Among the moving stories to emerge from this week's Illawarra and South Coast Local Business Awards occurred when Renee Kambouris took the stage to accept the award for best fruit and vegetable shop.
Speaking on behalf of family-run business Mitchell's Market, at Warilla Grove Shopping Centre, Ms Kambouris spoke about how it all began with her parents Chris and Helen Kambouris.
She said they had worked tirelessly from the outset to create a future for themselves and their children including her brother Mitchell Kambouris.
"We are a family business that has been operating for over 45 years," she said.
"My parents both started this business.
"My dad to this day still gets up at 2 o'clock every morning to go to the markets to get the freshest produce.
"He still has the same motivation and passion that he had in the beginning.
"Winning this tonight only fuels that motivation and we are extremely grateful for our staff, our customers and Warilla Grove Shopping Centre."
Ms Kambouris thanked Precedent Productions and everyone involved in proceeding with the event considering the present circumstances facing the community and all businesses in the region.
Speed painter finds her bliss as sole trader
The winner of the sole operator category at the 2020 Illawarra and South Coast Local Business Awards sparked interest when she spoke about what she did for a living.
Sarah Rowan, of Helensburgh, has the unusual job of being a speed painter and spoke about her work to all present at the Fraternity Club on Monday night.
"Sixteen years ago I graduated from art school and decided I wanted to do something weird and speed paint live in front of an audience," she said.
"My first performance 16 years ago was in front of 16,000 people.
"I loved it and ever since I have performed at over 400 events like this.
"So tonight it is really weird to be sitting down watching it all unfold.
Ms Rowan said this year has been "fricking weird" but encouraged everyone in business to keep going.
"I want to encourage you all to keep following your bliss," she said.
"I lost all my work for the entire year in March.
"For those first five minutes I thought s**t I will need to get a real job.
"When I started Googling I realised I don't know how to do anything else other than inspire people painting and trying to raise money for charity.
"So I just started performing live in my living room in my socks and found doing that in front of Google works just as well as performing live on a stage.
"So keep following your bliss, have fun and you will never work a day in your life."
Kiama cafe starts as COVID hits
They say timing is everything but one new Kiama cafe in Terralong Street has survived by unknowingly starting at the worst possible time.
After winning the award for best cafe at the Illawarra and South Coast Local Business Awards, the founder of Otis Deli revealed how she started the business in March just as NSW was about to go into lockdown.
"I would like to thank all my team who have been with me since we opened in March," Emily Herbert said.
"It has been a crazy year. We haven't been able to fully operate yet or have tables in there. But we are really thankful to everyone who has supported us as customers."
Otis Deli has survived and earned a growing reputation for itself providing takeaway this year but as part of this week's award-winning celebration it moved two tables inside on Wednesday and is looking forward to a good summer holiday season.
Funpreneur generous with knowledge
Wollongong funpreneur Brett Baker is no stranger to sharing his wisdom.
During October the owner of Funscape gave a presentation at The Consortium Lounge where he introduced a one-page marketing plan and template as a simple and powerful marketing implementation tool to help small businesses supercharge their marketing effort.
Mr Baker has been involved in the development of many activity centres in Wollongong such as Hangdog, Climbing Gym, Hangtime Trampoline Park, Revolution Laser Arena, Breakout Bar and Escape Rooms and most recently Three Sixty Skate Park.
But he also helps the owners of other small and medium enterprises to improve their results while having more fun in their business.
Which is why he launched a coaching service called The Funpreneur.
It focuses on effective systems that help reduce stress, free up time and earn more profit.
Free training for 17 to 24-year-olds
Illawarra ITeC business development manager Virginia Wren is describing the federal government's decision to provide free training for anyone aged 17 to 24 regardless of their employment status as exciting news
"This includes 2020 school leavers, unemployed or anyone who is working at the moment but looking for further professional development," Ms Wren said.
"All ITeC's business and construction courses come under this announcement. With the HSC just finishing and feedback from careers advisors at our local schools, I have put together a Diploma of Business for 2020 School Leavers course."
Ms Wren said that could help anyone from Years 10, 11 and 12 looking for a career in business administration, marketing, information, communication and technology, human resources, logistics management, tourism, inventory management or small business management.
She said the government's decision effectively provided a financial boost to anyone aged between 17 and 24, regardless of their employment status.
"We also have a mainstream Diploma of Business course for anyone who is currently unemployed or working at the moment."
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