What does a Kangaroo Island beekeeper and a digital marketing expert from Sydney's inner west have in common? Bushfire.
The unlikely business pairing came about through the free Help a Small Biz program which matches small businesses directly and indirectly impacted by the 2019-20 bushfires with "buddies'', who provide compatible goods, skills and services needed to recommence trade and thrive.
In January 2020, ferocious bushfires devastated half the hives of the Island Beehive family business (island-beehive.com.au) and destroyed 90 per cent of the bee site locations on the famous tourist destination off the coast of South Australia.
In the aftermath, the Davis family at Island Beehive realised the future cost of the destruction.
"It was a huge income loss at the time and will affect us for months, if not years to come," Sabrina Davis said.
Island Beehive was matched to Paula O'Sullivan's Possum Digital marketing consultancy (possumdigital.com.au) in the trendy Sydney suburb of Newtown, NSW, through the free Help a Small Biz initiative.
Mrs Davis received digital marketing and social media tips and suggestions from the consultancy.
Island Beehive like all Kangaroo Island businesses received a double blow from the bushfires and then COVID-19.
The honey-based business is still open seven days a week from 10am to 3pm, but it has decided to close its cafe and halt tours over winter.
"We have chosen to simplify our offering this winter and have a bit of a break. This also allows other cafes to gain the business we would have over winter as there really isn't enough to go around," assistant manager Kylie Hargraves said.
"There were many cafes that remained open over the COVID-19 closure period and we'd like to show our support in this way."
Help a Small Biz is operated by corporate2community (C2C) founder Renae Hanvin, who developed the initiative to fill the gaps in current support for small and micro businesses.
"While the many government grants and initiatives currently available to small businesses do a wonderful job and are providing unprecedented support to these businesses, we are still hearing of many who are falling through the funding gaps,'' she said.
Ms O'Sullivan's digital marketing strategy harnessed the opportunities of the unscathed Island Beehive visitor centre and honey production factory where visitors could learn about the heritage of the purest remaining Ligurian bee colony in the world.
When things return to normal, tourists can tour the site, taste honey and recharge at the small cafe serving its famous scones, coffee and honeycomb ice cream.
"Paula was extremely knowledgeable and a great match for our company needs,'' Ms Davis said. "We appreciate her pro bono help immensely during these difficult times.''
Ms O'Sullivan said she enjoyed sharing her marketing expertise to help another business.
They encouraged other small businesses directly and indirectly impacted by the 2019-20 bushfires to contact Help a Small Biz.
Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell said initiatives such as Help a Small Biz gave small businesses struggling to stay open after the bushfires the extra support they needed to "get on with running their business''.