Can you tell us a bit about your business?
Hellweg is an Australian manufacturer of load bearing vests, body armour, nylon and leather belts, pouches and holsters. The majority of our sales are to government clients, including local councils, departments of primary industries, corrections, hospitals and police.
We are based in Bayswater in Melbourne and we have 17 staff, mainly sewing machinists and leather craftspeople.
As the new owners of the business, what challenges have you faced?
Probably the biggest challenge as the new owner of Hellweg has been learning and operating the business at the same time – there’s a lot to do and everything takes a lot longer while learning. Keeping my head above water has been challenging, but fun!
Fortunately, the previous owners of the business have been very helpful and supportive, as have the staff.
As a newly re-accredited brand, how did you find the process of accreditation and auditing?
The accreditation process was pretty pragmatic and struck a good balance between thoroughness and efficiency. Plus, the previous owners were Ethical Clothing Australia accredited, so the process went very smoothly.
What did you learn from this experience?
Hellweg was accredited under its previous ownership, so the heavy lifting for accreditation had already been done. I hope that being part of the Ethical Clothing Australia network provides a lot of opportunities to learn about the textile industry now that we are re-accredited.
Why is it important to your business to manufacture ethically? What are the benefits? What are the challenges?
I think that treating staff, customers, suppliers and the world around you with respect is simply good business – an essential ingredient in long term business success. To succeed, you need a great, loyal team – something that will be hard to achieve without acting ethically and respectfully. The result at Hellweg is an incredibly knowledgeable and skilled team, many who have been with the company for well over a decade, some even two.
Fortunately, most government clients value local, ethical manufacturing. Unfortunately, in the three months I’ve been running Hellweg, have seen some that don’t – price is more of a consideration. It’s extremely hard paying staff a fair Australian wage, along with all the costs of doing business in Australia, then competing against the cheapest, minimally regulated bidder overseas.