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Surf the Web and bask in the sun

KEEN surfers Cinde and Craig Fisher have never been more aware of the opportunities and limitations of operating an IT business in regional WA.

Starting the business two years ago from home and rapidly expanding into premises in the Margaret River light industrial area, the pair has enjoyed almost instant success with their business Queens-berry IT, quickly reaching an annual turnover of $500,000.

But even as they bask in that success, with existing demand for their networking, hardware, web site and database services in the region, they have found growing the business past this current level of turnover is proving to be a challenge – forcing them to turn their attention to the distant Perth market.

Mrs Fisher said targeting the Perth market meant overcoming prejudices to regional operators.

“There seems to be the mentality that you are second best because you operate from Margaret River,” Mrs Fisher said.

“But we have clients such as the Shire of Augusta and Margaret River, Business Enterprise Centres and Palandri Wines and we’ve been the recipients of local and small business awards.”

These awards include being the 2003 South West Small Business E-Commerce Winner and the Micro Business Award.  In 2002, Queensberry IT won the IT Industry Award in the South West Small Business Awards, which led them to the Telstra Small Business Awards where they were one of six finalists in the under six employee division.

Mrs Fisher says that Queensberry IT is now looking specifically at business markets and predicts that much of its future work will be Internet browser-based software, using newer technologies such as Microsoft’s asp .Net.

“We have recently done a web pilot content management program and did an online reservation system for www.margaretriver.com, which was huge,” she said.

“We are now looking at selling this system to other visitor centres in WA. We were also instrumental in developing Shane Gould’s web site, which has already had a minimum $60,000 in sales go through it.  It has only been operating for a year.”

Originally from South Africa, the Fishers were drawn to the South West lifestyle after travelling the world for 10 years working as contractors in the IT industry.

They eventually settled in Margaret River.

“We settled here because we wanted to raise our family on the coast and near to great surf ,” Mrs Fisher said.

Quickly discovering the lack of IT companies in the region, the Fishers discovered a market niche for their skills and began operating from home in May 2000 after successfully securing a New Enterprise Incentive Scheme grant from the Western Australian Government, which provides funds for start-up companies.

By mid 2001 Queensberry IT had already landed two major contracts, each worth about $200,000.

The contracts involved implementing network installation for the Shire of Margaret River and Augusta and the BEC. In the case of BEC the contract was Statewide.

This rapid growth meant that the business had outgrown their home.

As a result, the company relocated to its current premises, which it shares with local graphic design business TooGood Creative Solutions. Whilst still separate companies, Queensberry IT and TooGood Creative Solutions have joined forces and now work together on some projects.

“Before joining forces with Too-Good we were very strong on the IT side, but not on the graphics side.  Joining forces with TooGood has allowed us to incorporate graphic design into our projects and vice versa,” Mrs Fisher said.

Queensberry IT is an IBM  Certified partner and procures its hardware from what Mrs Fisher describes as credible IT wholesalers.

“We don’t sell secondhand or ‘no name’ brands in our hardware range as we are aiming to provide quality to our clients,” she said.

Queensberry IT also offers IT training as one of its services.

While they are not looking at expanding the company too rapidly, Mrs Fisher said that the goal of establishing Queensberry IT was to establish “a highly professional IT business capable of serving the needs of the region”.

“We can do everything from providing hardware to developing highly sophisticated relational databases and e-commerce web sites,” she said.

“Our long-term intention is to establish the means for young people to find meaningful, quality IT work without having to move to the city.”

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