First there’s the name “MiniJumbuk”. What an odd name for a company that’s renowned for making the world’s best quality woollen bedding products. A company that’s one of the largest users of wool in Australia and won a national business award in 1986.
But it’s a name that has strong links with the origins of the company; and another improbability. That a tiny “cottage industry” making fluffy souvenir sheep could lead to a major bedding manufacturer with a turnover exceeding $30 million a year, and employing around 70 people.
And what are the chances that you’d find such a company in a town like Naracoorte; with a population of just over 5000 people, and hundreds of kilometres from the nearest major city or export terminal? There’s not even a working railway anywhere near the town!
As you delve further into the forty year history of MiniJumbuk, more odd facts arise. A key moment in the development of the MiniJumbuk souvenir sheep was a tragic house fire at Kaniva, and the development of the woollen bedding came about because of a chance encounter between an arm load of wool and a deep freeze.
And to add to the list of improbabilities, the person who drove the incredible growth of the company and who still heads MiniJumbuk, is a lovable larrikin character called Don Wray. He was a shearer, building worker and chef who knew nothing at all about running a business, and only got involved because of a bad back.
As you can tell, the story of MiniJumbuk is not your typical corporate history. In fact it’s full of fascinating characters, quirky acts of fate that change the direction of the company, and some outlandish ideas that in many cases do actually work. Ideas that have in some cases become industry best practice. All driven by a love for wool and its unique properties.
There’s the odd villain, several near death experiences for both the company and key people running the business and lots of humorous anecdotes that reflect the character of the people and the strong corporate culture.
By the end of the book, you’ll be asking “How on earth did all these odd-ball elements manage to come together to create such a successful and diverse business?” Oh yes, it really IS a diverse operation.
The parent company, Southern Australia Wool Products has several subsidiaries. One markets compounds used in a wide range of industrial processes. Another , as you might expect, makes wool batting for use by home quilters and also manufactures a wool fleece product called “Sliverknit”, used to line horse blankets, jackets ugg-boots and baby’s beds.
But they also produce termite barriers for the building industry and dam liners for agriculture and mining operations. How weird is that?