Coronavirus: Waikato-bedrijven springen online om Covid-19 squeeze te verminderenapril 21, 2020
CARISSE ENDERWICK/OF EARTH AND INK PHOTOGRAPHY
Pamella Ariestia and Geoff Carr opened the Escapist about a year ago. The venue features four escape rooms and a board game cafe.
For Pamella Ariestia, the financial challenge posed by coronavirus is just another puzzle to unpick.
A year ago Ariestia and her partner Geoff Carr opened the Escapist in Hamilton, a venue featuring four themed escape rooms and a board game cafe.
For the uninitiated, an escape room requires participants to solve a series of clues and puzzles in order to exit the room.
It’s a concept that’s proved popular, with almost 5000 people visiting the Bryce St premises during the past 12 months.
* Coronavirus: Mischievous dogs keep owners entertained over Covid-19 lockdown
* Coronavirus: Wider Covid-19 testing starts in Christchurch, Waikato
* New Zealand’s travel bubble could include Australia and Singapore
But level 4 lockdown restrictions mean the Escapist, like many other businesses up and down the country, has had to shut its door.
“Because our core business is getting people together in a space and facilitating their fun, solving problems together, the lockdown completely decimated us because we had to close,” Ariestia said.
Rather than admit defeat, however, Ariestia and Carr set up an escape room online as well as offering board games for sale on their website.
The couple launched the online escape room Easter weekend and hosted 11 groups. Last week they hosted a group from the Netherlands.
The online room is adapted from a podcast called Escape This Podcast and Ariestia and Carr are working to set up two more online escape rooms in the coming weeks.
Their advice for business owners looking to shift their products and offerings online is to “just do it”.
“Don’t be afraid, you don’t have to be perfect,” Ariestia said.
“It’s all about speed to market. People appreciate you are trying. And remember to keep in touch with customers … if you don’t talk to them, if you don’t stay in touch with them, you won’t actually know what they want or what they need.”
On Friday, a free online workshop was hosted by Cambridge-based website builder Rocketspark, aimed at taking people through the process of setting up an online store.
More than 70 people registered for the workshop, with participants drawn from the hospitality and retail sectors, and manufacturing.
Rocketspark co-founder Grant Johnson said the Covid-19 crisis has changed the world in different ways, including how businesses operate. The majority of business owners who signed up for Friday’s online workshop didn’t have an e-commerce presence prior to the level 4 lockdown, Johnson said.
“E-commerce is providing an opportunity for the little guys. A lot of them are small businesses … and it can be quite a game changer that these guys can get back trading,” he said.
Johnson knew of a Raglan fish and chip shop that, prior to Covid-19, had never thought of setting up a website but was now gearing up to receive takeaway orders online.
Hamilton Central Business Association general manager Vanessa Williams said while some businesses will do well shifting trade online, others will find it challenging.
“For hospitality it’s a tough one … is it worth opening your doors just to do takeaways? Calling e-commerce a lifeline is a bit much at this stage because it’s still not opening the doors and it doesn’t necessarily mean full capacity staff are back,” Williams said.
Hamilton’s CBD is likely to remain largely empty of people under level 3 lockdown, she said.