This article is sponsored by the ACT Government.
Canberra's great local businesses have been working hard to meet the challenges of the coronavirus crisis head on with innovative strategies to continue serving their customers, supporting their staff and their communities. We take a look at three of them.
When Canberran restaurateur Daniel Conroy realised COVID-19 restrictions were going to mean the end of "business as usual" he immediately went into planning mode.
The owner of popular local cafe and food hub, The Knox Made in Watson, Daniel was on the road driving to Byron Bay for his wife's 30th birthday when he received news about the restrictions that would effectively close the doors to his business.
"I started putting together a pandemic plan,' he said. "While we couldn't control the situation we could control our reaction to it. We put our heads down and worked out how to muscle through it and keep the business going in some way, to continue to connect with the community, support our customers and staff and our local suppliers."
With the safety of his customers and his staff paramount, Daniel and his team developed the first steps in their strategy. They launched drive-through and home delivery, kept the coffee machine pumping out takeaways, and turned their restaurant space into a retail store stocking staples from their many local produce suppliers from eggs and milk to flour, wine and beer, plus sauces and relishes made by The Knox's chefs,
The in-house bakery particularly came into its own. "We were selling about 120 sourdough loaves a day," said Daniel.
Plenty of love flowed back from the local community as grateful customers rallied around the business. "There was so much community support. They know us well and wanted us to come out the other side," said Daniel. "I had customers hand me $50 and say, 'Do whatever you want with this, we know you're working hard to serve us and keep your staff."
With restrictions eased, The Knox has been able to welcome limited numbers of customers back inside the cafe with more than 55 staff out of the pre-COVID 65 back on deck.
Community support and a passionate commitment to her suppliers also helped Canberra's Thea Bollington stare down the challenges facing her Aranda business, Meet Gather Collect, which stocks the work of local artisans, and operates art workshops.
Busy with a new baby when the reality of COVID hit, Thea made the decision to shut her store and had to put workshops on hold to keep staff and customers safe.
"it was heartbreaking," said Thea. "My vision for the business was to support our talented local people, bringing the community together and opening their eyes to these great artists. Now they were really feeling the brunt of what was happening."
Thea began ramping up the online sales side of her business, photographing and adding as many items as she could to her website. And she made delivery free for Canberrans.
"I enlisted my dad and stepmum - they were personally delivering everything," she said. "My stepmum usually works in the store and they were very happy to do it. As soon as an order came in they wanted to deliver it.
"My stepmum knows our customers so they would have a little chat. When you're in isolation just having someone at your front door was lovely."
Thea has re-opened the store for a few days a week but is continuing the free home delivery. She's also working on plans for their first workshop - spoon carving - in August.
"We've had so many calls from people asking when the [workshops] are starting again and wanting to get back to support us."
One category hit hardest was beauty. Deakin's award-winning make-up artist Ali Price, who operates her business, Ali Price Make-Up and Brow Studio, was among those forced to close.
"What I do is a physical service - I do make-up lessons one on one, eyebrows and freelance make-up work," said Ali. "When I had to shut I thought, 'OK what can I do here; what will my customers be most concerned about?'."
Ali set about boosting the range in her online store, reaching out to more suppliers, with a focus on showcasing the high-quality Australian products she is passionate about. She also created an at home brow-colouring and grooming kit with step-by-step instructions.
"It was my way of saying to my customers I'm around and I have this pack that you can use at home if it's something you need as a pick me up," she said. "It wasn't really a money-making exercise for me; it was about looking after those clients."
"I already had the capability of an online store so it was easy for me to do. And then I focused on reaching out to my customers to keep them informed about what was happening."
Ali said the support she received from customers was "overwhelming". "I got lovely messages and when I was finally able to go back to work my diary just filled up, bang.
"When I asked them to help by booking a couple of services in their appointment to limit the number of people coming through the door they didn't bat an eyelid. It's meant a lot having that support."
Choose local to support our locals and help drive the recovery of our city. To find out how you can help, visit the Choose Local campaign website.
This article is sponsored by the ACT Government.