Local business stories

During the extended lockdown due to COVID-19 in Victoria in 2020, Brimbank businesses showed how innovative and adaptable they could be. 

Learn how they responded to the challenges and check out how you may be able to continue to Think, Shop, Buy, Dine Local, even during times of crisis.  

Meet your local business
Emma Langoulant - Marriage Celebrant

The pandemic and subsequent restrictions have impacted what it means to get married in 2020 but local Marriage Celebrant Emma Langoulant says ceremonies conducted within the last few months have a special quality to them.

We chatted to Emma about weddings in 2020 and gained some tips for those looking to get married in uncertain times.

Emma Langoulant, now in her 30s, is considered a young celebrant in the wedding industry.

Though she had been fascinated with weddings for some time, a lack of visible younger celebrants in the weddings she attended in her 20s spurred Emma to explore what was required to officiate a wedding ceremony.

She has now been a celebrant for over seven years, helping couples envisage and create their perfect ceremony. 

While all celebrants are there to ensure the legal obligations are met, Emma says it’s the work done before the day that makes the difference: getting to know the couple, discussing the weddings they have each attended and what they would like to incorporate, and finally writing the ceremony to reflect the couple and their love story.

“I really enjoy getting to know the couples and learning their stories. It’s fascinating how people have connected, how people have met, some of the journeys they’ve been through to get together. There are some really beautiful love stories,” Emma said.

When COVID-19 hit Australia earlier in the year, the pandemic and subsequent restrictions meant a lot of couples have had to postpone or reschedule their wedding plans. While some couples have new dates, some are pausing, and others have moved forward with their original timelines and changed their expectations of what it means to get married in 2020.

Emma said that the trend for smaller, more intimate weddings was already on the horizon, but has been hastened by the social distancing restrictions necessary for managing the pandemic. While wedding ceremonies have always created moments of intense feeling, she says ceremonies conducted within the last few months have a special quality to them.

“The ceremonies that I have conducted have been really emotionally charged. The guests that have been able to attend have just been so touched and blessed that they have been chosen to witness that event and that moment. Everyone in the room is really feeling love,” Emma said.

For those looking to get married, Emma says there are a number of ways to include friends and family who may be unable to attend either due to guest restrictions, or because they live interstate or overseas.

“Little things like sending a package to the person’s home that’s got a little bottle of champagne that they can celebrate with as they’re watching the ceremony over livestream.

“I’ve had a couple who we had a father give the bride away over the phone. He wasn’t able to walk her down the aisle, but he stood up, said a few words and welcomed the groom into his family,” Emma said.

For Emma, the initial stages of getting to know a couple are different than they were last year. Usually, she would sit down with a couple in person and get to know them. Now, it’s via Zoom.

She says the biggest struggle for many couples in getting married in 2020 has been not being able to hug their friends and family during one of the happiest occasions. As such, she completely understands why there are restrictions in place.

If you’re looking to get married, Emma suggests sitting down with two or three celebrants and getting to know them: this will help you decide if they’re the right fit for your day. You may be looking for someone with a strong character who can deliver some big laughs, or you may be looking for someone to create a softer, warmer vibe. For Emma, she prefers when people remember the ceremony, and not the celebrant.

She says the celebrant industry is very collaborative, and that if you’re looking for a particular style, there will be a celebrant out there to help you bring it to life.

“We’re a nice big network, we’re always trying to help each other out. It’s really not competitive, and that definitely surprised me when I entered the industry. We are really just there to help couples get married,” Emma said.


Business details

Emma Langoulant
Marriage Celebrant
Phone:  0422 810 667
Email: emma@emmalangoulant.com.au

Khushdil from Aum Yoga & Ayurveda
Published: 17 November 2020

Indian Yoga and Ayurveda at home in the West

Brimbank resident Khushdil Chokshi has been running Aum Yoga & Ayurveda for six years in St Albans.

Aum Yoga & Ayurveda is all about identifying and healing imbalances in the body and mind using authentic Indian yoga and holistic health system, Ayurveda.

Business includes therapeutic consultations, massages and yoga and is mostly an in-person experience at the studio. 

When Melbourne’s COVID-19 lock-down restrictions were introduced, this meant the business had to close, and Khushdil turned her focus to digital marketing and moving some of the business’ services online. After learning the tech required, Khusdil was able to stay in touch with her clientele online and provided virtual Ayurveda consultations, meditation services and even ‘clarity cleanse’ sessions  - for those struggling with balancing home and work-from-home life.

Now that restrictions have eased in Victoria, Khusdil has been able to resume in-person Ayurveda consultations and massages for women, and she hopes her popular authentic yoga classes will be back in 2021.

