It’s hard to believe that the Gold Coast hasn’t had a weekday farmers market before now. Paula Brand, a leading small business advocate and the woman behind the iconic Small Business Expos on the Gold Coast, saw the gap in the market – literally – and launched a Tuesday farmer’s market in Broadbeach last month. The woman whose business model is all about bringing people together is now doing it in a very different way through GC Connected markets. Blank GC connected with Paula after the successful launch of the markets we’ve been waiting for.
I can’t believe no-one has done this before. Why do you think there has never been a weekday market on the Gold Coast before now?
I think people have been trained to just to go markets on the weekend, but if you look at the Queen Victoria Markets – they are busy all week. Many people on the Gold Coast do not work Monday to Friday 9-5, shift workers, young families, seniors who find the weekend markets are too busy to attend.
What made you decide to do a farmers market?
The trend for fresh food and supporting local farmers is growing. Yes it is a trend, we have a swelling population on the Goldy and fresh food is a must for our community. But the markets are more than just fresh food and local food producers, we have kids stalls, products for the home and for the family, we have live entertainment and kids activities. We felt that the last five months there is a real need for the community to reconnect and have fun in a fresh outdoor space – at the beautiful Albert Park. We have almost been retrained to not connect and that just goes against our humany-peoply selves. People want to have a closer relationship with their food producers. Plus if COVID-9 did hit the Gold Coast again, we have another option for fresh food available for the community. I think it also the fact that we will have live music every week and we have received over 50 applications for local musicians which is awesome. So we will try our best to give as many local musos and buskers a go as we can.
Tell us about your experience as a stallholder at markets and as a customer at markets.
I love markets, I go every weekend. I also take my 11 year old so that she can learn about fresh fruit and vegies and try different things. I loved being a stall holder, I sold salad dressings when dressing options were mayo and thousand island dressings on the shelves. Let’s just say it was a while ago – 23 years actually.
Launching a new business during a pandemic is risky. What’s your formula to ensure success?
I am an entrepreneur – we always take risks. Any business at the moment is at risk. It is important that we extend our offerings. Whilst I have the four business and jobs expos, I wanted to have a weekly wage to help feed my own family as well as feed thousands of local Gold Coasters.
You had such success with your Small Business Expos prior to COVID. Can you walk us through your experience of how COVID affected that business.
The Small Business Expos stopped on 19 March by the Federal Government ruling for under 100 events. We are running four of our expos instead of the usual six. Only 5% of expos are running this year in Australia and we are one of the lucky ones. We took a gamble to be able to run, but the main aim was to hold our ground and ensure that our expos were running to help businesses and the newly unemployed. We gave 45 fully funded expo stands to help struggling businesses.
You’ve had your finger on the pulse of Small Business on the Gold Coast probably more so than anyone else. What are you hearing from other small businesses about how COVID has affected them?
It is hard to take up staff at present as it is such an unknown time, so owners are having to double down on the workloads, so burn out will be an issue. The invisible businesses who don’t have shop fronts, eg: home-based, mobile, online businesses – 25% of our business community – and micro businesses are being greatly affected by COVID. I believe that State Government must reduce restrictions for trading from a 4:1 to a 2:1 ratio and enable businesses to adopt better track and trace so that better reporting can be done by business. Once this is in place, restrictions must ease.
Any advice for small business people during this tough time?
We have created an anti-connection culture, but the invisible businesses rely on connecting and networking for many of their sales leads. We must be able to help as many businesses as possible to reconnect and have sales focused conversations – safely of course. We cannot continue to have a fear campaign of a State election, it is ridiculous. If you implemented mandatory track and tracing of businesses, then we would feel more in control and the State Government would reduce restrictions of trade.
GC Connected Markets are held every Tuesday at 33 Fremar Street, Broadbeach Waters at the Surfers Paradise Rugby Union Club from 7am to 12pm. Dogs are not allowed.
For a stall holder information pack, please email: email@example.com or phone Paula Brand: 0475 411 793.
IMAGE of Paula Brand (C) Simone Gorman-Clark