The closest Murray and Pru McMillan have come to being involved in the Australian motorsport industry is being spectators at the local Yandina Speedway on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
They keep an eye on the sport as regular readers of Speedcafe.com and that’s where they were introduced to Networkcafe.com.au and the service it is supplying to small and medium-sized businesses during the COVID-19 downturn.
The pair established Kalahari Trading Co as wholesale concern in 2000 – a social enterprise designed to support communities and artisans in third world economies with a particular focus on Africa and South America.
Seven years later Community Projects Worldwide was established as a retail business at Eumundi on the Sunshine Coast to cater for online and other retail customers.
The businesses deal in a range of handmade products produced by a list of talented artisans, some of whom have been providing products to them for more than 20 years.
The products include home decor, kitchenware, jewellery, candles, fashion, kids toys and clothing.
Ironically, some of their products have direct links to the automotive industry including handbags made from rubber inner tubes and shoes with soles carved from old tyres.
“We take great pride in working with all our suppliers who are all hard working, honest and smart people doing what they can to support themselves and their families, often under difficult social and geographic conditions,” said Pru.
“We have had relationships with many of our suppliers for close to 20 years and you can read about them on our ‘meet the artisan’ page on our website.
“We adhere to all the principles of Fair Trade in conducting our business. All our suppliers are paid their asking price and we supply deposits to facilitate cash flow. We all work together in a mutual relationship of respect, trust and consideration.
“It has always been our intention to build a sustainable model that will survive beyond our own humble endeavours.”
Murray and Pru met in high school in Lavington, NSW in 1980 and were married 10 years later.
They then spent a decade travelling and working in hospitality, which included extensive travel through Africa, running safari lodges in Botswana, a wilderness lodge in the highlands of Papua New Guinea and working in a number of wilderness lodges in Far North Queensland.
Their last hospitality position was leasing and running a farm holiday and horse riding operation on the 15,000 acre Millamolong Station in the central west of NSW.
While they were back in Australia they still had a passion for Africa and what it had to offer, but a full-time return to the continent was not an option, so their businesses were created as a result.
In recent years, the companies have expanded their reach from Africa to South America, India and South-East Asia and the McMillans travel to each of the regions to source products and spend time with their suppliers.
Obviously the business has been greatly affected by the Coronavirus pandemic in regards to their travel schedules and supply chains.
Murray says they have continued working with all their suppliers through the last six months supplying them with funds to help them get through, as much of their business from around the world has dried up completely.
“We have had many of our individual suppliers struggling to make ends meet and whilst we do not know what is in store for us we have kept our orders up and hope to be able to push through and get to the other side,” said Murray.
“We are lucky to have financial and social back stops here in this country, a luxury these guys don’t have and they are doing it even tougher than usual.”
Networkcafe.com.au has been developed by Speedcafe.com as a valuable support mechanism for the industry and its suppliers, sponsors, clubs and organisations during the COVID-19 period.
“Any initiative that is designed to help small and medium-sized businesses during this COVID period must be applauded and utilised,” said Murray.
“We are not direct members of the motorsport industry, but we are fans and thankful that our business and causes have been welcomed into Networkcafe and we are looking forward to benefiting from some great B2B opportunities.
“It would be great if we all had a new network of customers and suppliers when we come out the other side of this (COVID-19).”
The end goal is for Networkcafe.com.au members to be doing business with each other and for the extensive Speedcafe.com readership to be considering the products and services of companies that need to survive the current economic downturn.