Khushdil grew up in India and ran her own alternative medicine business for a decade in Gujarat (guu-ja-raat), a state on the western coast of India. Rich in culture, the Gujarati people preserve traditions of the ancient past. They are overwhelmingly Hindu. After helping clients with their healing journey and experiencing the benefits of authentic Indian yoga and Ayurveda first hand, Khushdil relocated to Melbourne, Australia with her husband and son in 2011.

Aum Yoga & Ayurveda’s authentic yoga is a combination of techniques including chanting, yogic breathing, deep meditation, withdrawal of senses and Asana (physical body posture with balanced breathing).

Khushdil’s belief that her practice is applicable to everyone and works for all people, no matter their age, religion or where they live, gave her confidence that her business would work in Australia.

Whilst teaching in Australia, Khushdil found that whilst people are familiar with Yoga, many have not heard of Aum Yoga & Ayurveda’s practice ‘Ayurveda.’ With historical roots in India, Ayurveda is a common custom for people in India and referred to as 'Yoga’s Sister Science'.

Khushdil works with clients on a physical, mental and spiritual level. From an Indian perspective the focus is more spiritual where as Khushdil finds the Western world more accepting of treatments based on scientific evidence.

On the subject of mind and body symptoms where the cause is not known, Khushdil said,

“If your medical results are unable to explain symptoms, you need to think deeper.”

“The world of Ayurveda believes ‘where there is smoke, there is fire’ and if you are not treating the root cause, the problem will remain. It could be mental, emotional or spiritual, you could switch a light on from another room but if you can’t see the wiring it doesn’t mean there’s not a connection.”

With a passion for healthy cooking and Yoga, Khushdil’s vision is to spread the word about Ayurvedic medicine to the rest of the world. Her short term goal is to run public events for women on ‘health is wealth’ discussing non-communicable diseases.

Business details

Aum Yoga & Ayurveda
Address: 1/39 Bent St, St Albans
Phone:  0430 208 807
Email: info@aumyoganayurveda.com
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Andrew and Reno from Fury & Son in Keilor Park
Published: 19 May 2020
Reno and Andrew Georgiou started brewing together more than fifteen years ago as a way to strengthen an already great relationship. They now head up an experienced four-man team based in Keilor Park, offering three core beers and a seasonal for delivery across Victoria and at their currently closed taproom. They are Fury & Son.  

“Brewing was an awesome way to showcase not only what we could do collaboratively but also showcase what Australian produce is capable of. Brewing is, above all, about being proud of what we do, who we are and why we do it,” said Andrew.

Both Andrew and Reno held significant careers in other fields before embarking upon commercial brewing, with thirteen years of experience in pharmacy and three decades in manufacturing respectively. The duo have brought that business experience to Fury & Son and credit it, alongside passion for the product and a strong desire to succeed, as part of their winning approach.

“I think that had we both approached this without the business acumen we had previously gained, we would not be in the position we are currently in,” said Andrew.

Reopening on the horizon

When restrictions came to Victoria, the team was able to add an online store to their existing website quickly, allowing their loyal following to buy from the business directly. 

“We're offering free delivery and the freshest beer you can get your hands on! Overwhelmingly though, you'll be supporting a local family owned business who needs you now more than ever,” Andrew said.

Fury & Son source locally as much as possible, however they do occasionally use hops from the United States. Thankfully, their supply chains have not been impacted by coronavirus.

With the news of restrictions easing across the country comes the potential for opening the Fury & Son taproom to the public. Victorian venues will be required to continue existing physical distancing requirements of one person per four square metres, and a 1.5m space between tables will also be enforced. Andrew and Reno will be working out when they will be able to welcome everyone back to the brewpub for a meal and a pint, but it will likely not before late June.

“The reality of the situation is that it will completely depend on how safe people feel about returning to venues and socialising again,” Andrew said.

In the meantime, you can jump online to furyandson.com.au and support your local family brewery. Mark your calendars for 2 June as three new seasonal beers will become available in a bottle shop near you: keep an eye out for Base Stout, Mandarin Stout, and Strawberry Milk Stout.

Business details

Fury & Son
46 Concorde Dr, Keilor Park
9331 6818
Website | Facebook | Instagram



Androulla from Empower Beyond in Taylors Lakes

Androulla Sakkas loves helping people get the most out of their small business.

After 18 years in the corporate world including 14 working in finance and operations at Toyota, she decided to start her own business: EmpowerBeyond. 

“I wanted to have a bit more impact on everyday people and their lives. That’s why I focus on small businesses that are family owned,” Androulla said.

She’s spent the last nine years helping family businesses improve their cash flow and better manage their time to live the lifestyle they want.   

With the coronavirus restrictions impacting businesses across Victoria, Androulla has been helping her clients move their operations online. She made EmpowerBeyond’s services available on the web three years ago with the support of her own business mentor. 

Androulla can now guide clients through the process and help ease nerves around adopting new technologies for the first time.

“These are things that I’ve experienced myself. It hits home for me, and when I see someone going through what they’re going through, I can really resonate with what’s happening,” Androulla said.

