Enterprise built with attitude
BRENDAN Dipple reckons there is a much worse disability than losing the use of an arm or living with constant pain.
Mr Dipple runs Bare Essentials Quality Vegetables with one arm and believes a poor attitude is a much bigger barrier to success.
Bare Essentials is a bunched herb and vegetable enterprise in the Lockyer Valley that employs up to 35backpackers each year.
It certainly wasn't easy to build the business from the ground up 18 years ago, but with a stubbornness that was hard to match and a can-do attitude, Mr Dipple and his wife Janne made it through the crucial establishment phase and these days keep an eye firmly on the future.
Mr Dipple was born into the fourth generation of a market gardening family in Brisbane and always thought he'd be a farmer, even though it was more for the pleasure of working side by side with his dad than any great personal passion.
He had half an eye on a sporting career as well, but his dreams were shattered when he tore his brachial plexus at age 18.
The important little bundle of nerves that runs from your spine to your arm is vital for proper movement and sensation, so the injury left him without the use of his arm in exchange for terrible, constant pain.
But somehow, with just $20,000 in start-up capital, $5000 in working capital, along with a few bits of pipe, an old tractor and plenty of support from his family, MrDipple bought 28ha of blacksoil farming land at Morton Vale.
There were plenty of times when he wondered whether the stress and strain were worth it, but the experience certainly taught him a lot about life and the importance of a good attitude.
"Janne kept food on the table, to be honest,” he said of those first tough years.
"I often wonder about it myself because it was not really logical in a lot of ways if you think about the economics, but certainly that was what I felt I was supposed to do,” he said.
The first few years were the hardest, when he was forced to pay for jobs he would otherwise have done himself.
He said the upshot of it was learning to do a lot of skilled jobs other farmers might pay for, and the pressure eased as the business scaled up and there were enough jobs he was able to do himself.
"It's not much of an encumbrance, but if I was being paid to do certain jobs, I'd be a miserable failure,” he said.
"I couldn't get down to the nuts and bolts but knew if I scaled up enough, my knowledge and the other work that's needed to be done on the farm would be enough.
"I was still able to drive machinery and trucks, so there was still, at that point, 40 to 50 hours a week of work for me to do.
"That taught me quickly that there were things I could do to maintain viability, but the difficulty is, when you start a business with the raw bones like we did here, that made it hard because you did have to pay people when you couldn't afford it.
"It took quite a while and a lot of failures before we saw the wheels turn.
"But I think stubbornness is part of my genetics. I'm very competitive and very stubborn and I think I had a lot more bull in me than brains back then.”
He grew more adventurous as his creative thinking skills advanced and said he now had a formula for whether he took the long road and did a job himself, or took the shorter but far more expensive route of paying a professional.
These days he said he would happily employ the right person for the right job, whether they had a disability or not, and that was where the attitude came in.
But as a youngster feeling pretty sorry for himself, it took a big light-bulb moment to realise it.
He was hanging about by the waterfront in Brisbane with a friend who was a shipwright.
"He had a wealth of tradesmen there working for him building pleasure yachts,” Mr Dipple said.
"I was sitting there one day not doing anything, just taking up space.
"I looked up the road - it was about 3pm Saturday - and there was a guy coming down the road riding a pushbike with one leg.
"He didn't even have a prosthetic leg and this was the '80s.
"I thought, 'Gee man, you're a go-getter.'
"They were trying to fix some kind of problem with the boat and this guy says 'I know what to do there' and literally jumps over the side of the boat.
"He was really upbeat, energetic, really involved and knew his stuff.”
He said the moment really inspired him.
Now Bare Essentials is running smoothly, Mr Dipple said the couple wasn't prepared to rest on their laurels.
He said they had always tried to do the right thing environmentally but were now at the point where they could afford to take the odd financial hit to do better.
"We're rumbling down the road of trying to be more responsible environmental citizens,” Mr Dipple said.
"That's a big learning curve and one we've always tried to engage with, but I feel that we're probably more capable of making more change now.
"That's very important to us, that we engage well with people and we engage well with the environment.”
He said that meant leaving the scale of the business as it was and refining the business practices and customer base.