REAL AUSTRALIA

Businesswomen in Outback Queensland are fighting back against COVID-19

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Mel Atherinos (left top), Jen Daniels (left bottom) and Ginette Steer are leading the way.

Mel Atherinos (left top), Jen Daniels (left bottom) and Ginette Steer are leading the way.

Living in Outback Queensland has unique challenges at the best of times, but the creativity of business women from the bush are helping defy the odds of COVID-19.

Mount Isa milliner Mel Atherinos had just tapped into the international market before COVID-19 hit, with up to 15 per cent of sales being shipped off shore.

COVID-19 restrictions on overseas distribution and banning of patrons at race events, bought the Millinery By Mel sales to an abrupt halt, with a 95 per cent decline in product sales.

BUSINESS: Mel Atherinos has seen a 95 per cent decline in product sales over the last three months. Photo: Samantha Campbell.

BUSINESS: Mel Atherinos has seen a 95 per cent decline in product sales over the last three months. Photo: Samantha Campbell.

Despite having no orders, Ms Atherinos used her free time to upskill through online training.

"I have just finished a seven day course with a milliner in France, so what would usually cost me thousands of dollars is now extremely affordable. As they all have different styles, it was also an opportunity to learn some new trends," she said.

Despite losing weekly trade, Ms Atherinos has not stopped production.

"I have continued to stockpile my products so when things do ramp back up, I will still have the product here and ready to go," she said.

Ms Atherinos wasn't the only business woman riding with wave of COVID-19, as Ginette Steer struggled to keep her business afloat.

Boutique It With Me owner Ginette Steer had to find another source of income to sustain her business through the pandemic.

Boutique It With Me owner Ginette Steer had to find another source of income to sustain her business through the pandemic.

Mount Isa clothing store, Boutique It With Me, was only open for eight months when the pandemic hit, and almost didn't survive to celebrate its first birthday.

Ms Steer admits her business wouldn't have made it through the pandemic, if she didn't find another income during the pandemic.

"If I didn't take a new permanent job at the hospital, we would be done," she said.

"COVID-19 was extremely difficult. There was nobody shopping locally only online and there was nobody in the streets due to lockdown."

Ms Steer said the pandemic allowed her an opportunity to focus on the direction of the business.

"It was quiet opportunity to find the new suppliers that could be size inclusive," she said. "I've also had to reduce the days and hours that we are open.

"But I am glad we are here celebrating the first birthday of the business, I am just gutted that we were closed for three of those months."

Meanwhile 120 kilometres east, there was one brave business woman in Cloncurry starting up her business when the pandemic hit.

Jen Daniels shows the Cloncurry candle that as been popular with locals. Photo: Samantha Campbell.

Jen Daniels shows the Cloncurry candle that as been popular with locals. Photo: Samantha Campbell.

The Boundary Gate was prepared to open her home and giftwaresshop on March 22, when COVID-19 struck.

Although she couldn't open her store due to lockdown, she turned to online marketing and launched her business online and it went "gangbusters".

"For the six weeks of lockdown, we just did online orders from the shop and generated the interest in our products through social media," Ms Daniels said. "We also posted videos of our shop layout and the products we had on offer, which really helped the customers connect with our business."

When lockdown laws were lifted, Ms Daniels officially opened The Boundary Gate andsaid business just became busier.

"It has been incredible, since we have opened we have been so busy that stock is flying off the shelves," she said.

Ms Daniels said COVID-19 was a challenge but she just had to "step up".

"It's one of those things where you just need to figure it out," she said.

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