Last year COSBOA partnered with GoFundMe, Commonwealth Bank and Transurban to offer 36 grants of $3,000 to Victorian sole traders and microbusinesses who were doing it tough. The goal was to reach those businesses who had slipped through the cracks of the various government financial support available at the time. Recipients had to have 2 or fewer employees and not received any government grants since 1 June.
The grant program received more than 250 applications in 2 weeks, an indication of just how badly microbusinesses were affected by the string of lockdowns and other restrictions imposed on businesses and communities. We would have loved to have been able to give a grant to every eligible applicant, but it just wasn’t possible.
For the business owners who missed out, know that COSBOA is still on your side, advocating to government to get the best possible policy outcomes that create a fair and stable environment in which you can do business and be supported in your endeavours.
We caught up with 3 of the grant winners to hear their stories and how they will spend the money.
Ashley Arnold - Laluca Creative
Ashley Arnold is a website developer from North-East Victoria who got her start working in the events industry in roles involving marketing and website management. Friends and family members caught wind of her skills and asked for her help designing websites for their small businesses. Eventually, she was able to quit her job to become a freelance marketing consultant and website developer.
Ashely likes the freedom and opportunities for growth that come with working for herself.
She said “When I started, I thought that freelancing was going to be like having a full-time job but sending an invoice instead of getting a pay slip. I was pretty wrong - it was a whole different ballpark. I like that it’s constant thinking, growing, and innovating. I’m always learning and almost every 6 months there’s huge opportunities for growth.”
One year into her business journey, the COVID pandemic hit. Though Ashely could work from home, that wasn’t the case for her small business clients – including retail and a dance studio – who had to close during the lockdowns. Projects were delayed and many of Ashley’s ongoing clients made the decision to let her go.
Ashley told COSBOA “I’m so appreciative for the grant - it’s made such a difference and is just what I needed to keep going.”
“Freelancing and project work fluctuates so much. It’s just helpful to know that if there are issues coming up in the next few months, if I don’t have projects coming in, I can keep my business afloat and cover the basic expenses.”
Check out Laluca Creative here:
Nick D’Aloisio - Oscuro Wines
Sole trader Nick D’Aloisio handcrafts his wines using the fruit from his family vineyard in the Yarra Valley. The vast majority of his customers are restaurants and wine bars across Melbourne who were directly affected by COVID-19 restrictions.
Nick said “Restaurants and smaller wine bars were forced to close their doors during the lockdowns and a lot of them suffered. That flow on effect was felt by all of us in the wine industry, especially the smaller producers. Whilst liquor sales increased during these times, it was the bigger supermarket chains that profited from that increase in consumption.”
Despite the past 18 months being the toughest Nick’s business has ever faced, he found himself ineligible for government support.
“A lot of small businesses suffered and were excluded from government support during the pandemic. Support was always spoken about but never really came through for a lot of small businesses. You had to meet a certain set of pretty strict criteria to get government grants and I didn’t fit the bill.”
Nick was stoked when he found out that he had received the Doing it Tough grant. He told COSBOA he will be using the money to settle some bills as well as buy some dry goods to be able to bottle some wine and make sure he has some product in the pipeline.
He said “Every little bit goes a long way. The Doing it Tough grants are a fantastic venture – I’m grateful that there were organisations such as COSBOA thinking about small businesses and for the customers that supported us during this period of time.”
Check out Oscuro Wines here:
Alan Dermer – Opalised
Alan Dermer creates custom jewellery from opals. Every piece is one of a kind.
Alan told COSBOA “It took me about 30 years to find my passion in life, and this is it. I needed something that challenged me, to do something different every day rather than the same task again and again. Every new piece of opal is different, a new challenge. I can’t ever see myself getting bored.”
Alan used to sell his custom jewellery at Melbourne’s Caribbean Gardens market, where he was a permanent vendor. In March 2020, Alan was watching the news when he found out that the market was closing due to COVID-19. He described the news as a “punch in the face.”
Alan also has a rare heart condition which makes him particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.
He said “It’s something I’ve dealt with my whole life, but the pandemic put a new light on things. Being vulnerable and everything like that was quite scary.”
A friend who also owns a local business told Alan about the Doing it Tough grants. When he applied, he didn’t think much of it, having never won a grant before. He told COSBOA that when he saw the money in his bank account, he thought the bank had made a mistake.
“It was one of those rare, beautiful days. I looked at my bank account and saw it there I started crying. It’s going to go into buying new machinery to polish the opals and also help build some of the website.”
Check out Opalised here:
Thank you to the following organisations for sponsoring the Doing it Tough grant program: