How You Can Help Small Business Right Now

Times are tough in the economy right now, moreso for small business as a raft of necessary measures to control a pandemic are put in place. We've put together a brief report on how you can continue to support small business from isolation.

Peter Strong, a spokesman from the Small Business Council of Australia has said that it’s important to “make sure that when we come out of this, the community looks the same as it did on the way in,” but how exactly can we help contribute to that while isolating, practicing social distancing and with the retail and hospitality industries being radically transformed?

The ABC’s Peta Fuller and Emily Stewart write that “with many states opting to shut down non-essential services, quite a few small businesses are adapting by offering online delivery services for the first time.” Their report interviews Priscilla Williams, co-owner of a Brisbane cafe that recently launched a home delivery service in light of recent events. They launched a service that was completely new to the business, and started taking payments over the phone and offering a service that would drop the food at people’s front doors, mitigating the further spread of the virus.

“We’re really not trying to make money off it, we’re just trying to keep staff employed,” Ms Williams said; she has two cafes and employs twelve staff members.

“We keep saying ‘we are stronger together’. I think I even saw someone make a badge out of that… I can’t imagine everyone would be able to afford to eat out every day, but maybe they buy from us where they can,” she added.

The report also interviews Victoria Whitelaw, a Melbourne-based florist. “I’ve got 23 full-time staff,” she said. “On Monday morning I thought, ‘oh my gosh, we’ve lost all of our big events and weddings,” meaning that Victoria’s existing business model wouldn’t stand the test of time for too long. In response, she launched fresh produce boxes that were delivered without any point of contact with customers, which included fruit and vegetables from Melbourne’s markets and sourced from other local businesses.

“We’ve had 40,000 views on Facebook already,” she said, adding that “we’ll just keep doing it for as long as we can; people might want to keep buying it afterwards, who knows.”

Associate professor of marketing at the Deakin Business School, Nichola Robertson said that “I really think the choices we make as customers now have the potential to really meaningfully help those that need it,” she said, noting that there has been a number of customers purchasing vouchers at a business to use later, but injecting some much-needed cash into the business now.

“We need to be more tolerant if things fail,” she added. “Expecting a more adequate service level rather than their desired service level, because we’re all in unprecedented times.”

“Telling others what the business is actually doing to keep its customers safe and healthy if they’re taking precautions… people can help by liking these sorts of posts, commenting, sharing and following,” she added.

Peter Strong of the Small Business Council echoed that, stating that “a good review is uplifting for the owner… It’s letting people know you do value them, that you really want them to stay open.”

Founder and managing director of a giftware store, Johann Kim said that encouragement and support via social media is powerful considering just how testing of a time this is for small business owners. “It really is so important to know that others do care,” he said, adding that customers should make suggestions on how a business could cater to their situation.

Professor Robertson said, “for instance, what does the customer currently feel uncomfortable about and could the business potentially adapt?” adding that customers at home might be able to extend some more practical help. “They might be short staffed, for example, for could you do anything to help, almost like being a partial employee for that business?”

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