We asked six business owners how they’re faring and if there was anything that would have done differently had they known this crisis was coming …
Felicity Dascombe, Pursers Coaches and Pursers Travel and Cruise
Felicity Dascombe is the owner of a bus company and three travel agencies and has been in business for more than twenty years. She says she has ‘never felt this way’ and has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue from cancelled travel in the past couple of weeks.
“We are a regional business who regularly deals with drought, flood, fire and hard times but this is probably the hardest thing we have had to deal with. The immediate impact has been on cashflow. Most times you have warning or can predict and plan for cashflow downturns, but this was immediate. We have been working in our company on having multiple streams of income so as to bounce off each area, if needed. Unfortunately, these global events have impacted most of our revenue streams. So at present I’m working on saving jobs and the future of business whilst keeping morale positive. I’m encouraging the team to be planning for when we return to normal and how we come back better than ever.
“Normally I would have had a buffer, but as we expanded our business at the end of last year that buffer wasn’t in place. This is being called a modern day world war, so if you think of it like that, then nothing could prepare you for it. With our bus and coach company we are always looking at our incident management plans so we have implement plans for disasters and terrorism but admit we were caught off guard with a pandemic. We have already been working on future proofing our business and in a few years’ time we would have been better prepared financially with our planning. For now we are looking after our clients and our staff, and will see what lessons we can learn from this so that we are prepared should this happen again.”
Carly Fradgley, Baby Give Back
Carly Fradgley is is the founder of Baby Give Back, a Gold Coast-based charity that provides essential baby items to women in need. Their major fundraising event (where they aim to raise over $100K) was scheduled for May and is now unlikely to go ahead. Carly is staring down the barrel at having to dramatically reduce her services at a time when families need them most.
“Like everyone else, I’m facing the uncertainty and already feeling the weight of decision-making in these times. I’m scared for everyone with such a huge economic downturn but for Baby Give Back I’m terrified because I know that reduced income directly affects the number of vulnerable families we can help. The thought of having to say no when a family needs essential items for their baby is devastating.
“As a grassroots charity punching above our weight in impact, we wouldn’t have had the resources to do anything differently even if we’d have known this was coming. I’m so grateful that we have a ‘whatever it takes’ culture in our team and a village of supporters which gives me comfort knowing that we will continue to do absolutely everything we can to support the families who need us. “
Jo Alilovic, 3D HR Legal
Jo Alilovic is the founder and director 3D HR Legal, a practice that specialises in employment law. As businesses face shut-down periods and reduced revenues, Jo is getting busier with concerned employers wondering how to meet their obligations to staff.
“I’m having to support a lot of clients as they make difficult decisions around downsizing staff numbers and negotiating change with their workforce. I’m ready with lots of empathy to facilitate them finding innovative ideas to handle the change.
“As a virtual business I’m already set up to handle the physical impact of any self isolation and distancing requirements. However – if it happened again I would be ready sooner to start talking to clients around quick strategies to implement to limit the impact, such as communication with staff and changes to travel requirements.”
Steph Prem, Studio PP
Steph Prem is the owner and founder of Studio PP, a series of reformer pilates and personal training studios in Victoria. She says these have been her toughest days in business. She’s temporarily shut down all three of her studios in response to the government’s recommendations.
“While we’ve decided to enact our social responsibility to all staff and clients by announcing the temporary closure of Studio PP operations across all three studio locations — South Yarra, Portsea and 101 Collins Street — we are facing the challenge of retaining clients and staff at a time of uncertainty.
“A pre-existing online portal or subscription service would have positioned us well for the upcoming period. This is now something we are developing reactively in order to continue engaging and support both our staff and client-base.”
Mary Miller, Smile Darling Photography
Mary Miller is is a photographer and owner of the business, Smile Darling. She’s also Business Chicks’ go-to photographer in Brisbane so chances are you’ve seen her snapping away for us at some point.
“Being in the wedding and entertainment business, you don’t realise how dependent you are on, well, people’s health and the government! I’ve had a few people ‘postpone’ their wedding, not because they are personally sick but because their family and friends can’t actually get in the country at the moment. Also, some of my couples may work in jobs that are crumbling all around us and I can’t actually get paid because they no longer have funds!
“This has very quickly reminded me why I have savings and why it is important to have a buffer (even in those times I think I really need those new pair of shoes!). If I can’t get work this weekend then I’m not stressed because I have that backup.”
Sarah Davidson, Matcha Maiden and Seize the Yay
Sarah Davidson is a former lawyer turned ‘funtrepreneur’. She’s the co-founder of the green tea empire Matcha Maiden and Matcha Mylkbar, the host of the Seize the Yay podcast. If none of that rings a bell, you might also know her as a @Spoonfulofsarah on Instagram.
“All small businesses at the moment I think are really being hit by the sudden, unexpected changes in the market without having had much time to prepare a strategy or make arrangements in advance. I guess the transition from a stable salary in law to the unpredictability of working for yourself has never been so stark as it is becoming right now. For us, particularly with the cafe, we’re facing big decisions about whether we should close temporarily and how we will see the next few weeks or even months through.
“If anyone out there is beating themselves up about what they could have done differently, remember that it’s easy to talk about things in hindsight but don’t be hard on yourself as it’s unlikely you would have changed much given how suddenly this came on. Of course, in an ideal world, we would put more away in our rainy day fund and made longer term plans, but I don’t think there’s much we could have done about the general downturn in dining out and group events. Everyone’s in this together and we just have to support each other as much as we can through the tougher times – everything is temporary, after all.”
Business Chicks, as always, is committed to helping our community navigate sometimes daunting and unknown territories. During this time, we’ll be ramping up our online content (like this!) and online Masterclasses. We’re here for you and placing your needs front and centre of every decision we make.