Robert Dann has recently added beer and ginger beer to the range of products he’s making using boab nuts. (ABC Kimberley: Rhiannon Shine)
An Aboriginal entrepreneur who is making beer from boab trees is one of many Indigenous business owners in WA’s Kimberley bucking the trend when it comes to start-up success.
Nyul Nyul man Robert Dann grew up picking boab nuts and eating the pulp inside, but he never dreamed it would become a business.
“Because we didn’t have much money as kids we had to make use of what we could,” he said.
“So we would collect boab nuts.”
Robert Dann has been picking boabs since he was a child, but he never dreamed it would become a business. (ABC Kimberley: Moataz Hamde)
A brewer, not a drinker
Mr Dann now makes a range of products from boab powder, which is ground from the pulp and sells for $280/kg.
“The boab flesh has got vitamin B6, potassium, iron, zinc, vitamin C, energy, protein and good dietary fibres as well,” he said.
A couple of years ago Mr Dann started using the boab powder in iced teas which he would make for people on his guided tours of the Kimberley.
The teas were a hit and Mr Dann’s business Bindam Mie, which means bush food, will soon add beer and ginger beer to its range of boab products.
Mr Dann said the niche brew had a syrupy texture and a citrus taste thanks to the boab.
He said the beer and ginger beer had proven popular already, but he would be sticking to the iced teas.
“Unfortunately I can’t drink [the boab beer] because I don’t touch alcohol,” he said.
“But everyone tells me it is very nice.
“Everyone loved the ginger beer. Everyone could taste the bush ginger, everyone could taste the boab as well. We’re on a winner with that one.”
Robert Dann’s business Bindam Mie employs local people to pick the boab nuts and process them into a powder. (ABC Kimberley: Rhiannon Shine)
Creating employment opportunities for locals
Mr Dann employs local people casually to pick and process the nuts and plans to create more jobs as the business grows.
“It is a bit of economic development for the Kimberley,” he said.
“It will be great to have everyone working on their community, doing the thing that they have been doing for years and years.”
Broome local Larrika Lawford says processing the boab nuts into a powder can be messy work. (ABC Kimberley: Rhiannon Shine)
Larrika Lawford, 17, is paid to break open the boab nuts, remove the pulp and blend it into the powder.
“Growing up, we have always been doing boab picking,” she said.
“We have to start off first cracking the boab nuts and then separating the good from the bad then breaking them up and blending them.
“It helps out with pocket money on the side when you don’t have much.”
Recipe for success
Mr Dann said tourists who visited the Kimberley had embraced his boab products, with movie star Hugh Jackman among his happy customers.
“People come to Broome and they want to have a taste of Indigenous product,” he said.
“A lot of people have bought the powder from me.
“Hugh Jackman was one of them and he absolutely loved it.”
Kimberley Indigenous businesses bucking the trend
Bindam Mie is one of 140 Aboriginal businesses supported by Broome-based Indigenous business development organisation Morrgul, which started in 2013.
Of the many Aboriginal start-ups it has helped, more than 85 per cent are still in operation.
By contrast just 61 per cent of small businesses nationwide that started in 2013 survived past the three year mark.
In Western Australia, just 56 per cent survived.
Morrgul CEO Kaylene Hunter says the organisation is helping Indigenous businesses in the Kimberley find success. (ABC Kimberley: Rhiannon Shine)
Morrgul CEO Kaylene Hunter said the range of support services the organisation offered had helped Indigenous businesses in the Kimberley buck the trend.
“Morrgul’s success rate is due to our vetting and mentoring, and the range of business support services we provide, from business planning through to book keeping and marketing, assistance with registrations and also with insurance,” she said.
Future funding in doubt
Ms Hunter said Morrgul’s five-year funding arrangement with a private enterprise was due to run out in mid-2019.
“Without further funding Morrgul is due to close its doors at the end of this financial year,” she said.
“We are seeking funding so that we can continue providing support to Aboriginal business owners.
“Without Morrgul operating in this space there will be a lot of pressure on other support services.
“It would be a shame to lose this region-wide service.”
Bindam Mie business partners Robert Dann and Richard Hosking are adding beer to their range of boab products. (ABC Kimberley: Rhiannon Shine)