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 busi…

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 businesses to to survive and 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

5 Stories of New Zealand's Most Pandemic-resilient Businesses

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 establish 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 a large delivery fleet and employed 2,500 new team members. They developed a new customer service chatbot, Olive, which helped customers in over 300,000 online conversations. Countdown also set up a Priority Assistance online shopping service to better support the community, 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, celebrating innovation and success in the ICT industry. Their dedicated digital team, CountdownX, was named a finalist in the Business Transformation through Digital and IT category. Acting Managing Director Sally Copland was awarded New Zealand CIO of the Year.

2. OP Creative

5 Stories of New Zealand's Most Pandemic-resilient Businesses
OP Creative

Olivia Peterson​, 23, was one of the many New Zealanders who lost their job due to the pandemic. However, she managed to turn this tragedy into an opportunity and has finally used this wake-up call as a chance to start a business, OP Creative. Beginning with word of mouth, Olivia has built a local client base for her web design and photography services. Starting out alone is never easy, but Olivia proves 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

5 Stories of New Zealand's Most Pandemic-resilient Businesses
Good George Brewery hand sanitizer.

Hamilton-based brewery Good George stepped up to the plate early on in the pandemic, helping to produce 1,000 litres of hand sanitizer 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 on the team, as well as to the Good George pubs for customer use and locals in Hamilton in need of sanitizer.

After moving to level 2 in May, Good George continued to innovate and devised 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 each other. The brewery also launched a new ordering option for customers, allowing them to request drinks from an app rather than waiting 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 turning 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 postpone 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 devised 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 math 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 who survived the lockdown struggle to stay afloat.

Krishna Botica and Tony McGeorge, 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 to support their business. These sacrifices have recently been recognised by The Restaurant Association, which launched a new award system to highlight the people and businesses that stepped up during the pandemic.

The Restaurant Association has also said that Krishna Botica and Tony George are shining examples of managing 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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