A WHAKATĀNE-BASED business adviser is helping small businesses con- nect after a tough two years impacted by Covid.

Jeremy Bendall, founder of Bendall Advisory, recently held a small business forum at The Lightening Hub covering key business issues and impacts, man- agement responses, and priority focus areas for the coming year.

It was promoted by the Eastern Bay Chamber of Commerce and 23 small business owners and employees attend- ed.

Mr Bendall decided to initiate the free forum after witnessing many small businesses struggling because of major changes in the business environment, and significant impacts caused by the pandemic. “There has been so much happening so quickly, high levels of complexity and uncertainty, and a real need to share and support each other,” he said.

Anne-Tonia Orr and Nolene Jackson, directors of Whakatāne-based graphic design business Sons of Serif, said the forum was successful in helping small businesses feel supported.

“Given everything that’s going on with businesses, specifically relating to Covid, it’s easy to feel isolated with everyone just doing their own thing. “Anything you’re going through; you feel like you’re going through alone, so this was a great opportunity to get together with other like-minded busi- nesses and hear that we are going through the same things,” Ms Jackson said.

Mr Bendall said although the business owners agreed it was not all nega- tive over the past two years, and felt fortunate to have such a supportive community, they did share feelings of frustration, confusion, and fatigue. “There was certainly an emphasis in discussions on Covid-specific impacts and risk exposures, stress and wellbeing impacts, financial exposures, staffing and supply chain issues, and the need for a clear national strategy from the Government to support small business development, which all made navigat- ing business through the pandemic dif- ficult,” he said.

The forum helped to address these issues and provided guidance for future focus areas and operations.

Mr Bendall plans to run various other forums and courses this year to help local businesses get established, plan ahead, realise their potential and stay connected.