Advocating for Defence families

From Weapons Instructing to Knitting Queen and B’n’B Entrepreneur

We spoke recently with Michelle Wood, ex serving member and current ADF partner about her experience with the Prince’s Trust, an organisation that is supporting veterans and ADF partners of current serving members through workshops for small businesses.

The Prince’s Trust welcome attendees at all stages in their business journey. Their discovery workshops are designed to introduce key business skills, so ADF partners are encouraged to apply to explore an idea, if they are interested in entrepreneurship, or looking to build skills to seek future employment in an existing business.

Where have you posted to?

RAAF College, RAAF Base Point Cook (Victoria) – OIC Undergraduates/Civil Schooling

Base Squadron, RAAF Base Williamtown (Newcastle) – ADMINO; and OIC Housing/Relocations

77 Squadron, RAAF Base Williamtown (Newcastle) – ADMINO

Can you tell us a bit about your career history?

77 Squadron was my first operational posting, and was an exciting and interesting (and at times extremely challenging) context within which to work.  My CO at the time – Mark Binskin – subsequently became CDF,  so I was in auspicious company!  He was a wonderfully supportive boss and allowed me to lead a number of initiatives which increased the operational capacity of the Squadron and which initiatives were subsequently rolled out to other Squadrons on base. 

During my time at 77 Squadron, I volunteered to train as a Weapons Instructor and Range Safety Supervisor, which was designed to ensure that Squadron members remained weapons current despite the fact that we deployed interstate and overseas often (we took our weapons training capability – me – with us!). 

When did you start to become passionate about knitting? 

I’ve always loved ‘crafting’ of all kinds, and during my teenage years was into sewing more than knitting and made a lot of my own clothes at that time.  Both my mother and grandmother taught me to knit when I was quite little, but my knitting endeavours have definitely have been a bit ‘spotty’ over the years, with long periods between when I’d pick up needles. 

The resurgence in my interest in knitting came about because I was seeking to purchase some really good quality and soft/luxurious bed throws for a Bed and Breakfast property I am in the process of developing in the Adelaide Hills, and I just couldn’t find anything which met my needs. 

So I decided to knit them myself … and once I started I just couldn’t stop.  I figured that if I had had difficulty sourcing good quality products, then maybe others would also have the same problem.  So my business In the Knit of Time seeks to offer clients the opportunity to design their own throw to match their design aesthetic (and I make not only bed throws, but sofa throws and am just working on my first line of infant/children’s crib or bed throws and/or blankets).  I love purchasing different high quality wools and experimenting with what I can do with them and spend a lot of time doing just that!

What was the best thing that you learnt from the Prince’s Trust program?

I had not undertaken any Design Thinking programs previously, so I found this approach just ‘clicked for me.  The thing I loved most about the program though was the way it was delivered, in an experiential learning environment, where we were given snippets of wisdom from the Design Thinking paradigm, and then applied it progressively to a real world (and veteran business related) problem. 

I also loved that we were all veterans/serving members in the group, we were all doing such interesting things, we were all so willing to help our veteran (Sam) with his business problem – gave us a real focus for our work and made what we were doing really important – and we were all at different stage of our business development journeys.  

For those of us that have transitioned from the ADF, it is often not an easy transition and we associate so much better with ex-veterans.  So having that in common was a big asset in terms of team dynamics and the energy in the room and the respect we had for each other. 

Who would have thought that ADF folk could be such a creative bunch! 

The program also allowed for some invaluable networking.  Putting into practice the new learnings has been an exciting adventure for me. 

The program gave me the tools and therefore the ‘bravery’ to move forward on progress with my current In the Knit of Time business, and with the planning for my new B’n’B business also which is opening next year.    

For my current business it allowed me to apply the learnings retrospectively to see if I had taken any mis-steps along the way that I could correct and to have the confidence to take some brave new steps with it (more enhanced use of social media); and to use the learnings to figure out, out of all the millions of ideas I have for my new B’n’B venture, are likely to be the winners and on what I should focus first and which is likely to have good success because of the ground work I’ve done beforehand.

Do you have any advice for other ADF Partners in their own businesses?

Regardless of what stage of your business development you are at, there is always more to learn, and even the biggest and best of us don’t get it quite right when we’re taking our first steps. 

Be brave; trust yourself and your idea; and don’t be afraid to ask for help and/or engage with programs like this which are designed for folk like us (which speaks our language).

Anything else you would like to add?

I miss my time in the ADF, so it is programs like these which keep me connected, and support my transition journey.

Thanks to Michelle for sharing her story.

Contact Prince’s Trust to find out how they can support you in your new business venture.

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