If you’ve seen a beautiful branded timber box containing premium Australian wine in your travels – or a barcode on a tub of Maggie Beer quince paste – there’s a good chance Barossa Enterprises had a hand in its journey to the market.
Barossa Enterprises, which specialises in packaging for the wine industry including making boxes and pallets as well as overstickering and delabelling, has chalked up 40 years.
It started out as a humble business making wooden boxes for wineries and this remains the mainstay of the business. The intentions are also the same.
“Back when it started the local parents saw it as an opportunity for their sons and daughters to connect back to their community through productive wine packaging work,” CEO Garry Velt says.
“And that’s something we continue to build on.”
Barossa Enterprises is the largest employer of people with a disability in regional South Australia, employing more than 100. Some of the biggest names in wine including Yalumba, Henschke, Taylors, Langmeil, Elderton and Jim Barry Wines support people living with disability through the work they provide Barossa Enterprises. Garry says they have one thing in common – a need for quality products, of course, but also a desire to work with and share Barossa Enterprise’s triple bottom line story.
“But while the story is compelling, it also has to be about commercial reality,” he said. “You do have to have your price points competitive and you have to deliver on the quality.
“Certainly now that we’re more engaged with social media, you can really start to see those businesses who want to share that story, because they know we are supporting people with a disability and they are contributing to that support. They are integrating that story into their own business practices and celebrating it with us.”
Barossa Enterprises rides the highs and lows of the wine industry. It is currently in a good position with the strong growth in premium wine exports – which generally means more boxes. Barossa Enterprises has been in Clare for 20 years and last year its Clare Enterprises division moved into a new facility. And McLaren Vale Enterprises opened this year.
A point of difference with Barossa Enterprises is the handmade approach. “While our competitors might have mechanisation to take care of the labour components, that’s where our supported guys come into it,” Garry said. “We pride ourselves on producing a premium product and delivering a quality service. All of our timber boxes are a one off. Every component is cut and then assembled by hand. That’s pretty special!”
Garry says the supported worker sector is moving towards a more “blended workforce” approach. “It will change the dialogue and change the culture of disability support in the community. It’s going to improve acceptance and integration, and improve the lives of people.”
Barossa Enterprises is big on the social element: the Employee of the Month award is sponsored and presented by a great supporter, Vinpac International.
One supported worker has been with Barossa Enterprises since it started 40 years ago. Another employee recently retired, but missed it and soon returned. “The whole reason they engage with us and stay so long is because of the mates they make,” Garry said. “It’s more than about the work, a daily routine is really important, the whole system of getting on the bus, coming here, working together, producing stuff. And having the friendship networks.
“People are happy to be here. We’re doing something that not only helps businesses, but also people’s lives. I do believe that we do give greater purpose to people’s lives through work. These are people who would normally be overlooked in mainstream employment. We can accept that, that’s just life, but it’s good to know that we are in a position where we might be able to support those on a daily basis to have a working life, which is critical.
“People tend to label people with a disability; they say ‘wouldn’t it be terrible to have a disability’. These people don’t care, they just get on with it, have fun and make friends.”
Garry says the employees love coming to work. At the moment everyone’s talking about the Christmas show. “As soon as the Royal Adelaide Show is over everyone starts talking about the Christmas show,” he said. “People are always planning for the next celebration.”