Spark Lab Pivot Reports Episode 1

In the first of the Spark Lab Pivot Reports, Russell Brown connected with businesses who shared their experiences before and during 28 days of Level 4 of the COVID-19 Alert System.

Each had a very different background and point of origin, but we found some great learnings.

Experiment, fast and fearless.

AJ Ackerman is the director of two F45 gyms in West Auckland. A gym business is built around a room full of gear, but F45 West has shown that it’s more than just that location, and they built an even stronger community around it. In 48 hours, they managed to completely change their business, sending the equipment from their buildings home with members and moving to online classes.

When times are changing, you need to change too. Evolve what you're offering, and the way that you do things, to hit the sweet spot. There’s a constant tweaking of the dials to find a new way to work. It might be the technology you adopt or perhaps the techniques you use to achieve the same, if not better, results.

Change. And change again.

When the crisis hit Good George Brewing, their first thoughts weren’t about their brewing or bar businesses. They swung into action to manufacture hand sanitiser to help address the shortages for essential services brought on by panic buying. In the following weeks, they then moved into working on the challenges their own business faced (and still faces).

Owner Jason Macklow was pragmatic about the challenges they face but is buoyed by what they learned in those first few days. The people that make things happen aren’t driven by the dollars, but a sense of purpose and shared goals. The time you’ve invested in your people and caring for customers is what pays off when it comes to a crunch.

Read the Good George story

The little guy can do big things.

The No Ugly business was built on wellness and sustainability. Building an ethical business without compromising those values can be a hard slog, and sometimes means growth is slower. But during the COVID-19 crisis, No Ugly co-founder Aaron Taylor found it was these foundation that meant they had the systems and processes to not only ensure their business could weather the restrictions, but also help other businesses that weren't prepared for e-commerce sales and distribution.

Aaron opened up his platform and found that those hard-learned start-up lessons paid off under the pressure of a pandemic.

Communities care.

Not all heroes wear capes. Some just carry a Keep Cup and really care about getting the brew they love. David Downs set up SOS Cafe to help his local café stay in business, and it escalated into the leading Pay it Forward organisation in the country. SOS Cafe changed its name to SOS Business as it grew to include not just hospitality but other local small businesses, all powered by a team of volunteers.

David found that public support went beyond wanting to get a coffee when the lockdown is over. People also wanted a way to help their local operators, from booking a future haircut to simply making a donation to keep the doors open. The "shop local" feels are strong.

Visit the SOS Business website