WATCH: Panel offers free advice to small business community
AS THE economic climate changes day by day due to tightening measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, there has never been a more important time for small business owners to consider how to diversify and do things differently to remain viable.
Emma Ocholla and Leah Stevenson from Activeline reacted to the urgency facing Clarence Valley business owners by staging an impromptu Small Business Discussion at Vines at 139 in Grafton on Monday morning, respecting social distancing guidelines in the process and livestreaming the event on the internet.
Yamba Farmers and Producers Market coordinator Debrah Novak, I Scream owner Jeff Smith and NJW Commercial owner Natasha Watkinson and myself were invited onto the panel.
We discussed the most immediate issues facing small businesses in the Clarence, and shared useful and insightful tips and ideas of our own as well as those we have oberved in the community on how best to deal with the crisis.
Apart from a minor audio glitch (skip ahead to 4:22 on the Youtube link provided), the livestream can be viewed in full, and is designed to help generate ideas among the community on how to work together to survive this difficult period.
"The incentive was to try to work out how we can help each other within this community in these times that are so different to anything we have ever been through before," said Ms Stevenson, who hosted the forum.
"Ideas that came out might trigger something in someone else's brain that they can do with their business."
One suggestion was for businesses to find ways to support each other through collaboration and joint effort.
"We have been restricted to takeaway only, so we're promoting the fact our ice cream tubs are also available from Big River Pizza, where it can be delivered," Mr Smith said.
Increasing visibility to existing customers online, and finding ways to do business online was also a major topic of discussion.
"Engage your customers on social media and other methods such as email so they know you're still there," Ms Stevenson said.
"Let them know what's happening. If you are in isolation keep them up to date so they've got an idea that you're still there and planning to come back. Make sure the message you put out there is real."
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Other ideas included listening to customers who see things from a different perspective, talk to your accountant about what government assistance you might be eligible for, and developing an Airtasker-style online marketplace platform to match businesses with consumers in the Clarence Valley.
"Customers need to understand this is a moving feast at the moment and if they can support any local business in any way shape or form please step forward and step up because this is the only way we can continue to thrive," Ms Novak said.
Now is not the time to put your head in the sand and expect everything to blow over. Those who implement innovative ideas and adapt will be better positioned to come out the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic intact.
"I was very impressed that ideas came through on how people could barter, and also share ideas, for example, to the paper, for people to see what is out there," Mr Ocholla said.
"The important thing is about finding ways to keep money in the Valley."
How can you deliver?
Don't be afraid to change.
If you have an innovative small business idea that will benefit people in the Clarence Valley, we'd love to share it with our readers. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
SELF CARE AND SOCIAL DISTANCING
The media production team at Activeline is planning a second livestream this week, on self care and things people can do while social distancing.
- 10 Things To Do: Coronavirus edition (while social distancing)
- Clarence Valley's own TV station is here
Ms Stevenson said it was a crucial time to reach out to the community and planned to have the police, mental health services and media represented in this second forum.
"When we do go into isolation, one of the big questions will be how to maintain a sense of community and belonging instead of feeling isolated and disconnected," she said.