**Below Article Is Reposted by The Courier Mail & Was Not Written By The Mizzie Team**
Why Brisbane is the best place to grow your business
Babies and parents loved the product, but a small Brisbane toy company had to completely evolve during Covid in order to thrive.
Sandra Ebbott knows how much can change in a year.
The Brisbane-based founder and managing director of Mizzie The Kangaroo was busy growing the international retail distribution of her Australian-designed rubber teething kangaroo toy when COVID-19 changed everything.
The brand was successful - it had been a finalist in the 2019 Brisbane Lord Mayor’s Business Awards in the Outstanding Micro Business category, and was stocked in a number of large retailers. But the sudden lockdowns in March last year changed the entire way they were structured.
Over the course of the next 12 months her business flipped from a dominant wholesaling model to 80 per cent direct sales online, plus a Brisbane shopfront where customers can experience her range of educational toys.
“It has been a massive year for us,” she said. “In the last 12 months we’ve had an over-250 per cent growth, through COVID. We’re continuing on that trajectory.”
Mrs Ebbott has developed and transformed her Mizzie The Kangaroo business from a single product five years ago to a range of educational toys stocked in retailers such as Myer, The Iconic and Toy World.
While babies and parents adore the brightly coloured, natural rubber teething toy, the challenge for Sandra was to get the product to her customers, when physical retail ground to a halt.
“All of a sudden all the retailers were closed and 80 per cent of my business was gone overnight - but our customers weren’t - so we put a huge focus online,” she said.
“Online was something we never really paid any attention to before. We had a really great growth in the end.”
But growing their online presence wasn’t the only way the company could grow during the pandemic.
Shortly after national restrictions took effect, representatives from the Brisbane City Council offered the business an opportunity to establish its own shop front.
The Suburban Shopfront Activation pilot program was designed to activate otherwise empty retail spaces in the city’s local shopping precincts and maintain economic activity while supporting other local businesses.
Mrs Ebbott took the opportunity. She moved some administration and business support from her home office and created the experiential shop front in the activated retail space.
“Had it been a year earlier I would have thought, ‘No’. But because we were selling directly to customers I thought, ‘We should do this’,” she said.
“When you have a shop front or a public front where people can come in and experience the brand, it makes it very local. It’s a great place to showcase our products.”
And being locally Brisbane is something that is dear to the Mizzie The Kangaroo business. Her sound book Sing With Mizzie features the voices of the local school choir from Eagle Junction State School, and a recent competition placed the kangaroo through different highlights on the city map.
Mrs Ebbott said she loved living and doing business in Brisbane.
“From a business perspective Brisbane City Council really seems to support Brisbane businesses,” she said.
“There are a lot of functions, events, mentoring programs, there’s a good business ecosystem in place. It’s a great place to start a business because there is a lot of support out there.
“In Brisbane we have it really well tailored and personalised, which makes it quite inviting.”
Her recent success exemplifies a trend of business growth across the Queensland capital, where the economy is bouncing back from the impact of COVID-19 and the restrictions imposed to reduce its spread. There were three per cent more businesses registered in 2020 in the city than in 2019.
Brisbane City Council is keen to support that growth, with a range of programs helping enterprises grow through partnerships and education.
Examples include a 24/7 business support hotline (133 BNE) that offers on-call support to businesses seeking information and advice on Council-related queries. There is also a dedicated team of Business Liaison Officers available for one-on-one support and are out and about in the suburbs, talking to business owners right across Brisbane.
The Lord Mayor’s Business Forums and Lord Mayor’s Business Excellence Workshops provide the opportunity to learn and share knowledge from some of the city’s best-known companies.
Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said Council was making Brisbane Australia’s most business-friendly city, attracting new operations to start, and supporting established companies to grow.
“Brisbane combines the infrastructure and opportunity for business growth with a liveability that cannot be matched,” he said.
“We are determined to build on this strength and create an even better city with more opportunities for our residents. Many of our events and programs are focused on assisting business owners and entrepreneurs to build digital capacity - vital to future proofing Brisbane’s economy.”
He said the global trends of digitalisation, e-commerce, globalisation and volatile consumer trends were transforming local economies even before COVID-19.
But from the disruption of 2020, Mrs Ebbott plans to continue her growth path taking Mizzie The Kangaroo from Brisbane to the world.
The next goal is to engage additional distribution in the US and throughout Europe.
“We’re going to absolutely keep working with our 400 retailers [in Australia], and it is our goal to be in all the right retailers internationally as well as offer it directly online,” she said.