After three years, business owner Melanie Argent can safely say that she’s in the mix in Port Hedland — professionally and personally.
The mother of two moved to Port Hedland with her husband and children from Albany, deciding to end the fly, in-fly, out lifestyle they had known for many years and “be together as a family full time”.
It is a decision that made sense for Melanie and Brendan, who has worked in Port Hedland for eight years, and their children — who certainly enjoy having both parents together all the time.
Melanie grew up on the family farm in Lake Grace and before Albany she and Brendan travelled extensively, spending two years in Britain and visiting about 25 countries.
A trip to London to see family is the first priority when international travel is possible.
For now, though, as it has been for most of the time Melanie has been in Port Hedland, the focus is on her family and building up her business, In The Mix, which specialises in eco-friendly products, natural skincare, and health foods.
Melanie and the business have benefited from assistance from the Port Hedland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which encouraged her to move from a home-based operation into a commercial space.
The timing was right: Melanie had spent the first few months after buying the business refining the product mix and refreshing the brand.
“In May 2020, to stimulate the local economy post-lock down, BHP donated a building known as The Bungalow to the Port Hedland Chamber of Commerce to use in a way that helps small businesses move from home operations,” Melanie said.
“I was offered use of the space and jumped at the chance.”
Melanie led the way and contacted other small business owners she worked with closely during her time at the markets in Port Hedland. As a result, by August 2020 the five businesses had opened a collective retail space in two rooms at The Bungalow in the town centre.
She said the business had experienced unprecedented sales growth since making the move.
“As a result of this growth, I have gone into my own commercial space which is an epic achievement in 10 months,” Melanie said.
“In the first year of trade I expanded the product range by 30 per cent. Consistent growth throughout 2020 has enabled me to grow the range by a further 150 per cent and I now stock over 550 products.
“I need to regularly remind myself of the achievements I have accomplished in less than three years of ownership.”
Melanie rates being able to be with her husband and children together and the lifestyle as among the benefits of Port Hedland.
“To be honest, I didn’t get to feel the real community vibe until I had lived here for a year,” she said.
“I have lived in many places including overseas and here was a little bit challenging, being quite transient at the time.
“After a year, it all just seemed to slot in and really feel like home. I have always loved the sunsets here. They are absolutely stunning. We love the lifestyle, I love being with my family and spending my very limited free time with them and close friends.
“Until you’re physically here, you really don’t understand its beauty and opportunities.
“Most people come here with a two-year plan; they generally always stay longer. Even we came with a five-year plan, but I don’t see us leaving in a year-and-half.
“I feel this explains Port Hedland; it’s not all about mining. There truly are some hidden gems if you want to find them.”
For Melanie and the family, that includes winter camping somewhere secluded with a small beach, rock and reef walks and watching the “ever-stunning” sunsets, and in the summer sneaking out early in the morning for beach walks and cold, refreshing drinks at sunset.
She is confident about the future of town, citing changes in the West End, and Port Hedland’s ability to grow and “better itself”.
“I believe we can all make it spectacular,” she said.
The downside is a lack of spaces available for daycare and after school activities.
“With the amount if people who have relocated, the groups fill so fast it’s often hard to get into anything,” she said.
“Daycare needs qualified carers to be able to take in more children. Waitlists are between 12 months to two years. I believe that it’s something that needs to be focussed on with more families arriving weekly.”
But for Melanie and her family, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. “Port Hedland is absolutely stunning if you have a moment to appreciate it.”
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