Seeding a Big Business
Big things grow from tiny seeds. Hilberts Hardware is one dynasty that started off small and has kept growing till today. And Sharon Griffiths is proud to share the story of how it grew.
It all started when Grandfather Marten Hilberts started the business to help Sharon’s Uncle with his building company by buying bulk timber and hardware.
He ended up with an excess of supplies and decided to open a small shop front in Hastings Street, Wauchope. It catered to not only the building industry and the home handyman but also the timber logging industry that was thriving in the Wauchope area at the time. That was a wise business move and Hilberts Hardware was born.
Photo Credit: Craig Mason of East Coast Photography
Long, long ago…
And what was Grandfather Marten’s story?
He originated from Holland and he had a peat business back then, supplying fuel for heating and he managed a team of workers in his business. In the 1950s, he decided to immigrate to Australia as the family had lived through the atrocities of the Second World War. Marten wanted his family to live in a country that was free of war and safe. The family settled west of Wauchope in the hinterland and he started work in a timber mill.
The early days of settling in were tough. The family home had a dirt floor, and they did their best to make a new life there. It was not an easy start but here they were safe, and that was what mattered in building up a family in the new country. Sharon’s Dad Max was 14 at that time. He spent about a year in school, then went to work on the railway.
The hardware store has progressed over the years from the small shop front opened by Marten. His son Max eventually started working alongside him and when he took over the business, he doubled the original shop front.
In 1990 Max purchased land across the road and built the two-story shopfront we see today. The dynasty continued when Sharon took over the business some 6 months later after the sudden passing of her father Max.
30 years on, the store has over 10,000 stock lines, and caters not only to builders, handymen, and the logging industry but also has a vast range of gardening tools and equipment, paint, hydraulic fittings, sealants and glues, grease equipment, and products, bearings, V/Belts, pulleys, roller chain, lift jacks, bench grinders, power tools, pneumatic tools, drills, taps and dies, calipers, air inflators and gauges, welding gear, MIG wire, ropes, and even kitchenware and camping gear.
Each generation has taken a part of their business and put in their hard work and efforts to expand it and bring in more products for the community.
Never underestimate the power of starting small. Big things have small beginnings!
Helming the Dynasty
Sharon Griffiths plays many roles and shines in all of them! She is a Business Woman, Councillor, Mother, and Grandmother. Definitely one with a busy schedule but with a clear head on rock-solid shoulders, she is very organised and has learned through the generations to always put her best foot forward and help others along the way.
She is the third generation in the Hilberts Hardware dynasty in Wauchope, and she is proud to celebrate their 50th year in business in 2021.
Hilberts Hardware has come a long way since Sharon’s grandfather started it.
Sharon was born and resided with her family in Newcastle until the age of 15 when her grandfather suffered a heart attack and her Dad Max moved the family to Wauchope to take over the hardware business. This was the catalyst for the continuation of the strong family-run and owned business that has become part of the Wauchope community.
She got into the business at a tender age and while Sharon attended Wauchope High School, she also worked in the hardware shop to help out after school and on the weekends. Once she finished school, she did a one-year stint alongside her father learning the ropes.
One with a spirit for adventure, Sharon packed her backpack and set off travelling around Europe, the US and Canada for 5 months. She thoroughly enjoyed every minute and soaked up all the experiences.
When she returned home to Wauchope, she landed a job at the Department of Education, then with a local accountancy firm. Whilst working for the accountancy firm, she started up a business with her husband Jeff Griffiths. It was a tractor wrecking business, and Griffiths Traders is still a thriving business run today by Jeff’s family. Not long after, she left the accountancy firm to work for Kempsey Timbers ( known today as Australian Solar Timbers ) as their office administrator and bookkeeper. Sharon helped that business to grow and devised a very successful bonus incentive scheme for their employees.
In 1991, after the sudden passing of Sharon’s father Max, she returned to the family business and took over the helm, further expanding the business and becoming a very successful businesswoman in her own right.