What are some of the things a mentor can help you with?

Business owners may need different mentors at different stages of their business. Who you approach will depend on what you want to achieve.

“The core issue that people come to me for is cash flow. They’re struggling to have regular cash flow coming through and they want to know why and where are the opportunities for them to be able to generate more income and stay afloat.

“The other thing is that they’re overworked and overwhelmed. They’ve got so much to do, from delivering the product/service to sales and marketing, doing the finances, recruiting and running the day to day operations of the business,” Androulla said.

Being able to discuss short and long term business goals with a professional may help you clarify whether your day-to-day actions are helping you achieve your long-term goals.

Androulla said a business mentor can show you how to view opportunities in the market and within your own business and how to capitalise on them.

Approaching a mentor

You can check whether a mentor offers a complimentary initial consultation, to make sure you and the mentor are a right fit.

“You’re going to be sharing private information about your business with me. I want the person to feel comfortable and trust that they can be open so that I can best serve their needs. It’s very important that your mentor can relate to you and that you feel comfortable with your mentor,” Androulla said.

Androulla suggests you will want to ask the mentor what expertise and knowledge they have, who they have worked with, the kinds of problems they’ve helped their clients overcome, and the outcomes those clients have achieved by working with the mentor.

She said there are three styles of business assistance: coaching, mentoring, and consulting, and these services will vary:

  • You may want someone to help you plan, but you do the work yourself. 
  • You may want someone to help you while you do the work.
  • You may want someone to do the work for you.

You’ll want to be clear on what kind of service you’ll be receiving before you move past an initial meeting.

You may also want to ask:

  • how frequently will you get access to the mentor, 
  • will they be working with you directly,
  • what is expected of you, and
  • what you can expect from them.

“It’s about being able to ask for help. You don’t have to do it all on your own, there are experts out there who are able to help you, no matter what the need ,” Androulla said. 

Finally, she said it is important your mentor understands what you want to achieve personally; your business is the vehicle to getting you there.

“It’s critical to understand what that individual wants and then set up how you’re going to achieve it. There’s not one size fits all and you can’t assume everyone wants the same thing,” Androulla said.

Business details

EmpowerBeyond provides business consultancy and mentoring focusing on financial and operational support.

Taylors Lakes, VIC
Phone: 0407 355 745
Facebook | LinkedIn

Emma from ELS School of Dance in Kealba


Emma Scott moved to Melbourne from Tasmania straight after finishing year 12 in order to study dance and the performing arts full-time. 

After completing her studies and teaching at a few studios in Victoria, she realised she wanted to build a different kind of dance school.

So, she decided to set up her own.

“Everyone no matter their background, their age, their ability, what they look like, where they’re from, they should all be given equal opportunity to learn and find that love and passion for dance,” Emma said.

She wanted to create a recreational dance school where students are taught collaborative life skills: to help one another, to build up each other’s confidence, and to cheer for everyone as they do their best. 

Now in its fifth year, Emma says ELS School of Dance is all that and more. 

With 280 students attending classes earlier this year, Emma teaches students from young children to adults in a warm and supportive environment.

She says watching her students take the initiative to help one another is really special.

“Seeing them doing that on their own is a really rewarding thing to see. It makes me really proud as a teacher; a lot more proud than them winning something at a competition. Seeing them be genuinely good people and good members of our community,” Emma said.

When the coronavirus restrictions first came into place for Kealba, the ELS School of Dance team was on a two week holiday period. They quickly moved to pre-recording classes to share on the school’s YouTube channel to help parents keep their children engaged.

They then set about working out how to create online classes for the next school term.

“My staff and I had to come up with new ways of teaching and how to do it from our homes so that was a big learning experience,” Emma said.

The school had a brief respite in late June, but after only one week back in the studio, Kealba and several other Brimbank suburbs went back into Stage 3 Stay at Home restrictions, and ELS moved back to online classes.

The week of eased restrictions gave the studio the opportunity to test out their new social distancing processes for when restrictions ease again. 

“All students had to sanitise on arrival and then in class we have social distancing stickers on the floor… our acromats and bars were wiped down after every use, so we had extra staff that were signing the kids in and out, between their classes they were the ones going and wiping down equipment and door handles. Just to keep the studio as clean and safe as possible,” Emma said.

The continuation of classes online has fostered a sense of normalcy and routine for the school’s students. Emma said that a lot of people in the community are in tight financial situations, meaning many students were not able to continue with online classes at the moment.

Emma has published an open letter about the difficulties that dance studios across Victoria are currently facing, calling for more funding for the dance and performing arts industries.

Though Emma receives JobKeeper as the business owner, her teachers are subcontractors which means she cannot receive support payments for them.

“We’re taking it day by day and doing what we can and hoping to get support from our families to support this and hopefully we can get back to the studio soon,” Emma said.

