As stallholders packed up their gazebos on a lazy Saturday afternoon in mid-March, none of them knew it would be their last Glebe Markets showing for over six months.
COVID forced many of these small businesses to adapt, prompted some to diversify and stalled the unveiling of several start-ups.
Small businesses look on the bright side
As of late September, the Glebe Markets reopened and reawakened. From food and drink vendors, to retail businesses, to artists, the reactions of many stallholders gives a glimpse into the optimism of small businesses and provides some great advice on how to remain resilient.
Turning lemons into lemonade
Few are more thankful to be back at the markets than Brooke Rose, owner of the Citrus Factory. This loveable lemonade stall has been serving the Glebe community since 2003.
For a family-owned business that prides itself on its connection with its customers, the COVID hiatus devastated Brooke’s hip pocket.
“We were the first ones to shut down, and realistically we were the last ones to open up,” she said.
Other facets of Brooke’s business were tied to similarly postponed events, including the V8 Supercars circuit and large music festivals. So when the markets closed down, it left few other opportunities to earn some income.
“There’s a good handful of us here, this is our livelihood,” she said.
However, Brooke and her husband were able to keep their heads above water by purchasing a food truck that sells gourmet hotdogs. “Our company has been lucky enough to have the opportunity to position our food truck within a major Sydney redevelopment site providing catering to the hard-working construction workers,” Brooke said.
Still, with their time at the construction site coming to an end, the Glebe Market’s reopening was a godsend. Brooke’s positivity and adaptability allowed her to get back to business as soon as the market gates swung open.
She is grateful to be back serving refreshing beverages and hopes that the markets signal more encouraging things to come.
“I think it’s a good sign.”
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
Although some businesses found it difficult to pivot, the retail sector was able to transition seamlessly online.
Dina Meier, founder of aaina & co, a stunning jewellery and fashion business, attributes her COVID success to her diversification.
“If you don’t look at other opportunities to make business, if that falls out for any reason, like if it’s raining and you have booked a market stall, it’s not fun.”
She explained that aaina & co endured the COVID hit well as she expanded the business over ten digital platforms. Additionally, Dina was astounded by the increase in B2B wholesale marketplaces, that have helped many businesses cut costs during COVID.
“There are now online wholesale business platforms and it’s just amazing,” she said.
Though Dina’s market stall shut down, her business continued to fulfil its philanthropic role. 10 per cent of its profits go to Saba’s Kids, a charity helping Balinese children receive basic educational materials to stay in school.
Dina was overjoyed to be back conversing with her customers again and describing the meaning behind her jewellery’s charitable origins.
“To see them and to explain everything in person is just different.”
Back to the drawing board
For some small businesses, the closure of the Glebe Markets wasn’t about waiting to return to the community but waiting to meet them in the first place.
Carolina Totterman, owner of Citrine Press, a small business crafting awesome tees, totes and prints, got her first opportunity to hold a stall at the Glebe Markets shortly after its reopening. The markets provide a great chance to get your product out there and meet potential customers.
“This for me is like marketing,” she said.
Carolina resourcefully used the lockdown period to deal with the nitty-gritty side of starting a business. Cleverly, she focused primarily on setting up payment gateways, building her online store and designing her inimitable works.
“I used the time to physically draw, because when do you have that time to do something quite labour intensive,” she explained.
While Carolina was eager to use this opportunity to help build her unique brand, she was just as positive about how the Glebe Markets flagged a small bounce back for small businesses. Likewise, she was astonished by the turnout and how uplifting it was to witness people socialising at the markets again.
“Just seeing everyone interact is really nice.”
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