Adelaide is one of the world’s safest cities in which to work, rest and play. But the year has presented challenges. Summer brought bushfires across many fronts of the state and around the nation, then along came COVID-19, turning our lives and occupations upside down. But South Australians are resilient and businesses quick to adapt and it is already paying off, as we now set an example of resilience and recovery for the rest to follow.
Plaudits go to these South Australian businesses that retooled and reinvented themselves in a bid not to just save their own livelihoods, but the jobs and income of their employees and their communities. Collectively, they are returning South Australia back to work and a healthy economy.
Two other lateral-thinking Adelaide-based companies clubbed together during lockdown. Andrew Rogers Industrial Design and Kyron Audio pivoted from designing high-end speakers and other electronic and educational products, to the Ned’s Head Personal Protective Face Shield. Lightweight with anti-fog visors, the shields have been supplied to various retailers. However during lockdown, the increase in demand from frontline workers in SA hospitals shot up. The company is currently producing around 2,000 shields per day, with the ability to create 4,000.
When guide training for the May 2020 walk season was about to begin for Tony and Susie Sharley’s multiday Murray River Walk, an uninvited pandemic stepped in. Luckily, JobKeeper payments retained permanent staff, and 100% of guest bookings were rescheduled for 2021.
“Despite the disappointment of cancelling our walking season, the lockdown period allowed for some upsides,” says George, “namely, the expansion of our ecotourism business to develop two new experiences: Murray River Safari and Murray River Escapes.”
Now rebranded as Murray River Trails, Tony adds: “With our newly added walks, we will be creating further secure employment with our season increasing from five to nine months. We may even be back in operation by September this year. We’re excited!”
With SeaLink SA providing ferry services between Cape Jervis and Kangaroo Island (and shuttle bus services from the city, and on-island transfers), the company took a brutal hit between the bushfires and COVID-19. But they found room to pivot.
They launched their Kangaroo Island You’ll Love it self-drive packages targeted at South Australian travellers (for now). And their Taste of Kangaroo Island Tour is soon to launch. “Guests will visit cellar doors and distilleries as well as some of the island’s other iconic locations,” says Julie-Anne Briscoe, Marketing Manager of SeaLink SA.
Another of the company’s successes during this ‘downtime’ was the reimagining of one of their touring partner’s products. Kangaroo Island Odysseys runs sensory, small-group tours on their wildlife-filled sanctuary. During imposed social distancing measures, guide, Nikki Redman, set about filming and running virtual tours from the company’s private 342-hectare property, allowing for digital nose-to-snout interactions.
There’s a reason why guide Nikki is dubbed Nikkipedia. She teaches wildlife-lovers about embryonic diapause, the habits of ectothermic goannas, and the 15cm-tongued monotreme that roamed the planet with dinosaurs. Wait until you see her video about the ‘roomantic’ shenanigans of marsupials urinating to attract a suitor (you know you want to). And the adorable koalas that Nikki calls ‘fuzzy butts’.
SeaLink SA also operate The Murray Princess paddle steamer. Lockdown has allowed her a replenishing ‘spa treatment’ in dry dock, and time for the planning of her 7-night Relocation Cruise, which may begin as early as June 2020, keeping crew employed throughout the process.
Adelaide businessman and co-director of the Big Easy Group, Oliver Brown, is a fine example of lateral thinking during lockdown. With his bars and diners screeching to a COVID-induced halt, he set out to save his staff and resuscitate his businesses. The Stag Public House became the base for The Big Easy Drinks: an online same-day bar tender- curated drinks home delivery service, with staff becoming the delivery drivers.
Chefs on Wheels has also been keeping hunger binges at bay. A collaboration between acclaimed Adelaide chefs: Paul Baker, Brad Sappenburghs, Terry Intarakhamhaeng, Emma McCaskill and Karina Armstrong, led to chef-curated dishes-cum-ready meals to order.
Vacuum sealed and freezable, meals have been delivered to the front doors of social distancing diners proud to #cookthemout. And additional good news is that the venture will continue post-lockdown, with meal kits currently being designed by our favourite chefs across SA.
And designers of 3-D printed body parts, Fusetec, created, in collaboration with Associate Professor, Alkis Psaltis, a detailed nasal swab-testing tutorial for medical workers. While working on extending their human anatomy libraries, they are investing heavily into post- pandemic production of 3-D parts for export predicting that medical institutions will be looking to move away from possible health risks associated with training with cadavers.
South Australian businesses have excelled with altruism and grace during this period of personal and economic turmoil. But between our home lives and workplaces, we’ve had each other’s back. They’ve thought quickly, innovated, produced and delivered, on the road to recovery. And in turn, its increased revenue streams and created professions. Our will to support our communities and our healthcare sector has been something that will continue to be recognised long after life returns to whatever guise our new normal arrives in.
