1 July 2022

Gunning mum and daughter team honoured in rural business awards

| Sally Hopman
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Two women at railway station.

Mother and daughter team behind Bandicute, Ellen Bennett and Jess Dyne, run their business from their farm just outside the rural village of Gunning. Photo: Camilla Duffy.

Opting to stay, employ and produce locally – and remain true to their rural roots, has paid dividends for Jess Dyne and her mother Ellen Bennett: their business Bandicute was honoured last week, making the finals of the inaugural Australian Rural Business Awards.

Bandicute, which the women run from their farm outside Gunning, about an hour’s drive north of Canberra, makes children’s wear, homewares and jewellery all boasting a unique Aussie flavour. The business grew from a dining table conversation about five years ago following the birth of Jess’s two daughters. Most children’s clothes, the women noticed, were decorated with foreign animals like deer, bears and racoons.

“Why is this,” Jess asked, “when we have the most amazing animals in Australia that deserve to be celebrated and worn with pride?”

So Bandicute was born.

“We were so proud to reach the finals of the awards,” Jess said. “Someone nominated us … we still don’t know who it was but it was quite heart-warming that someone thought enough of us to do so.


Bandicute’s baby clothes, adorned with cute Aussie animals, are clearly a hit with their target market. Photo: Supplied.

“We were so humbled to receive the news that we’d made the finals,” Jess said. “As a business that came from humble beginnings, sewing rompers from our dining table a little over five years ago, it is amazing to receive such recognition of how much our business has grown.”

Bandicute made the finals of the Rural Business To Watch category and Excellence in E-Commerce, competing against more established businesses from all over the country.

The awards were designed to recognise the strength, resilience and talent of small-business owners throughout rural Australia who, in the past few years alone, have gone through the hardest of times – from droughts to bushfires, mouse plagues to a pandemic.

Jess said the decision to settle in Gunning, a small village but boasting a vibrant artistic community, grew from a regular conversation she had with her mother over the years about living on a farm together with their respective partners and children.

READ ALSO Yass mum wants to give back to town that saved her – with a food bank

“We’re originally from Gulgong but I moved to Canberra with my husband while my mother moved to Goulburn with her partner. We kept talking about getting a farm together and then one day, we just did it.

“Gunning was in the middle of where we both were, so we settled here.”

Seeing a gap in the market when it came to sustainable children’s clothes made from pure materials – and decorated with wombats rather than racoons – they were off.

“I’ve always loved working with traditional mediums like pen and paper, where Mum is more of a tech-head – she sketches with her iPad. We have a great, robust relationship where we’re always honest and open with each other although we have quite different personalities. Mum is very expressive whereas I’m more outcome-focused.

Two women

Jess Dyne and her mother Ellen Bennett, the brains behind Bandicute, find inspiration for their all-Aussie products on their Gunning property. Photo: Supplied.

“But perhaps what makes it work so well is that we love to make people smile with what we produce.”

Today, Bandicute is thriving. Yes, they could probably make more money if they shipped production offshore or used a lesser- quality material for their children’s clothing lines and other products they’ve developed, including homewares and jewellery, but that’s not what they’re about.

They are passionate about keeping the business Australian and, specifically, local. They also prefer to work with women. “It’s not a man-bashing thing at all,” Jess said. “Rather, we love to empower women and we’ve found that women really ‘get’ what we do.”

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As well as the clothing lines, Bandicute is producing a wide range of block-printed homewares, all made from sustainable materials in Australia. They also hold creative workshops to encourage other women to explore their creativity. They contract a wide range of skilled women to help the business with everything from sewing and marketing to the law.

It is crucial, the women say, for their business to give back. Not only is every product hand-made and all packaging sustainable, they have also extended a helping hand to women doing it tough overseas.

“One of our proudest achievements is our charity partnership with not-for-profit Tandum,” Jess said. “This amazing charity organisation partners with communities in Kenya to empower women to learn new skills and support their families.”

  • Crookwell’s famous Lindner Socks won the Australian Made Small Business Excellence Award, and finished third in the Retailers Excellence Award, third in the Excellence in E-Commerce Award and third in the Rural Business to Watch Award.
  • Rubywood Laundry Whiffs, which is based in the Southern Highlands, came second in the Indigenous Business of the Year category.

More information abut the inaugural awards is available on the website.


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