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Back on the bike - small business recovery

Adelaide Hills

A story from Adelaide Hills in South Australia, reflecting life in October 2020.

Jack Young has run Bike About mountain bike tours and hire for 22 years.

His business was going strong before the Black Summer bushfires. It had begun as an outdoor education program that expanded into tourism.

Before the fires, Jack ran bespoke multi-day tours from Adelaide to Hahndorf, Hahndorf to the Barossa, and the Barossa back to Adelaide. He also ran a three-day wilderness retreat tour on Kangaroo Island.

“The impact of the fires on the business was immense,” Jack related.

They had finished a tour on Kangaroo Island on 17 December 2019 and had another planned on 6 January 2020. Because Jack was planning a break over Christmas, he left the equipment on Kangaroo Island and, unfortunately, lost it all.

“The fire on Kangaroo Island was so intense that it melted the bikes beyond recognition,” Jack said.

Fortunately, Bike About did not lose any equipment in the Adelaide Hills. However, as the area was destroyed, they could no longer run tours in the Cudlee Creek mountain bike park. They were unable to access other areas of the Adelaide Hills, and one of their most popular destinations, Flinders Chase National Park on Kangaroo Island, was devastated.

After the fires went through, Jack looked online for grants and other funding support.

“To my reading, it felt like we weren’t eligible for them because they were about infrastructure and things like that,” Jack said.

“We lost a lot of income due to having to pay back clients because we couldn’t run the tours in January, and a lot of other tours got postponed, and those postponements became refunds due to COVID restrictions.”

While Jack’s business did not lose buildings, the impact of the fires significantly affected his livelihood. It was a very stressful time for him, compounded by living in the Adelaide Hills town of Lobethal, which was severely affected by the fires.

“We didn’t lose our house, thankfully, but many in our community did. Lobethal was completely cut off for days. When the smoke cleared, I had to work out how I was going to keep going,” Jack said.

“It got to a point that I didn’t know which way was up.”

Jack decided to go to the Lobethal Recovery Centre, where he met a Bushfire Recovery Officer called Amanda. She sat with Jack and worked out how she could ensure he got the support he needed.

“I actually got a bit of counselling, which really helped, and Amanda helped me to apply for grants,” Jack tells.

“We were successful in securing a $30,000 business recovery grant and a $10,000 loss of income grant, which has been amazing and has got us to the point where we have been able to put some bikes back into the fleet, and do some rebranding and additional marketing.”

Jack has done a great job of adapting his business to move forward after the impact of the fires. He no longer runs the multi-day bespoke tours. He has set up collaborations with local Adelaide Hills businesses, such as The Lane winery, to run wine tasting experiences on electric bikes.

Jack now has a very positive outlook and is excited about going to work and what the future holds.

“I can see regular work coming in. My future plan is to bring my son, who is in tourism in Queensland, into the business. My goal is that by this time next year, my business will sustain my son and myself, and employ some staff.”