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Building sustainable luxury                

Barbara Howard and Bruce Kronborg are close to achieving their dream of running an environmentally sustainable luxury B&B thanks to the Small Business Mentoring Service.

Barbara, a social worker, and Bruce, a teacher, enjoy the hospitality industry and want to showcase sustainable architecture and agriculture in south western Victoria.

They are planning a secluded, unique luxury bed and breakfast on 66 acres next to the tourist hub of Forrest in the Otway Ranges. Located at the end of a no-through road, Rivendell will be the only secluded luxury accommodation business in the area.

As well as being self-sufficient, using renewable energy and offering disabled access, its solar powered and earth covered accommodation will offer unashamed luxury for couples seeking to enhance and celebrate their relationship in a unique location.



Using sustainable building materials and off grid energy, Rivendell’s varied ecosystems will also offer activities such as rainforest walks, mountain bike riding and fly fishing in a private dam.

It will be among the few Certified Passive Houses nationally. “We believe our project is unique in Australia as nobody has used the same building technique for a house before,” Barbara says.

All of this will be within easy reach of quality cafes, restaurants and a boutique brewery in Forrest, which attracts visitors due to the nearby Otway Ranges mountain bike trails.

Bruce and Barbara’s detailed plan, which included growing hazelnuts to sell locally, has enormous potential to attract high-income visitors locally, from interstate and overseas.

“Rivendell will occupy a unique selling position at the luxury, high-end of the market, catering for couples,” Bruce says. “Most nearby accommodation businesses cater for families and are mid-range or budget end.”

To ensure that they covered all bases while developing their ambitious project, Bruce and Barbara decided they needed a mentor. Bruce says they wanted help to develop a comprehensive business plan, including a detailed financial plan and profit and loss statements.

They were keen to cover how to determine viability, marketing, social media, competitor analysis, working with local businesses and incorporating strategies into the early planning stages.

“We also wanted to get advice on whether we would be eligible for any government funding to enable the completion of the entire project,” Bruce says.

Barbara and Bruce discovered SBMS through the Small Business Victoria Website and chose to work with Trevor Mason.

Trevor has more than 40 years’ retail experience covering a wide range of areas. He held senior management roles that grew businesses from small to large and consulted small to medium retailers to help them move to the next level.

SBMS is a non-government, non-profit organisation of volunteer expert mentors who give their time and experience to help small business.  It is supported by Small Business Victoria, which refers clients to it.   


Bruce and Barbara had four sessions with Trevor over five months, and mentoring is continuing. Trevor helped them to develop their business, financial and development plan.

He also helped with detail on revenues and how and where to promote the location and facilities as among the area’s best. “The Otways are growing fast, and Bruce and Barbara’s concept is exceptional,” Trevor says. “It is located near the local brewery and a six-star restaurant.” 

The project has a planning permit and building is due to begin soon.

Following the mentoring, Bruce also has the tools needed to ensure that the business only proceeds if it is financially viable.

“Bruce and Barbara have moved from the development of a facility that is their passion, to a world class energy efficient presentation,” Trevor says.

“Hopefully government grants will form part of the package, as the buildings are a great example of energy efficiency. They will be underground and require no heating or air conditioning.”

Bruce and Barbara now feel a lot more confident about moving forward successfully. They hope to employ people during construction and then two or more moving forward, depending on the scale of their agroforestry enterprise.

Without Trevor’s help, Barbara and Bruce believe they would be confused about the viability of their proposal and unsure how to proceed. They have also factored in the need to be able to take time off when the business is operating.

“The business is not yet operating, but we are relieved it is now viable thanks to our mentor’s involvement,” Bruce says. “We are now aware of the multiplier effects of our business during the construction then operational phases.”

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