Emma said that there are a number of ways that you can support your local dance studio. If there are online classes that appeal to you, she encourages you to sign up. Sharing social media posts with friends and family who may want to take classes or writing a review to help others learn about the studio can also go a long way to helping a small business.

“Little things like that keep our community and our name alive. Keep sharing the word so that when we can go back we still have new students coming in as well,” Emma said.

Business details

ELS School of Dance is a dance studio teaching all ages, currently offering online classes via Zoom.

13 Malcolm Ct, Kealba
Phone: 0417 127 467
Website | Facebook | Instagram


Stephen and Joanne from The Compassionate Kitchen in Keilor Park

Stephen Sumner was made redundant from his job in the week before his second child was due. 

With one week’s pay, no redundancy payment, and a new baby, Sumner and his partner Joanne Buttigieg decided to apply to start a business with support from the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS).   

NEIS provided Sumner with access to a microbusiness course, income support, and twelve months of mentoring. 

With no funding, no capital, and only rental equipment, the duo created The Compassionate Kitchen, a vegan dessert shop filled with plant-based treats for those looking to eat ethically, be sustainable, or try something new. 

The couple capitalised on the growing demand for plant-based options across restaurants and cafes in Melbourne, where consumers and business owners were looking for an ethical indulgence that didn’t compromise on taste. 

In order to meet this demand, The Compassionate Kitchen needed to innovate. The team started their business without commercial baking experience, giving them the opportunity to do things differently as they worked with substitute ingredients that traditional bakers would rarely need to use.

The Compassionate Kitchen

“We’ve had experienced pastry chefs come in to work with us and they cannot believe what we’ve been able to create in the way that we’ve been able to do it. They’ve said, ‘I would never have thought of baking it that way but it really works’,” Stephen said.

Sumner said that when it comes to food that is dairy free, egg free, or vegan, makers usually only get one chance to get a buyer’s attention. It’s one reason Sumner and Buttigieg keep the methods of their award winning food so close to their chests.

“People who aren’t vegan, if they have a bad coffee somewhere, they put it down to, oh, that’s a bad coffee. They don’t stop drinking coffee…But if they taste a bad vegan cake, or vegan burger or meat free product, they think that all vegan products, ever produced anywhere, are all the same,” Stephen said.

Their gluten free chocolate ganache mud cake won bronze at the 2019 Australian Food Awards, demonstrating that plant-based foods can compete and win outside of vegan categories.   

This is important for Sumner and Buttigieg, as the majority of their customers are not vegan, meaning that their products need to hit the mark when compared to foods using animal-based ingredients.

 By demonstrating that ethical products can meet and exceed expectations, The Compassionate Kitchen aims to teach customers that they don’t have to miss out on their favourite tastes or textures when choosing to eat ethically or sustainably.

“It’s very difficult to get people to even think about changing from cow’s milk to soymilk because they’re so set in certain ways. But if you can get them to taste something first without even talking about any change, they taste something and go,‘oh wow this is amazing’,” Stephen said.  

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted the business as restaurants, cafes, and hotels have had to close their doors or move to takeaway offerings only. 

By cutting down on overheads, including reducing their freezer storage and updating their power supplier, Sumner and Buttigieg have given themselves time to pivot their offering. 

They’re now looking to supply their treats to a home-bound consumer audience. 

The team will soon be launching a new do-it-yourself range of cakes for those who love to create but are wary of launching themselves into the world of substitute ingredients. A DIY cake pack will involve baked layers of cake, a pouch of ganache, a pouch of buttercream, and a bag of sprinkles, allowing you to decorate your ethical and sustainable cake to your hearts content. 

Selling for considerably less than a regular sized cake, the DIY cake range is designed for people who want to save money by getting creative. 

While you’re waiting for the range to become available, you can check out the existing options on The Compassionate Kitchen’s website. Sumner recommends his personal favourite, the black forest cheesecake. Made with cashew nuts and silken tofu to create the perfect cheesecake texture, you’ll need to make your order quickly; this one sells out fast.

Business details

The Compassionate Kitchen create plant-based, nut free, and gluten free desserts in Keilor Park for delivery to metropolitan Melbourne suburbs.

18/74 Thomsons Road, Keilor Park
Phone: 8080 8508
Website | Facebook | Instagram
Delivery options: Pickup, delivery in Melbourne

Jane from Jane & Co. Crafts in Delahey
Published: 13 July 2020

Jane Ann Koh was feeling depressed. She and her husband Mike had been trying to have a baby, and after long years of trying, she began to lose hope. It was at a low point that she created Jane & Co. Crafts, a form of art therapy aimed at turning her focus to a creative external outlet.

Five years later, Jane is 31, has three young boys and is a successful businesswoman creating decals, designing event signage, and producing laser cut acrylics.  

