By Robyn Molloy
With nominations now open for this year’s Perth Airport WA Tourism Awards, Willie Creek Pearls CEO Sally Hollins is poised to write another pearler of a submission.
The 30-year-old family business cracked the Specialised Tourism Services category last year, taking gold for its new Elizabeth Quay shopfront and tourism experience, where tourists can get their hands on an oyster and pull out an actual pearl, grown at the company’s Broome pearl farms.
Winning gold in the state award saw the company, which captures the history of the state’s pearling industry through its tours and showrooms, then headed to the Australian Tourism Awards where it took on the winners of all states and territories and brought home the bronze medal.
Hollins, who wrote many award-winning entries for WA tourism companies prior to becoming CEO in 2016, recommends businesses get behind this year’s awards and to think of their submission as a way to fast-track or update their business plan.
She says while winning awards can separate a business from the pack, especially when competition it tight, it’s the submission process that is of even more benefit.
“The submissions for awards can actually make you write a business plan,” she says. In fact, Hollins used the award-winning submission she wrote for Willie Creek for the tourism awards prior to becoming CEO, and which led to her joining the company, as the basis for its current business plan.
She said the among the five questions in the submission form, contenders are asked to show how they address their excellence, values, business plan, marketing plan, risks, training, customer service and sustainability.
“So if you work your way through all five of those questions every year, you have your checklist of your business,” she says.
“I can see the objectives that I was trying to achieve this year, what I did and what I didn’t do and why I didn’t do it. So it is a really good, detailed process.”
Hollins says setting up Willie Creek Pearls seventh showroom at Elizabeth Quay while the area is still a construction zone was a gamble that’s paid off.
“It was very risky but we are the only retailer here and we are on tourism path with the Bell Tower, segway, cruises, mini golf, so it’s a tourist hub and that’s our market so it’s working really well,” she says.
“The tourism awards were a great way to raise the profile of our newest pearl experiences and to communicate that we have a tourism product that’s really worth doing in Perth.”
The outlet taps into a different market outside of Broome and creates a separate income stream, which lessens the financial risk such as when the farm in Broome was forced to close for three months last year when heavy rains damaged access roads.
“We thought this was the perfect place to put a retail outlet driven by tourism, that’s what our model is. We tell you the story of the pearl and how it all comes to pass, how we grow our pearls in Broome, how and when we harvest them and how we seed them. It is quite a fascinating story,” she says.
“When people hear about how you create a pearl, they are much more inclined to buy a pearl. They see the value and there’s a story.”
Tourism Council WA CEO Evan Hall said the benefits to businesses from entering the awards, which have more than 30 categories, ranged from increased industry and consumer recognition through to the opportunity to undergo a business check-up. Nominations close this month, visit here to find out more.
► Willie Creek Pearls is a valued CCIWA Member. Find out more about the benefits of membership here.