We understand that small businesses are facing an unprecedented time of disruption resulting from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

While sadly many businesses have no option other than to close their doors, here at the Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC) we are hearing about business owners who have been able to innovate and find a new direction. This series of posts is about sharing ideas from WA small businesses that have found a way of doing business differently.

The Doorstep Grocers is a fresh produce delivery service, making daily deliveries of fruit, vegetables, eggs and other staples throughout the greater Perth area. It is an offshoot of an established wholesale business, Citrus WA, that specialised in selling whole and processed fruit and juice to bars, nightclubs and restaurants throughout the Perth metro area.

About a week before hospitality venues were given notice to temporarily close due to social distancing measures, Citrus WA owners Lee Bardsley and Reece Beazley experienced an 80 per cent drop in revenue due to places shutting down early, which resulted in having to stand down almost all their team. Following further restrictions closing all remaining client venues, the partners discussed how they could keep their business afloat. Inspired by the Green Berets’ motto “Improvise, Adapt, Overcome”, they came up with the idea of using their established infrastructure to provide home deliveries, responding to a need for people to access affordable, healthy food while avoiding public places like grocery stores.

Lee quickly worked out the logistics, set up an online shop, began building social media pages and created marketing campaigns. Within a few days the first 44 orders had been delivered.

In their three weeks The Doorstep Grocers has:

  • delivered 2,500 orders and gained around 8,000 followers on social media
  • rehired their entire team and created nine new jobs
  • started donating 1 in 50 boxes to social welfare organisations, healthcare professionals, and recently unemployed hospitality workers
  • gained approximately 700 new, and 300 returning customers, each week.

In a change from Citrus WA, Lee and Reece have divided their responsibilities, with Lee managing online, administrative and marketing side of the business and Reece running operations. They have also directed staff into either packing or delivery for more efficiency, with staggered start times. The business has become more automated to undertake 50 deliveries per vehicle, using route optimisation software instead of manual planning for efficiency.

Because the business has worked with fresh produce before, there were existing hygiene measures in place, however in response to coronavirus extra steps were taken to avoid contamination, including contactless delivery, PPE worn by staff at all times and hand sanitising stations in the warehouse and in each vehicle.

Lee says, “Although the volume is more intense and the profit margins lower than our previous business, we are stoked to have been able to keep going through the shutdown and to reemploy our team, including seven new members (some of whom had lost their jobs or closed businesses as a result of the pandemic).”

“While there were a couple of hiccups in the first few days, as we had no time to test our new software, the overwhelming majority of feedback has been super constructive and positive.”

“We always did a bit for charity, but we never saw the end result up close and now we get heaps of messages thanking us for the service we provide and the food we send out, which feels good.”

Thanks for sharing your ways of doing business differently The Doorstep Grocers!

Small business stories
30 April 2020