Small Business

Native talent – how Jumbana Group took to the skies

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Meet the couple who painted two Qantas 747s with Aboriginal motifs – the Jumbana Group’s Ros and John Moriarty. To share how they turned a dream into the country’s leading indigenous design and strategy company, they join Peter Switzer on Sky News Business Channel’s SWITZER.

Merging talents

While John started out his career playing for the Socceroos in the 60s – and gaining fame as the first indigenous player to make the team – his creative talents were unleashed when he met wife Ros.

“We were just thrown together when I married Ros. We had these ideas and we said let’s put this philosophy of getting our work and design out to the Australians and the world,” says John.

And, while they each share their own respective skills within the business – John being the more creative soul and Ros honed into marketing and strategy – Ros admits that building the business means wearing many hats.

“I think we’re typical of small businesses. We have to be multi-skilled. We’ve been going 26 years now and we’ve got a team of very talented people around us as well so we develop work and we market that for a whole range of things now across the country,” says Ros.

The Jumbana Group’s success skyrocketed when they forged a relationship with Qantas, which has since developed into a long-term alliance.

“We have a number of business entities, one of which is Balarinji Studio, which is the studio which created the Qantas aircraft that we’re well-known for, as well as Qantas uniforms,” says Ros. “It’s lovely to have a really long-term relationship with a major company like Qantas.” 

In the dreamtime

Remarkably, Jumbana’s relationship with Qantas started with a dream.

“About 2 o’clock one morning, Ros woke me up and she said, ‘We’ve got to paint a Qantas plane’. I said, ‘Go back to sleep. Qantas is a public service organisation and it would be very difficult to get things through’,” recalls John.

Upon wakening, the couple realised how easily the idea translated to their larger dream within the business.

“Our dream – and we were very much about a dream – it became a business but it was always a philosophy. It was a dream to celebrate the identity of our children, which eventually became something for Australia to celebrate with its identity,” she says. “We needed something really strong and bright and big out there to talk about our vision and it became the aircraft.” 

Brand alignment

And, while a challenging prospect, Jumbana was certain it had to be Qantas.

“We’d been thinking about branding. Qantas was the iconic Australian brand,” says Ros. “You’d see that white kangaroo on the red tail on the tarmac and it made you feel fantastic about Australia.”

Though it took 18 months to convince Qantas, an agreement was made – and, on Qantas’ part, it was arranged to coincide with the opening of the new Osaka airport.

“We ended up racing Ansett to coincide with the opening of the new Osaka airport,” says Ros. In fact, it was planned to fly out half an hour before Ansett’s inaugural flight to Osaka airport.

“It was the global opening of the massive airport built out into the sea so we knew the world media would be gathered,” she says.

Since the unveiling of the plane, Jumbana Group has benefited from the slew of publicity and an increase in the appreciation of Aboriginal art.

“Some of our clients we are helping to look more deeply into how they identify as Australian companies and what that really means to us as a nation of Australians,” says Ros. “We’ve been lucky to have a breadth of activities and because it’s always been a philosophy and stayed a dream, I think it’s been a great journey too.”

Check out Peter Switzer’s SWITZER on Sky News Business Channel, Monday to Thursday from 7pm.

And, if you’re looking to work on your business rather than being stuck in it, book in for a complimentary business assessment today with Switzer Business Coaching.

Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

Published on: Wednesday, September 15, 2010

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