Always look on the Bright side of life

Summer bushfires and coronavirus (COVID-19) have thrown hefty curve balls at Bright bike business, Cyclepath.

Die-hard bike enthusiast Brendon Dean wants to share the thrill of the ride with others via Cyclepath, the small business he runs with wife Dee Pease in Bright – about 200 kilometres north-east of Melbourne in the Alpine hinterland.

They’ve had a rough ride so far this year, though.

First, when bushfires threatened their township in summer: Tourism North East estimates some $208 million dollars were lost in the Alpine Shire for the March 2020 quarter.

Brendon Dean holding some bikesThen came a second hit: the pandemic. Has that taken the air out of their tyres further?

“Yes, even more so than the fires,” says Brendon. “I guess we’ve experienced bushfires before, obviously not on the scale that it was in January this year, but we’ve bounced back in the past. Coronavirus is a whole different ball game; no one can see it, so it’s hard to know what you’re up against. We just need to be vigilant with the precautionary measures.”

The Cyclepath team are taking those measures on board and adapting at a cracking pace, thanks in part to a government fund which has supported them to keep trading.

“Customers have been really considerate about all the new safety measures in place. We’re asking them to ring ahead to book bikes in for service or repairs or if they want to purchase anything. And when they bring their bikes in for a service we sterilise them, work on them and then sterilise again before we hand them back.”

The business employs eleven. “Some of our staff are able to work from home and others are on a rotating roster so there’s minimal staff at the shop at one time to reduce the risks.”

Brendon and the Cyclepath team had to think creatively about how to keep both customers and staff while they rode out the storm. That’s when they heard about the Business Support Fund.

The fund is part of a $1.7 billion Economic Survival Package to help small businesses survive the impacts of coronavirus and keep people in work.

Dee says they didn’t know if their business would be eligible and they feared it might be a convoluted application process. That wasn’t the case.

“To be honest, we didn’t know what was required,” says Dee. “But it was very simple: we filled out the application and I sent it to my accountant to double-check before we submitted it. The grant is certainly going to be a huge help to us financially and we’re truly grateful: we’ll use it to cover wages before the JobKeeper payments come through. It’s a straightforward process and could make the difference to some small businesses as to whether they survive or not.”

To "get through" this time, Cyclepath has launched an online store to reach customers on all platforms, selling Cyclepath and local merchandise. They’re selling items on eBay, too. “We don’t know how this will pan out, trying to compete with the big guns, but we’re giving it a red-hot go,” Brendon explains. “We’re looking forward to tourists being allowed to come back to town as this is a huge part of our business and many other businesses in town rely on the tourism trade.”

To other small business owners on how to stay positive during these times, Brendon’s tip is: don’t be afraid to ask for help. “Everyone is being affected by this pandemic in one way or another and so we need to support each other through it: reach out, seek advice, buy local, adhere to the rules… and ride your bike!”

Assistance for Victorian small businesses impacted by coronavirus is available from Business Victoria. Applications close on 1 June.