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.

David and Jennene Riggs, owners of Riggs Australia, first started as camera operators on a National Geographic TV documentary about tiger sharks and have now been filming and producing wildlife documentaries for more than 20 years.

Based in Esperance but travelling widely, their business offers enviable opportunities to film wildlife and wild places all around Western Australia.

Having seen many technological developments over two decades in the film production industry, the pair are no strangers to reinvention and adaption. Before COVID-19 hit, Riggs Australia secured a Small Business Digital Champion grant from the Federal Government to help diversify their business and make it more competitive. Their focus was on moving the business online and introducing multiple revenue streams in order to be less reliant on their niche film production expertise. Riggs Australia had just launched their new website, part of a transformative digital approach that included social media, cloud based technology, digital revenue streams and customer relationship marketing, when the pandemic hit.

Although Riggs Australia was already poised to operate in a new way, the sudden onset of COVID-19 meant the cancellation of killer whale expeditions and upcoming filming and production opportunities that had been months in the making - resulting in a decline in revenue and uncertainty about when normal operations could resume. Strict restrictions on non-essential travel in WA also kept them at home in Esperance, rather than travelling throughout the state as usual.

Thinking about the services they could still offer within the restrictions of the pandemic, Riggs Australia responded by:

  • promoting their stock footage library, drone photography and promotional video production services
  • filming and producing a community video encouraging people to stay at home and be kind to each other during the crisis
  • collaborating with local business Esperance Funeral Services to live-stream funerals, allowing loved ones to pay their respects through the height of restrictions which limited attendees at funerals and travel to the area. The service extended to creating memorial keepsake videos, as a memento for family members
  • working with other creatives from Esperance Community Arts to develop an online digital media course and running webinars on digital content for the Esperance Chamber of Commerce, to teach other businesses how to create their own content.

COVID-19 forced the Riggs Australia team to remain in their community for a prolonged period of time - a contrast to their usual regime of travelling to far flung film locations. Although disruptive, the situation helped them realise that community is very important to small business, it also allowed them to follow some newly presented closer to home opportunities.

Jennene is currently producing a web-series called 'Mystwood Harvest' about her brother, actor Dan Paris, and his partner Tanya Jenkin’s journey in developing a community supported agriculture (CSA) market garden in Esperance that delivers chemical-free vegetable boxes to their members every week. With growing interest around environmentally sustainable farming and healthy eating contrasting with the rise of panic buying during the pandemic, the topical series on the Riggs Australia YouTube channel serves as an example of the new types of digital content the producers are creating.

While the pandemic has temporarily halted their ‘business as usual’ practice of filming wildlife and science-based content, Jennene and David have been able to find new avenues for their expertise and put down deeper roots in the Esperance community that they call home.

Thanks for sharing your way of doing business differently Riggs Australia!

If you would like to find out more about Riggs, Esperance visit their websiteFacebook pageInstagram account or YouTube account.

Small business stories
17 July 2020