How businesses have reinvented themselves since COVID-19: The transition from online to offline series 1

On the morning of 22nd March, with thermometers reaching almost 28°C, we had a new topic to discuss in our daily team catch up at Media Shark HQ.  The pandemic reached Australia and forced mass closures of non-essential businesses. From that day, companies had to reinvent themselves and transition from offline to online to ensure business continuity. While we see the second wave shattering businesses across Victoria, in Queensland there is no community transmission, and several restrictions have now been lifted.

The changes imposed in the last 200 days, following the first case of COVID-19 being detected in Australia, were unprecedented in economic, social and health spheres. It has not been easy, however we have heard incredible stories of resilience and creativity. In this first article of the shout out series, we talked with 5 companies from different industries located in the Southeast region of Queensland, to see the changes they implemented to overcome the hurdles that they faced.

“Don’t reach for normal, reach for better.” 

Michelle Norris

The questions that we asked:

  1. What were the changes that you implemented on your business to keep it afloat?
  2. How did you transition from offline to online?
  3. What were the most significant challenges during this transition?
  4. If you can give one piece of advice for those considering opening a business, what that would be?

David Ridden, director of Granddad Jack's Craft Distillery

Granddad Jack's Craft Distillery
  • What were the changes that you implemented on your business to keep it afloat?

“Within 72 hours from the Government making us close our distillery to the public we had designed a hand & surface sanitiser to the World Health Organisation guidelines, setup our very first online store and started to sell sanitiser both direct from the distillery and online. There is no way this would have been achieved with having a fantastic team of people at Granddad Jack’s.”

  • How did you transition from offline to online? 

“We had no choice. We had to go online and do it faster than most other distilleries to survive and keep all of our team employed. Before COVID it was illegal for distilleries to sell online in QLD so for us it was starting from a base of zero. But we were lucky as we already had a good social media following and had been creating excellent content for many months, that along with so many people searching for sanitiser online created an online business for us that hit five figures within a week. Sanitiser wasn’t the only thing selling online we seen an incredible amount of new customers purchasing our award-winning spirits for the first time and built an extensive database of new customers that are still purchasing from us today.”

  • What were the most significant challenges during this transition

“Finding packaging for our sanitiser and managing all the online orders we where getting.”

  • If you can give one piece of advice for those considering opening a business, what that would be?

“Understand the rules so you can play the game in this new era of business and give it a red hot go”

Alice Farley, Branch Manager and Head of Marketing of International Cargo Express

International Cargo Express
  • What were the changes that you implemented on your business to keep it afloat?

“Our services changed almost overnight with airfreight options for our customers almost non-existent. This meant we had to work hard to find alternative sea freight services and communicate this to our client base. Our operation had already transitioned to a fully digitalised business, and this meant we were well placed to react to the pandemic. Staff are able to work remotely with visual access to all consignments we were handling on a global scale.”

  • How did you transition from offline to online?

“Our face to face interactions with our clients immediately transitioned to zoom conferencing. Our engagement strategy was managed through social media and our website, including regular updates about COVID-19 in the forwarding industry.”

  • What were the most significant challenges during this transition?

“The most significant challenges were working with businesses that had not been able to transition online. When our offices closed and all staff were working remotely, it was business as usual for us, but this was not the case for all of our clients and suppliers. Equally, there was a sense of nervousness when the pandemic came to light, managing the expectations of employees was critical to our success.”

  • If you can give one piece of advice for those considering opening a business, what that would be?

“My advice would be to listen to the impacts of the pandemic on staff. We have taken some time to understand that our remote working structure has been productive. This will change how we operate going forward,allowing the team to have more flexibility but ultimately getting more results”

Emma Milikins, founder of Miami Marketta

Miami Marketta
  • What were the changes that you implemented on your business to keep it afloat?

“We became master pivoters. Whenever there was an announcement of a restriction or an easement, we basically created new businesses. The funny thing was that under all of that, the challenge was something that kept my team going!”

  • How did you transition from offline to online?

“We did a couple of things. We sent our cocktails online, which everybody loved. We now have decided to keep this business running and are in the process of testing our recipe samples for faults to be shelf safe, so it has been very successful!

We also took our street food market into a drive-thru scenario hosted by Drag Queens. This was during COVID-19 lockdown, so a lot of people were so excited to see some kind of entertainment and a great experience. Plus our team came together, talk about team building!!!”

  • What were the most significant challenges during this transition?

“Having no cash flow was obviously challenging! For me personally, I guess it was trying to keep a happy face when you could see your business you built over ten years literally fall off a cliff within weeks. The not knowing what the future holds can make work seem very insignificant, you have moments of why am I even bothering to try and forward plan when it could happen again. You honestly go into fight or flight, and I guess I am a fighter!”

  • If you can give one piece of advice for those considering opening a business, what that would be?

“I think this world pandemic has challenged everybody in different ways. If you are starting a business, start it because you are passionate about it. It has to run in your blood to have the instinct to survive in times like these. For me, my business is my life, my passion, it clearly defines me, Start a company for the love, nothing else.” 

Paul Crossland, owner of Only Specialty Coffee

Only Specialty Coffee
  • What were the changes that you implemented on your business to keep it afloat?

“Thankfully, our business has always had a strong focus on takeaway coffee. Additionally, we have been cash-free almost from the beginning! The biggest change we had to implement was pivoting to the point of sale system that had native forward ordering and was contactless-payment focussed. 

  • How did you transition from offline to online?

“We took the time to look at our social media channels and cut what wasn’t working. We also split up our stores and gave them their own page, messaging and audience. The most significant transition online was forward ordering, as described above.”

  • What were the most significant challenges during this transition?

“We had intended to open a new store in March, but the shutdowns caused great delays to this opening, and we had to sit on our hands for three months, which was very frustrating”.

  • If you can give one piece of advice for those considering opening a business, what that would be?

“Put the customer experience first, no matter what you’re doing.” 

Joanna Suter and Clement Mora, owners of Passada - School of Afro Latin Dance

Passada - School of Afro Latin Dance
  • What were the changes that you implemented on your business to keep it afloat?

“As soon as it was announced that gyms and studios had to close, we decided to move our classes online and made them available worldwide. Without online classes, we’re not sure that we’d have the momentum we were lucky to have when we re-opened. We had to strategise and focus on the styles that were easy to do at home – this meant changing the timetable to suit the current situation. In the dance studio, we offer both partner and solo styles, but with the obvious difficulties associated with partner dancing, we streamed solo style classes and adjusted our partner styles to solo dancing.

With physical and mental fitness being a priority for our community, we heavily focused on our dance-based fitness classes, which enabled us to keep spirits and everyone motivated. There was a lot of trial and error, and we were prepared to keep changing our online schedule to suit our students’ needs and preferences.” 

 

  • How did you transition from offline to online?

“There was a huge amount of trial and error! We researched how we could get the best out of our live classes. For example: how best to use Zoom; what audio/visual equipment was required to make an excellent online class and generally all the necessary things to enhance the student’s experience. We have a booking system via an app which at the time got plenty of use. This online booking system allowed students to purchase and book classes, with the choice to participate live or the recorded version which could be done in their own time.

The transition between offline to online also meant that we had to ramp up our social media activity so as to foster and maintain our sense of community. It allowed us to stay engaged with our students and to remind them that we were here for them.” 

  • What were the most significant challenges during this transition?

“Hands down, the lack of social connection with people. Dance allows us to form connections with others, and it is exactly this connection that is difficult to capture in an online class. While we were grateful to be able to continue to dance and exercise, we were not prepared for how physically and mentally taxing online courses would be. In a room full of people, we can bounce off each other and amp each other up if we need and usually, we feel energetic and rejuvenated after class! In an empty studio in front of a camera, an intense dance cardio session can be tricky when you’re not sharing the room with your students!”

 

  • If you can give one piece of advice for those considering opening a business, what that would be?

“It comes down to your work ethic and attitude. Just keep working and forging ahead. Don’t stop. Yes, you will be exhausted and at times, discouraged. You’ll feel like you’re on an emotional roller coaster. But, that will pass. Your customers and clients will be looking to you for guidance and possibly even leadership. In every crisis, the opportunity presents itself. We chose to stay engaged and used this opportunity to show our clients and customers our professionalism, compassion and integrity.

We all have the opportunity to deepen our relationships with customers; stand out and be a source of help and inspiration for those who are at home who might have more time on their hands and want to try something new.” 

Why you should develop an App

Entrepreneurship is not a straight-forward and easy road to navigate through. However, seeing companies in different industries reinviting themselves and transitioning through uncertainty. These are the types of stories that put a smile on our faces.

Do you know a company that has a story to tell about how they overcome the challenges they faced? Share it with us! 

Looking for insights about how to transition between offline to online? Get in touch with us!