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Co-owner of Gather and Harvest, Lee Docherty talks to us about being involved in Click for Vic.

Where are you based and what’s the region like to visit? 

We’re in Mount Beauty, which is nestled at the top of the beautiful Kiewa Valley in the Victorian High Country. The town is stunning, with beautiful views of Mt Bogong and surrounding mountain ranges from every angle. We are 30km from Falls Creek – we can ski in the winter and hike the high plains in the summer. The town has plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy, including world-class mountain bike trails, a river and lake, and beautiful hikes starting in the town or a short drive takes you to the base of Mt Bogong. If you are up for the challenge, Victoria’s highest mountain is a great full day’s hike that offers amazing views from the peak. 

Can you tell me a bit about your business and what normal operations looked like for you prior to this year?

My sister-in-law, Caroline Bellchambers and I established the business in December 2018. During our first year, we were a bricks and mortar business only. We sell a range of goods made by us, as well as a carefully curated range, including locally made products. Our first year of trade went well, as we slowly built up our business and we were really looking forward to our second year of trade and moving forward. The disasters of 2020 started for us on New Year’s Eve. Bushfires started in other parts of the high country and we were put on high alert. By 4 January, we had to leave. All tourists and many locals left for two to three weeks. It  was a ghost town. We closed our doors for a short period and hustled to get our website up and running, which helped us get though that tricky period. We thought it was going to be the worst thing for the year, but as we all know COVID hit us by March and life has never been the same.  

And how was the business going after the pandemic hit and Victoria had restrictions?

We have opened and closed our doors over the last eight months, depending on restrictions. We  reopened when regional Victoria's restrictions were eased in September and have had a steady flow of locals and visitors come through our doors since. Our business has had many highs and lows this year. The lowest points were filled with tears and sadness when our doors were closed and not knowing when they would reopen. We were determined it would not break us and we would reopen our door, but it was pretty hard to keep positive when we didn't know when it would all end. There were days of no sales, but we just cut our spending and held on tight to get through. The high points have been having people from all over the country buy our products online to support us and also to have locals come back and shop locally. It’s wonderful to see people wanting to support local businesses and Australian made products. 

How did you get involved in Click for Vic?

We are registered with Australian Tourism Data Warehouse and the Victorian Country Market.  Visit Victoria also contacted us to ask if one of our images could be used for advertising.

What impact has Click for Vic had to your business?

It has been amazing. From day one of the campaign our online sales have gone crazy. On the day it launched we were out hiking in the bush and our phones were out of range, when we came back into service my phone started to ping with notification of sales, I didn’t know what was going on. From then on, we have had consistent online sales as a direct result of Click for Vic. Our online sales have gone up 900 per cent since the launch of Click for Vic.  

Has it helped your sense of wellbeing also?

Like everyone COVID has had a substantial impact on our wellbeing. The fear of the unknow for both our business and our health made it very tough emotionally at times. Running a small business is not just about selling stuff, it’s our heart, soul and what we are always thinking about. It’s what puts food on our table, but it’s also what puts happiness in our heart and fire in our belly. It’s what we dream about at night, think about first thing in the morning and worry about when going to sleep at night. It’s a reflection of ourselves and when it was suddenly taken away from us, it was hard to adjust finically and emotionally.   

During the darkest days when our doors were closed,  the boost in sales from Click for Vic helped us immensely. It came at the perfect time and really turned our business and focus around. We have even had to employ a casual staff member to keep up with demand. It’s great to be back busy with work and looking forward to the future.

What would be your message to other Victorian businesses in the tourism industry?

Hang in there, we will get through this together. If you have a product that you make and sell, get involved with Click for Vic, it’s a great way to promote your business and the wonderful things that are made right here in our beautiful state. 

What are you looking forward to most when travel resumes in Victoria?

We can’t wait for see visitors from all over the state enjoying north east Victoria again. It’s been a long cold winter without visitors enjoying our lovely Alpine region and we can’t wait to have them return to enjoy our wonderful area. 

Personally, I can’t wait to get back to Melbourne and enjoy some fabulous food and bit of city life.