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Coronavirus forcing small businesses to think big

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

While coronavirus has devastated many of Australia’s businesses, the pandemic has also been the catalyst for change in regional towns, forcing small businesses to think big.

While coronavirus has devastated many of Australia's businesses, the pandemic has also been the catalyst for change in regional towns, forcing small businesses to think big.

Melody Jarvis – an entrepreneur from Ipswich in Queensland – had been working on her startup, Shop My Town, for several years before the pandemic hit. 

Shop My Town is an online marketplace for small town businesses, helping to connect people with local traders.

Before coronavirus hit Australian shores, Ms Jarvis had been conducting campaigns in bushfire-ravaged parts of East Gippsland and the NSW South Coast. 

After witnessing the hardships of regional towns during the fires and then again as coronavirus spread, Ms Jarvis decided to take the next step.

"We felt a desperate urge to get some funds flowing through those towns so we wouldn't lose so many businesses," she told

In just a few months – and after many sleepless nights – Ms Jarvis launched a new online platform for Shop My Town which is now being rolled out across 50 new regions in Australia.

As part of building her own business, Ms Jarvis worked alongside hundreds of small business owners struggling to survive two consecutive crises.

"Our towns are hurting so much right now, they're in shock," she said.

"I've been all over Australia and they have had fires hurt people, hurt animals, burn property, they've had so many businesses shut because they can't survive this.

"It really is a crisis situation."

But Ms Jarvis said that while bushfires and coronavirus has presented a huge challenge for regional small businesses, for many it's been a blessing in disguise.

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She said the pandemic has forced many businesses, including her own, to think outside the box for new ways to expand and survive.

"It's forced us to start challenging ourselves and some of our businesses to embrace technology. They can't continue to survive without online sales and opening up to global markets," she said.

As part of her journey to expanding her business, Ms Jarvis took part in technology company Lenovo's ThinkBook Mentorship program alongside renowned entrepreneur Naomi Simson.

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"The way Lenovo thinks has influenced me to start saying to our businesses 'you need to go buy that computer, get your internet sorted or whatever it may be because if you're cut off from the world you're not going to make it through this.'"

Ms Jarvis said the pandemic has also prompted a broader shift in attitude, with more people realising the importance and value of small businesses.

"A small business is intimately connected with their local sporting clubs, the families in their region and they care so much about their products," she said.

"I think we're going to see a flip back to our localised boutiques and small business stores because you get a better product and they actually really care."

Source: 9News

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