We moved to our little slice of heaven in the hills of Jamberoo in 2017 and had great plans to simplify and live a life on the land, whilst producing handmade and homegrown items which we hoped to sell through a little farmgate store nestled amongst the paddocks we had planted with thousands of trees and shrubs. We named it Havenwood, - “a place of refuge” for our family and tribe of foster children.
In the beginning, we built a cute little farmgate stand, that we placed down the front of our farm, and offered homemade wares, some vintage goods, and produce from our land. This little stall, open only on weekends, brought in some much needed income to fund chicken feed and farm upkeep. We began to hang around the stall on weekends to meet the customers popping in, and fell in love with the idea of wanting to invite the weary traveller in for refreshment and inspiration. This was not meant to be…as neighbours and Council felt that this would impact on the quiet rural amenity that they enjoyed!
After about 18 months of wrestling with our local authorities to see this vision come to pass, and being frustrated at the doors being shut in our face for a tourism based business on our farm, we decided to take a chance on developing the tiny home concept that we had built for one of our daughters and her family, and see if this was a path we should take. We had no idea at this stage there was a tiny home ‘movement’, TV shows or the groundswell of interest in this lifestyle.
Little did we know that the tiny homes would grow! Starting a business a few months before the world turns upside down in a pandemic is crazy right?!
The day after our first big show of 2020, COVID hit the planet and the phones stopped ringing. We had secured a few orders, and plugged away at these quietly and consistently, just Rick and one apprentice making them in our backyard. Council again had other ideas, and told us we must cease construction or move to an industrial zone. We leant into faith in the plans and paths God has for us, and forged ahead. Very quickly, we had to find a warehouse to move the business into, not easy during lockdowns and restrictions everywhere.
Providentially, a call to our local agent unearthed a small factory that had not yet been put on the market for lease, so we jumped straight onto it, and within 6 days were up and running, growing our team of carpenters and trades as we built the orders we had. All the field days, shows and exhibitions we had booked for the year were cancelled, so we turned to social media - a platform we had no idea about (and had to learn fast!) to share our homes, which we truly believed were a beautiful alternative to inflated mortgages, and an answer to the stresses of life in the 21st century for families.
We took a great leap of faith even as the world hunkered down. There was terrible drought and fires in our country, floods around the world, a global pandemic, financial unrest, anxiety and suicide were rampaging through our neighbourhoods.
I was on the tractor one day, mowing the ‘field of dreams’ as we call it (if you build it they will come!) at the front of our farm, wondering why all the doors to our farm dreams seemed to have been shut. We had moved to the factory, finances were non-existent, the rent on the warehouse was up every month, and the phones weren’t ringing. People had gone silent, the world was waiting to see if life as we knew it was over. I was crying as I was mowing, and pretty much told God that if He didn’t open a door soon, we would be once again packing our bags and moving on…(we’ve lost everything once before, another story, don’t want to do it again!) And then after all the crying was over, I just handed it all over and said ‘your will be done.’
THE NEXT DAY THE PHONE STARTED RINGING….and it hasn’t stopped since.
Within four months of being in the first factory, we had outgrown it.
We had to find another space fast, to keep up with the orders flowing in. Again, there was nothing around. Rick and I spent nights driving around our local area looking for somewhere to be. But this time, we wanted a space where we could reignite the dreams and visions of our farm venture, alongside the growing tiny home construction company. A place where people could come and find peace, hope and inspiration for their homes and properties. The dream of our farm store, but in a location that would have the homes on display, as well as all the products we make, source and use.
A place of beauty - a big order for a factory in an industrial area.
As often happens in our life, little seeds get dropped into our hearts that begin to grow as we go about our daily rounds. On separate occasions, both Rick and I had seen a site in our area that was seemingly abandoned, overgrown and underutilised. Neither of us told the other about it, waiting to see if it was ‘a God thing’.
My friend had come over just days before, and said something which stuck in my spirit - “you and Rick are so good at loving things back to life.” (Isaiah 58:12) Those words kept playing in my head, and I quietly looked into finding the owner of this abandoned lot.
After finding out who the owner of the site was, and then contacting the current lessee but having no response, it seemed all of our enquiry hit a dead end, so we let the idea go, and found another factory just down the road from our first one. Bigger, with enough room for a studio store, great access … all the things our building team needed, and within no time at all, we had moved in and added to our team.
We also moved the Havenwood home DIY studio there too - and made ready to open up our studio store for customers and get our paint and DIY workshops up and running again. It wasn’t the vision I had sketched out in my journal months before, where there was indoor and outdoor areas, open spaces, opportunities for food and expansion, but it was the door that opened, so we walked through!
Going from the little factory to this much bigger one was a huge leap of faith, but late one night that small voice that I know so well whispered… “if this small move scares you, you just wait and see what I have in store! You need to trust Me and step out in faith!”
The next weekend, Rick headed up to the Sydney Home Show to exhibit and to showcase Tucker’s Rest, the BnB model we built as an extra exhibition model within 4 weeks, at the request of the show organisers, as they had a Staycation area open up and asked us to be a part of it. On the last day of the show, I joined Rick in Sydney and we walked into the Exhibition centre ready to begin the final day. When we had readied the Tucker’s Rest for the day, and I had acquired our morning coffee, I was walking back to the booth when I noticed the stand next door.
It had been there the whole time, but Rick didn’t recognise who they were! RIGHT NEXT TO US was the company who had the lease on the site we had been hoping for. The one we dreamed about for months!! Chance? We don’t think so!
Rick and he got to talking, and it turned out that the lease he had held on the site for over 40 years was within weeks of expiring, and he offered for us to acquire it - with a bonus that we still get to partner with his company in offering some of his wonderful products to our region!
It’s just a side note that both of our companies have the word “HAVEN” in them…. We truly believe this vision given so long ago, and halted so many times, is going to come to pass here. In the coming weeks and months, we will unfold more and hope you will join us at “A place of refuge” for you to BE…To rest, dream, reignite, and restore…. It’s all happening here @ HAVENWOOD
Love Rick & Shani