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How Albury’s Wolki family has grasped opportunities to rapidly grow and diversify their business portfolio.
When well-known Albury business owner Jacob Wolki fills out the occupation section of forms, he has a few options. He’s written retailer, businessman, entrepreneur – and has lately settled on ‘farmer’.
“I’m never what people expect. I’ve got soft hands – I don’t look like a farmer,” he laughs.
Jacob comes from a long family history of small businesses in the Albury region. His grandfather moved to Albury around 45 years ago to purchase a fast-food chicken shop and the Wolki family has owned and operated local businesses ever since.
They have continuously identified opportunities to expand and diversify, with their business portfolio now including Cycle Station and its online warehouse, Café Musette, and Wolki Farm and its butchery. Jacob also runs a free monthly farmers’ market.
This rapid expansion and diversification has brought new local jobs to the region – with around 50 people employed across the businesses at any one time.
Jacob credits the family’s success in local business to their quick decision making as opportunities arise – “I’d rather make a bad decision quickly than a good decision slowly” – as well as empowering and trusting their staff.
Where it began:
Jacob first entered the family business 10 years ago, when he was just 20 years old, purchasing a local bike shop now named Cycle Station with his parents Leigh and Terry.
Three years later, they demolished the old bowling club across the road and built a new purpose-built shop in its place – with the innovative idea of including a café within it.
Café Musette is now in its seventh successful year of business with a “cult following”.
“The café was busy instantly,” Jacob said. “It’s always grown, we’ve never had a backwards year.”
Cycle Station is a similar story, with a new warehouse constructed in late 2019 to house stock for its online store – which ships thousands of orders each month on top of in-store sales, catering to customers across Australia and even internationally.
So what comes next when you’re running a busy café and a booming bike shop?
Enter: Wolki Farm.
Around two years ago, Jacob handed the reins of Cycle Station to two trusted managers so he could start spending more time on the family’s 45-hectare hobby farm at Thurgoona.
It is now a regenerative farm, home to grass-fed beef, pastured eggs (where the chickens are regularly taken to new pasture on an ‘eggmobile’), pork and chicken, raw honey, and a share-farmed orchard and market garden. They run farm tours regularly to showcase their vision.
“I was reading about this new way of farming with smaller landholdings and mixed operations, and I thought it sounded a lot more fun than just wrestling sheep all day,” Jacob said.
“Wolki Farm has five principles – welfare advocacy, environmental backbone, community conscience, healing food, and profitable farms – and we use these to guide our decision-making.”
The next step was establishing a butchery to process Wolki Farm meat, as well as meat from other farms in the region, and more recently, opening a butcher’s shop front.
But, in true Wolki style, it’s no ordinary butcher’s shop.
Jacob likens it to a 24-hour gym – you sign up to be a member, then use a unique code to enter the shop and purchase meat using a QR code system that directly charges your credit card.
Every member needs to take a farm tour before signing up, to understand Wolki Farms’ principles and see where their meat is coming from (and why it costs more than supermarkets).
The business has come full circle with produce from Wolki Farm now served at Café Musette.
“People hear the story around it and more and more people are coming in. They have their different reasons – some for the health aspects, some for the fact it’s local, or the fact it’s tasty – but many just like the fun energy around the place,” Jacob said.
Jacob also supports other small-scale farmers in the region by holding the RegenerEAT Farmers Market at Café Musette each month – with one rule: if you make it, you can come.
‘If you treat people well and work hard, opportunities pop up.’
Many Albury locals know Jacob as “the bike shop guy” but it’s clear the Wolki family business extends much further than that.
They are an example of the city perks yet sense of community that Albury Wodonga has to offer – grasping opportunities to diversify and significantly expand, while retaining a loyal customer base who they greet by name.
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