Challenges of commencing a new small business amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic

Catrina P. Smith

Mike Meletopoulo and his father Mark are manning the bar at their interior-Sydney brewery, but it isn’t the initially challenge they’ve brewed up with each other.

The pair built beer at household, and Mike created the passion professional, finding out brewing and distilling and functioning in Australia and abroad.

Obtaining a new organization off the floor failed to prove easy or cheap — the Meletopoulos estimate they set half a million bucks into Bracket Brewing ahead of even opening the doors.

Toss in a worldwide pandemic, and the struggles of the start-up section are amplified.

Two men in black t-shirts stand behind a bar, one holding a beer.
Mark and Mike Meletopoulo prepared to open up their brewery prior to the pandemic hit.(ABC Information: Daniel Irvine)

Upfront charges, lease commitments locked in

“It was most likely a year and a bit of just scheduling, just operating out no matter if or not it would be profitable, working out irrespective of whether we could afford to do it,” Mike Meletopoulo says.

When the pair signed their multi-yr lease late final yr, they failed to expect to be paying months of lease devoid of being capable to open up their doors.

In addition to rental expenses, there was products to be purchased, in shape-out and plumbing to be completed, as perfectly as a lengthy council approval system to navigate.

“Regrettably, with this type of venture, all the expenses are upfront — you have to have anything in position,” Mark Meletopoulo says.

In early 2020, Jon Satterley and Adrian Giles have been in the remaining levels of preparing a greater business enterprise undertaking.

Fortress is a venue in Melbourne, focusing on avid gamers of all ilks, from video players, to board activity fans, and followers of aged-university arcade games.

Two men in black t-shirts stand in front of a neon lights.
Adrian Giles and Jon Satterley opened a huge-scale gaming venue, several decades in the earning.(ABC Information: Michael Gleeson)

Quite a few a long time of scheduling associated acquiring the correct partners and traders to be in a position to fund the task.

The sheer bodily footprint of the location meant the proper place was very important, and the co-founders settled on a procuring centre in the middle of the CBD, functioning with the centre’s proprietor to carry the challenge to lifestyle.

In Adelaide, getting the correct place was the major component in the time it took for Andrew Nguyen’s business to go from plan to reality.

“The idea of LazyBoy Very hot Pot has been floating all-around for a few or four a long time now,” he suggests.

Mr Nguyen and his co-homeowners desired to identify their buffet-type sizzling pot cafe in suburbia rather than the inner-town.

As soon as they’d locked in the lease, there were being then the charges of commissioning the branding, fitting out the place, sourcing the tools and kitchenware from abroad.

A red and white sign read 'Three: create your flavour'
Andrew Nguyen’s cafe had to tweak its supplying to open in the course of the pandemic.(ABC Information: Michael Clements)

Years of perform and then…

In early March, the Fortress team were being getting ready for their massive launch, keeping sneak-preview activities.

“There was a whisper that this coronavirus factor was going on,” Mr Satterley suggests.

But it wasn’t plenty of to hold off the grand opening, which introduced two and a 50 % thousand folks through the door, queueing to get in.

Just a couple of times later on, the doors have been closed with no reopening date, as the distribute of coronavirus in Australia escalated.

In Sydney, development had last but not least been underway for a thirty day period at Mike and Mark Meletopoulo’s brewery, when the pandemic ground it to a halt.

Contractors allowed fewer tradespeople on website and overseas orders were majorly delayed.

“In very a couple of scenarios, we’d have to double up and invest in bits of devices from The united states and China, just to see which would get there very first,” Mark Meletopoulo suggests.

Andrew Nguyen seasoned identical delays with machines deliveries.

“In conditions of the match-out as well, we did hold that back a minimal bit,” Mr Nguyen says.

He also experienced to stand down the everyday staff, who experienced just been employed and properly trained ahead of a prepared March opening day.

A man dressed in black wearing glasses stands in the foreground of an empty restaurant.
Andrew Nguyen located his enterprise couldn’t access significantly of the federal government assist.(ABC Information: Michael Clements)

When govt help was announced, it grew to become crystal clear being a new enterprise intended missing out on some of the measures.

The JobKeeper wage subsidy was not out there for relaxed staff members who had been utilized for much less than 12 months.

That afflicted almost 50 everyday personnel at Fortress, who experienced been experienced in time for the small-lived opening, despite the fact that some staff members who experienced been with the company as a result of the growth stage had been qualified.

The Meletopoulos workforce could not obtain the wage subsidy.

“You will not qualify for anything, we could not satisfy the JobKeeper facet of it mainly because we couldn’t demonstrate a downturn in organization because we were not open,” Mark suggests.

In Adelaide, Mr Nguyen could not accessibility a cash grant on offer you, as it was only available to compact organizations that experienced operated for 12 months or longer.

Likely all in to endure

As the shutdown dragged on, Bracket Brewing was experiencing tricky decisions about its potential, as it couldn’t turn a income doing takeaway beer — the small business model is centred on serving buyers in home.

There was a balancing act concerning the father and son performing the get the job done to get the business open up them selves, which would get for a longer time but was much less expensive, and finding it all set to open up the doors as before long as they had been allowed.

Mark, who was a pilot for almost three decades, traveling 747s internationally, experienced been stood down considering that March and eventually took a redundancy.

A man stands behind a bar holding a beer.
Mark Meletopoulo was stood down from his main occupation right before using a redundancy.(ABC Information: Daniel Irvine)

Mike and his associate place the entire house deposit they experienced saved into the brewery to keep it afloat, which he is hoping will turn out to be a excellent investment decision.

“We trapped with it, to the place where people today check with us why we don’t have tasting paddles and we say purely mainly because by the time we obtained to opening, we could not pay for the glasses,” Mark claims.

In Melbourne, Jon Satterley and Adrian Giles realized their organization had legs — the crowd that experienced flocked to it on opening evening proved it.

But they experienced to figure out how to maintain that interest when the venue couldn’t function.

There had usually been programs for a broadcast and creation facet to the business enterprise, but that quickly grew to become their main aim.

“Operating [e-sports and video game] tournaments, producing content material, broadcasting the content material online… we accelerated and ramped our ability in that space and started out to operate a ton of online tournaments,” Mr Giles suggests.

The sponsors of the venue began sponsoring the on the internet tournaments as very well, encouraging preserve the company working through both of those Melbourne lockdowns.

Andrew Nguyen and his co-house owners also decided to push forward.

They have been able to open up the doors in June, but with a compromise on their first vision.

“Our thought is primarily a self-serve incredibly hot pot restaurant… for the reason that of those people restrictions, because it operates like a buffet style… we had to roster on additional team every night time just to decide on foods for the prospects,” he states.

He’s been buoyed by the reception the cafe has gained because opening and hopes to be operating at entire potential, with customers buying their own substances when permitted.

In Sydney, Bracket Brewing was equipped to welcome its very first clients in August 2020.

Mike Meletopoulo is happy to have folks tasting his beers, whether or not they enjoy them or not.

“The responses is the greatest issue,” he claims.

“I understood we were usually heading to get the doors open up, one particular way or one more it was likely to take place,” Mark says.

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