Go Local! New group helps businesses navigate way through Covid-19 rules

Northern Advocate

Navigating how to do business amid a mass of Covid-19 rules and regulations just got a whole lot easier thanks to a new Whangārei support group.

The social media page called What's Next Whangarei? was set up to help small business owners who live and operate locally, share ideas and information, and plan, brainstorm and collaborate.

It was established by Jessica Barnes, a real estate agent with One Agency Whangārei.

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Barnes said she came up with the idea for a private group in March after a couple of friends who own small local businesses were worried about what the level 4 lockdown would mean for them.

"I don't have the answers, but I thought if we get all the business owners together someone is bound to know something that will help them - and it has."

What's Next Whangarei? was set up to help small business owners who live and operate locally. Photo / Michael Cunningham
What's Next Whangarei? was set up to help small business owners who live and operate locally. Photo / Michael Cunningham

The group now has 546 members with another 500 requests pending approval.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

Barnes said she has lots of friends in the small business community, having been in business-to-business sales most of her career.

She aims to keep the group non-biased "so everyone can have a safe place to discuss things and support each other as a small business community."

"Because it's private and moderated they seem to be more comfortable discussing things," she said.

"It's great for sharing information and helping each other; if cafes are wondering how they can open in a contactless way, they post their concerns, and everyone tells them what their options are.

"It's really created quite a cool little community and it's taken away the competitiveness and put everyone on the same level. Everyone is wanting to help each other. It's been such a nice experience."

Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai is an advocate of the initiative, and took part in a live interview via Zoom two weeks ago.

"I'm so impressed with how quickly she's organised so many local businesses and captured their desire for working together and resolving issues," Mai said.

"Rather than being a place where people could promote their own business, she's saying lets solve problems together, we're all facing new and different challenges, so let's help each other out here."

Whangārei's local business community has come together with Whangārei District Council, Northland Chamber of Commerce and Northland Inc to develop Whangārei District Love It Local, a campaign to support local businesses and reconnect our communities with their local services and retailers.

The Love it Local campaign was launched yesterday and was shaped by the needs of local business owners through What's Next Whangārei? Facebook group.

Whangārei businesses are invited to join the group and post about their businesses and what they offer, enabling local communities to support local businesses.

NorthChamber president Tim Robinson has been working alongside What's Next Whangarei? founder Jessica Barnes.

'What was really exciting was how quickly everyone got on board to help, and quickly found ways to create some content and communication tools that delivered what was being asked for."