Regional Startups 3 MIN READ

For all the talk of developing one city as Australia’s tech capital and encouraging entrepreneurs and tech talent from around the country to move, the reality is that while the perks may get some packing their bags, for many the prospect of moving is unthinkable.

Whether it’s spending the weekend on the beach in Sydney, brunching in Melbourne, or the easygoing, relaxed nature of regional towns and cities, over time we become accustomed to area-specific lifestyles that make moving a daunting prospect.

It was a desire to find a way to stay in Wagga Wagga rather than having to move into the city to find work that led Peter Swan to launch web design agency Simple Pixels two years ago.

He said, “I just wanted to hang around in Wagga; I’ve got my children here and I love living here, and I didn’t want to have to move to the city so I just thought I’d have a crack at starting a business. So far it’s been pretty good.”

The simple goal of Simple Pixels is to help businesses across Wagga Wagga get online at a reasonable price. Having worked in IT for the last 15 years, Swan thought the local market could do with another player offering up a bit of competition to city-based providers, and so he created his own business.

“It was a but of a punt just to go, yep, I’m going to try this. It could have gone pear shaped but it didn’t, you know, so I just built it up and rang lots of people to see what they wanted and if they they were interested, and got a few bites,” Swan said.

“I haven’t really done any advertising, just word of mouth, and that’s worked a gem around here because so many people know each other and if you give them a good service they’ll recommend you, no worries. That’s how I built it, slowly but surely.”

Word of mouth is critical to any business, but the local touch is something that country residents in particular are crying out for, with so many of the other services they use city-based and impersonal.

“I think just having that local service, someone customers can pick up the phone and get onto quickly, has proven to be the biggest asset, more so than the technology or anything like that. I majored in programming at uni here in Wagga, so I’m knowledgeable about that, but I think local customer service is the winner,” Swan said.

Living 15 minutes out of Wagga in the town of Oura, Swan said Simple Pixels has grown with the rollout of the NBN and a growing understanding among local businesses about the importance of being online.

“I think regardless of where you live, the internet is a huge presence for people in regional Australia. We pay just as much attention to that as the city folk do, to promote our businesses and to get out there; nobody’s in a phone book anymore, and there’s a lot of businesses that are seeing the value,” he said.

As well as website design, Simple Pixels helps businesses with SEO, particularly in helping them target local customers across Wagga, Albury, and Gundagai.

“Whether it’s a plumber or a carpet cleaning business, it just changes the ballgame for them and so it’s been exciting, getting good feedback from them is awesome,” Swan said.

With a growing local portfolio under its belt, Simple Pixels has now begun expanding across NSW. Swan has worked with businesses in Port Macquarie and Cooma, and while excited about this growth, he is focused on ensuring the local touch and customer service is just as strong for these clients as those he works with in Wagga.

To help facilitate this growth, Swan is working with contractors in various areas, with a view to employing staff full time next year.

Peter Swan spoke to Dianna Somerville.

Image: Peter Swan.

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