“If we can help, we should”: How this startup raised $200,000 to pay the power bills of struggling hospitality businesses

Powershop chief Jason Stein

Powershop chief Jason Stein. Source: supplied.

Aussie renewable energy startup Powershop has raised $200,000 from its own customers to pay the bills of its Victorian hospitality clients, who are still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing restrictions in the state.

The funding comes from Powershop’s Power it Forward campaign. Customers can opt to add a premium to their own bills, and the excess cash is pooled and used to pay the bills of others.

Victorian bars, restaurants and cafes that are Powershop customers can apply for a credit equivalent of one month of electricity usage.

Retail customers who work in the hospitality sector in Victoria can also apply for a $200 credit.

It’s not the first time the startup has called on the power of its community: in March, it announced the Power it Forward campaign had raised $185,000 to pay the bills of Powershop customers affected by the bushfires.

And, in November last year, it raised $60,000 through a similar method, to back a Great Barrier Reef restoration project.

“Due to circumstances beyond their control Victorian hospitality business owners are doing it really tough. One way we can make a difference is to help lower their operating costs,” Powershop chief Jason Stein said in a statement.

“We know our customers will back the decision we’ve made in the last 24 hours to support our Victorian hospitality customers,” he added.

“As a business we believe that if we can help, we should.”

This latest support comes as a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Victoria sees small businesses in the state continuing to grapple with ongoing restrictions.

Currently, cafes and restaurants in Victoria are permitted to host up to 20 people, at any given time, while adhering to social distancing measures.

That limit was scheduled to be increased to 50 people on June 22, but with more clusters of cases emerging, Premier Daniel Andrews halted the easing of restrictions.

The proposed changes are now scheduled to come into effect from July 12.

Speaking to SmartCompany earlier this week, Matt Lanigan, owner of the Lucky Penny Cafe in Melbourne, said the decision was “crippling” for his business.

“We’ll miss a month worth of revenue where we would have made money,” he said.

“It really restricts our recovery.”

As the health crisis eases and hospitality businesses emerge from the lockdown, Powershop is also offering additional support options to its business customers, including flexible and extended payment terms, Stein said.

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