Collaboration with other designers is a key component of Jane’s work, in particular when she creates signage and cake toppers for parties.

“[We’re] all about the community and bringing everyone together through events where likeminded people can have fun and learn from each other. We work closely with businesses and the general public to achieve this as an event is rarely ever a ‘one man band’,” Jane said.

Jane is a self-taught graphic designer, having previously studied a Bachelor of Engineering with a focus on electronics and telecommunications.

Jane from Jane and Co Crafts

When she first started Jane and Co. Crafts she concentrated on working with event stylists to produce custom signage. She’s since expanded the range to include custom laser acrylics and decals, event stationary, and event accessories including personalised wishing wells, ring boxes, and bridal party gifts. 

If you’re looking to develop a new skill, Jane recommends starting with YouTube how-to videos, searching through government websites to see if any free or subsidised training is available, and volunteering to gather experience.

Image credit: Z by Zahrah

“If you are passionate, determined and open to learning then go for it, there's so many ways to learn a new skill, even if you have no money to do so, there's always a way,” Jane said.

Working in the events industry, Jane & Co. Crafts has been impacted by coronavirus. 

Jane was on maternity leave until recently, but her return to the business has been slowed by the necessary hold on large gatherings for events.

Jane is using this slow time for her business to redesign some of the behind-the-scenes administration tasks to improve her workflow and the customer experience. Some of her clients have downsized their events, or adapted their original plans and requests to bring the event into a home setting.

“They might ask for event signage (like every other event) but change up the wording and make it more of a quarantine themed event. ‘My first quarantine’ is a very popular one for a first birthday during the lockdowns,” Jane said.

Jane says that the events industry has been working together to help each other create new ideas and pivot their businesses to support customers in achieving similar but different outcomes while adhering to social distancing and government recommendations.

“The events industry can be a tough one but if covid19 has proved anything, we are definitely always about community over competition,” Jane said.

Business details

Jane & Co. Crafts
Phone:  0422 672 931
Website | Facebook | Instagram
Delivery options: Pickup, delivery Australia-wide

Image credit: Z by Zahrah
Kate from Floral Affairs in Sunshine North
Published: 25 June 2020
On market days, Kate Halil’s morning begins in darkness. She’s out of bed by 4am so that she can drive north to the national flower centre at Epping’s Melbourne Market to purchase her stock for the next few days. The flower market at Epping is where farmers from across Victoria come to sell their fresh cut flowers to local florists, running until 7am on weekdays and 7:30am on Saturdays.  

Depending on what is available at the markets and what she needs for her confirmed orders, Kate will then travel to one or more local growers’ warehouses to source more flowers. Kate runs a shop called Floral Affairs in Sunshine North, so she needs to plan for in-store purchases as well as her existing web and phone orders, which could include celebratory flowers, wedding bouquets and centrepieces, or memorial wreaths. It would be a tall order for a new florist, but Kate’s 29 years in the business have her well prepared to meet these challenges.

Kate from Floral Affairs
Once back at the shop, she’ll spend time checking orders, getting flowers prepared (de-thorn the roses, wire the flowers, change water, and add flower food) and will open her doors, before starting to arrange flowers. Working methodically, she’ll use her collection of vases, boxes, hat boxes, bases, papers, and natural wraps to create something beautiful for every client.   

“I love what I do. I love the outcome of customers when they come and pick up their products, and the thankyous and the appreciation. I really do enjoy the creative side of floristry,” Kate said.

Some days are longer than others. Though Floral Affairs is open until 6:30pm, it’s not unusual to still see the lights on at 7:30pm while Kate finishes orders to be picked up or couriered early the following morning. Kate is a self-taught florist who studied food science and technology at university while working part-time at a florist shop. After graduating, she spent the next decade working as a food technologist in product design and travelling through South East Asia.

After working some weekend shifts at her previous florist to give the owners a weekend off, Kate realised that she would like to work for herself, and opened her own store as a hobby.  

“I still had my full-time job because it was a scary thing to open up a business back in those days. So when I opened up my florist as a hobby I did not know the amount of hours that went into it that were before and after hours. Absolutely not. I was prepared for the markets and things like that but definitely not prepared for how long it takes to do a wedding,” Kate said.

Before the coronavirus impacted Australia, Floral Affairs had a steady stream of weekend wedding bookings, which often involve creating a teardrop bouquet for the bride, bouquets and buttonhole flowers for the wedding party, table centre pieces, and occasionally extra decorative elements to set the mood. Once social gatherings became limited, most of Kate’s wedding bookings were postponed. 

International and domestic supply chains were impacted, causing difficulties in obtaining flowers as quarantine delayed international orders or lead to a decrease in product quality, and some local suppliers decreased or stopped production. The result has been that Mother’s Day, one of two major dates for florists across the country, was significantly quieter due to a lack of flower supply rather than a lack of demand. Less than 50% of Kate’s expected stock arrived, meaning that she wasn’t able to benefit from the increase in sales that usually helps to provide a buffer for the quieter months of the year.  

