Small Business

How business can boom on New Year's Eve

For some small businesses, New Year's Eve is one of the busiest times of the year.

While the rest of us party the night away on New Year's Eve, it's business as usual for some hardworking small businesses.

Booked solid

Melbourne cattery owner Ebony Centazzo is responsible for 130 cats – almost double the average off-peak number over the New Year period. Being on call for any feline emergencies means Centazzo has a quiet New Year's Eve.

Sydney's spectacular New Year's Eve fireworks display is the work of small family business Foti Fireworks.
Sydney's spectacular New Year's Eve fireworks display is the work of small family business Foti Fireworks. Photo: City of Sydney

"For the past three years I've stayed at home," she says.

"I'm too scared to have a few drinks because I need to be ready for the next day."

Foti Fireworks Pyro Crew members setting up for the skyfire fireworks show at Yarralumla.
Foti Fireworks Pyro Crew members setting up for the skyfire fireworks show at Yarralumla. 

Centazzo's has two Cat Napping Suburban Retreats and both book out six months in advance of the New Year period.

With such high demand from holidaymakers, she estimates each cattery turns over an extra $8000.

"It's our busiest time, so it's head down and work hard," she says.

Keeping a cool head

Working on New Year's Eve is way of life for Sydney's Foti family, who have been running their fireworks company for four generations.

Ebony Centazzo, owner of Cat Napping, is gearing up for a busy time of year.
Ebony Centazzo, owner of Cat Napping, is gearing up for a busy time of year.  Photo: The Underdogs Business Photography

Since the late sixties, they have helped partygoers at some of Australia's most famous locations usher in the New Year with a bang.

Creative director Fortunato Foti has been in the business for 32 years.

"All my training was on the job, there's no courses that teach you how to make fireworks, you can't learn that at TAFE or uni," he says.

"I didn't have a chemistry background so everything I learned, I learned from my father and my grandfather.

When everyone else is at the beach or relaxing on holiday you do feel a bit envious.

Natalie Clays

"So it's something that's passed from generation to generation – all the secret formulas and so forth and how we make the fireworks."

Foti Fireworks has organised New Year's displays at Sydney Harbour since 1997. In addition to its 15 full-timers, the company recruits up to 60 casuals to ensure the night goes off without a hitch.

"We have a crew of 55 to 60 people working in the two week period leading up to New Year's and the few days after," Foti says.

"It's obviously one of those highlights of the year, fireworks-wise. The harbour is a great place to do a fireworks display, with all the iconic structures such as the bridge and the Opera House and the barges."

With so much time, energy and money spent on the big night, Foti says managing staff and stress is key to making it a success.

"You've got 50 people underneath you and they see you stress, so we try to keep a cool head and make sure it goes off," he says.

"At the end of the year we're there to entertain people, en masse. Because you get 1.5 million people that come down to the harbour to watch the fireworks, so it's always a little bit of pressure to make sure things go off the way they're supposed to.

"Because midnight happens at midnight, not at two o'clock in the morning."

Australia Day is another peak in the industry's calendar, but there is rarely a dull moment in the fireworks business. In winter, Foti lights up Saturday nights at Sydney's Darling Harbour, Friday at Docklands in Melbourne and puts a sparkling touch on TV shows including The Voice.

A time for new beginnings

New Year's resolutions are the perfect business opportunity for some, including quit smoking therapist Natalie Clays.

Clays, the director of Allen Carr's Easyway to Stop Smoking, says the phone calls start coming on New Year's Day.

"New Year is the time for new beginnings and New Year's resolutions, so it's our busiest month of the year," she says.

"We'd expect to see a 30 per cent increase in client numbers at New Year's compared to an average month."

Clays says it can be difficult to work during the party season, but it's worthwhile.

"When everyone else is at the beach or relaxing on holiday you do feel a bit envious but we get to save lives every day, so the reward is much greater than what we're missing out on," she says.

"Plus the roads are empty, which is a bonus!"

Small business owners find it difficult to pull away from work completely during the festive season. A recent survey found 76 per cent will work between Christmas and New Year's Day.

Only 17 per cent of respondents say they had no trouble switching off work, according to the survey of 210 Australian businesses by freelance marketplace Upwork.

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