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Mob Pod: Gabrielle Fry and Samantha Campbell – Coolamon Creative

Samantha Campbell and Gabrielle Fry, own and operate Coolamon Creative, a small creative business, based in Alice Springs. Both sisters share a strong passion for visual storytelling. They talk candidly to Lisa Gissing from Westpac about the lessons learnt and why finance education is so important in business.



Hello everyone, I'm Lisa Gissing from Westpac and today we're really lucky to be speaking with two sisters, Gabrielle Fry or Gabby Fry and Samantha Campbell or Sammy Campbell


LG: who share a really strong passion for visual storytelling, and now own and operate Coolamon Creative, a small creative business based in Alice Springs. Welcome Gabby and Sam.

GF & SC: Thanks for having us.

LG: Before we begin, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands in which we meet and pay my respects to elders past present and emerging.


LG: I also acknowledge and pay respects to those here today who identify as being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and recognise the diversity of Indigenous peoples, countries and culture in Australia.


LG: As Australia's first bank we acknowledge our role in supporting an inclusive and diverse nation where all of our cultural backgrounds are recognised and respected. Gabby and Sam let's start today with your story and how you came to create the business, Coolamon Creative.


SC: Well, it kind of started as a five year plan a while ago. We kind of thought we we should combine our skills and have a business together. It was kind of just a bit of a talk and a kind of a laugh and we kind of left it at that.


SC: But then we realised that over the five years we were kind of learning so much in different areas that it made more and more sense as the years went on to come together and create some resources and service lots of different areas of graphic design, photography, videography, animation and.


GF: And so, like Sam said, we came together after, it was about a five year plan we set for ourselves. We thought we’ll just go off get, you know industry experience and then once we're sort of at that point where we want to run our own business that we’d come back together and combine our skills.


GF: One of the biggest things for me where I became really passionate about starting Coolamon Creative was that, when I worked in different roles in government and non-profit organisations, there was a huge need for visual content that was relatable and culturally sensitive for a First Nation’s audience.


GF: It was a bit of a struggle actually in the Northern Territory trying to find a designer that sort of had that understanding and appreciation of Aboriginal culture. And so, I guess that's where Coolamon Creative sort of came about.


So, give me a little bit more of a summary around what does Coolamon Creative actually do?


SC: In a nutshell we create visual resources. You know, through graphic design, illustration, animation, pretty much it's storytelling.

GF: Yeah, and some of the bigger projects we've done have been a lot to do with communicating complex information to an Aboriginal audience and also a non-Aboriginal audience.


GF: For example, health topics. Things that you know, quite complex health information that needs to get out there to the Aboriginal communities but communicating that in a way that is easy to understand and just breaking down that communication. Relatable, and also just bearing in mind, that there's a lot of Aboriginal mob out there that you know English is like the third or fourth language and so it's really important to be able to communicate information visually.


SC: And in language too.

GF: And in language. Which we've had with things like animations have been translated into languages.

LG: Reflecting on your journey as business owners, what's been one thing that you've learnt?


GF: So, one thing I’ve learnt from being a business owner is that everything falls on you. So, everything is up to you. From your finance to your pay checks, to your tax, managing your workload, taking time off in a way that is strategic and not impacting in your work.


SC: Because if you take time off or you get sick, everything goes on hold so.

GF: You're pretty much, you're carrying the business, compared to things that you take for granted in a way when you're employed.


GF: You know when you get your pay checks then you get all that superannuation it's all taken care for you. But managing a business you've got to be very on to things. And probably the biggest learning curve would be the finance side of things for me.

LG: And Sam do you have anything further to add to that?


SC: Yes. One of the biggest things I've learnt is that it can be a bit of a rollercoaster. So, you've got to make sure that you listen to your body and what your body is telling you. If you’re feeling too stressed, you're better off having a day off than wasting a week of not being productive.