Glasses are beginning to chink again for Never Never Distilling Co in McLaren Vale, which was a buzzing business on the block when COVID-19 gatecrashed its celebrations. In operation for just five weeks, its brand new distillery door had to slam shut. However, visionary founder, George Georgiadis responded intuitively. With his direct sales to bars also halting, his swift action led to all staff rallying together to go part time, saving the permanently employed. Enter, hand sanitiser…
It was a smart ethanol-fuelled move with the sudden global shortage of this equally sudden prized liquid. Says George: “Initially, regulation made it difficult, but then the TGA put an exemption in place to allow distilleries to sell hand sanitiser to help address the short-term shortage.”
During the peak of the COVID maelstrom, the Never Never team’s brain cells fired fast. Educating themselves on hand sanitiser ingredients and packaging, they soon supplied Adelaide’s healthcare professionals. “It was very rewarding to fulfil an important community need,” says George.
Promptly polishing up their search engine optimisation (SEO) and social media skills, the distillery then focussed on online gin sales. At the same time, they won the 2020 San
Francisco World Spirits Competition (held 13th -15th March), for their freshly launched Triple Juniper Export Strength Gin. Talk about timing!
And the company’s Ginache launched this week (26 th May 2020). A world first, produced in McLaren Vale, Grenache grapes from Chalk Hill’s Slate Creek vineyard are steeped in the distillery’s Triple Juniper Gin. ‘George the Juniper Revolutionary’ as he is nicknamed, has juniper as the base ingredient of his distinctive gins.
“I think this is the product everyone needed right now, says George. “It’s absolutely delicious and looks amazing, with a luminous cherry red colour which develops into a ripe watermelon pink when diluted with tonic.”
Through this turbulent time, Never Never Distilling Co’s email subscriber following has doubled over the past month, with an online increase in the sharing of drink recipes, stories and photos. “People have really lifted their home cocktail game during this period,” says George. “And our employee hours are gradually returning to full time, with gin-lovers excited about returning to our distillery door.”
Created to facilitate new economic opportunities to build and strengthen communities across regional South Australia, the fund was launched in 2018 with a 10-year, $150 million commitment from the Marshall Liberal Government as part of the Recharging Our Regions policy.
A special $15 million Strategic Business Round of the fund has been established to help fast-track regional economic recovery post-COVID-19, with grants from $50,000 to $2 million available. Eligible organisations include incorporated associations, business clusters and individual commercial enterprises, while projects committed to employing local people and supporting local suppliers and services will be highly valued.
Applications close at noon on July 6, 2020. Find out more at pir.sa.gov.au/regional-growth-fund
This fund looks to contribute to the state’s economic growth by supporting collaboration between researchers, entrepreneurs and businesses ,and attracting start-ups.
The RCSF comprises three funding streams: applications have now closed for stream one, Strategic Research Initiatives, but two other streams remain open:
Find out more at innovationandskills.sa.gov.au/rcsf
As part of the Growth State partnership, the South Australian Government has committed $100 million to support initiatives and projects across nine priority sectors to promote economic growth in South Australia, by meeting increasing interstate and global demand and attracting investors.
The nine sectors are: defence industry, tourism, space industry, energy and mining, the hi-tech sector, health and medical industries, food, wine and agribusiness, creative industries and international education Funding will be primarily targeted to support industry or sector-wide-led initiatives which improve the overall productivity, capacity and competitiveness of at least one of the nine priority sectors.
This $50 million fund is designed to help dynamic and innovative South Australian early-stage ventures secure funding and accelerate their growth on a national and global scale, thereby stimulating economic activity and job creation. The fund aims to strengthen the competitiveness of local early-stage entrepreneurs and companies to attract private sources of co-investment from national and international investors, in turn offering a commercial rate of return for investors commensurate with industry standards for early-stage venture capital funds.
Eligible companies must have 50 per cent of assets and 50 per cent of staff located in South Australia during the 12-month period from the initial investment date.
Find out more at savcfund.com
Funding South Australian industry by providing access to the University of South Australia’s Future Industries Institute, where businesses can explore product development ideas and technical challenges by connecting with facilities and expertise.
The FIA aims to create high-value jobs within the state, assist local industries to build their research and development capacity, and accelerate revenue growth. It comprises three core activities:
Offers funding to South Australian businesses looking to expand into international markets, whether they are an emerging, current or mature exporter.
There are three funding categories:
Key dates: Applications open July 6 and close August 14, 2020. Later dates in the year are also available.
Find out more at dti.sa.gov.au/trade/sa-export-accelerator