Managing a small business involves total dedication. Such commitment can bring about many feelings and emotions – joy, satisfaction, excitement, confidence, and even bewilderment – but the one constant is that operating a small business is never easy.
In owning a small business there are no safety nets, its just you, your product, and the customer, or in our circumstance, the guest. Murray and I have been fortunate in operating ‘Somewhere Unique’ that we have been rewarded with enormous fulfilment and a proud sense of personal achievement but, again, that doesn’t mean it has always been easy.
The convenience in a small business is that it is possible to establish a certain comfortable and reliable rhythm: a high season and a low season; a busy period and a slow period; a time to work hard and a time to take a break. To map this business rhythm over the past six years we have recorded as many variables, peaks, troughs, and events as possible to produce an annual calendar to guide us into the future. Month to month we know what to expect which means we can plan and prepare within a well-established pattern.
But in 2020 came Covid-19. The precautions and government-mandated safety measures have undermined our patterns, ruined our predictions, and dramatically changed our expectations. Running our business has become a series of week-by-week, and sometimes day-by-day maneuvers.
Of course, everyone has been affected by the pandemic, and we are always mindful and sincerely feel for those who have suffered through the contagion of the virus and those who have lost friends and family members. Throughout the Wollombi Valley we have all been extremely fortunate only to have endured the inconvenient precautions, rather than having to confront the virus directly. However, with much of the population of the valley operating small businesses based around tourism this has been a difficult time.
Situated 90 minutes from the most populous city in Australia, unsurprisingly, the majority of the Wollombi tourism clientele are Sydneysiders. And with all Greater Sydney having been placed into lockdown again in July 2021, the valley businesses are suffering again. Having to cancel guests with bookings from the lockdown area and refund their deposits, many businesses have been left without bookings throughout the usually predicable and lucrative peak season.
The bright spot, in between the lockdowns, has been that with international borders closed, Australians have been encouraged and very eager to explore their own backyard. Although many of our guests are couples that have stayed with us previously, we are also welcoming many more first-time guests who, we hope, will one day return. We have been very motivated by increased bookings from local travelers, eager to escape the confines of their houses and neighborhoods and keen to take a break further afield.
Similarly, Murray and I have paid it forward by travelling twice throughout this period of Covid. We visited Adelaide in April and spent a wonderful week in the beautiful Margaret River in Western Australia in June. Although, it is worth noting that our trip to Adelaide was almost cancelled at the final moment due to a potential lockdown and our trip to Western Australia was followed by a major viral outbreak in Sydney leading to lockdowns. Still, this is the world in which we currently live and we all need to stay safe by living within the prescribed rules, respecting safety precautions, and travelling only between warnings, lockdowns, and outbreaks.
The pandemic has presented a situation that no one expected or wanted. But it is our current reality. As small business owners, we are dedicated to finding our way through and continuing to welcome all guests in the same warm and appreciative manner that we always have. We are excited for the future and relieved that our guests have remained so wonderfully supportive. Although the past 18 months has been a relatively bleak time we have been buoyed by the optimism of our guests and have continued to be singularly focused on ensuring all our guests have the best, most relaxing, and most luxurious experience possible. In these difficult times, that’s the very least we can do to play our part.
David & Murray