SC: So, it's just about that whole trying to balance your emotions and your mental side of it as well as be professional and keep on top of everything that needs to be done. So just that working out to approach things, I guess.

GF: And having that separation between you know your personal down time and your business because sometimes the two can creep into each other and then crossover.


GF: It’s been a challenge to try and draw that line.

LG: Some great words of wisdom there. Now you mentioned the finance, money side of things why do you think those money skills are so important in business?

GF: When we did the workshop with Alinta, and we’ve been doing the business grant applications in the past, one of the biggest things that we've been tasked to do was a financial forecast and a bit of a cash flow.


GF: I'm someone that has always shyed away from numbers. Failed at maths at school.

SC: Same.

GF: I'm very strong in you know the English, written sort of, that’s more my strength and visual but maths, numbers all of that, I hate it. 


GF: So, it's been a huge learning curve for me, but I’ve really, I really appreciate just how important finance is and how important it is to look at the numbers and be able to understand those numbers and what it's telling you about your business.


GF: Whether you're making the right decisions with your projects. Whether that you're being efficient when you're taking on certain projects and having that cash flow just to see - one of the things that we really looked into during those finance literacy workshops with Alinta.


GF: So that was really helpful to to look at it

LG: And I love the brutal honesty there of of numbers not necessarily being your forte but absolutely recognising the importance of money in a business every day. What advice would you give other community members aspiring to be perhaps a business owner one day?


SC: My biggest advice would be outsource our finance stuff to an accountant. That was the biggest, probably the best thing we did 'cause it just took off that stress that can add on when you're trying to run anything else. So I think if it's not your up your alley, you know the finance stuff then it’s just really you know makes you feel stressed and confused, you're better off trying to find someone to help you with that.


SC: Because that just took a huge load off our shoulders and we were able to actually concentrate on everything else in the business and there's so much involved when you look at it, so. That's the best, biggest advice I can offer.


SC: And the other thing is just to, if you have a dream about what your business could be, you know, you might not happen straight away, it might take 10 years to happen. But if you, if it's always in the back on your mind and you make a little steps to get there then it'll just happen and then you’ll just be thankful that you’re in that place 'cause.


SC: I feel like this is something we've always dreamed of and to actually be doing it. I feel like I wouldn't be doing anything else so it's really rewarding in that way.

GF: And for me, advice I that I would give community members is that when you're running a business you will go through hardships, and you'll go through times where you just you know you made a mistake when you wish that you made a different decision and to get a different outcome.


GF: My advice would be not to shy away when those things happen don't let that get you down because it's a a real opportunity for you to learn and grow from it. And without those experiences you can't grow.


LG: Thank you so much for sharing your story also your words of wisdom and your experience today. Now finally if any of our listeners today would like to find out more about the business, how do they get in contact with you?


GF: Instagram has been our, one of our biggest ways that people have found us is our Instagram page. Because it’s very good in ways of like sharing visual stuff. So Instagram is good for that.


GF: And Sam also has a profile with.

SC: So, I'm also a children's book illustrator so I've got my own website, and it's more of my you know, illustrated type


GF: More of like a portfolio.

SC: Yeah.

GF: See more further examples of Sam’s work.

LG: So today we've been speaking, with Gabrielle Fry and Samantha Campbell from Coolamon Creative. Thank you, ladies, both so much for your time today.

SC: Thank you so much.

GF: Thanks Lisa so much for having us.


Acknowledgement to Country

Westpac acknowledges the First Peoples of Australia and recognises their ongoing role as Traditional Owners of the land and waters of this country. We acknowledge Westpac’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees, partners, and stakeholders, and pay our respects to their Elders, both past and present. 

Things you should know

The choices and decisions made by Gabrielle Fry and Samantha Campbell are their own and this podcast is about their journey and not intended to be advice.This information is general in nature and has been prepared without taking your objectives, needs and overall financial situation into account. For this reason, you should consider the appropriateness for the information to your own circumstances and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

© Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 AFSL and Australian Credit Licence 233714.