When unemployment breeds opportunity

COVID-19 changed the lives of these former hospitality workers, urging them to start their own businesses during a pandemic. (Image source: Alanna Di Troia)

By Taylor Siemelink

As the world battles through its tenth month of a global pandemic, the implications have proven far greater than initially expected. While it has posed a global threat to people’s health and wellbeing, its impact has been felt on multiple levels; from economic recessions to plummeting rates of employment, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t been in some way affected.

In Australia alone, jobless rates reached 7.5 per cent in July at the peak of the pandemic. This has since decreased to 7 percent, but compared to a low of 5.1 per cent earlier this year, these numbers are a prime indication of nationwide struggle. With jobs in accommodation and food services plummeting by a third, part time and casual hospitality workers have borne the brunt.

For Adelaide resident Stefan Iannace, the arrival of COVID-19 saw the introduction of social distancing restrictions, which in turn resulted in a complete loss of shifts in his role as a barista. Having worked in the field for almost 10 years, the coffee connoisseur took this opportunity to embark on a new venture of starting his own business, Cheeky Grin – a nod to his contagiously jovial self.

“I have wanted to start a business since I was a very, very young age,” he said.

What started as a mobile service back in February this year, has manifested into a full-blown café. Despite fearing COVID-19 might negatively impact his endeavours, Stefan’s business-savvy mind has found a way to use it to his advantage.

Stefan Iannace, owner of Cheeky Grin (Image source: Rhianna Dickson)

“Originally I thought COVID would have a significant impact on starting my business,” he said.

“However, I used it as a way to push my brand awareness, and the fact that I do my best to go above and beyond.

“It definitely pushed me closer as within six months of the pandemic hitting, I have opened the doors to my own permanent brick and mortar location.”

Despite a lingering air of cautiousness as the threat of COVID-19 remains, Stefan is eager to see what the future holds for Cheeky Grin – and he has some stellar advice for anyone considering following his footsteps: “Have a vision, have a goal and never steer away from it – run with your gut, listen to your heart, and just go for it”.

“Take the risk; you can always start over.”

Much like Stefan, hospitality worker Alanna Di Troia found herself without work when the pandemic hit, and with the same optimistic outlook, found opportunity in her misfortune. Now, she is the proud founder of Brow and Soul, a business that combines her passion for brow artistry with that of holistic healing.

“I started Brow and Soul about a month ago,” she said.

“I wanted to create a business where I could combine my two passions together and make people feel beautiful on the outside, but most importantly on the inside.”

A far stretch from her previous gig, Alanna offers a variety of services from waxing, threading, tinting and ombre tattooing to chakra healing, guided meditation and angel card readings. Despite having remained unemployed for the months leading up to its opening, she credits this time off as having positively contributed to her business.

“It actually pushed me closer – I think after COVID I had more of a want for things.

“It was time for me to explore this new chapter of my life, and with COVID everything just fell into place.

While she recognises that COVID-19 has likely impacted her turnover, she is content with the progress of her business, and if anything, it has only fuelled her excitement for what’s to come.

“I have just started, but the way it’s going I’m semi-busy and very happy,” she said.

For Alanna, this venture has taught her that there’s nothing you can’t do if you maintain a positive outlook.

“Don’t stress, put out good energy and you will receive it back.”

Originally published in The Junction.

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