It’s been a challenging time for Australia’s small businesses, and as they reopen, we want to help reintroduce them to the country in a new light. They say that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ and this has certainly rung true for many businesses that haven’t just adjusted ‘for now’ but have evolved for the future. We caught up with some of our inspiring Business Awards alumni to understand how they’ve innovated for the long term.

Berry Springs Tavern, NT

2019 Telstra Northern Territory Small Business Women’s Award winner

“From the first week of restrictions, we re-did our menu and pricing as a priority, to minimise food waste and ensure it’s affordable for people. We then adapted the drive-through bottle shop to include take-away food, so we essentially became a drive-through pub,” said Business Owner Leah Sloan.

“We also worked out our staffing and where to redirect our people, as it was important to us to find as many jobs as possible to keep people employed. This is what spurred our new coffee van which, even though hasn’t made us money, has kept someone employed and has been well received by the community.

As we were selling quite a few takeaway meals, we launched our online order app which is a huge progression for us. Within the first week, we were the top NT user and 14 in Australia! We also implemented QR code ordering so that customers can order from their table. Even though it’s been challenging times, from a tech point of view it’s forced us to evolve and has pushed us into a new space.”

Kalleske Wines, SA

2015 Telstra South Australian Small Business Award winner

Michael Pratt, Marketing and Packaging Coordinator at Kalleske Wines says it’s their contingency planning that has kept their business afloat.

“Luckily, we already had plans in place in anticipation of shutting down, so in the first week, we were calling customers and implementing virtual offerings in lieu of the face-to-face interaction previously generated from our Cellar Door. We’ve offered free postage to SA customers, and have done live tastings with people through Zoom and posting sample bottles beforehand. We’ve been receiving positive feedback so plan to continue those.

We’ve also been doing wine sessions called Barossa Happy Hour which is a virtual half-an-hour winery tour with a tasting to go with it, and have started posting short videos where we talk through the comparison of new and last vintage wines.

We’ve always prided ourselves on the personalised service we provide our customers and by offering even more flexibility and unique experiences we believe can continue bringing the Barossa Valley to people’s homes in a whole new way.”

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WE’RE OPEN ALL LONG WEEKEND⁠ Kalleske Cellar Door is open for wine and platters all June long weekend. The cellar door team has thoroughly cleaned our entire cellar door ready for you! Come in for one of our beautiful Regional Produce Platter with a glass of wine. Maybe you would rather one of our hand selected wine flights with your platter or try our paired wine and food tasting.⁠ ⁠ We are 7 Days, 10am to 5pm at 6 Murray St, Greenock and if you would like to make a booking please call us on 08 8563 4000⁠ ⁠ Wine & Food Pairing | Regional Produce Platters⁠ Wine Flights | Indoor & Outdoor Spaces | Beautiful Garden⁠ ⁠ #weareopen #kalleske #barossa #mybarossa #barossawine #greenock #organic #platters #foodandwine #Welcomeback⁠ ⁠

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Capital Chemist, ACT

2017 Telstra Australian Young Business Women’s Award winner

Pharmacist and Managing Partner Elise Apolloni believes that Capital Chemist Wanniassa is a healthcare hub and an essential service for the Canberra community and their health care needs.

“Now more than ever, people have needed a familiar voice or face, and we have had to make a few changes to continue to offer this service and connection.

We’ve implemented protective wear for our pharmacists and team members, and now also offer contactless home delivery and home flu vaccinations. We are deviating from the traditional medicine dispensing model and instead are accepting huge volumes of medicine requests via email, fax and telephone order.

We have big crosses all over the floor to indicate social distancing measures, and our team currently operates in two groups that never cross paths, so if one person of one team contracts COVID, we can continue to provide health care to the community while the other team is in isolation.

Even in these difficult times, it has been an absolute pleasure to help people on the front line during this pandemic. Not all heroes wear capes, but I certainly know quite a few in these times that are wearing white pharmacist jackets, exhausting themselves and their teams, so we don’t let our communities down!”

Maree Pigdon Sewing, VIC

2019 Telstra Victorian Small & Succeeding Award finalist

After owner Maree Pigdon closed her ‘in-person’ sewing school due to restrictions, she suddenly went from teaching 12 sewing groups of approximately 85 students in total each week, to zero.

“In response, we immediately launched a new ‘Online Sewing Club – The Virtual Sewing Room‘. This is a monthly membership consisting of weekly 1.5-hour group sewing lessons via Zoom and access to our new private Facebook group where students can post what they are sewing, ask questions and connect with others in the group. The sessions consist of an educational segment, then we open it up for participants to share what they are sewing and finish with a Q&A.