Fortunately for Floral Affairs, they are the key florist for Sunshine Hospital, which is situated just down the road from Kate’s store. Though corporate flowers are no longer needed, Kate’s allowed to deliver to Sunshine Hospital. She’s happy to undertake the required temperature checks so that she can bring the flowers to hospital reception. When she can, Kate adds a bunch of flowers to brighten up the day of the nurses, hospital staff, and aged care workers.

“It feels really nice being able to supply flowers to new mums who can’t get the visitors and can only have one support during their birth. That’s been a really happy outcome of being able to provide that service; you know it’s going to make their day,” Kate said.

For those coming into the shop, Kate’s made sure that all precautions have been taken: reminders to social distance on the door, hand sanitiser, masks and gloves available for customers and of course herself. 

“I’ve also been strict in the shop, so if I notice that someone has got a cold, I’ll just ask them nicely if they want to let me know what they want, I’ll just bring that to their car for them. It only happened a couple of times, but I do find that some people are not quite understanding the severity of what we’re facing,” Kate said.

If you’ve tried to create a bouquet or vase arrangement using home cut flowers, you’ll know how difficult it can be to get your creation looking perfect. Just before the coronavirus impacted Australia, Kate began to offer floristry workshops.

Designed for anyone who had wandered through a garden thinking, ‘I wish I could make something with these’, these workshops can teach you how to construct floral hair pins, bouquets, vase and box arrangements, or even a flower crown.  

“It’s a one-off event where you come in and have a look through the shop and you have a little tour and you get to pick your own flowers that you like, and I’ll add it up, and I show you how to make it, and you get to take it home,” Kate said.

Kate’s “Real Training with a Real Florist” classes are one-on-one training, after working hours, based in her socially distanced workshop. Kate says that in order for everyone to feel safe, both the trainer and the trainee would need to not be ill and not have been ill recently. For those who are concerned about spending time with others outside of their home, she suggests this could be a great future present for the friend, partner, or sibling in your life who has always wanted to try out floristry.

You can follow Kate’s creative expeditions in floristry on her Facebook and Instagram accounts, including her creation of a flower burger for International Burger Day late last month.  

Business details

Floral Affairs
38 Furlong Road Sunshine North
9312 4455
Website Facebook | Instagram



Sam from Slices in Keilor
Published: 4 June 2020
Sam Cannalonga was nineteen and had no real interest in the food industry. It was 1990, and he was working as a labourer. His parents had bought a small pizza joint called The Deli at La Trobe University in Bundoora, and the business wasn’t making the return it needed to. They’d put everything into the business, and their house was on the line. They needed help.  

Thankfully, Sam had a keen eye for business. He realised the existing offers weren’t good value for money and recommended an update to pricing, the offerings, and the name of the business. Pizza takings doubled in no time. Slices was born.

Two years later, Sam opened his own Slices store at Keilor, repurposing an unsuccessful Barnacle Bill’s. Though many would have removed the drive-through, Sam made the decision to keep it so locals could order their pizzas in advance and drive to the pick-up window in rain, hail, or shine.

This decision paid off, “The drive through has kept the business alive”, Sam said, “It’s been from 25% of business up to 50% of business of people ordering and picking up.”

Adapting to the coronavirus

While takeaway was a key component of the business early on, in-restaurant dining had become the norm for Slices over the last few decades. Up until a few years ago, Slices didn’t offer delivery. However when business started to decline, Sam realised that he needed to change his point of view to meet the needs of his customers.

“I said, I’m not going to be a delivery restaurant…it’s lucky I wasn’t so stubborn (as I can be sometimes)...you have to go with the times. We jumped onto Uber and Menulog and started delivering, and there was an increase in business. It’s a big part of the business now. It’s lucky we were part of it then otherwise we probably wouldn’t be open now.”

When the coronavirus social distancing restrictions came into place this year, Slices had to adapt yet again, reducing staff numbers, asking essential staff to adjust to job sharing arrangements, and closing the in-dining restaurant areas.

“It was very, very sad…luckily the government has helped out with that, so that we could get some of them back. We’re down to 40% of our staff, compared to what we were before this happened. So 60% of our staff…we had over 100 people across our stores.”

Over the past thirty years, Slices has become a place for multiple generations of families to celebrate together. Sam’s looking forward to welcoming people back in for those big shared moments of joy. 

“When this happened we lost, between three stores probably, 50-60 functions overnight. Each venue does functions in a big way: confirmations, first birthdays, they all got put on hold. A lot of the customers were great and left a deposit. Nine out of ten people just said, ‘hold the deposit and when it all goes back to normal, we’ll be back to support you’.”

