New kids on the block – opening during a global pandemic

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Photo supplied by Curls & Swirls

It takes courage to open a new business during a global pandemic, however that’s exactly what some Central Geelong business operators have done.

Central Geelong Marketing says some of the newest business operators in town were well on their way to opening when the challenges of coronavirus hit. They’ve had to adapt their brand new businesses to changed trading conditions and social restrictions, while trying to establish a customer base.

Traditional launch events to celebrate the opening had to be shelved or adapted, start dates for new staff have been delayed, or staff have been retrained in new service and delivery models.

A Natural Bunch opened its gorgeous new store in James Street on April 2 when many neighbouring businesses were shut.

With reduced passing traffic due to coronavirus, the store opened to customers online and with a totally contactless delivery system.

Offering DIY terrarium kits, potted colour and a range of bouquets for all occasions, A Natural Bunch worked hard to promote business online in the lead-up to Mother’s Day.

Foreverness Bridal opened in Moorabool Street in February and has adapted its traditional bridal dress offering to a new Bridal Live Appointment – live-streaming real-time appointments to important family and friends. This allows others to see every dress the bride tries on, chat and share their thoughts and be a part of the excitement when the bride says ‘Yes-To-The-Dress’.

Stacked Pancake and Dessert Bar opened on May 14 in Yarra Street. Due to current social distancing and dining restrictions, the store isn’t quite ready to serve up dine-in pancakes however it does have cakes, chocolate mousse, jar cakes, macarons, puddings and cheesecakes available for takeaway collection. It is also offering free delivery across Geelong with next day delivery for cake orders placed by 2pm.

The dessert and cake cabinet is full of delicious options and they can’t wait until they can start serving up pancakes in-store.

Parma Bar, right next door to Stacked, opened March 4 with take-away options, kerbside collection and delivery to satisfy all your parma needs.

New professional service businesses have moved to online consulting and are providing virtual consultations through platforms such as Zoom, Skype or Teams.

Health providers have embraced telehealth options and are servicing the health needs of clients, including physiotherapy and psychology, in the comfort of their own homes.

Traditional marketing plans have had to be reimagined. In-store promotions have been adapted to online promotions including competitions and special offers.

Virtual word-of-mouth via social media has become a key factor for new businesses looking to attract and maintain customers.

Pinot & Picasso’s business was based on small group gatherings to share food, wine and art classes – in store and was the perfect solution for birthdays, team building and special events such as baby showers and bachelorette parties.

Only a few months ago, it could not have imagined the way the business has transformed. It now offers online classes and Art Boxes, with all the supplies needed for the online class delivered straight to the customer’s home. Providing this option for people separated by distance provides a new opportunity for the business, even after restrictions ease and classes begin again in store.

For some, their new shop fit-out has been modified to allow for social distancing and hygiene requirements. Retailers are now providing doorway service, limits on customer numbers and have hand sanitiser available for each customer entering the premises.

Counter shields to provide extra protection for staff and customers have been installed at many registers and reception desks and social distancing markers are regular fixtures. Contactless payment has increased significantly, with some businesses moving away from cash transactions.

The key factor for new businesses, and indeed all businesses, during the coronavirus pandemic has been the need to adapt quickly in response to changing circumstances.

Fine dining restaurants such as ALMA are providing dine-at-home options, cafes such as The Continental are providing a range of produce and grocery hampers and Cafe´ Go is delivering meals throughout the region.

If you are wondering what you can do to support new and existing local businesses now, and in the future, look for every opportunity to buy the products and services you need from local businesses. Follow the businesses you love on social media. Like and follow their pages, give them a shout out for great products and services and leave a review to help other customers find them.

Making a choice to buy a product or service from a local business is not just good for the local business – it’s also good for you. You get great customer service, get to know the people who own or work in the store and it’s good for the environment as staying close to home reduces your carbon footprint.

Local businesses also bring great energy and variety to the streets of Central Geelong and that’s good for everyone.

Download the Love Central Geelong app or visit www.centralgeelong.com.au/find for a full business directory of Central Geelong businesses. You’ll find up-to-date information about new businesses and the businesses doing things differently.

Plus, the City of Greater Geelong Council has introduced free casual on and off-street parking until June 30, as part of its support package to assist businesses and residents impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Time limits still apply.

A huge shout-out to the following new businesses in Central Geelong: Bubble Bar, Oh Honey & Lustre Blooms, A Natural Bunch, Curls & Swirls, Stacked, Parma Bar, Ballroom Baby, Baldasso Cortese, Cash for Old Gold, Good Folk Yoga, The AFL Store and Foreverness Bridal.

Welcome to new owners and operators at the following existing Central Geelong businesses: Rook Sri Lankan Fusion, Frankie, Organic Larder and Ebony & Ivory.

To find out more about businesses in 
Central Geelong visit 
www.centralgeelong.com.au

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