From management consultant to international business owner

Dee-Ann Prather, President - Down Under Enterprises

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we spoke to Dee-Ann Prather, the President of Down Under Enterprises – an Australian business that has gone from strength to strength by exporting a wide range of essential oils to the US and Asia.

Dee-Ann started her career as a management consultant and banker. But a need for greater flexibility and opportunities from her family’s tea tree plantation spurred her to found Down Under Enterprises.

Tell us about yourself and how you’ve come to your current role.
I started my business when the workforce didn’t offer me the flexibility I wanted with a newborn. I was an Australian living in the United States and decided to export my family’s pure Australian Tea Tree Oil into the US. My success has been partially “right place, right time” but predominantly hard work, determination and persistence.

What is the greatest challenge you have faced in managing your international business and how have you overcome this?
Long lead times for ocean freighting our products around the world has a significant impact on our cash flow. Suppliers want to be paid ASAP while customers want to pay net 30 or longer. There can be a 12-week transit time resulting in funding inventory and accounts receivables for 4 months or longer. With an annual harvest, funding needs to be in place for up to 12 months.
Cash is king; make sure you’re covered.

What is the greatest opportunity for Australian businesses looking to expand overseas?
Opportunities are very dependent on the product. For 100% pure and natural Australian products, the recent regulatory changes in Europe, the continued double-digit growth of natural products in North America, and the growing wealth across Asia all bring opportunities.

What advice do you have for other women operating in international markets or trying to break into international markets?
Tradeshows are a great way to confirm the opportunities you expect to be available overseas. Walking tradeshows in the first instance and exhibiting once you are confident it is the right show for your business and products can save time and money. Talk to Export Finance Australia about finance that may be available to help your business.