Wheatbelt businesswoman shares passion for regional connection with Canberra MPs at summit

Photo: Supplied.
Photo: Supplied.

Tori Kopke has a passion for inspiring women running their own businesses.

The mother-of-one and Wheatbelt local saw this passion evolve into a podcast and education program for other regional women feeling the distance while being their own boss.

Within eight-months of joining fellow The Rural Compass cohost Samantha Meurant, who she met online, Mrs Kopke last week found herself pitching her passion to MPs and community leaders at Parliament house.

The duo were selected to take part of the ABC Haywire Trailblazers regional youth summit, being identified as making regional Australia a better place.

Mrs Kopke said the podcast, originally with a focus on helping innovative women in isolated parts of Australia foster connections, had transformed since her involvement in July 2019.

Ms Meurant was sharing the stories of regional business women from around Australia when Mrs Kopke reached out to collaborate.

What eventuated was an eight-episode series about marketing as a small regional business.

Although living on opposite sides of the country, the duo went on to co-found an education arm of the podcast made up of courses and a membership platform that acts as an online community for rural businesswomen.

Based between Cunderdin and Quairading in WA's Wheatbelt on her family farm, Mrs Kopke has had her own experiences running her marketing business in isolation.

"My biggest struggle has been since I had my son, who turns two in March," she said.

"Since then it has been a lot harder for me to get out of the house, to go and see clients and go connect with like-minded women.

"I know we have fabulous events in our surrounding areas but it hasn't been realistic for me, especially during seeding and harvest to leave and go to those events.

"I don't have any family support - I'm American, and having this online network it makes it a lot less lonely.

"There are women that are in my exact same shoes."

Mrs Kopke said her involvement in the podcast had opened her eyes to the diversity of small business across Australia and the need for connection.

"Where my co-founder is from a lot of women have to provide off-farm income because they have been in drought for eight or nine years," she said.

"Those female run businesses are the sole income for some families - they are so important.

"The mental health behind connecting isolated women is fantastic - you have a support network to lean on.

"Finding the right support that is the right fit for you is so important because times do get tough as an entrepreneur."

She said although having an important role to play, local business networks could be daunting for women starting out a business.

"One of the reasons our network has grown so quickly is because there are women who feel like they can't join their local business network because they don';t have a shopfront or doesn't feel right as it is just them," Mrs Kopke said.

"Even if they're not calling themselves an entrepreneur or business yet, we're a space where you are still equipped with the tools and resources you need to grow to become that business you are trying to be."

The Rural Compass will be holding an International Women's Day virtual summit in March with 18 guest speakers including Mia Freedman of the MamaMia network.

For more information see www.theruralcompass.com.au.