Coronavirus

The Australian small businesses pivoting to the digital world due to coronavirus

Bridal make-up artist Sophie is starting her own video series. Source: SBS News

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which has brought some industries to their knees, sole traders and small businesses are adapting and asking their clients to join them online.

Wedding make-up artist Sophie Lau is usually booked out 12 to 18 months in advance.

But since the coronavirus pandemic brought strict rules around social distancing and gatherings, the Melbourne-based businesswoman lost virtually all her bridal bookings in one day.

"We lost a lot of income, it is totally gone," she told SBS News. 

"We don't have trial books, we don't have weddings, everything has either been postponed or cancelled." 

The 37-year-old says she is now using the downtime to add another arm to her business which she hopes she will be able to monetise.

"I want to create a video series to describe what I learned and my experience of makeup and hair and before I had no time - but now I have two or three months and pick up the skills I need." 

Ms Lau has had to learn video production and editing on the run in a bid to kick start her YouTube channel which will be delivered in Mandarin.

She hopes to differentiate her work from a saturated online makeup market by making content targeted towards Asian-Australians who may be interested in learning the tricks of the trade. 

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In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Australian businesses have been in hibernation or forced to shut down. 

"For lots of businesses, they simply won't survive, there is no doubt about that," said Small Business Ombudsman, Kate Carnell.

"But for a large percentage of businesses, they are using the ATO, the banks, the JobKeeper assistance and there's also the mandatory commercial rental code which will all help with cash flow." 

Ms Carnell says in difficult times, many sole traders and small businesses have worked hard to pivot and adapt. 

"There has been extraordinary innovation, especially from sole traders because they have more capacity to move very quickly. 

"We are seeing businesses use technology to continue to survive, whether it would be event organisers now running virtual events or businesses running their activities online." 

Sole trader Vi Lam has moved his fitness classes online.
Sole trader Vi Lam has moved his fitness classes online.
SBS News

Sydney-based fitness instructor Vi Lam acted quickly when gyms closed down. 

"I really had no choice, I turned my own apartment into a home studio to deliver my work through an online platform," he said. 

"It's a little bit of a process because technology is definitely not for everyone so there was a lot of trial and error and also getting on the phone to help others."

"It was like starting from scratch all over again." 

The 31-year-old says although he has been able to keep his business running during the pandemic, his income has dropped by about 85 per cent. 

"There has been a lot of trial and error and I'm very much still in that state.

"Any support received helps and I'm very lucky that I'm able to jump on my feet and get this started. 

"Earning something is better than nothing right now."

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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