It takes courage to open a new business during a global pandemic however for some Central Geelong business operators, that’s exactly what they have done! Some of the newest business operators were well on the way to realising their dreams to open their own business when the challenges of coronavirus hit and have had to adapt their brand-new businesses to changed trading conditions and restrictions imposed to reduce the spread and help keep the community safe.
Traditional launch events to celebrate the opening with family and friends, supporters and local media had to be shelved or adapted while many had excited new staff looking forward to starting work and have had to delay their start or train staff in new service and delivery models.
A Natural Bunch opened their gorgeous new store in James St on 2 April when many of their neighbouring businesses were shut. With reduced passing traffic due to coronavirus, the store opened with customers able to select and order products online and with a totally contactless delivery system. They offer DIY Terrarium kits, potted colour and a range of bouquets for all occasions and worked hard to promote their business online in the lead up to Mother’s Day.
For Central Geelong businesses, the 30,000+ people who work in Central Geelong form a large part of their regular customer base. With social distancing measures and the change to working from home for many of Central Geelong’s large office workforces including WorkSafe, TAC, NDIA, City of Greater Geelong, Barwon Water, Deakin University and The Gordon, the numbers of workers and students moving through the city each day reduced dramatically.
Restaurants and cafes were not able to offer their traditional dine in options, many retailers or service providers were either directed to close, closed in response to the impact of the reduced number of customers or chose to close and moved their business to an online model to protect their customers and staff. For existing businesses that had established strong digital customer bases, they have been able to continue to communicate with customers about how their business has adapted and offer new ways to service their customers through the pandemic.
For a new business that had yet to establish their customer base, the going has been even tougher as they try to attract new customers in a busy online market.
Foreverness Bridal opened in Moorabool St in February and have adapted their traditional bridal dress offering to a new Bridal Live Appointment – livestreaming real time appointments to important family and friends. This allows others to see every dress the bride tries on, chat and share their thoughts and be a part of the excitement when the bride says ‘Yes-To-The-Dress’.
Even the products and services the new businesses had planned to offer have had to adapt. Without the ability to dine in, new restaurants and cafes have had to look at take away options with online ordering, contactless payment and delivery or pick up options.
Stacked Pancake and Dessert Bar opened 14 May in Yarra Street. Due to the current restrictions, the store isn’t quite ready to serve up dine-in pancakes however they do have cakes, chocolate mousse, jar cakes, macarons, puddings and cheesecakes available for take away collection. They are also offering free delivery across Geelong with next day delivery for cake orders placed by 2pm. The dessert and cake cabinet is full of delicious options and they can’t wait until they can start serving up pancakes in store.
Parma Bar, right next door to Stacked, opened 4 March with take-away options offering kerbside collection and delivery to satisfy all your Parma needs.
New professional service businesses have had to move to online consulting and are providing virtual consultations through online platforms like Zoom, Skype or Teams. Health providers have embraced Telehealth options and are servicing the health needs of their clients including physiotherapy and psychology in the comfort of their own homes.
Traditional marketing plans have had to be reimagined. In store promotions have been adapted to online promotions including competitions and special offers. Virtual word of mouth via social media has become a key factor for new businesses looking to attract and maintain new customers.
Pinot & Picasso’s offer was based on small group gatherings to share food, wine and art classes – in store and was the perfect solution for birthdays, team building and special events like baby showers and bachelorette parties. Only a few months ago they could not have imagined the way they would have transformed their business into offering online classes with Art Boxes with all the supplies needed for the online class delivered straight to the homes of their customers. Providing this option for people separated by distance provides a new ongoing opportunity for the business in the future even after restrictions ease and classes begin again in store.
For some, their new shop fit out has had to be modified to allow for social distancing and hygiene requirements with retailers providing doorway service or limits on customer numbers and the use of hand sanitiser required for each customer entering the premises. Counter shields to provide extra protection for staff and customers have been installed at many registers and reception desks and social distancing markers are now regular fixtures to assist customers wait in line and be serviced at a safe distance. Contactless payment has increased significantly with some businesses moving away from cash transactions.
The key factor for new businesses, and indeed all businesses, during the coronavirus pandemic has been the need to adapt their businesses quickly in response to changing circumstances. Fine dining restaurants like ALMA are providing dine at home options, cafes like The Continental are providing a range of produce and grocery hampers and Café Go is delivering meals throughout the region.
If you are wondering about what you can do to support new and existing local businesses now, and in the future, make sure that you look for every opportunity to buy the products and services you need from local businesses and make sure you follow the businesses you love on social media. Like and follow their pages, give them a shout out for great products and services and leave a review to help other customers find them.
Making a choice to buy a product or service from a local business is not just good for the local business – it’s also good for you. You get great customer service from a local business, get to know the people who own or work in the store and it’s also good for the environment as staying close to home reduces your carbon footprint. Local businesses also bring great energy and bring variety and unique experiences to the streets of Central Geelong and that’s good for everyone.
It’s even easier to shop local than ever before. Download the Love Central Geelong app or visit www.centralgeelong.com.au/find for a full business directory of Central Geelong businesses and find up to date information about new businesses and the businesses doing things differently.
Plus, free casual on and off-street parking until 30 June 2020 in Central Geelong has been introduced by the City of Greater Geelong Council as a support measure to assist businesses and residents impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Time limits still apply.
A huge shout out to the following new businesses in Central Geelong:
Bubble Bar, Oh Honey & Lustre Blooms, A Natural Bunch, Curls & Swirls, Stacked, Parma Bar, Ballroom Baby, Baldasso Cortese, Cash for Old Gold, Good Folk Yoga, The AFL Store and Foreverness Bridal.