Elsa Torresi can't go to her usual bootcamp but her trainer's still helping her to stay fit and healthy from afar during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elsa Torresi can't go to her usual bootcamp but her trainer's still helping her to stay fit and healthy from afar during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Businesses band together to be strong through a crisis

THINGS look a bit different in isolation.

For Elsa Torresi, regular bootcamp sessions have been important for about a decade but they're not possible under the current coronavirus-related restrictions.

Rick Newman, of Brunswick Heads-based Gym on the Run, has changed the way he works by making up individual packs of bootcamp equipment and hand-delivered them to his clients with the weekly programs.

Mr Newman's business is among those thinking differently as the Brunswick Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Centre has rolled out new projects in response to Covid-19.

Few businesses in the tourist-dependent town have escaped the impacts of the virus and while many have had to close completely, about 60 have adapted to the pandemic.

The part-time staff of the chamber and visitor centre have been retained and the pooled resources are targeting the town's business resilience. The first initiative is the Bruns Doing Business list, created daily by the team and shared online.

All Brunswick Heads businesses have been encouraged to take part.

While many retail shops have adapted to online trading, some hadn't been using social media prior to the pandemic.

Chamber president Juliana Harmsen said they're looking to change this.

"We're excited to roll out a significant program next week to help those who are not on social media to get onto Facebook or Instagram, or who want to add purchasing facilities to their existing platforms, or to provide free, expert help to start an online store, if that's what they need," Ms Harmsen said.

"Some businesses have already signed up for the free help."

Chamber admin support officer and VC marketing manager Cherie Heale will then start targeted campaigns.

"We are also very concerned about the plight of our tourism operators," Ms Heale said.

"The birthday campaign will encourage locals to support our local businesses, including tourism operators, by buying gift certificates and vouchers online.

"They can be bought and given now as presents for birthdays or other occasions, and taken up when the crisis is over."

She said these would help small tourism operators like Byron Eco-Cruises and Kayaks and Vision Walks.

"The motels who have closed are certainly keen to take forward bookings," she said.

Some cafes, being featured on the Bruns Doing Business list, are still serving takeaways, subject to strict social distancing.

"It's great that locals can still get their daily hits of coffee and chai, thanks to five cafes that are offering takeaway," the chamber's hospitality hub co-ordinator, Gary Deller, said.

"They are providing a wonderful service to locals," he said.

Many hospitality businesses, like Mr Deller's own, have had to close their doors, but they're still paying the bills.

"It's very hard to cover rent as well as all the outgoings like council rates when you are closed or only operating minimally, so we are very grateful for the recent government assistance packages," he said.

"The Chamber has met with the general manager requesting fees and charges be waived or discounted rather than deferred for six months, so that we have a better chance to bounce back," Mr Deller said.

Meanwhile, The Village Greens are not offering a home delivery service but are offering a pick-and-pack service where the customer phones the order ahead and his staff member packs the requested items in a box.

The customer phones to say when they will arrive to collect and the staff member brings to box to the car, the staff member takes their card, processes the payment and returns the card to the customer with the receipt.

Ms Harmsen said she remains optimistic and believes it is good communication, cohesion and collaboration that will help any small town like Brunswick Heads to get through the crisis.

"We have to pull together," she said.

And in a time where connection might seem scarce and caring for ourselves is going to be crucial, Ms Torresi said she's thankful for businesses like the bootcamp who are changing their approach.

"I appreciate that Rick has gone to the trouble to do this and set up our routines (and) make us still exercise," she said.

"People are really doing what they can to make it as normal as possible."


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