Peter Strong, CEO of the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) has been working closely with small businesses and local councils on the Go Local First campaign to help businesses survive and grow through the pandemic.
“The key message is that we need our local businesses to be open and remain open after we get through all this because without them, we don’t have an economy and we don’t have a community,” says Strong.
When shopping in 2021, choose to shop with your local small businesses. They were there for us during lockdowns and now’s our chance to give back and send them into the new year on a high. Supporting local small businesses means supporting local jobs and your local community. Go Local First today!
SmartCompany asked two hospitality businesses how they’ve adapted for survival and growth and why it’s so important to go local first.
Relish Mama Cooking School
Nellie Kerrison runs Relish Mama Cooking School out of a converted warehouse space in Cheltenham, Victoria.
Offering a variety of cooking classes and corporate events focussed on human connection around a shared table, Relish Mama has been part of the local community for 12 years.
Relish Mama began offering nutritious, home cooked, ready-made meals early this year, before COVID-19 was on the radar.
“That was a blessing and it has certainly kept us going since the school basically shut down early this year,” says Kerrison.
During lockdown, demand was strong but the customer had completely changed.
“We’ve just had to adapt all the time,” says Kerrison. “You can’t build the model to what suits you — the consumer decides.”
The easing of restrictions in Melbourne forced Relish Mama to adapt yet again.
“We’re between education and hospitality,” says Kerrison. That means that under the easing of restrictions, the cooking school couldn’t open.
In another blow, orders for ready-made meals declined in line with restaurants reopening.
But despite the difficulties, Kerrison emphasises how grateful she feels to have been able to feed the local community during this time.
“It wasn’t a financial success, but it was a privilege to be able to feed them and make a difference to their week,” she says.
COSBOA’s Peter Strong says businesses like Relish Mama are key to the health of a community.
“It’s more than the facts and figures,” says Strong. “It’s the wellbeing of a community and the interconnection between everybody.”
In order to help Relish Mama survive, Kerrison is asking her local community to “appreciate the businesses that are really struggling” and “vote with your orders.”
The Budgie Smuggler
Charlie Jacob, marketing manager at Ringwood event space and cocktail bar Budgie Smuggler, is also an expert in surviving lockdown as a small business.
Born four years ago from the classic beginnings of a few mates wanting to open their own bar, Budgie Smuggler is a unique events space that’s recently added public cocktail bar Budgie Bar into the mix.
“We operated for about three years as an event space in an old warehouse building. Everyone was saying ‘why aren’t you open to the public?’ So we did.”
“There aren’t a lot of places like us in Ringwood,” says Jacob.
“We were just finding our feet with Budgie Bar. So to have it come to a slamming halt at the start of last year was tough.”
As lockdown hit, Budgie Bar made a quick pivot to selling takeaway cocktails. Jacob says the move was originally intended to be temporary, but roaring success on home shores and even internationally cemented takeaway cocktails as a permanent part of the business.
“We’ve been able to send some to New Zealand,” says Jacob. “We’ve got customers in Queensland and Western Australia.
Jacob says Budgie Smuggler is incredibly grateful for the continued support of the local community as restrictions ease, allowing Budgie Bar to reopen.
“It’s been great seeing this correlation of people who were ordering cocktails from us every week then coming into the bar and getting to try the real thing,” he says.
Peter Strong says many small business owners have found a greater sense of connection with their communities during lockdown.
“People are saying they’ve got to know who owns the ship and gotten to talk to them. There’s a really good sense of community like you haven’t seen before,” says Strong.
Jacob plans on practicing what he preaches when it comes to the Go Local First message.
“Local businesses are definitely the people who’ve been hit hardest by this whole thing. So to get back and support them is something I’ll definitely be doing.”
So how can people best support local businesses right now? “It’s about local jobs,” says Strong.
“When you spend money in a local business, that money stays where it belongs.”
The Go Local First campaign is funded by the Federal Government and delivered by the Council of Small business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) on behalf of small businesses everywhere. COSBOA is Australia’s peak body exclusively representing the interests of small business. The Go Local First campaign encourages consumers to buy products and services from small businesses so our local communities and economies thrive.