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Western Gems Tours

A gem of a business idea              

Rachel Bernardo has a gem of a business idea. She hopes to tap into the huge potential of Melbourne’s west to promote its quality food and wine producers.

Rachel, who has worked in the marketing field across the education, IT, consulting and retail sectors, has a Masters in Marketing from Monash University and runs Bernardo Consulting, a resume and LinkedIn writing business.

Her love of food and wine have also seen her enjoy wine tours and board at Switzerland’s Glion Institute of Higher Education, one of the world’s top hospitality management schools.

Back in Melbourne, the western suburbs local discovered that her own region had its fair share of hidden food and wine gems.

Western Gems Tours 

Wanting to share her passion, Rachel established Western Gems Tours, which offers custom and group full day winery tours of the Sunbury and Macedon Ranges regions seven days a week.

“We have our hero wine tour but have the flexibility to change wineries and make a custom package to suit the group’s needs and occasion,” Rachel says. 

“We also offer unique, quirky packages where we couple wine tasting with tarot reading, art class, your very own acoustic musician, harness racing, paintball, personal development talks and more.” 

The tours target corporate conference groups, business reward and team building programs, Christmas parties, weddings, hen’s groups and friendship groups wanting a nice, relaxing day out. 

Rachel hopes to use local subcontractors and offer international visitors wine tours straight from the airport due to the proximity of wineries to Tullamarine airport.

While her ideas were great, Rachel knew that she needed help to turn her business into a success. After discovering SBMS through her local council, she was matched with mentor Madalen Ross.

Madalen has run several businesses and she has extensive experience in small business, marketing and office administration.

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. 

Western Gems Tours

Rachel had four sessions with Madalen over several months through the Melton Small Business Clinic program.

Madalen says Rachel had only come up with her idea a month before the first session but already had her branding designed including logo, brochure and vehicle signage.

“Rachel’s enthusiasm and passion for the west, coupled with her marketing background, played a key role in making these quick decisions,” Madalen says. “However there were gaps in her plan which we needed to address.”

Madalen helped Rachel with management skills in the financial department, understanding fixed and hidden costs of the business and how that translates to an effective pricing strategy. She also advised about staffing, operations and general management. 

“Financials are not my strong point and my mentor helped with refining my cash flow projections and doing research to help be competitive in the space,” Rachel says.

“Operationally, my mentor has been able to offer advice on some of the standard operating procedures I should have in place.”

“She has a strong attention to detail and while I have the ideas, she has been able to fine tune the bits and pieces that I forget and I am now equipped to document and put in processes that will help my business run smoothly.”

Madalen also helped with marketing. This was already Rachel’s passion, but Madalen helped put things into perspective and advise about where best to invest her money and which areas were the most feasible to operate in.

This helped Rachel gain good momentum ahead of her launch. “My mentor has been a great touch point to ensure that my marketing is targeted and on track,” Rachel says.

“Every time I have a session … I leave with clarity, understanding and key action items.  The following report which is emailed to me is a great document I can refer to and helps prepare me for our next catch up to ensure the business is moving along.”

As a result, Rachel was well prepared with a ‘soft launch’ via social media channels and pre-launch specials. These led to a five per cent increase in enquiries.

Madalen says Rachel has learned specific skills, is able to prioritise and has more clarity in her market segment, operations and pricing. “She has been able to fine-tune her offerings and created firm interest prior to her business launch,” Madalen says.

“Rachel has an improved understanding of requirements in running a tour business.  She has introduced systems, is focused and ready to offer a quirky specialised service.”

Rachel is grateful for Madalen’s help, which is continuing as she establishes her business.

“I had the idea and the marketing background but needed to fill the gaps to help get it off the ground,” Rachel says. “I started to get stressed with all the numbers and pricing and my mentor was able to make the information digestible. I was able to clarify things that seemed too confusing initially.

“I am so grateful I have a very knowledgeable mentor with lots of experience in the field.”

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