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New business adds element of surprise

A Baranduda mother-of-two has opened a one-stop-shop in Wodonga for the Australian Defence Force, first responders, and outdoor enthusiasts.

Creating the business during an 18-month journey with stage three bowel cancer, Yolande Fleming worked little by little on her side project that is now known as Force Element.

“I slowly built this business to support my family should the worst outcome occur,” she said.

“Thankfully I am on the other end of it now.”

Once the doctors gave Yolande a clean bill of health, she hit the ground running to open the store, which is in the former Washington Cyclisme Bicycle Store at 4/4 Thomas Mitchell Drive.

The business stocks a range of specialist tactical gear and equipment for the military, first responders and outdoor enthusiasts, including footwear, cooking items, medical equipment, sleeping gear and everyday clothing and accessories.

Yolande’s family have a military background and she is a former defence school mentor at Baranduda Primary School.

“Our main customer base is the Australian Defence Force and we sell products that are military-approved but not issued to our members,” she said.

“Through the journey, we have also been able to identify the needs of first responders, which are very similar, and outdoor enthusiasts.

“When people come into the store they are surprised by the amount of stock we carry and the variety.”

When Yolande is not at the shop, she can be found juggling other commitments including contact work as a sleep consultant at the Wodonga Sleep Clinic.

One of the services she provides is opening outside of business hours.

“There was a little school camper who was leaving for camp the next morning and required a head torch last minute, so I was able to come down and assist with that request,” she said.

“People are starting to realise that my hours don’t always suit everyone’s needs so they are actually reaching out by the phone and requesting these appointments, which is great.”

Yolande said some of the products for sale needed to be seen first-hand.

“Our defence force members like to see, feel and touch,” she said.

“There’s also nothing worse than ordering a product, waiting for a few weeks, finding out it doesn’t fit and then sending it back for a refund.

“It’s great to provide our customers with products on the spot and give them the customer service that comes along with it.”

While searching for a business location, Yolande took into account many factors, including rent and accessibility.

“This location is perfect because it’s close to the centre of town, rent is ideal and we have great street exposure here and the business has got the town talking,” she said.

“We took over from Washo’s bicycle store so we did a full paint job, replaced flooring and put up slat wall panels.

“We managed to source all our products through businesses that were either closed or closing down, so we recycled everything.

“We are working on building our stock, we have room to grow.”

The business is open Tuesday to Friday from 11.30am to 5.30pm, as well as Saturdays at certain times of the year.

To make an appointment outside of business hours, phone Yolande on 0481 311 422.

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Wodonga Council acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the First Peoples of the Country. We also acknowledge them as Traditional Owners and Custodians across various lands. We pay our respect to their Ancestors, Elders, children and young people. We acknowledge the strength and resilience of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and recognise their continuous connections to lands, waters and communities across the country.