Starting your own business is a big leap, but two Stawell entrepreneurs have gotten more than they bargained for with the wretched timing of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Back in 2018, when Sheree Inglis began the path to owning her own business, COVID-19 wasn't even a worry, and its effect on their lives couldn't have been imagined.
Ms Inglis, who grew up in Stawell, had worked as a regional credit manager in a local accounting firm for 17 years before she founded Grampians Wellbeing Yoga and Reiki.
Health and wellbeing are two of her greatest passions and she wanted to change her lifestyle by chasing that passion.
Grampians Wellbeing Yoga and Reiki was building steadily in 2019 and in the early parts of 2020 before COVID-19 and subsequent lockdowns changed everything.
"I really had some momentum going and I fortunately just started looking at online yoga, and so I had a foot down in that track before everything was forced to go online," Ms Inglis said.
"Everything went out the window.
"I lost students, people that didn't understand live-streaming or were not interested and so that limped along until we could get back into in-person classes."
Since March 2020, it's hard to imagine more difficult circumstances to run a business, regardless of the industry.
For Ms Inglis, she said the lockdowns have had a strong effect because they stifle any momentum she built.
"By the time we build it back up again, we go into another lockdown and the whole process starts again," she said.
"When that small income we were getting was really jeopardized that was really scary for us.
"Behind the scenes, it has been really difficult. It is just the cumulative effect of all of the lockdowns really hit me and it was just really awful."
Different industry, similar challenges
And for Ms Inglis' husband, Richard, things haven't been any easier as he looks to grows his market garden business.
Mr Inglis, who has lived in Stawell for 27 years, launched Rich Market in July 2019, with fresh produce and resin boards his speciality.
After choosing to invest more of his time into his venture, COVID-19 lockdowns have become a cruel blow, forcing the closure and cancellations of many markets since March 2020.
Mr Inglis adapted to the circumstances as quickly as possible, moving parts of his business online and to social media to try to survive.
"There was no income coming in then," Mr Inglis said about the effects of the first lockdown.
"We had our website, but it was all new for us and we jumped into it because we had to.
"At the moment I am pushing through with a lot of the market garden stuff because once that is ready in the next few months I will have a lot of produce and that changes my income then.
"I'm working 90-100 hours a week and all the lovely stuff that comes with it at the moment, sometimes it feels like you're not getting anywhere.
"If I don't go through with my business then it will be game over."
The next steps
To help deal with the challenges, Ms Inglis said she has needed some mental health support as well as dealing with different levels of government financial assistance.
"Initially we were fortunate enough to get JobKeeper so that helped us keep everything going while we are trying to find our feet in this new world," she said.
"For the last three lockdowns, we haven't received any financial assistance because we are not registered for GST.
"I have gone back to a part-time job now, so I have to fit in my business in three less days a week, so now I am feeling that pressure."
Despite all of the challenges out of her control, Ms Inglis is determined to make her business work and she has encouraged residents to support small businesses when they can.
"I acknowledge that everyone is having a really hard time and where you are able to, it has never been more important to support small local business," she said.
"It is really important to support small businesses so that we can survive and continue providing our services to the community otherwise we will have to close.
"Those big corporations don't put the money back into this community.
"We are so grateful for the support we do have, but it is more crucial than ever to support your locals."
Mr Inglis is also keeping his head high, with his eyes set on a return to markets around the end of August.
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