Yvonne Bradley knows more than most how tough owning your own business can be.
She and husband Neil turned their backs on the comforts of city life to throw everything into setting up a seafood business in the far reaches of the Northern Territory.
“I went from a house to a tent, from electricity to candlelight, from a four-poster bed to a swag," she said.
Bradley, 51, and Neil, 52, met in Rockhampton where Bradley was a singer and bird breeder and Neil was a mobile bush mechanic.
In 1994, they spent their honeymoon travelling and fishing in the territory when they found the home of their future business, Bradley Seafood. Just 50 kilometres upstream from the Gulf of Carpentaria, the remote town of Borroloola boasted plentiful fishing and the promise of a new beginning.
It was 1200 kilometres from Darwin and 120 kilometres from the nearest post office – a major hurdle in the days before internet banking took hold.
But Bradley saw potential and the pair decided to sell everything they owned to set up shop.
“We were tired of the city way of life (in Rockhampton) and my husband hates traffic lights," she said.
“So we asked the traditional owners if we could fish there and everything just evolved from there.
“We had a tent and a shed, but we managed over the years. For years I cooked over the fire, which was going day and night.
“I nearly gave birth to my first daughter in that tent. We had to drive 850 kilometres to the nearest doctor. But that's another story!”
The couple lived in their tent for two years as part of a trial to see whether they liked the area. The tiny town, which boasts just 750 residents, grew on them and they decided to build a tin shed home and set up a caravan as an office and their children’s school.
I went from a house to a tent, from electricity to candlelight, from a four-poster bed to a swag.
Initially operating as contractors, the couple set up crabbing pots along the Wearyan River.
They eventually secured their own licence, allowing them to bait their own pots and sell their own produce to Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.
Hell or high water
They now collect an average of 300 kilograms of mudcrab every week and their catch is transported to Darwin each week, come hell or high water.
And high water comes to Borroloola three months of the year. During the wet season, the Bradleys are forced to shift their precious crabs by boat.
Combined with temperatures of up to 49 degrees, a thriving feral animal population, croc-infested waters and the ever-present isolation, the going frequently gets tough.
“It's trying, but the way I look at it is there are people in much worse situations than I'm in," Bradley said.
“We're better off than a lot of people and we've got our own power."
The campfire days ended in 1998 when the couple installed solar and wind power to their home and office.
Things advanced even further when Bradley trained herself in bookkeeping after the business became computerised three years ago.
“I never knew anything about accounting and the mail always took a month to come, so it wasn't until we bought computers that we started internet banking and I did MYOB training," she said.
“We don't feel so isolated now because of the technology.”
The Bradley's four children – Jessika, 17, Ellie-Mae, 16, Tom, 14 and Pamela, 13 – grew up learning the tools of the crabbing trade.
“They love the fishing, they're always on the boat and they go camping all the time," Bradley said.
“Our kids aren't wrapped up in cotton wool. They know where their food comes from and we instilled work ethics in them.”
The Bradley children also make up part of the family band Crabclaws, which performs for visiting tourists.
Her biggest challenge
Of all the difficulties Bradley has faced, home-schooling her children for the past 14 years has been the most testing.
“I missed a lot of education because I had to stay home and look after my 10 brothers and sisters, so I had to teach myself so I could teach my children," she said.
Bradley hit the books and completed a Certificate III in Education Support. The dedicated teacher often travelled 850 kilometres to Katherine so her children could compete in swimming competitions.
“Teaching has been my biggest challenge, but like I told my kids, there's always reward after hard work," Bradley said.
And hard work has paid off for Bradley, who recently won an Ethnic Business Award in the Indigenous in Business category.
The accolade sits alongside the Business Owner Award Bradley won as part of the Northern Territory Telstra Business Women's Award in 2009.
The Bradleys now plan on expanding their thriving seafood business and exploring the possibilities of making their own packaging and distributing overseas.
Neil is training for his pilot's licence, which would allow the family to fly their catch to Darwin and their son Tom is undertaking his maritime apprenticeship with the family business.
As the business grows, the family will consider employing deckhands and labourers but Bradley says they would have to like seafood and the outback lifestyle.
Bradley also hopes to release an autobiographical book titled Crocs, Crabs and Catastrophes in the new year.
Looking back on how far her honeymoon dream has come, Bradley said there had been many daunting challenges.
“My motto is, “Improvise, Adapt and Overcome”,” she said.