Mark Johnstone • East Gippsland
Sometimes the best ideas come from a challenge, and that’s exactly where Mark Johnstone, owner of Snowy River Black Garlic, started. While seeking a career change in 2016, Mark wanted to prove that a worthwhile income could be generated from just a small parcel of land in regional Victoria. Snowy River Black Garlic was born.
Located in Jarrahmond, Far East Gippsland, Snowy River Black Garlic is a small garlic-growing farm, now featuring Australia’s most awarded gourmet black garlic.
The business idea was sparked when Mark was traveling overseas and stumbled upon the unique, unforgettable taste of black garlic. Upon returning home and making some black garlic for friends and family to share, it quickly become evident that there was a desirable market for this product in Victoria. This became the focus of Mark’s farming operations, and has led to the award-winning business that exists today.
However, all was not smooth sailing: the bushfires of 2019/2020, located across Gippsland, were highly detrimental to Mark’s business, and he had to find a way to navigate forward through unprecedented territory.
As Far East Gippsland was tragically ravaged by the flames of bushfires, the fire front came dangerously close to the Snowy River Black Garlic farm. At its closest, the flames passed within 1 kilometre of the farmland. Luckily, Snowy River Black Garlic did not sustain direct impact, but the challenges only grew after the flames had passed by.
The property was without power for nine days, and road closures in the area lasted for five painstaking weeks. This meant Snowy River could not process their product, nor get product and supplies in or out of the farmland. As a result, they failed to meet agreed upon supply agreements with resellers — a damaging blow to sales, business growth, and reputation.
In this time of strife, Snowy River needed to find a way out. When Mark was introduced to Michael Anderson, it quickly became evident that the business could benefit from the Business Recovery Advisory Service, gaining crucial mentorship in how to navigate their way out of the effects that followed the tragic bushfires.
With the mentorship secured through the Business Recovery Advisory Service, Michael quickly got to work on a plan to guide Mark and Snowy River through this time of conflict. He began with a thorough review of the business in order to map a pathway back to full trade.
Throughout this mentorship, the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, and Michael was on hand to assist in rebuilding and pivoting the business strategy in a new direction that would allow Snowy River Black Garlic to navigate these challenges concurrently.
Michael’s business expertise has enabled Mark to carry his business forward with a greater understanding of the systems that must be in place to guarantee success, even in times of trouble.
“The biggest insight I have taken away is to document everything. Don’t leave anything to chance. You may think you have it in hand, but this is not always the case,” said Mark, reflecting on the unexpected challenges that suddenly arose for Snowy River. “A thorough review of the business and operating systems should be conducted at least annually. I highly recommend the mentorship I gained through the Business Recovery Advisory Service.”