New Zealand's most pandemic-resilient businesses

5 stories of New Zealand’s most pandemic-resilient businesses

COVID-19 has taken a huge toll on the global economy, but in true Kiwi spirit, many businesses here in New Zealand have powered through. Big and small businesses alike have adapted the way they work and come up with innovative solutions that have allowed their business not just to survive but thrive in these unprecedented times.

Here are just a few of the many stories of how Kiwi business have proven to be pandemic resilient.

1. Countdown


As an essential service, Countdown experienced a massive demand for its services during the COVID-19 lockdowns. This in itself was a huge challenge but coupled with new health and safety regulations, Countdown had to act quickly to instate new operational plans that would ensure Kiwis could still safely shop for groceries.

“When we knew something big was happening and that it would be tough for many, we took a ‘people first’ approach to everything. Our roots are as a grocer—we exist to serve our communities. We knew there would be New Zealanders at home, hungry and needing food on the table, some needing more help than others.”

Steve James, head of Technology and Customer Care.

Countdown used a customer first, technology-focused plan to help them adapt to the massive 300% surge in online shopping demand. Actions included opening New Zealand’s first dedicated online store in Auckland, and converting five other supermarkets to ‘dark stores’ that only serviced online orders. They added more than 60 new trucks to an already large delivery fleet, employed 2,500 new team members, and developed a new customer service chatbot, Olive, which helped customers in over 300,000 online conversations. To better support the community, Countdown also set up a Priority Assistance online shopping service, dedicated to helping older and at-risk people through this trying time.

Countdown’s excellent COVID-19 response was recognised at the NZ CIO Awards, which celebrates innovation and success in the ICT industry. Their dedicated digital team, CountdownX, was named as a finalist in the Business Transformation through Digital and IT category, and Acting Managing Director Sally Copland was awarded New Zealand CIO of the Year.

2. OP Creative

OP Creative
OP Creative

Olivia Peterson​, 23, was one of the many New Zealanders who lost their job as a result of the pandemic. However, she managed to turn this tragedy into an opportunity and has used this wake-up call as a chance to finally start a business, OP Creative. Beginning with word of mouth, Olivia has managed to build up a local client base for her web design and photography services. Starting out on your own is never easy, but Olivia is proof that if you persevere through the hard times, you will make it through.

“I feel like I’m in a positive place at the moment, and I’m finally doing what I like, every day I wake up and I’m excited… I look back and also I’m grateful I was made redundant because I guess this would never have happened.”

Olivia Peterson, Founder, OP Creative

3. Good George Brewery

Good George Brewery hand sanitiser
Good George Brewery hand sanitiser.

Hamilton-based brewery Good George stepped up to the plate early on in the pandemic, helping to produce 1,000 litres of hand sanitiser in response to the shortage. Widely known for its craft beer, Good George set up production in a distillery where they had been experimenting with making gins and other spirits earlier in the year. The first batch was given out free of charge to everyone in the team, as well as to the Good George pubs for customer use, and to locals in Hamilton in need of sanitiser.

After the move to level 2 in May, Good George continued to innovate and came up with a creative solution for safely reopening their Auckland North Wharf bar. In partnership with Winter Gardenz, they installed five glass greenhouses that protect patrons from the elements, and from each other. The brewery also launched a new ordering option for customers, which allows them to request drinks from an app and rather than having to wait at the crowded bar.

4. Nanogirl Labs

Joe Davis and Dr Michelle Dickinson, the husband and wife duo behind Nanogirl Labs, have been praised by fellow New Zealanders for how they manage to turn their business around during COVID-19. As science communicators, Nanogirl Labs business was built around live science shows and in-school experiences. However, when the pandemic hit their clients had to cancel or postponed indefinitely, leaving Nanogirl with no business at all.

“I looked at our staff, I looked at my husband and business co-founder, and we knew there was a big decision to be made: accept defeat and wind the business up, or fight for something we believed in.”

Michelle Dickinson, co-founder Nanogirl Labs

Within days, the Nanogirl team was able to come up with a solution: move from live shows to an online science curriculum for kids. Each day through lockdown, they offered up a new science adventure that aims to teach kids about science, technology, engineering, and maths for just $1 a day. On top of that, as a social enterprise, Nanogirl Labs held on to its “buy one give one” model so that those who wouldn’t have been able to afford to take part could do so.

Thanks to this new venture, they have been able to hire new staff, and have also recently launched a school holiday programme.

5. Restaurant owners Krishna Botica & Tony George

The hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit during this pandemic. Many have found themselves completely out of business, and even those that survived the lockdown are struggling to stay afloat.

Krishna Botica and Tony George, owners of three Auckland eateries Cafe Hanoi, Saan and Xuxu Dumpling Bar, have gone above and beyond to help keep their businesses going and staff employed. They put into place multiple contingency plans, including putting their house out for rent in order to support their business. These sacrifices have recently been recognised by The Restaurant Association, who have launched a new award system to highlight the people and businesses that really stepped up during the pandemic.

The Restaurant Association has also said that Krishna Botica and Tony George are shining examples of how to manage the “new normal.” They have helped boost confidence again in the hospitality industry with their mandatory mask policy and random Covid-testing policy for staff.


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