Raquel Stevens

There is a saying, ‘coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress and working together is success.’  Brendan Hutchinson and Troy Daff are living proof this exists.

The Dynamic duo own Daylesford Country Retreats, and they recently shared their secret to a thriving business and harmonious marriage.

Let’s start from the very beginning, what brought you to Daylesford?

Brendan: About 10 years ago we bought a little cottage in Hepburn Springs called Viola. We renovated it and put it on the short term rental market, but it was also our weekend away.

We lived in Footscray at the time, and we were coming up most weekends and I think Troy said to me after a while, ‘what if we switched it around?’ So long story short, we did.

What’s the transition been like?

Troy: No regrets

Brendan: No regrets and Daylesford’s been really good to us.

How did you come up with the concept of accommodation as a business?

Brendan: We fell into it because we were doing accommodation at our own home, just one room.

Troy:  I was working at Larder in town and a couple of our friends had accommodation up here and one thing led to another, and it just grew.

In the 10 years, what’s the growth been like?

Brendan: I think at the beginning of the first year, we had about nine properties. I think by year two, it was about 33.

Troy, describe Brendan’s role in the business.

Troy:  Brendan’s role in the business is marketing, and he’s more of a planner. He oversees what’s going on into the future.

Brendan, what is Troy’s role in the business?

Brendan: Troy’s really like the operations manager. Day to day, he’s great with the owners.

You live together, your partners in crime, and then you’re running a business. What makes it work?

Brendan: Patience and forgiveness. But I think we’ve got our separate roles. We’ve got to go out and have fun as well. It’s important to have time off. When you’re running your own business, it’s 24 seven.

What’s been the strangest request from a guest?

Troy: Generally it’s pretty good. We’ve had people contact us late at night asking if we could come and kill a spider, which I’ve found really weird being up in the country, but people just don’t cope with spiders.

Any other weird requests?

Brendan: Probably the funniest thing is that we’ve got a property called Giraffe Manor and the owner has a few pictures of giraffes around and a few little giraffe things in the garden and inside. So we’ve had two bookings now and then people have sent us a message and asked us where they can see the giraffes. There is a property called Giraffe Manor apparently in South Africa.

Troy:  And one of these guests also said, ‘how far is it to the elephants and can we see the elephants?’ And each time we’ve said, ‘you know, this is Daylesford, Victoria.’

What do you love about Daylesford?

Troy: I love the fact that it’s still quite a busy town. There’s still a lot going on in it. I love the fact that where we live in East Street, we’ve still got farmland on the other side, which is really nice. Everybody knows each other. It’s also a good food scene, which I really love.

Brendan: In the business we’ve created, we’ve got to meet a lot of great people.  And we love real estate. We love to see what people do with their properties. But overall, It’s the people.

Is there something in Daylesford that needs improvement?

Troy:  I think it’s lacking identity a little bit. I think it’s living on the fact that people think it’s a real spa region, which it’s not really. It’s so much more. I think a total rebrand.

Brendan:  I totally agree with Troy’s point about the spa and the wellness. It needs a revamp. There’s so many other areas, Warrnambool, Mornington, that do the spa scene really well. Also the main street, Daylesford’s beautiful, but the main street just feels a bit drab and it would be great if it could be lifted.

And what’s your reaction to the 7.5% tax on holiday rentals that Daniel Andrews left as a parting gift?

Brendan: Dan’s tax on family holidays, I call it. It’s interesting, only 18 months ago, after the pandemic, they’re handing out vouchers to encourage people to travel to country Victoria. All anybody wanted to do was to get out of the city and come away with their families to regional locations across Victoria. Now they’re just going to make that more expensive. It’s a real tax on the family holiday.

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Brendan: I’d fly. I could be, ‘oh, let’s go to Sydney for lunch or let’s go to New York for the weekend.’

Troy: I’d just like to stop all the issues going on in the world at the moment, to be honest.

You’d like to hit a pause button?

Troy: Yeah. I’d like to stop the issues and just help people live a normal life, which luckily, we’re fortunate enough to, but a lot of people aren’t these days. I feel guilty. I sort of feel like, ‘oh, I’m having a nice dinner in a restaurant.’

On a lighter moment, what’s on your bedside right now?

Brendan: Tissues. Actually, I bought a book at the National Gallery of New South Wales. I haven’t opened it yet. It’s about Indigenous Scientists and Astronomers.

Troy: Brendan bought me a book, Leigh Sales, ‘Storytellers.’ Which I haven’t read yet.

It’s 3am, what’s on your mind?

Brendan:  Just sleep through. I guess if I wake up, it might be business related stuff.

Troy: 4am. I’m awake a bit. I usually think, right, I need to get this done. Then there’s the 5am club.

What’s that?

Troy: It’s an app, ‘Blinklist,’ that you pay for. It summarizes about 20 books in 15 minutes. It’s basically read smarter, not harder.

Brendan: When I’m driving to Albury to visit the family in the car, I do a Blinklist. We’re listening to one about the 5am club. All these people who are really successful have one thing in common, they get up really early because they have two or three hours of uninterrupted time to be productive and focus.

Now the 64 million dollar question. If you won tattslotto, what would you do?

Brendan: I’d give half away to friend and family, then to charities we believe in.

There’s still 30 million left.

Brendan: Probably have a couple of houses in other parts of the world.

Troy: I think we’d keep the business, but probably have more people in it so we can have more time to travel. We’d also have a villa in Bali.

What’s the best advice you have been given?

Brendan:  My brother-in-law, Michael, gave me some really good advice in my early thirties. I was going to Morocco and Egypt and I was going on my own. He said to me, ‘there’s lots of people in the world to rip you off, but not that many people who want to hurt you. So think about that when you’re travelling and go out there, take it in and enjoy it.

Troy: Treat people the way you want to be treated and have that sort of standard.

What does Troy never say no to?

Brendan: Everyone. Also a glass of wine.

Troy, what does Brendan never say no to?

Troy: Anything to do with football. Collingwood.

Troy’s idea of a good time is?

Brendan: Going away with good friends and a bottle of wine. Starts with white, moves to red.  (laughs)

Brendan’s idea of a good time is?

Troy: To be in the moment. Enjoy what you’ve got when you’re there.

What’s next on your dance card?

Brendan: Some dancing, actually. I’m going to a wedding on the weekend.

Troy: Travel’s always on the agenda. Maybe Malta next year.

If you were a hashtag, what would you be?

Troy:  #GoodListener.

Brendan:  #YouOnlyLiveOnce.

Life is not a dress rehearsal, absolutely not.  It’s been a delight chatting with you both.  Keep dancing, keep travelling and keep delighting visitors to Daylesford with your exceptional holiday properties. www.daylesfordcountryretreats.com.au

Tune into the full interview with Brendan and Troy.


Raquel Stevens is a former Network Ten News Journalist. She has been a part time local for more than 25 years, and one day hopes to be a full time local.