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How One Small Business Grew During COVID-19 Lockdown


| By Alison Boleyn | September 14, 2020

Even when times seemed dark for this Melbourne small business due to lockdown, there was still growth. Here's what it did to succeed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Goldeluck’s Doughnuts was able to thrive during the lockdowns that affected small businesses.

Melbourne’s Goldeluck’s Doughnuts took a big hit with the outbreak of COVID-19 at the start of 2020. “We lost 30 to 40% of our sales,” says Phillip Kuoch, CEO and creative director. The business had to close its Ringwood store but then the extraordinary happened. “The week after Stage 3 restrictions were announced in late March, we had this massive spike in online store visits,” says Kuoch.

By April’s end, online sales had gone from a maximum of 10 orders a day to hundreds – a 5427% increase on the same month last year. Within a couple of months the company was delivering around the country.

Here’s what Phillip Kuoch did to help Goldeluck’s thrive, and how you can start to future-proof your own business.

Planning for Every Possible Outcome

How one small business is successfully managing the COVID-19 lockdown.

Before the outbreak of COVID-19 in Australia, Kuoch had been working on improving Goldeluck’s online store, but it averaged fewer than 10 orders per day. Customers regularly asked Goldeluck’s to pack and deliver doughnuts in gift boxes, but not on any kind of scale.

Early in March, when there was uncertainty about what would and would not be allowed in food service, the store made backup plans for every scenario. At the announcement of Stage 3 restrictions, in which restaurants could only offer takeaway and delivery, Goldeluck’s was ready: it assured customers it was operating and tripled its marketing budget that day. It hit “go” on already prepared radio promotions, such as giveaways, and sent product to influencers to post on social media. “As soon as we knew what we could do, we just quadrupled it,” says Kuoch.

Understanding Logistics

Before lockdown, with an average of 10 online orders a day that required delivery, Goldeluck’s had booked a courier for each one or Kuoch delivered some himself. But suddenly there were hundreds of online orders a day. “To be in control at every touchpoint, we had to quickly learn to do logistics. That was a challenge,” says Kuoch.

Throughout March, he researched different software options to find the one that worked for the small business.“Then we had to learn how to integrate it into our backend processes, how it would communicate with the bakery. It was hard to get it together but when it worked, it worked very well. I think we’ve cracked the code.”

Maximising Online Presence

The marketing plan and strategies that worked for this small business during lockdown.

Before restrictions, Goldeluck’s had a website “but it wasn’t the best website,” admits Kuoch, who was a 21-year-old, second-year marketing and journalism student when he took on Goldeluck’s leadership in 2015 due to his father’s health problems. In the early weeks of June, the business worked to improve its site, investing $10,000 to ensure the customer journey was seamless.

“For us, $10,000 was a really big investment. It’s more than our shop renovations cost,” says Kuoch, whose parents came to Australia from Cambodia with a dream to run their own business. The website’s redevelopment was complete just before Stage 3 and 4 lockdowns started again in Victoria in July.

Redeploying Staff

Kuoch says the business has been “very, very lucky” in that it has not had to let go or stand down workers. The two company-owned Goldeluck’s stores, in Croydon South and Patterson Lakes, not only retained their 10 employees but grew the team to 30 and Kuoch is about to hire again. Staff from the closed Ringwood store, which is run independently, have had new jobs created for them packing gift boxes during the small business lockdown.

SEE ALSO: How to Reboot Your SME for Business Growth

Taking Expert Advice

Kuoch’s local council, Maroondah City Council, provided free mentoring for small businesses in the area. Kuoch booked a phone session and is grateful he did. In the early days of the pandemic, when business was plummeting, his mentor advised him how to streamline operations and how to negotiate with his landlord.

Kuoch called the service again when the business was at capacity. This time, his mentor offered new small business ideas about outsourcing production, such as collaborating with local bakers whose shops had shuttered. “They had really good advice,” he says. “There are lots of free services people might not be aware of.”

Pivoting When Necessary

Kuoch says the changed times haven’t changed Goldeluck’s product, but they have changed the field he’s in. “The essential core products are still doughnuts and baked goods – same as we’ve always done. But our customers are ordering predominantly for gifts now. We’ve shifted industries to the gifting industry.”

His parents and sister have come in to help pack orders during these “super crazy busy” weeks, and Kuoch finds his post-graduate studies in data science are helping him predict how customers are likely to spend. Goldeluck’s has also started delivering nationally, bringing forward a long-term goal. “We have customers all around Australia now,” says Kuoch, “which is pretty cool for a local bakery, you know?”