal with them or avoid them, they will continue to stay in the dark.
E – Educate yourself about depression and how it works, but most importantly educate the people who look after you: your inner circle. Because if they don’t know what you need, they can’t help you.
D – Deal with the fact that you have depression. It is no good knowing that you have depression, and you don’t do anything about it. Develop the strategies that work for you. Medication, counselling, time out, find a happy place, whatever you need to do, for however long it takes.
Your greatest challenge?
Competing with imported products, finding skilled staff and having enough work all year round to hold staff. Technology, and keeping up with changes. Managing social media, and finding someone affordable to help with the management on all platforms.
Trying to balance family and work, and convincing people that you really do have a job even if you work from home.
Saying no to people.
Most proud of?
Surviving for 17 years in a rural based manufacturing business and encouraging other women to do the same, but most of all, raising a family who still want to come home and spend time with me.
Advice for future female leaders?
Learn how to outsmart a smart ass.
Be brave, have a little faith in yourself, and realise that “the definition of success is going from one failure to another without losing enthusiasm” (Winston Churchill), but remember that the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing in the same way and expecting different results.
You are the female economy. Whether you are a female consumer, business owner or a woman in the workforce, you can create gender equality by choosing female led brands.
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