How Victorian small businesses have pivoted during the pandemic

Australian small business owners hit by the economic impact of the coronavirus have had to pivot to survive.

And with nationwide restrictions still in place, businesses in Victoria continue to struggle.

Findings from Westpac’s SME COVID-19 response report shows 49 per cent of Australian small businesses have changed the way they operate.

These include providing additional products and services (29%), moving their business online (21%) and changing the focus of the business (19%).

“We’re seeing the pandemic and restrictions escalate, particularly in Victoria,” Westpac state general manager for SME banking Lisa Livis said.

“It’s impressive to see how many businesses have found ways to pivot and actually reinvent themselves.

Findings from Westpac shows 49 per cent of Australian small businesses have changed the way they operate. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi.
media_cameraFindings from Westpac shows 49 per cent of Australian small businesses have changed the way they operate. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi.

“They quickly recognised the need to do things differently to adapt to the changing economic conditions and what their customers wanted from them.”

While uncertainty in Victoria remains, the second wave has meant a focus on survival, more than growth.

Melbourne-based digital food rescue company, Yume, is always ready when it comes to stopping wastage, but it wasn’t prepared for a COVID-19 pandemic.

The company — which connects members with surplus or unsold food in restaurants and cafes — lost 40 per cent of its business overnight and created an imbalance in supply and demand.

Distributors were left with stranded stock originally destined for hospitality venues and catering events.

Yume founder and CEO Katy Barfield. Picture: David Caird
media_cameraYume founder and CEO Katy Barfield. Picture: David Caird

“We were forced to accelerate our future ideas and dreams, dust them off and put them all on the table to stay afloat,” Yume founder and CEO Katy Barfield said.

With a cooperative team and new objective, the business was able to get back on track and maintain revenue while helping industries, such as manufacturing and discount retailers.

“In a matter of days, a framework was created and we reached out to businesses like the MCG that carried tons of stranded stock including alcohol, soft drinks and snacks,” Ms Barfield said.

“The Racing Club also had bags of flour which was meant to be used to bake bread, so we took it off their hands and gave it to independent bakeries who needed it.”

Yume is currently expanding into New Zealand to meet the demands in the marketplace in the next few months.

“Being able to pivot and help other small businesses in the process has been a lifeline, but it wouldn’t have been possible with my team,” Ms Barfield said.

“Communication and believing in your employees is the key to survival.”

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