Bellingen Chamber of Commerce

Weekly news from the Bellingen Chamber – 17 August 2020

17 Aug

Business link-up – Wednesday 19 August

Please join us as usual on Wednesday morning at 8am to connect with other business owners.
If you have recently joined the Chamber, this is a great opportunity to connect with other members, tell us about your business and discuss how your membership of the Chamber can support your business to thrive. Please join us – you will be warmly welcomed!
Click on this link just before 8am, or to join by phone please call 02 8015 6011 and enter the meeting ID: 558 434 683

Encouraging our community to support the local economy

As business owners, you will be unlikely to argue about the importance of encouraging our community to support local businesses!
This will be even more important over coming months as the economy faces the challenges of reduced economic government stimulus funding in the form of JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments.
This is a topic that we regularly discuss, and the question always comes back to how you get the message across to those in the community who perhaps don’t understand the impact of choosing to purchase goods and services from outside of Bellingen Shire.
We choose to live in this shire because of its many appealing characteristics – its beautiful environment, its wonderful community spirit and its vibrant creative energy. And we need the community to make choices that will help us to keep these values.
What can we do to help locals to make the link between supporting local businesses and protecting their own community? How can we motivate people to change their habits – for example, to see the hidden, less tangible costs of buying their groceries from a big supermarket chain rather than a local supplier?
I would love to have your feedback and ideas on how we can work together to build this support from the community. I look forward to hearing from you!

Meet the members – Garth Douglas

What is your business?

I own Coast & Plateau Fine Foods. We are a specialty food and beverage distribution company, servicing the Mid North Coast and New England Tablelands.

How did you come to start your business?

The business has been around for a couple of decades now, in various forms. The previous owner was a good school-friend of mine, and over a few beers he decided to pass business over to me back in 2014. Since then, we’ve worked hard to expand our range, focusing on quality products from some of Australia’s best producers. We are proud to work with a handful of very talented local producers, growing their businesses and promoting their products across the region.

How long have you been in Bellingen?

I am lucky enough to have grown up in Bellingen, moving here at the age of four. I did all my schooling in Bellingen before making the trip to Sydney for University, and the beginnings of my work career. In 2014, my wife (who also grew up in Bellingen) decided to move back to town, and make roots with our young family. It’s a pleasure to be able to raise our four girls in Bellingen, giving them the same childhood we were lucky enough to have.

How has the pandemic affected your business?

Most of our customers are small cafes and restaurants. The COVID restrictions meant they couldn’t trade, so our business all but ceased overnight. We lost around 85% of our trade. At the time, we were carrying a lot of perishable stock too, such as smallgoods and cheeses, so it was a very stressful period but we managed through it. Like a lot of small businesses we changed our product offering as quickly as we could to suit the available market – which in this case was supermarkets. This helped us diversify our range, and reduce our reliance on the food service channel.

You’ve just joined the Chamber Board — what prompted you to join and what are you hoping to contribute to the Chamber?

Part of my business is understanding the needs of my customers. When you’re talking to your customers once or twice a week, you quickly get a feeling for the trading environment and the challenges they face. With a large proportion of my customers falling within the Bellingen Shire, I’m hoping to give a strong voice to them.

 

Having grown up in Bellingen, and having witnessed the ever-changing business environment in town over several decades, I have a vested interest in ensuring that all business stakeholders in the community are well represented, and are getting the best value for their individual investments.