Businesses use council grant to go digital

Businesses use council grant to go digital

By Katie Johnson

As coronavirus restrictions persist throughout Melbourne, Docklands businesses have been forced to leave the physical world and enter the digital one.

For Docklands Health owner Mike Edgley, this entailed moving patient consultations online—a shift which was partly funded through the council’s $5 million COVID-19 business grant program.

“We received $3000 in the second wave of recipients which we spent on camera equipment, software and lighting for our TeleHealth services,” Dr Edgley said.

With the help of the grant—which provides support for businesses to invest in online and e-commerce capabilities—Docklands Health was able to remain open despite the challenges posed by the lack of in-person customers.

“The biggest difficulty has been the reduction in foot traffic. We had an 80 per cent drop in business essentially,” he said.

“But the grant was really helpful as we were able to put our counselling, psychology and dietary services online.”

During lockdown, Docklands Health also had to cease its in-house yoga and studio pilates sessions.

But knowing how important exercise is, Dr Edgley decided to use the new equipment to put the sessions online for free—including live streams on Facebook and YouTube.

“People really liked it so we’re going to continue online. And now things are opening up those new clients who were doing TeleHealth or online streaming can come in face-to-face,” he said.

Co-owner of Xary Technologies, Ahmad Trad, also put the council grant to good use to help other small business owners stay afloat during restrictions.

Receiving the grant in the first wave of recipients on April 23, Xary’s IT business spent it on purchasing new hardware equipment that enabled them to better aid struggling businesses.

“It’s given us the opportunity to build more of a digital footprint—redeveloping a large part of our tech internally so we can bring that to market where it’s relevant,” Mr Trad said.

“With people working from home, there’s more of an emphasis on cyber security so we’re helping businesses to virtualise their work environments securely.”

As a company which provides accounting, legal, technology, and advisory services to small-medium businesses—Xary has seen first-hand the damage COVID-19 has done to industry across Melbourne.

“We support small to medium businesses, so a large number were affected by COVID-19 restrictions and in turn we were affected,” Mr Trad said.

“People that would have been looking at growing, expanding and developing their business are now reluctant to invest. They’re now focusing more on their online capabilities which have become a key priority instead of a discretionary one.”

As many of Xary’s clients have endured hardship due to unemployment and a lack of trade, the company has worked hard to share the pain.

“To help our clients which have been with us for over 12 months through the difficult time of COVID-19, we haven’t billed them for internal work like doing applications for JobKeeper, government grants, dealing with the tax office, and helping clients get online” Mr Trad said.

“We try to run our business ethically so we want to help our clients who are suffering.”

Mr Trad said that the council’s business grant was a substantial help that allowed Xary to quickly meet the shifting needs of businesses.

“We were very firm on ensuring we spent that money straight away because businesses are suffering so we weren’t just going to sit there and look at it in the bank,” he said.

As of June 16, $5 million in grants had been awarded to successful businesses across Victoria •

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