When asked how she succeeded in a man’s world, dealing with log fallers, farmers, heavy haulage drivers, builders and the like, she chuckled and said... ”I think I've educated them over time, they know that if they're going to ask me a question, I'm probably going to give them the answer, or I will find the answer promptly.”
The invaluable knowledge gained from working alongside her grandfather and father through the years since she was young prepared her well to deal with business and challenges her working environment brought her. Sharon also learned to be humble enough to realise she always had the option to research and ask if she did not know something, and this is a special touch that her customers appreciate. Her customers are never left hanging - if she did not know, she would source for the product and find an answer for the customer.
Taking Pride in the Dynasty
It has always been important for Sharon to keep the dynasty going. She believes there is a need in the community for a business like Hilberts Hardware. It is unique, and she is positive that if it disappeared off the business footprint in Wauchope, people would notice.
It is a constant in the lives of many and has brought the community many conveniences. There are so many products that you do not generally see on the shelf in most stores.
Often items that have a slow turnover and therefore not stocked by other shops can be found in Hilberts Hardware. That shows them as a heavyweight in the industry - they are not worried about a fast turnover. It is more important to them to supply what the customer wants.
Keeping the Community Close
The community is something that is close to her heart, and Sharon became a Councillor on the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council over eight years ago. She has served 2 terms and is considering running for a third. It was a male-dominated field at the time, but Sharon saw a need to step in and take pride in what she has to offer. She feared a loss of community and felt the need to bring about locations or interconnections where people could meet and actually connect.
Sharon saw infinite possibilities in bringing a community close - people could gather in a park to talk over beautification works, or involve community groups and activating people to get together to enable volunteering or they could even establish more local events to draw visitation to the area.
Contributing to the Community
Being open and approachable meant that if a member of the community had an idea to do something in their community, they found it easy to go to Sharon and she is always ready to help in any way she can. Sharon believes that if someone is willing to do the work and put it all together, it should be encouraged. Sometimes all they need is some support and help so they have the correct information to help put their ideas into action.
Potholes were another reason why Sharon became a Councillor. She saw a need to fix the potholes, a big point in case a little over 8 years ago. She was very concerned about the Council´s financial future and believed that her accountancy and business administration background would be an asset.
One way Sharon believes she has helped the PMHC finances is the inception of the Waste Incentive Scheme. This scheme has allowed both the Council and residents to actually save money while doing something good for the environment.
How the scheme works is this - residents are offered a discount on their waste charges if they choose a particular bin, and there are three sizes to choose from. Council also saves in the long run by minimizing the waste that goes into landfills. This means that the landfill area does not need to be expanded, so there is no new acquisition of land. This means saving dollars and future capital expenses.
Sharon has got so much energy, ideas and drive that simply being a successful business owner and a voice for the Port Macquarie/Hastings community as a Councillor is not enough for her. Sharon has furthered her education and has become a Certified Basix Assessor. Having an interest in the building industry and especially home energy efficiency (she does not like waste), Sharon has a desire to help new home builders to save energy. She believes her help will lead to the energy efficiency of the home and in the long run, save the homeowner money by using less power to run their dwelling.
Beyond the community, these schemes and plans that Sharon is introducing are helping the environment. Every bit of effort counts to making a change for the planet.
It may sound like Sharon is busy all the time with business and community. She keeps a balance in her personal life with her strong family values and taking care of her health by going to the gym at least once a week. She also loves walking and going to the beach. She is health-conscious and so she watches what she eats, but can be found eating a works burger or a large bowl of pasta and she does allow herself to give in to the chocolate temptation on a regular basis! After all, she works hard and a little treat or two is a happy way to pamper herself after a long day!
CONTACT HILBERTS HARDWARE
t/ +612 65 852 400
a/ 43-45 Hastings St, Wauchope, NSW, Australia
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