The summer months are some of the busiest of the year for small business owners. As the peak period for gifting, festivities and tourism, many entrepreneurs aim to make the most of the seasonal buzz. But for some, this comes at a cost. Increased demand can equal longer hours and higher overheads in wages and supply costs (which is particularly prevalent in today’s economic environment). So it begs the question, how can you take advantage of the swell in foot traffic to keep customers coming back?
A survey by Xero shows that over half of small businesses are concerned rising costs of living will hamper summer sales. Which is why connecting with your community and holidaymakers to rally support is crucial. Deepening connections with customers – both existing and prospective – creates more opportunities to build brand awareness and loyalty. Ultimately, this leads to sales growth and higher revenues.
Entrepreneurs Mikaela Greene of MyTab (who also moonlights as a professional surfer) and Deb Hallyburton of The Good Egg Cafe know this all too well. Based in the holiday hotspot of Busselton in Western Australia, the entrepreneurial pair have learned to lean on – and in turn, uplift – their local communities. How? They each have a strong sense of purpose, and a brand that reflects this. Below, they share why this is so important to business success and how they’ve made a name for themselves locally, all to help you do the same.
Finding a purpose (and brand) people connect with
There are many reasons why small business owners do what they do, but for some – like Deb – it’s a little more personal. The Good Egg Cafe is a tribute to Deb’s late husband, who sadly passed away from brain cancer in 2016. She says, “Opening the cafe just after Brad’s 12-month anniversary gave me a renewed sense of purpose. And by donating five percent of our profits to brain cancer research, I’m helping this important cause. To date, we’ve donated over $50,000.”
Knowing Deb’s story (and her incredible contribution to an important cause), it’s easy to understand why fellow small business owner Mikaela considers her an inspiration. The Good Egg was also the first cafe to take on her app, MyTab – software that seamlessly facilitates transactions between customers and hospitality venues. And Mikaela is intent on paying this support forward to others. She explains, “In February, we’ll be a gold-tier sponsor of the Busselton Jetty Swim – one of WA’s most iconic community events. We’re really looking forward to getting behind the locals and businesses that benefit from the influx of people to the region during this time.”
Interestingly, many small businesses have a similar desire to give back. Our research shows that over a third (34.9 percent) donate to groups or schools in their area, and 30 percent sponsor clubs or give to business initiatives where they can. This proves that supporting local not only helps build awareness for brands like Mikaela and Deb’s, but those contributions have a flow-on effect for wider communities.
Building genuine connections
It’s often said that in business, it’s not what you know but who you know. This is especially true for Mikaela, who co-founded MyTab with her sister and fellow pro-surfer Eliza Greene. After years spent working in hospitality to fund their sporting careers, the duo decided to create an app to solve many of the issues they experienced behind the bar. The only problem? They had no industry connections or entrepreneurial experience. But Mikaela was determined not to let this hold them back.
“Eliza and I have built every business relationship we have from the ground up. It’s been daunting but amazing because we’ve created real brand validity off our own bat. A big part of this has been meeting with customers face-to-face, listening to their feedback and actually taking it onboard,” says Mikaela, adding, “We wouldn’t be where we are today without our community.”
Like Mikaela, Deb believes in collaboration over competition, which is ultimately what community is all about. And although relationship building can happen organically, in order to grow genuine support networks, you have to get amongst the action (for example, actively engaging with tourists and turning up or volunteering at local events). Deb explains, “I put myself out there so I’m not known as just a brand but a real person. And I’m always myself; there’s no pretence.”
This is something she encourages other local entrepreneurs to practise. The Good Egg Cafe doubles as a co-working hub for Busselton’s business minds and creatives to get together. There’s a mezzanine level dedicated to free desk spaces, as well as private offices and a boardroom at a cost. It’s the ultimate picture of community, with entrepreneurs collaborating and supporting each other’s growth.
As these stories show, there’s huge value in connecting with your community and reaping the benefits of the summer swell to keep customers coming back all year round. Whether it’s getting your brand name out there and finding a purpose people are inspired by, or making a concerted effort to engage with customers old and new – the relationships you build will help your business thrive.