The last few years have been tough for Gayle Black and her small business. Owning a newsagency in the town of Cessnock situated near the rolling hills of the Hunter Valley has made her face the brunt of Covid-19 restrictions and the recent NSW flood disasters.
But through it all, Gayle’s bravery and fortitude have risen above the adversity experienced across the region, and the Cessnock West Newsagency stands strong as a pillar of the community.
“I won’t lie, it’s been difficult,” she reflected. “But my community is important to me and sometimes you got to roll with the punches and come out scathed but standing.”
Supporting Gayle through the highs and lows has been BizCover, which has helped provide protection for the newsagency since 2016.
“It’s just so simple and easy and that’s why I just kept going with BizCover because they just work for my business,” she said.
And while she may be an Aussie battler, Gayle understands the importance of putting a solid insurance plan in place, taking out a Business Pack policy (including Public Liability, Contents, Theft, Glass, Money).
“My advice to small businesses is to work hard, enjoy yourself while doing it, and have the protection in place just in case it all goes pear-shaped.”
Small business owner Gayle Black (right) with her employees Desley and Cath
Unsurprisingly, Australian small businesses said the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was largely responsible for driving 2021 performance levels for better or worse, according to the latest BizCover Small Business Bravery Report.
And given that she runs a brick-and-mortar store in a tourist destination, Gayle was forced to make some difficult decisions as the effects of lockdowns were particularly bad for business.
“We allowed ourselves the first two days of the COVID lockdown to take a moment and think ‘holy crap! what are we going to do?’ Gayle reflected. “Then we buckled down and made it work.”
Besides cancelling some services, Gayle was forced to send some of her staff home because there simply weren’t enough sales to cover wages on that day.
“My team are like my family. Any small business owner with an ounce of brains would know your team is everything and if you don’t have their support, your business won’t last. You can’t do it all on your own, so it was a tough call to make.”
And as the region flooded, dangerous conditions stopped the newsagency’s ability to deliver much-needed resources to the wider Cessnock community.
“I had to make sure my drivers’ routes were safe enough to travel. But I also needed to help the most vulnerable around us,” she said.
“One of our regular elderly customers was quite ill and couldn’t leave the house… So we would deliver her a couple of magazines, fresh orange juice and a paper every Friday… it made us both so happy.”
Change and tradition
While 2021 was challenging for many small businesses, those that had a more positive experience were more likely to develop new products or services to meet the changing conditions, according to insights from the Bravery Report.
The Cessnock West Newsagency is a real-life example of this, with Gayle sourcing more toilet paper, hand sanitiser and ramping up deliveries to compensate for the lack of foot traffic.
“You’re going to have to diversify. I’ve noticed with my competitors is that if you are in business for a long time, you run the risk of going a bit stale and not wanting to change,” she said. “We changed the way we operate in some ways and tried to source locally and fairly.”
But for Gayle what is just as important is keeping traditions alive. Gayle says it’s the little things that are important, like remembering whether that customer likes their paper rolled or put out on the porch.
“We don’t actually make much money from delivering papers but the service we provide to our customers has been going on for generations and a lot of my customers are elderly so I want to make sure they get what they need.”
Gayle hopes to continue on her business journey and to expand the services and products it sells now that the worst of the lockdowns and floods are over (touch wood).
“If you are heading over our neck of the woods, or if you are ready for a more permanent change of scenery, pop into Cessnock Newsagency, we’d love to have you.”
If you would like to know more about Cessnock West Newsagency, visit:
*This information is general only and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It should not be relied upon as advice. As with any insurance, cover will be subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions contained in the policy wording. © 2022 BizCover Pty Limited, all rights reserved. ABN 68 127 707 975; AFSL 501769