Let’s be honest: 2020 has been a train wreck for Australian SME businesses (and everyone else for that matter). With the threat of COVID19 far from over, our economy is years away from a full recovery. Although it's tough to look past the negativity and devastation, there are also plenty of good news stories if we choose to look. Out of adversity comes opportunity, and - apparently - some good old ingenuity.
Many people and businesses have had to do “the COVID pivot” in order to survive the economic downturn, which has touched almost every industry. Furloughed airline staff are helping understaffed supermarkets, and travel agents are manning government call centres. Gyms and PTs have had to recreate their businesses online to keep the proverbial lights on, while restaurants have turned to take away and DIY meal kits to keep staff employed and support their supply chain vendors.
One success story is that of Granddad Jack's, a family owned and operated craft distillery based on the Gold Coast, producing spirits and liqueurs and named after the founders’ patriarch.
Given that most of their revenue was coming from the hospitality supply chain and the distillery's onsite tasting room, the government-imposed closures of restaurants and bars meant Granddad Jack's revenue evaporated instantly at the onset of the pandemic.
“Our business has been massively impacted. Overnight all of our customers had to close their businesses (bars, restaurants and our export markets) and we had to close our distillery to the public. This meant 100% of our revenue had disappeared on just one Sunday night in March.”
With his people depending on Granddad Jack's for their livelihood, and his family-owned company and legacy on the line, director Dave Ridden had to rethink his business strategy, quickly. Recognising a soaring need as hand sanitiser shortages ensued in the early days, Dave saw the opportunity for his business to survive and protect his workers’ income. They could use their existing business model and production set up to change tack and begin producing something the market was in desperate need of: hand sanitiser.
Inside the space of 48 hours, the award winning spirit producer was able to pivot from producing gin to liquid hand sanitiser, giving the people what they wanted and keeping Granddad Jack's in business. In addition to adding a new product to their line, the distiller moved into ecommerce launching an online store to showcase and sell their hand sanitiser and spirits B2C. Prior to COVID, QLD businesses had been unable to sell spirits online due to state liquor licensing laws.
With Dave’s involvement and the urgency the pandemic had created in the liquor industry, the government steering committee amended the laws within a matter of days allowing retailers to sell their products online, fast-tracking a decision 18 months in the making. Having previously only sold their products via their onsite retail outlet, and with increased website traffic from people searching high and low for hand sanitiser, Granddad Jack's has seen their sales more than triple since the start of the pandemic.
Considering that globalisation has stalled due to border closures, perhaps part of Granddad Jack's recent success comes from tapping into the ‘buy and support local’ movement which has gained significant momentum. Many Australians are doing their bit to rebuild our economy by supporting local small businesses, and Dave explains the support of Miami and the Gold Coast community have contributed greatly to their growth in sales.
More broadly, Dave attributes the successful change in the strategy to the agility of his business. He advises other small businesses,
"in times like this we can adapt our business much faster than large businesses and that gives us a big advantage in the marketplace, so look for the opportunities and go for it.”
It’s been a tense and trying few months for his business, but Dave remains optimistic. Looking at what he’s learned, Dave reflects proudly that Granddad Jack's is “able to adapt to any situation we are faced with and that will help take our brand to the next level once things get back to some sort of normal.”
At a time when thousands of other people in the same industry have lost their jobs, the fact that Grandad Jack's has managed to keep all of their staff employed is testament to Dave’s quick thinking and ingenuity. As Winston Churchill famously said “Never let a good crisis go to waste” and we’re sure Grandad Jack himself would agree.
Pictured: Dave Ridden, Director of Granddad Jack's Craft Distillery