Strengthening your business after the summer bushfires

Take a drive through any number of NSW South Coast towns impacted by last summer’s bushfires, and you’ll see communities busily getting on with the business of recovery. There’s a palpable sense of gratitude when you stop for a coffee, a browse in store, or check-in to spend a night

From Nowra to Eden in the far south, many small business-owners are still walking a tight-rope of uncertainty, wondering if there’s enough resilience left in the tank to maneuver through more challenging times, and wondering when the “new normal” will ever arrive.

The expertise available through the Entrepreneurs’ Programme means you don’t have to go it alone.

If you’re a small to medium business within bushfire-impacted regions of NSW, SA and Victoria, now is the time to lean into the program’s Strengthening Business service. It will connect you with a local facilitator in your area, who will listen and work with you, to get you to where you want to be.

Michelle Bishop owns Bangalay Luxury Villas at Shoalhaven Heads near Nowra. Her income stream suddenly vanished, when tourists fled from bushfires and then stayed away due to COVID-19.

Having the support of the Entrepreneurs’ Programme has meant I’ve had a resource to call on. I have an expert there to really guide me through and understand the complexities of my business.

Michelle Bishop, owner of Bangalay Luxury Villas

Facilitator Terry O’Riordan first tasked Michelle with challenging her business modelling, using a balanced scorecard to list her priorities.

“He didn’t try to simplify my business. We put everything on paper, and he created benchmarking on three levels – property management, resort and restaurant,” says Michelle. “We’re now back at full occupancy, and we’re seeing the consumer also adapting to change.”

The exodus of tourists also hit Wonboyn Cabins and Caravan Park hard.

Luke Burch and his family moved to Wonboyn in October 2019, having enjoyed many childhood holidays in the same tourist park. The fires in January did their best to singe the Burch family dream, but Luke is now determined to be ready for any other event that comes his way.

“For us, it’s not relying on one season or one demographic. We want to diversify and create an authentic experience for our guests,” says Luke. “My plan is to open a micro-brewery on our property, to complement our on-site food van, which has provided an income through Covid-19 as well.”

Working with Luke Burch is Steve Millott, the Strengthening Business facilitator now on the ground in the Eden-Bega Valley region. 60% of the area’s workers are employed by small business, and Steve says while it’s still tough-going, he is seeing small signs of business recovery.

“If you’re a business that’s still struggling, don’t guess or self-assess,” says Steve. “We’re here to help businesses find their purpose again and make them stronger. There is strong support out there.”

Jo Lane, who runs Sea Health Products at Tilba, near Narooma, is now 6 months along in her business recovery journey, and she urges other businesses to test what the Entrepreneurs’ Programme can offer.

Being in business is hard, even in good times. After the fires, we were quite lost, but the program has been genuinely interested in seeing our business succeed, and we’re now well into the planning of our very own sea-kelp farm.

Jo Lane, Owner Sea Health Products

If you have a business in a bushfire affected area – help is available through the Entrepreneurs’ Programme new service, find out more about Strengthening Business or call 13 28 46.

Article first published in