It’s a novel way to keep your manufacturing business running to schedule, but one of Australia’s last complete woollen mills has secured public support to keep its lines spinning.
With pressures from high wool prices and a scarcity of fine wool, Waverley Mills went to the public to seek help in keeping its business operating smoothly – and so far it’s worked.
The mill on the outskirts of Launceston in Tasmania was struggling to have wool on the floor ready for manufacturing. It has many leading customers including retailer David Jones. The mill produces high-end throws and blankets for DJs, as well as a range of many other products to retailers around Australia.
Owner and chief executive Andrew Cuccurullo, who with a number of investors, bought into the 1874 mill last year, came up with a novel way to keep his 18-20 staff in full-time employment and to meet contracts as the cash-flow situation meant procuring 18 micron wool difficult.
A crowdfunding appeal was organised with a target of $90,000 (about 3.5 tonnes of wool), and by today (December 8), the business had raised $52,000. The crowdfunding investors are promised top end products including scarves at discounted prices for their investment.
The investors came from everywhere including Europe, the US, South Africa, Canada, and even Vanuatu and New Guinea and supporters up and down the east coast of Australia and in Tasmania. The mill sources its fine wool from about 10 Tasmanian woolgrowers.
Waverley Mills is the last mill to card, dye, spin, weave and finish the product on site. The wool is scoured in Victoria. The mill also buys 21 micron wool from Victoria for its products.
The crowdfunding enables the mill to take on more contracts and reduce the lead time from wool on the floor to use in about 12 weeks. It will also allow the business to end its cashflow headaches and give it a chance to innovate and create new products.
Mr Cuccurullo said he was astonished by the number of people wanting to support Australian manufacturing, especially wool milling. (The great bulk of Australian wool is sold to China for manufacturing. Chinese mills have also been running out of product on the floor).
“It gives us some flexibility to innovate,” he said. “And to test new products. It also gives us a core base of support and lets us know how people our viewing our woollen products. It’s been very encouraging to know how much people want to support Australian manufacturing. We are quite shocked by the result.”
If the mill gets to raise more than the $90,000 it may consider investing in new looms as well.
The mill has supplied to many elite customers, including blankets to Qantas. The mill uses award-winning designer Bernabeifreeman to design its products.
The mill only buys wool from sustainable farmers who are not involved in mulesing.
“There is actually quite a lot of demand for our products at the moment so we are just trying to meet that demand. If we have three and half months wool on the ground, it allows us to be more moveable in the marketplace,” Mr Cuccurullo said.