Jennifer and Cameron Furness are celebrating their Caltex Star Mart's first birthday.
Jennifer and Cameron Furness are celebrating their Caltex Star Mart's first birthday. Emma Boughen

Couple celebrate the first 12 months of new venture

ASK any small business owner about the hardest days of running a business and they'll probably tell you it's the first 12 months.

So the first birthday of Cameron and Jennifer Furness' Caltex Star Mart franchise is certainly cause for celebration.

One year ago on May 1, the couple opened the doors to their New England Hwy service station for the first time.

"At the time Cameron was working night shifts with Tip Top and we didn't have much of a family life," Jennifer said.

For three years Cameron worked shift work, and weekends, catching up on sleep during what little together-time the family of four had.

"It was just hard for a young family ... we were looking around for another job when we saw that Caltex was looking to turn this into a franchise," Jennifer said.

Prior to starting with Caltex, Cameron had 25 years of retail experience under his belt including 22 years at Woolworths.

While Jennifer worked in administration at Granite Belt Diagnostic Imaging and continues her job one day a week at Southern Downs Medical.

"He's the retail brain and I'm the admin side of things - it works really well … kind of," Jennifer joked,

"We're able to work our business around our family lives."

To ensure their customer service remains at a top level, the Star Mart is mystery shopped twice a month.

So far this year almost all of their scores have sat above 90%.

"Entering into the business was a daunting prospect but Caltex training is really second to none," Jennifer said.

"I don't stress much, that's Cam's job."

Jennifer said the past year had run relatively smoothly, with the pair proud to say they've increased sales.

"We kept on two of the staff from the previous owner, and they were great, whatever we didn't know, they did," Jennifer said.

"We've exceeded our own expectations."

The Star Mart stocks local produce from Lancubas, Foxy's, Action Graphics, Kent Saddlery, Ice from Stanthorpe Aerated Waters, meat from Stanthorpe Quality Meats, Pittsworth confectionary and Tenterfield eggs.

"It's the little things that meant the most to people," Jennifer said.

"My mum still remembers getting a free coffee from the owners before us and I hope that we might still have that small impact on people's days."

The Caltex also sponsors the Seniors Carlton Football Club, and Stanthorpe Naval Cadets and raised almost $1000 for the Make A Wish Foundation last year.

On May 29 the service station will host a first birthday celebration with driveway service including a hand carwash and hand fuelling on top of a sausage sizzle between 10 am and 2pm.

"We also have $250 worth of Star cash to give away - they'll be giving out $25 every hour over the day," Jennifer said.

Stanthorpe Border Post

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