Christchurch Businesses Innovating to a New Normal
Christchurch is a hub of innovation and collaboration where people like to challenge the status quo.
Our local businesses have shown this attribute in spades through COVID-19, through new forms of PPE, ingenious ways to repurpose equipment, or moving to a new online normal. We’ve chatted to a few below.
What other ways have businesses adapted? Let’s support them and their new ideas however we can.
A New Online Pharmacy
It was COVID-19 that made pharmacy owner Annabel Turley realise the need for a greater online offering.
The owner of Unichem Cashel Pharmacy said she had been considering going online for more than 12 months, and since COVID-19 and the lockdown, Turley’s team has offered same-day delivery for online orders made before noon.
They were also looking at how prescriptions could be filled online.
“If you’re sick, you need medicine now – not in four days,” Turley said.
The Unichem Cashel Pharmacy website showed real-time data, so customers knew products they saw were available.
Rather than only running their online services during lockdown levels, Turley said the service would remain permanent.
O-Connect an Online Wellness Centre
Wellness studio O-Studio knew their services would be important for the community as soon as lockdown was announced.
Sam Thomas, co-founder of the Welles St centre, said they recorded 48 yoga classes and set up an online platform all in about two days.
“People could pay what they wanted, and anything they paid we would double and put on their account for when we reopen,” Thomas said.
They added live meditation, cooking classes, and mental performance interviews with people like Crusaders coach Scott Robertson.
They had 200 sign ups in the first week.
O-Studio decided to rejuvenate their whole online offering and within a week www.connect.ostudio.co.nz was launched. O-Connect now has 370 active users.
Thomas said the new normal would push bricks-and-mortar businesses “to focus on the unique benefits of physical space with real people”.
“We're now going to appreciate to a greater degree the value time and place add to a service.”
Christchurch was ideally suited to innovation and to “push New Zealand's economy forward”.
“There are so many businesses solving problems in unique and interesting ways. Having been through a number of crises, they’re suited to thrive through the challenges of COVID-19.”
Sumner Eats a coastal innovation A handful of Sumner restaurants banded together to create Sumner Eats, a contactless delivery and pick-up service.
Manfred Friedrich, owner of The Headless Mexican, approached local businesses Clink, Miss Peppercorn, The Village Inn, Cloud and Red Snapper, to offer locals a food delivery service.
Many suburbs between the city and Sumner weren’t catered for by other delivery services, and Friedrich didn’t want locals missing out.
“I thought, at least we can provide delicious, healthy food that will comfort and support our customers. And they can support us to keep our businesses open as well,” Friedrich said.
“We are all in this together, and together we will get through it.”
While not all restaurants were continuing to deliver in level 2, click-and-collect services continued to support families or individuals who chose to continue to self-isolate.
He encouraged locals to continue their great work supporting Christchurch businesses.
“If feasible, consider buying local instead of from international online stores.
“If your budget allows it, get a haircut, take your loved ones out for a meal or coffee, and buy some items from the small dairies.”
“Maybe express your gratitude to them that they are hanging in there and that you will support them in the future.”
Earth Sea Sky, the Christchurch outdoor clothing company, started researching protective face masks as soon as New Zealand went into Level 4 lockdown.
Jane Ellis, operations multi-tasker at the company, said it was the news stories about a shortage of PPE gear that spurred the thought. Together with one of their machinists, Brenda, they explored various designs and materials.
It was that preparation that meant they were ready to go when Auckland-based company Lanaco put a call out for manufacturers to produce face masks using merino filters developed for workplace health and safety.
Nick Davenport, Lanaco CEO, said they “put our feelers out and Earth Sea Sky was one of the first manufacturers to pick it up”.
“They’ve been fantastic to deal with – they totally get it,” Davenport said.
Two weeks later Earth Sea Sky’s first Helix.iso™ Masks started rolling off the production line. Brenda produced the first 600 masks from her home workshop before the factory could re-open.
Other Christchurch companies to begin making masks included Cactus Outdoor and Untouched World. Both were using the same filters produced by Lanaco.
Ellis said being a small business meant they were nimble and could adapt quickly.
“We feel a responsibility towards our workers and their livelihoods, so we were actively seeking ways to utilise members of our team who were keen to work,” she said.
“I don’t think you can look after your community better than by giving someone a job.”
From Snow Making to Large-Scale Sanitation
Christchurch company SI Solutions, a division of Ski Industries Ltd, distributes products including snow groomers and snow making systems. They also supply environmental solutions to industrial businesses.
Ben Quane, managing director, said they quickly realised they needed to adapt with predicted ski numbers expected to drop significantly come winter.
A few small changes to an existing product and SI Solutions created a disinfectant machine which could quickly and effectively sanitise large outdoor areas like schools and playgrounds.
“We needed to introduce new income streams into the business, but it was also a way that we could help in the COVID-19 fight,” Quane said.
The environmentally-friendly disinfectant was atomised to create a very fine mist which covered surfaces, cleaning them of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
This would remain a permanent product.
“There will be an ongoing need to maintain some of the practices we have seen come from COVID-19. Good disinfection systems will become a normal part of our Health and Safety requirements,” he said.
He encouraged other businesses to “try and evolve to the new normal – even small changes might give you a competitive advantage”.