Steve and Narelle took over Leeuwin Tyres in July 2016, and have seen the business go from strength to strength ever since. A big part of their success has been their local roots.
Narelle grew up in Cowaramup, and has family history going back five generations to the 1920s in the region. “We have people come in that remember my grandad, and he passed away before I was born”, says Narelle. Growing up on a beef farm, her strong connection to the farming community naturally led the business to expand into agricultural call outs – changing tyres on tractors and machinery. A lot of call outs are to the Scott River area, changing huge tyres that make your’s and mine look like Cheerios, and can take half a day to change.
The business expanded further when they employed experienced fitter, Martin Palmer, and expanded into fit outs for earthwork machinery. “Martin doesn’t always know what he’s walking into and what condition the machines are in. We’ve had jobs where he’s spent two days out onsite – and that’s someone with a lot of knowledge and experience doing it.”
So how did they get into tyres? Steve and Narelle met over in Queensland, where he was working as a renderer, and she was working as a dental nurse. After Steve did a mature age apprenticeship in tyre fitting they bought the business, and Narelle’s focus shifted from repairing teeth to repairing wheels. She wants to see the business continue to grow and be strong enough to pass onto their children. But running a small business isn’t easy.
“It’s a lot running your own business that supports your family because if it goes wrong that’s your livelihood gone”.
And they’ve had other challenges to contend with – not only the pressure of COVID-19, but with Narelle’s father seriously ill with cancer. These crises have prompted them to reflect on what’s important, helping catalyse dreams into action. After weighing it up for years they have bought two horses, something that Narelle has always wanted to get back into, and Steve has bought a Speedway car, which he’s always dreamed of taking up. The big thing that has got them through their tough times has been the support of the community, which has helped affirm the importance of giving back – something that Steve and Narelle are champions at.
They are both active in the community, being heavily involved in the senior rugby union team, the Gropers, and last year they set up a junior team. They are also involved in the Cowaramup BMX club and sponsor a lot of sporting programs. Narelle runs the Cowaramup Biggest Morning Tea, raising more than $250,000 for the Cancer Council, and is on the school board for Cowaramup Primary School. It’s amazing they have any time to fit tyres.
When asked if they have any advice for anybody wanting to start a business, Narelle doesn’t hesitate to answer:
“Take that leap of faith but make sure you do all your research. Speak to other people in the industry, and get a feel for what it’s like to actually be in business down here because the Margaret River region is quite unique. Give back when you’re able to. Give back to the community because they’re the ones that will get you through.”