Darrell Weekes’s worldly business experience is helping drive his aggressive agenda as president of Goulburn Chamber of Commerce. From a family of Goulburn small business owners and operators, he has built and re-built successful enterprises nationally and abroad.
After a 30-year absence, Darrell returned to Goulburn several years ago from Caringbah, in Sydney’s south, where he lived with his family after his father, Joe – who founded Mick and Joe’s Discount Tyres – contracted mesothelioma, which is asbestos in the lungs.
The condition stemmed from an earlier period when Joe worked for a tyre manufacturer. He died in 2017.
Becoming settled with his family in Goulburn, Darrell now sees more of his brother, the founder of Chris Weekes Motorcycles.
When the Weekes first came to Goulburn from Caringbah, they found the NBN service was faster than at their previous place, and that the local hospital’s care is first rate and more accessible than in Sydney.
“In Sydney, they don’t have the infrastructure we have per capita [in Goulburn],” says Darrell. “I think sometimes a lot of Goulburn people forget that. We are a little bit spoilt here.
“The cost of living here is so much less than what it is in Sydney. It’s extraordinary. I don’t have to run at the same pace I did in Sydney to make the money to keep the business going and pay the kids’ school fees.”
Earlier in his business career, two unexpected blows to enterprises in which he invested all his energy and nous were significant in broadening his skills. The first came while working for Crookwell-born John Symond, who Darrell says did not have two bob to rub together when he established Aussie Home Loans.
Darrell helped establish Aussie Home Loans from scratch in Canberra in 1993. That went so well he was invited to do the same in Melbourne with his wife, Wendy. Later, after what he describes as a ‘robust’ conversation with Mr Symond, they went their separate ways. He learned the maxim: unless your name is on the door, you are just an employee.
Darrell worked for AMP Bank then founded ProMortgage in Canberra, before selling that and starting another business teaching mortgage brokers how to build a business, which expanded into real estate and general business.
“That morphed into a speaking business, travelling the world speaking to thousands of people about how to build a business without any money,” he says.
The global financial crisis (GFC) struck in 2008, slicing his 45 speaking engagements for the year to just seven. Entire conferences were shut down, and the speaking bureau dropped his $7000-an-hour fee to $2000, from which he had to pay accommodation and travel.
Following the GFC, Darrell created a new client and retention program while consulting for Attache Software, which led to a six-year tenure. Growing tired of that, he began his own business, Purple Thread Marketing, in 2014.
He and Wendy also operate a defibrillator distribution business.
Centered on LinkedIn, Purple Thread Marketing had its best year in 2020, signing clients in countries ravaged by COVID-19, including the UK and US. Darrell also took on more clients from Canada, New Zealand and within Australia.
As Goulburn Chamber of Commerce president Darrell is not waiting to be invited to events.
The chamber is donating and presenting trophies to community groups. It won a $3000 NSW Government arts grant which funded Tina Milson’s photographs, which were subsequently used to dress up display windows in Auburn Street’s empty shops.
Darrell wants a stronger relationship between the chamber and Goulburn Mulwaree Council, and regularly has lunch with Mayor Bob Kirk.
He says laminated glass manufacturer Dragon Glass, vacuum truck manufacturer Vacvator, earth-moving and bulk haulage company Divall’s, Tribe Breweries and Gunlake Quarries will be at the forefront of Goulburn’s growth. He has a global perspective on business opportunities for Goulburn in the high-end intellectual property sector, which attracts a premium price.
Darrell believes Goulburn’s proximity to Wakefield Park and Pheasant Wood Circuit at Marulan – which has plans for a $40 million expansion – should be leveraged more.
“Sydney Motorsport Park [at Eastern Creek] sits on land far more valuable now as part of the transport corridor,” he says. “Having land tied up as a motorsport park is now starting to prove, like Oran Park and Amaroo, more valuable as something else.
“We have an opportunity to position Goulburn as a motorsport high-tech centre, where we could attract electronic work, robotics, wheels, suspensions, steering – the kind of stuff that overseas motorsport companies pay big money for.”