Date posted: 19/03/2021 5 min read

The digital moves that saved five SMEs during COVID-19

What do you do when a lockdown wipes out 80% of your revenue? Here’s how five businesses survived COVID-19’s first wave.

In Brief

  • Lockdowns during 2020 forced businesses to find new ways to connect with customers.
  • Social media channels such as Instagram and Tik Tok were used to attract new customers.
  • Connecting ecommerce to existing accounting and inventory systems was particularly useful.

By Stuart Ridley

Fluffy Crunch takes the party from festivals to ecommerce

Sydney-based fairy floss business Fluffy Crunch is well used to innovating to give it a competitive edge. It became famous for its 25+ multicoloured creations on Instagram, including flossy, crunchy bouquets and the giant glow-in-the-dark sugar puffs popular at festivals.

When bans on mass gatherings due to the pandemic wiped festivals – and 80% of revenue – off the calendar, owners Michael and Paola Karamallis knew they had to turn all that love on Instagram into online sales.

Fluffy Crunch was already using MYOB for accounting, so it was fairly straightforward to leverage data insights via integrations with ecommerce (Shopify) and social media apps (Facebook and Instagram).

MYOB also streamlines payroll, invoicing and expenses, freeing the Karamallis family to focus on serving their growing fanbase online using data analytics and well-targeted promotions: 70% of all customers who buy online come direct from social media and 80% are new customers.

Michael and Paola KaramallisPicture: Michael and Paola Karamallis, Fluffy Crunch.

Sticky makes a song and dance on TikTok and Facebook

The Sticky hard candy business in Sydney almost came to a sticky end when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Based in The Rocks, the family business started by David King usually sold 70kg of sweets per day, but lockdowns meant it had to close its doors and consider stopping production.

But David’s 17-year-old daughter Annabelle had a plan to help them through the pandemic. She started a Tik Tok (@stickyaustralia) to promote Sticky’s candy creations. Within six months it had 2.8 million followers, with thousands buying merchandise through an ecommerce store integrated with Xero. She also started a private Facebook group called Sticky Friends where nearly 10,000 loyal customers regroup and reconnect, talking candy and other life-enhancing ideas.

Rachel Turner, David King and Annabelle KingPicture: Rachel Turner, David King and Annabelle King, Sticky.

Northern Building & Carpentry meets customers via Skype and Instagram

Bill Arwas’ Melbourne-based home extension and renovation business was growing fast when COVID-19 lockdowns meant he had to find new ways to run pre-work meetings with clients.

He quickly set up video calls via Skype so his clients could virtually walk him through the house, discuss their plans and answer questions about building permits, wood finishes and the like.

He also went all-in online to share images and info he previously brought along to client meetings: Instagram and a search-optimised website to showcase his work and attract new customers, a web-based site assessment form to speed up enquiries and an online project cost estimate tool linked to MYOB that saves him a huge amount of time providing quotes.

He’s also using MYOB to give him a better handle on how he’s tracking financially and to automate key processes for hundreds of invoices across all his projects.

Poplar Petfood and Produce embraces ecommerce and workflow apps

Pet and farmstock food supplier Poplar Petfood and Produce was established in the 1950s in the Wollongong suburb of Dapto, initially as a stock feed supplier, but then expanding to cater for pets from fish, cats and dogs to birds and horses.

Adopting digital tools a few years ago not only streamlined the business, it helped future-proof Poplar for all kinds of situations, including the pandemic.

Using Xero and integrated apps such as Shopify (ecommerce) and Asana (workflow management) helps the business serve more customers across more areas more efficiently – and boost earnings. The fact everything is in the cloud means there’s no double-handling of data and the team can manage inventory much more effectively with up-to-date analytics.

Adam and Carlie WiltonPicture: Adam and Carlie Wilton, Poplar Petfood and Produce.

GIAN Group uses ScotPac invoice financing to pursue new opportunities

Melbourne-based hospitality and housekeeping services business GIAN Group nearly crashed when the Melbourne Grand Prix was cancelled in 2020. Adding to its woes, in one terrible week, travel bans caused it to lose nearly 80% of its business cleaning hotel rooms.

GIAN Group director Gilles Delord was devastated when he faced the possibility of laying off 240 of his 280 staff across Melbourne and Sydney.

But in what he describes as ‘pure luck’, new business opportunities were found in a previously very small part of the business: sanitisation cleaning at hotels where returned travellers were isolating, as well as commercial, retail and medical sites.

As an existing ScotPac Invoice Finance client with a A$750,000 co-op facility set up in April 2019), GIAN Group qualified for a ‘Boost Business Loan’ online, which Delord said was crucial in allowing the business to quickly fund equipment to do the new sanitisation work.

Invoice finance (also known as debtor finance) allowed the business to accept extended payment terms with larger clients.

As restrictions on movement eased, the office team continued working from home most days, using cloud-based communication and business management tools to stay connected, and the business is hiring more cleaners.

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