This has been a huge success. The feedback from members has shown that they love learning from the comfort of their own home, connecting with other likeminded people and have their sewing questions answered. They’ve also shared that being part of the club has helped them sew more, knowing they were going to have accountability each week to show everyone what they had been making. It’s helped them continue to learn and develop their skills while supporting their wellbeing by staying connected.

Our members consist of our regular in-person sewing students as well as new nationwide sewers, and even internationally in New Zealand. We had planned to implement an online sewing club as part of our strategy and the COVID-19 restrictions provided us with the perfect opportunity to launch it when people and our market really needed it.”

Busselton Jetty, WA

2019 Telstra Western Australian Social Change Maker Award finalist

“Busselton Jetty Inc is a not for profit organisation operating WA’s major tourist attraction and since closing in March we have been significantly impacted by lost tourism income,” said Lisa Shreeve, CEO at Busselton Jetty Inc.

“We have been very innovative during this time though and were the first business in Western Australia to move to Virtual Tours, eight days after we closed including a Live Tour of the Underwater Observatory every day at 9am and 2pm for international and domestic audiences delivered 8m below the ocean surface with Telstra Wifi!

We also have 13 other free Tours on our website including Yoga, Personal Home-Made Weights, Dancing, Walking and Running on the Jetty, a virtual Train Ride on the Jetty and Marine Education Workshops for homeschoolers. We have also carried out personal Birthday Greetings Underwater, upgraded our Online Shop to include high demand items such as home-made marine-themed face masks and puzzles.

Our Jetty staff brainstormed in late March what we wanted to be most proud of when the COVID-19 pandemic was over and we came up with a list of things we could do to help the community, while also ensuring we gave more than we took. Community spirit is strong with initiatives such as tree planting, beach clean-ups, creation of face masks (shared with older volunteers) and we’ve also shared our learnings with other local businesses to help them get online too.”

Kuluin Mufflers, QLD

2019 Telstra Queensland Small Business Women’s Award winner

Angie Mansey, Business Owner of exhaust specialist business Kuluin Mufflers said their biggest concerns were having to shut their doors and not being able to get steel from warehouses in Sydney and Melbourne.

“In order to keep everything afloat, we acted really quickly to use bulk savings to buy three months’ worth of stock, so we didn’t get stuck when borders between states and territories closed. We also cut any extras and invested extra savings towards our online presence. I updated all our digital platforms myself so we could continue selling through our website and online channels.

All our major advertising opportunities like an annual charity we are involved in and our monthly car clubs were cancelled, so instead we’ve supported and partnered with other local businesses like a catering company, hand sanitiser and even local dealerships.

Client feedback has been great – it turns out people have had the time and space at the moment to work on their own projects.”

Bruny Island Cheese, TAS

2013 Telstra Australian Business of the Year

“We’re an artisan cheesemaker, bakery, craft brewery and organic dairy farm in the Southern end of Tasmania – we’re a small business that punches above its weight in terms of profile and reach,” according to Nick Haddow, Managing Director at Bruny Island Cheese and Beer Co.

“Before COVID-19 we were tracking well with a strong cellar door bringing in half our revenue, and 3000 cheese club members around Australia. Then the restrictions hit and we suddenly lost our cellar door revenue, and winter program food and wine events around Australia got shut down.

We responded by turning to our online community and asking for their support which has been extraordinary. We launched a pop-up shop in North Hobart which has been well received, and also started a home delivery service of produce boxes that support 40 other Tasmanian small businesses and their products. We moved from a monthly to weekly offering of a ‘survival box’ rather than a special occasion purchase. We’ve found this has met a need within the community and plan to continue it long term.

This period has forced us to respond to the challenges and reimagine everything we do – there isn’t a corner of our business that we haven’t shone a light on or questioned its relevance.”

Biologi, NSW

2019 Telstra New South Wales Emerging and Energised Award finalist

Lucy Kuper, Managing Director at Biologi has been overwhelmed by the support from their community during this time.

“We control our entire process from plant to bottle so weren’t affected in that way, and our strong online platform has really helped us. We’ve focused on community engagement and how we can serve engaging and helpful content to them while they’re bored at home.

Through our social and EDM channels, we started having a daily presence that hasn’t even been directly tied to Biologi. We’ve had many guest speakers from make-up artists, nutritionists, an acupuncturist, a nutritionist, influencers, mummy bloggers, acne survivors and even dating expert Mel Schilling.

We’ve had people exchange their personal struggles with skin conditions, and have also kicked off ‘Friday Facials’ to teach people how to do facials at home with whatever products they have access to. We’ve also been sending ‘random acts of kindness’ in the form of free care packages to a random person every day.

Our self-care tips and offerings have been so well received by the community that we’ve even had to hire another customer service member for our team.”