It’s been a challenging year for many businesses. But through this difficult time, some canny firms have identified new, lucrative business lines.

Fox Wardrobes is one. It knew it needed to take action to stay afloat when orders dried up in April due to customer concerns about whether it would be able to stay open during the pandemic.

The family-owned business on Sydney’s Northern Beaches specialises in creating high-quality wardrobes, linen and storage cabinetry. The team is especially passionate about the environment and its vision is to create a sustainable manufacturing business with no waste going to landfill, fully powered by solar energy. “Even our food scraps are used for compost in the factory garden,” says founder Chris Volpe.  

When lockdown started, the business went from 10 projects a week to just one or two. Not to be deterred, Volpe got the team together to find a way to keep all staff fully employed.

“There are opportunities for businesses to move into new areas to make up for lost revenue as a result of COVID restrictions”

When lockdown started, the business went from 10 projects a week to just one or two. Not to be deterred, Volpe got the team together to find a way to keep all staff fully employed. 

“It was about thriving not just surviving through uncertain times. So we decided to create an in-demand product using Australian-made materials. A few of my customers had asked if I could make them a desk while they were working from home. It was a lightbulb moment when we realised thousands of people were in the same situation.

So we  came up with a flat pack stand-up desk that’s perfect for Zoom meetings,” he explains. It was a true brain wave and Volpe and his team sold desks even before they manufactured any. After fantastic feedback from initial customers, they put the desks on their web site and started getting sales straight away.

“Our desks are made from a high-quality birchply material, so they align with our vision of making high-quality, sustainable products. We also recycle all offcuts and manufacture using 96 per cent solar energy, so they are a zero-waste product,” says Volpe. 

Insurance was a consideration, given the business had to make sure its new product line was covered by its existing cover. “I called my insurance broker when we decided to branch out into desks to ask him if we had adequate product liability insurance.

He confirmed we did under our existing policy,” he adds. Since then, the desks have been a runaway success, not only giving Fox Wardrobes vital new revenue, but also motivating the team. The business now has a new web site selling two different desks and Volpe says there are plenty of opportunities to create more online products. The upshot has been an entirely new customer base right around Australia and the chance for the team to develop new skills.

Peaches Pilates is another firm that has used the pandemic to reinvigorate its business model. Co-owners Tori Clapham and Bec Chidiac quickly pivoted to respond to COVID-19 restrictions that meant closing for a period. The business has three studios across Sydney.

The innovative pair came up with a package comprising two series of on-demand digital classes and an equipment pack with discs, a ball and resistance band delivered to customers’ homes. Even though the studios are open again, the online programs have continued to meet the needs of people who prefer to take classes from their living room.

Insurance was also a consideration for Clapham and Chidiac given customers were now doing classes at home rather than at the studio. “We found out we didn't need to change our insurance. But it made us think about adjusting our cover for things like income protection,” says Clapham.As this shows, there are opportunities for businesses to move into new areas to make up for lost revenue as a result of COVID restrictions.

With the reintroduction of lockdown in Victoria, now’s the time to explore new product and service lines to help maintain revenue through business cycles.

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