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Keeping a small retail or hospitality business afloat under strict COVID restrictions would test even the most seasoned and passionate business owners. So imagine the frustration and fear that businesses across Victoria felt when the state was plunged into a second wave of restrictions shortly after reopening. 

Thanks to the generous support of LaTrobe University in sponsoring the COVID-19 Industry Response Program, Investible was able to give 20 businesses across the state the opportunity to explore how they could innovate and adapt into a stronger position, following 111 days of lockdown.

And this week, we joined supporters across Australia in celebrating their resilience, creativity and passion during the Virtual Showcase event. The event featured short feature videos to offer attendees a glimpse into each business and as live Q&As with the business owners to reflect on their experience and learnings. 

From designing new websites, embracing SEO and digital strategies and launching new products, the business owners shared how they turned challenges into opportunities.  

Learning to grow

Christopher Nolan, owner of Plot Wine, told attendees that he had been working on his business part-time and came into the program to explore how he could effectively grow the business into a full-time focus. 

Over the 12 weeks, Chris launched a new limited-production premium wine and was able to sell more than 80% of all product produced to date. He’s now closer to moving into the business full-time and is looking for the right co-founder to help drive the business forward.

“Rather than running Plot Wine on a day-to-day basis, the program got me excited about what the future of the business could be and more importantly, how I could get there,” said Chris.  

“It was a safe and supportive environment to talk about your business and an environment of knowledge-sharing.” 

Pivoting to new opportunities 

Food for Fingers, which offers fresh, ready-made catering solutions for functions and events, knew its business model was not going to be sustainable, even after restrictions eased and events resumed.

Husband and wife team Markus and Rebecca used what they learned during the program to pivot, launching a new online direct-to-consumer offering which gained traction almost immediately. They also launched a packaged solution and secured sales opportunities with nine supermarkets.  

“We had been stuck in our old ways for so long. This course has taken us outside our comfort zones and allowed us to look at our business in a completely new lens.,” said Rebecca. 

“This program and community have given us a strong business framework and the confidence to try new things.” 

Upskilling and empowering teams 

Marc Alperstein of Alperstein Designs collaborates with Aboriginal Art Centres and artists across the country to create unique lifestyle gifts and homewares. He came into the program to explore how he could better connect the artists to customers, differentiate his brand and drive online sales. 

After pivoting quickly to produce unique face masks – which quickly sold out during lockdown – Marc focused on fine-tuning his brand strategy, website and marketing materials. Over the 12 weeks, he refined his pitch deck, which is now being used as training material for the sales team. The team is on track to meet all sales targets in 2020.

“I feel like I have only just skimmed the surface of the content, and I still have so much more to absorb and apply to my business,” says Marc.

“The content and access to networks have been great. This program has shifted my mindset and helped me communicate my business more clearly and effectively. It’s been amazing.” 

These were just a few of the incredible stories from this cohort. You can now watch the feature videos from the event and check out all of the participants below. 

For more information about our retail and small business programs, get in touch with us at programs@investible.com.

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