The future of Slices

When he started Slices Keilor back in the 1990s, Sam opened and closed the store himself, served people, and made pizzas. Despite moving onto a management role long ago, he’s committed to doing what he needs to in order to keep the business floating.

“If I need to get in there and get asked to be a pizza maker, I’ll make pizzas. If I need to deliver. I’ll wash dishes if I have to. I’m no better than anyone else. That’s one thing I’ve never changed.”

Sam says he is concentrating on maintaining the business while social distancing restrictions are in place and making sure that his customers feel valued. That means bringing back the takeaway focus from years gone by, along with pricing changes and new offerings including a family size (15 inch) pizza that Sam claims will be the cheapest in the area.

You can support Slices by remembering to think, shop, and buy local. Sam’s team sends out an email newsletter each week with offers which you can sign up for on the Slices website.

Business details

Slices Family Restaurant Keilor
920 Old Calder Hwy Service Rd, Keilor
Phone:  9390 9933
Website | Menu | Facebook | Instagram

Aurora Kurth from Albion
Published: 24 May 2020

In the old world, you could hire local MC, singer, and actor Aurora Kurth to perform a ten minute ode to the life of your best friend, parent, or spouse. “They would send me the story of their life and some songs they liked, and I would construct a storybook,” she told me, “A singing storybook, for them, and perform it as a surprise at their party.”

Aurora Kurth. Image by Len Paneki. These days, she’s offering singing telegrams, a smaller social distancing version of her previous performance. Seventeen people from around the world have been fortunate to receive such a gift; a favourite tune performed by a songbird of a woman, delivered via phone or video to help ease the loneliness of isolation and distance. “We would just have a little chat,” Kurth recalled, “And then I would sing them a song and tell them that it was a gift from their friend and give them a bit of love.”  

Kurth is both a Brimbank resident and local performer, more than twenty five years into her craft. “I was one of those kids that just always knew what they wanted to do when they grew up. So, it was always going to be singing and acting for me,” Kurth told me recently.

Her recollections are filled with warmth for the people and institutions that helped nurture her talent, including the opera singer who lived next door during her childhood.

“We used to hear her singing arias as she was hanging out the clothes… she’d never taught anyone as young as me and some teachers won’t take students that young, but I really begged her and so I used to do weekly classes. It was just really fortunate and she was pretty fundamental to my learnings in terms of singing. We did classical exercises but she mainly taught me jazz, and really focused in on the emotions of songs so that I knew what I was singing about and what I was trying to say.”

Around the same time, she began taking acting lessons after school, and not long after, started auditioning for shows at St Martin’s Theatre in South Yarra. Her acting training continued, later attending the John Bolton Theatre School after completing her VCE. Kurth took clown studies early on, and finds that same essence is embodied in each of her MC personas, bringing an ease and light-heartedness into each performance, but never at the expense of the audience. “If it was a Moulin Rouge theme,” Kurth explains, “Then I’ve got a French mademoiselle with a terrible French accent, but she shares that with the audience – there’s no illusions there, everyone’s in on the game.”

It’s not always smooth sailing when you’re on stage, though you’d never guess it from watching Kurth perform. Her improvisation talents can be seen in her performances as MC Lizzy Quizzy for Miss Burlesque Australia, as a singer and comedian with the Paris Underground Cabaret, and most recently at the Sunshine Silos Projection Festival, when she suddenly needed to keep the crowd occupied during a projector malfunction.   

Thankfully, Kurth finds joy in using her array of talents in those moments where things go off script during a performance, “You just find yourself in these situations where you’ve got to fill in time and it’s funny, it’s really exciting,” she says exuberantly, “For some people it would literally be a horrendous scary black hole, but for me it’s kind of exciting when things go wrong. I like being kept on my toes and being thrown out of my comfort zone like that.”

With her telegrams, there’s no script at all: just Kurth, a ukulele, a song, and an audience of one.

Kurth has known two of the people she has sung telegrams for but the rest have been strangers. The responses have been heartfelt and grateful, “There’s been tears, a lot of tears, a lot of people have cried, but sort of happy crying. It’s been really beautiful. I really love it. And it made me feel good too because I’m in isolation too,” Kurth said. “This was something I knew that I could do right now, and I wanted to. I think it’s important that we share our time and what we love doing with people while we can.”

Interested in your own singing telegram? You can connect with Aurora via her website or social media channels.

Business details

Aurora Kurth
Website | Facebook | Instagram

Darlene from Green Empire St. in Sunshine North
Published: 13 May 2020

Darlene Ladio still remembers the thrill of her first sale, a fern wrapped in a wicker hat, and the joyful feeling that her creation had a place in someone’s home. Little did she know how popular her work would become, initially on Facebook Marketplace and then at the Kensington Market.

“With our green hearts full of hope Amos (my partner) and I packed the wagon with as many plants as we could and took it down to Kensington Market, hoping to at least make enough to cover our stall fee. Before we knew it, our first load sold out, and Amos had to go back home to load up more and more and more plants.

