Australia’s regional small businesses starting side hustles to cope with hardship, new Zoho research finds

Australia’s small businesses starting side hustles to cope with hardship

Faced with significant challenges like drought, bushfire, flood, and pandemic, almost half (44%) of Australia’s rural-based small business leaders are starting, or intend to start, ‘side hustles’ to support household income, new research released today by Zoho Corporation, a global technology platform, together with Telsyte shows.

Indeed, nearly half (44%) of those who have already set up a side hustle have set up at least two businesses, emphasising not only that entrepreneurialism exists in rural Australia, but supporting these businesses with the tools and policies they need to thrive is more important than ever.

More than 1 in 3 of those side businesses were in the retail sector with personal and professional services like accounting, yoga teaching, homeopathy, legal advice and bookkeeping also featuring as popular side hustles.

The research shows that 61% of NSW-based businesses have been affected by drought, fire or flood in the last 12 months, followed by QLD (40%), VIC (36%), SA (34%) and WA (17%).

Despite these hardships, small business owners in non-metro areas are still overwhelmingly positive when it comes to living and working in regional centres.

The research found that one in three prefer to live outside a major city, 3 in 4 (75%) say being based outside of capital cities can improve their lifestyle, half believe that people are more productive in smaller workgroups or rural communities.

4 in 5 also don’t feel isolated working outside of a capital city while 1 in 3 (34%) would like to mix their professional life with time working on farms or rural properties.

However, to maximise the benefits of rural work and help mitigate the challenges, technology and policy have a strong role to play, Zoho Chief of Strategy Vijay Sundaram said.

“Despite significant challenges, entrepreneurialism is alive and thriving in rural Australia, but software and policymakers have a role to play,” said Sundaram.

“Technology can help with rural development by enabling people to work anywhere, by leveraging the power of innovation and combining it with the influence of government we can repopulate our rural areas, tap into new talent pools and generate a wealth of economic opportunity.”

“Technology is the ultimate leveller. It can empower people – no matter where they’re based – to connect globally.”

Regional Australia better prepared for remote work

Digital transformation has long been considered a necessity for regional businesses that don’t operate in close proximity to the broad customer bases that metro businesses enjoy.

Steve Lockyer, Managing Director of Inform Ag, an agricultural technical solutions provider servicing rural and regional Australia believes technology plays a crucial role in boosting efficiency and driving growth for regional businesses, especially in times of crisis.

“Challenges seem to be rarely far away for rural businesses, and as an agricultural business we’ve been particularly affected by drought in the past. Overcoming challenges as a rural business is about identifying and exploiting competitive advantages, and for us that’s technology.”

In the last 12 months, we’ve condensed the myriad of applications and softwares we were using and rely instead on Zoho, which has played an important role in our exponential growth in revenue over the past 12 months.

“Nothing can help you prevent or neutralise the impact of pandemic, drought or bushfire, but technology allows us to not only operate in a more efficient, streamlined and systemised manner – which is crucial at times like this – but also to understand our opportunities and challenges as we look to continue our growth.”

According to Katharina von Heusinger, Co-founder and CEO of The Golden Bone Bakery that creates healthy dog and cat treats in Ipswich, Queensland, being based regionally has many advantages.

“A common misconception is that entrepreneurialism exists only in metropolitan areas. For us, being based outside a major city isn’t a negative thing; quite the opposite, in fact.”

While we were hit by the coronavirus pandemic – with sales dropping by 60% in March – ‘community’ is much stronger outside major cities, and ours has come together to support each other as we respond, recover and return to ‘normality’.

“We don’t look enviously at metro businesses, and that’s because technology and the power of non-metro communities provides us everything we need to operate a healthy, growing and empowering small business, irrelevant of where we’re physically based.”