Baking, learning a language and yoga have become popular pastimes during the COVID-19 pandemic. But would you dare start a new business? DESIREE SAVAGE found five entrepreneurs who did. Australia is in the middle of a pandemic and the worst recession in three generations, according to experts.
But the forced downtime and reflection has been a guiding light for some to enact the visions they previously only dreamed of. Four Illawarra business – a cafe based around a supernatural force, a bohemian luxe ceramics venture, a marketing duo and interior designer – are using this time to thrive and are optimistic for their futures.
Their enthusiasm is in line with findings from a recent report by global small business platform Xero, Rebuilding Australia: the role of small business, revealing one in 10 small businesses surveyed were prospering through the lockdown. The research found 48 per cent of small business owners were optimistic about their prospects in the second half of this year, while 23 per cent expect revenue to jump up by more than 10 per cent by December.
The report also showed the Illawarra – along with Geelong in Victoria and Toowoomba in QLD – were “hot spots” for small business. Read More: Grand plan to turn old pawn shop into Wollongong’s next small bar
Barefootfivetribe – Jo Robertson of Gerringong had been working in accounts for a local real estate agency when COVID-19 forced the nation into lockdown. She was asked to take mandatory leave until further notice. With a family to help support, Mrs Robertson pondered her future. She questioned what path she should follow if her fate was to be let go by her employer. Through the anxiety and uncertainty, her idea for Barefootfivetribe was born: DIY clay kits (with tools and instructions) and “clay experiences” where couples or groups are taught the basics in making luxe ceramics by hand. Mrs Robertson had found her own serenity through working with the medium at a studio in nearby Gerroa. “I enjoyed working with clay so much for my mental health and wellness and I started to think of ways I could bring it to people dealing with the same isolation as I was,” she said. “It’s all about the experience, it’s about taking our minds off any anxieties that we suffer … and enjoy in the comfort of your own space and the comfort of your tribe.” Currently Mrs Robertson works from her dining room table, with her kitchen barely visible through the piles of tools, ceramics and packaging. Her garage is currently being converted into a studio space, set to be her happy place. “I haven’t made a cent yet but it’s about the experience and bringing health and wellness with creativity into peoples lives,” she said. “I [don’t] have that security I once had but I have decided to take each week as it comes and see where we can take it from here.” After five weeks away from real estate, Mrs Robertson was reinstated to her previous role. However, she quickly realised her heart was with art. The mum-of-three is still trying to make her venture profitable, but business is thriving and was recently featured on the Studio10 television program on the WIN Network. If the world wasn’t hit with a pandemic, Mrs Robertson said she would still be sitting behind a desk and computer in discontent. “Businesses fail and it’s part of life. However, I thought ‘if I don’t give it a go l’ll never know’,” she said.
“There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”