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Business Of The Month - Sunny's Place


Matt Sun spent 5 years in the Australian Army, before putting himself through Uni to become a teacher. Although settling originally in the Newcastle area, the Afghanistan veteran and his wife Mel's ultimate goal was to find their dream acreage in the country.



Matt's time teaching exposed him to students whose backgrounds and challenges were impacting their potential. He had also experienced his fair share of former military colleagues who struggled with their mental health.


So finding a property that not only provided the right environment for his family, but one that might offer refuge for those seeking an escape from the pressures of daily life became very attractive.


2 years later, Matt and Mel have made more than just a home for them and their 3 children ... their 38 acre property at Coolongolook, 3 hours north of Sydney, provides a base from which they deliver programs and experiences for a broad range of disadvantaged groups.


Combining business with pleasure ... Mel and her extended family who call Sunny's Place home.

Besides Veterans, Sunny's Place has been established as a place that people with disabilities, At Promise Youth, or other community groups can utilise for a variety of reasons.


Through a range of farm-based activities, Sunny's Place programs are designed to help develop an individual's autonomy, self confidence, and resilience, whilst promoting health and well-being.


Proof of the benefits that Matt and Mel are providing can be seen in the feedback received from participants, particularly the parents of children who spend time at Sunny's Place.


"Oh my goodness Matt, the kids couldn't stop talking last night when I got home from work about their day ... so amAzing! Loved the photos; just the smile particularly on my daughter's face was so beautiful (she used to smile a lot, now not as much). Made me very teary hearing all about it and how connected she felt in such a short amount of time. What you do is so important to their lives and I can't thank you enough."


InnoClub Entrepreneur Program Manager, Tim Lewis, spoke with Matt to learn more about what him and Mel have created ... their home otherwise known as Sunny's Place.


 

Tim: Tell us a little about Sunny's Place; what was your motivation for starting the business?


Matt: My wife Mel and I had always wanted our own piece of paradise in the country. When we were able to realise that dream with the purchase of a property on the NSW North Coast at Coolongolook, we saw an opportunity to combine our home with a desire to help others less fortunate.


Sunny's Place was born. We offer an environment dedicated to empowering People with Disabilities, Veterans, First Responders, At-Promise Youths, and many other disadvantaged community groups .


Our aim is to support and enhance the wellness of our visitors and increase their capacity to reach their potential and lead fulfilling lives. Interaction varies ... from formal programs to just walking our lush green acres, watching our working dogs do their thing or begging for a scratch, or interacting with our horses and cows.



Tim: Does your business retain any special connection to the ADF / First Responder communities?


Matt: Having served 5 years in the Army and deploying to Afghanistan gives us insight into understanding and connecting with ADF/First responder communities. That's not just awareness of the impact on the person wearing the uniform, but equally, their partners and family. Their sacrifices are rarely acknowledged by the media or Australian public, which is why we want to provide a space for the entire family unit.


We have also developed a strong relationship with our local Nabiac RSL sub-branch, where I'm a member, and are slowly broadening our reach to the wider veteran community and their families.


I still have mates serving at my old unit, a sister serving in the Air Force and another in the Navy ... so overall we definitely remain connected with current serving members on a personal level, but keen to connect to more.


Army Veteran, Nabiac RSL Sub Branch member and owner of Sunny's Place, Matt Sun.

Tim: What was the "moment" that led to starting the business?


Matt: There were a number of contributing factors that fuelled the idea of our company. Knowing first-hand the challenges that service personnel can face from domestic or international service was convincing motivation for us to start our service.


Like many veterans, I've lost mates to suicide. The ‘moment’ that led to the start-up was when I realised that nothing would change unless I accepted the risk and took action myself.



Tim: What's your single biggest business challenge today?


Matt: Our single biggest business challenge today is understanding the need and demand for our service in the community. And because we've self funded everything to get to where we are so far, not having the capability/resources to improve our facilities to increase our capacity to support more people. We want to help and support as many as we can.



Tim: What's been your single biggest success?


Matt: I would say that being able to start supporting vulnerable groups within our community in such a short period of operation, that I envisioned taking years is definitely something that we take great pride in.



Tim: What's a favourite mantra that keeps you going?


Matt: If we can save just one life we have won, but we will not settle for just one.



Skip is one of the working dogs at Sunny’s Place, providing demonstrations (and cuddles) for program participants.

Tim: What advice could you offer other Veterans / First Responders thinking of starting their own business?


Matt: Sometimes you have to build the plane as you fly!

 

To find out more about the services and programs that Matt offers at Sunny's Place, click here to view their Facebook page.


We love giving Veteran and First Responder businesses a free plug. Get in touch and tell us who we should be catching up with next month. And feel free to put your own business forward!


And don't forget to subscribe.



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