When aircraft began transporting Queensland produce from Toowoomba’s Wellcamp Airport to Asia in 2015, Pam and David Hockings could visualise products from their 5000-tree eucalyptus plantation being adorned in homes of key cities on the continent.
“In Singapore and Hong Kong, the majority of housing is tower apartments,” said David.
“Because outdoor living spaces are uncommon, people take great pride in decorating their apartments with homewares and other decorations.”
Having planted the first eucalyptus at Hokstead Plantation, outside Warwick, 25 years ago, there’s very little the Hockings don’t know about the endemic Australian flora.
But when it comes to the intricacies of exporting, the Hockings knew they needed help.
Hokstead Plantation participated in Trade and Investment Queensland’s flagship student talent program, the Launch U Trade Accelerator (LTA), in November last year. The program matches Queensland businesses with talented domestic and international students across the state.
For students, LTA offers a unique opportunity to put their classroom learnings into practice with a real-world business.
For businesses, it’s a way to seek market research framed by the latest learnings in a fast, efficient manner.
The Hockings first asked a student cohort to undertake market research on the opportunities and challenges of taking their foliage, buds and eucalyptus-themed homewares in Singapore last year.
Impressed with the ‘speed and quality’ of the research, the Hockings engaged a second cohort, in March, to undertake market research on Hong Kong.
Armed with the intelligence, Hokstead Plantation is aiming to have its products in the Asian business hubs within the next two years.
“The calibre of the reports was very high,” said David.
“Wellcamp (Airport) is a real asset for the Downs, and we included it as something that students should work from on their brief.”
Pam said: “With Hong Kong, the students examined different opportunities the different ways of transporting our products, as either fresh or dried”.
“With flights to Hong Kong, we could have fresh cuts flown out of Toowoomba on a Friday and on the floors of markets on the Saturday.
“These are some of the things we need to consider, going forward.”
Colombian David Quintero, a Marketing Graduate from the Australian Pacific College, was the team leader of the project team.
He volunteered to travel out to visit the Hockings at their Southern Downs property as part of the project.
"I thought it was important to go out and visit the client to understand their business, understand the market they operate in and their needs," he said.
"The project team recognised that this was a rare opportunity to assist a business so it was in our interests to find out as much as possible."
Other intelligence the student cohorts gathered was around the intricacies of trade legislation, business frameworks and digital marketing.
“We have a website and we’re active on Facebook,” said David. “But beyond that, we needed some strategic guidance (on digital). The team leader of the Hong Kong cohort was studying marketing, so he was excellent in providing insights for us on how to make our digital platforms more integrated.
“The students talked about the possibilities of engaging agents who could act as a middle-man for us on-the-ground with major retailers and markets.
“They also put up the option of an on-the-ground franchise operation.”
The Hockings encouraged other businesses with export ambitions to consider engaging students through LTA.
“We’ve been very happy with the results,” said Pam.
Businesses can find out more information about the Launch U Trade Accelerator program here.