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Friends of BEGG & CO Andrew Blanch

BIO

I am the Managing Director of New England Wool, a wool exporting company based in Australia and owned by two prominent fabric makers in northern Italy, Successori Reda and Vitale Barberis Canonico. My job, along with my team is to precure high quality raw material (wool and Mohair) from all the major producing countries in the world. We have offices in Sydney and Melbourne, and representatives in Western Australia (Fremantle), New Zealand (Christchurch) and South Africa (Port Elisabeth). Our strength, I feel, comes from our relationships we have forged with our wool and mohair producers over the past 30 years. We work closely with them (on behalf of our shareholders and clients), through various marketing activities and grower groups and we concentrate on strong two-way communication channels. I started with the company when it was first formed in 1990, so this year we should be celebrating our 30th year. Unfortunately, a big party has not been possible (although we tried), but there is nothing wrong with celebrating 31, or 32 years is there? We just continue to look towards the future. I live with my wife Melissa, who is a business analysist & our two kids; Rylan, who attends University in Sydney, in his third year studying Journalism & Piper who is at University in Armidale (Northern NSW), studying Sustainability in her First Year. They’re both home due to the Uni closures – so a full house, when we thought we had got rid of them this year!

How are you feeling today?

Pretty good. I’m working from home on Thursdays and Fridays at the moment, which is really new for me. But I was able to go for an early surf this morning which is a fantastic way to start the day. We have been very lucky for sure, but the community and government have worked very hard together to control the spread of Covid-19, so we are still able to get outside our homes for some exercise and have some respite from a full lockdown situation.

You are living in NSW, Australia (please let us know the area?) – how is everything over there at the moment? I live in a beach suburb of Sydney call North Curl Curl, about 15km north of the CBD. As I said before, we still have some freedom, but we still struggle to find toilet paper at the supermarket. Whilst we can still get out for some exercise, we must keep our social distance and only be in maximum of two persons, except if living in the same house. You can’t sit on any of the chairs or benches at the beach as they are roped off, and public parks are closed. But you can still grab a takeaway coffee and take a quick swim or surf in the ocean – but you have to then move on. Ofcourse, people are anxious for many reasons in this current extraordinary situation, but I have noticed just how friendly everyone is, and obliging in ways I have not seen before. There is a sort of “we are all in this together’ attitude, and there is great support and care for each other.

Can you tell us a little more about your work and how important it is to you?

They say that for some people work defines you. I’m not sure if that is how I feel about my work, but I certainly have enjoyed all my years with New England Wool. My job has afforded me the opportunity to travel and meet interesting and wonderful people, and I am thankful for that. I have grown up alongside many of my Italian colleagues so my position feels more like being in a family than a company. My parents have a merino sheep enterprise in the New England area of NSW so my job allows me to work closely with them on the preparation and marketing of their wool. I enjoy meeting and dealing with our various suppliers around the world, understanding their issues, and sharing relevant information with them from our Italian friends and the everchanging market.

We feel lucky to have you as such a great partner in our supply chain here at BEGG & CO, do you feel there is a stronger feeling of community and support that has helped you during this time?

I feel humbled that you see myself and New England Wool as a great partner. We feel the same about you. I know our business is right at the start, but it has become very clear that you and your customers/consumers are really interested in where the raw product comes from, how it is produced, and the effect it has on our environment and community. We are passionate about our wool and mohair producers and are only too happy to share the sustainability credentials - their love of their stock, community and their environment. This definitely brings us closer together. I think that one of the biggest “positives” that will come from this current crisis will be our resilience and our appreciation for each other. I think we are all communicating with each other more now than in normal times – and finding ingenious ways to do so. Maybe we will move from the “me” generation to the “us” generation.


What is important to you about working in your industry?

Transparency! There are so many vested interests that can cloud the way we look at this wonderful industry. By maintaining transparency, it shows that are able to look at ourselves, appreciate that we are not perfect, and seek to find ways to improve what we do. I never get sick of seeing a bale of beautiful, soft, white and stylish wool, and understanding the wonderful sustainable story behind it. I want all consumers to have the same feeling about the products they buy made from this unique fibre.

How important is Climate Change in your role & what you do?

Are you kidding?? After the past 2 years in Australia with record breaking droughts, the worst and most devasting bushfires in our history, and then some of the heaviest, and most damaging storms to hit our shores, you cannot help but appreciate that our climate is changing. Farming will be impacted greatly but farming can also lead the way in showing the world how emissions and chemical residues (for instance) can be reduced and at the same time, improve the environment for future generations. I deal with farming families that go back many generations. They see themselves as custodians of the land – it is just passing through their hands, and they want to leave it for the next generation in a better way than they received it. These are the people that will be our suppliers well into the future and my job is to try partner with them for mutual benefit.

What are you doing to stay positive in this current climate?

Keeping in touch with people – some I have not spoken with for a long time. Looking at new ways of doing things. It is a time to reset many of the “norms” that we had in the past. I’m listening to a lot of music. Not only is it relaxing, it also makes me realise just how many talented people are out there!

Are there any positive books/podcasts that you’re reading/listening to?

I’m not a book/podcast person (maybe I should be), but I get stimulated by talking to others and how they are managing the current situation. There are so many great minds out there, and generally they are super positive in their outlook.

Do you have any upbeat music recommendations?

I love Neil Young, and I’ve been reading about and listening to a lot of Lou Reed lately. I am certain that you would not put either of these guys into the “upbeat” bracket of music genre, but I find them fascinating, great (if somewhat tortured) artists, and are completely unique. They didn’t copy a style….they created their own!! I find that inspiring especially in the current climate when we are thirsty for new ideas.

Any favourite recipes/ comfort food dishes you can recommend?

I love cooking a good BBQ as long as I have a beer or a glass of red in my hand as I perform the “tong master” duties. Otherwise, any type of curry, or a roast leg of lamb with gravy.

Have you discovered anything new about yourself during this period of isolation?

I am struggling working from home, so I guess I realise I do like the workplace interaction. I’ve realised how much you can take your parents for granted, so I’ve tried to stay in touch with them more often as they are isolated up on their farm. I know they are missing family very much too. And I realise that I’m easily distracted when I have easy access to a fridge full of leftovers!

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