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Rural small business – Owning a small business is about more than money, sometimes that means getting help when you need it.

Date: May 25, 2021
Author: Hazel Dalton, Research Leader, Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health

Have you ever worked for yourself? Or lived with someone who does? I’m sure there are as many variations as there are small businesses. I’ve been adjacent to small and family businesses for much of my adult life and know and understand that making a living is but one (very important) aspect of it! People go in for many other reasons too:

  • to be autonomous, to be your own boss… or as a friend put it – ‘now everybody is my boss!’ meaning the customers.
  • to create, grow, make or build something – a product or service, a brand, a legacy
  • Your job or circumstances demand it (e.g., contracting tradies and professionals alike)
  • to have the flexibility to work and look after a family on their own terms
  • because it is the family business… it’s in the blood

To know and understand that there are multiple bottom lines to be met – yep, its not all about the money, but so often the money issues dominate. This can mean that decisions that look odd from the outside are coherent and reasonable on the inside – sometimes growth is the enemy of sustainable small and family-friendly. Sometimes to build something safely means to forgo income, to mitigate risks in ways that don’t necessarily look exciting or entrepreneurial to the outside. This may mean that your partner might just say ‘yes’ to your heart’s desire and see what you can build.

Other times reality hits and you find yourself looking at all that hard work and wondering if you will ever recoup the sunk costs as you face adversities such as drought, floods, bushfires, a pandemic… which may conspire to deny you any income at all. Or an unexpected injury causes your one-man band to scream to a halt and you suddenly require the help and assistance of others. Personally – thanks to all who have reached out to help us in the last three months – lifesavers one and all.

Small business owners are creative, resilient, independent – they adapt to the circumstances, pivot (yes – I can hear your ZOOM-fatigued COVID-infused collective groans) and find new opportunities to keep things going, perhaps even thriving.

What makes small business owners great at what they do may lead them to be reluctant to reach out for help when it is needed. Thus, things that might lower the barriers to help are most welcome – who better than someone else who has trodden the same or similar paths to guide you out of trouble?

Beyond blue has been running an evidence-based coaching service called NewAccess for some years now – it employs a proven Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) based approach for mild to moderate mental health problems, like when stress turns to lingering distress that you can’t quite shake off. NewAccess for Small Business is a new service specifically for small business owners – the coaches all have had small business backgrounds and have been trained in the program. So if the stress is too much for you or a small business owner you know… check it out – it is free.

Looking for something more local here in rural NSW – ask your local RAMHP Coordinator – find them here:

My thanks to my husband Matt Atallah for allowing me to share some insights from our small business, Atallah wines.




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