Meanwhile, back at the stall, I was overwhelmed at the number of interested people. I didn't have a float, a bumbag - clearly not prepared and not expecting anything like it,” Darlene said.

Darlene Ladio from Green Empire St.


Darlene’s had a passion for plants for most of her life, growing up surrounded by greenery in a farming village in the Pangasinan province of the Philippines. After migrating to Australia her interest in nature grew toward helping others bring the warmth of nature into everyday life. Three years after her first sale, her successes are continuing at her own brick and mortar at Sunshine North.

Building a nature haven

We often forget how important it is to connect with nature each day. If you aren’t able to regularly get out amongst the greenery, Darlene recommends creating your own sanctuary by introducing the wonder of the natural world into your home.

Green Empire St. store plants

“After work, you want to come home and feel at peace within your own space, that joy and satisfaction from patiently observing the growth of your plants that you have nurtured,” Darlene said.

If you’re looking for an easy care option suitable for lower light conditions, Darlene has plenty of recommendations to get you started. Her go-to is a Pothos, an easy care plant that is happy to live in most places in a home, including for apartments where access to natural light may be limited.

“[Pothos] comes in many different sizes so you can get one that is more suited to your space. You can get a small Pothos for a coffee table - you can get a medium hanging basket to hang, or you can even get a totem for a corner piece which you can guide to trail up an archway - the possibilities are endless,” Darlene said.

Her other recommendations include Peace Lily, Sansevieria, Zanzibar Gem, and both the Heart Leaf Philodendron and Horse Head Philodendron.

Adapting to social distancing

Green Empire St. has moved its operations online in response to the coronavirus emergency, creating an online store that is simple and easy to use. Delivery is available within the Melbourne area, or you can pop in to collect your purchase at a pre-arranged time.

“Our customers' response has been a true blessing. It is also a great testimony to the lovely community that has been supporting us within Brimbank council and beyond. We had no idea that they would be so on board with us going online and that they would continue to assist our small business in whatever way they can during these trying times,” Darlene said.

Darlene handpicks all of her stock, including pots, stands, and the greenery itself. If you’re looking for a calming Instagram feed filled with images of lush plants and greenhouses, paired with plant tips and stories, make sure you follow her and support where you can by sharing with friends and family.

Darlene and her daughter in a greenhouse

Business details

Green Empire St.
89 McIntyre Rd. Sunshine North
0478 157 001
Facebook | Instagram

Gareth and Greg from Sunshine Social in Sunshine West
Published: 6 May 2020
If you’re looking for a new favourite place for food and good times that you’ll continue to love long after the pandemic is over, then make sure to check out Sunshine Social. Established in 2017 by friends Greg Fee and Gareth Crawford, this popular local hangout is designed to appeal whether you’re looking for a quick coffee, a light lunch, or a big dinner.  

“We started the business because of the site, with so much room for kids to play we thought it would make a great family friendly environment,” Gareth Crawford said.

For the moment Sunshine Social is limited to takeaway offerings. Its owners are looking forward to when social distancing restrictions ease; the large indoor and outdoor areas mean there will be plenty of room for you to enjoy the space and the food while still keeping to a safe distance. 

Sunshine Social

What it means to support your local

Sunshine Social entered the period of new social distancing restrictions with a takeaway offer in place, meaning their menu didn’t need to change to keep serving their customers. The team is continuing to collect valuable customer feedback on the menu changes made earlier this year – so if you love something, let them know! The duo are planning to launch their full updated offering once regular trade resumes. 

 “We want to say how humbled we have been, with the support from our loyal customers.  When the restrictions were first imposed, we had a few sleepless nights wondering how we could get through it, but the phone has kept ringing and it's nice to have a quick chat with our regulars when they come in to pick up,” Gareth said.

For those in the 3020 area, Sunshine Social now has free delivery for orders over $50. You can still order through ubereats, or drop into the physical store to collect takeaway and coffee if that suits you better.

Not sure what to get? Gareth can recommend their most loved dishes:“We are proud of our burgers, if you haven't tried one yet you must. The charcoal chicken is delicious, we brine the chickens, then marinate using our special herb and spice blend before rotisserie cooking over coals.”

Business details

Sunshine Social
64 Glengala Rd, Sunshine West 
9312 0223
Website | Menu Facebook | Instagram



Jim, Helen and Arthur from D & H Hardware in Sunshine West
Published: 29 April 2020
In 1980 the newly married Helen and Dimitrios ‘Jim’ Palioudis set about building a family business in an up and coming area.  

With a focus on the future, the young couple bought a small hardware store in Sunshine West and began ordering in the raw materials that would be needed to construct the neighbourhood.

“Adaptability is the reason for the business’ longevity. It is vital to always have your finger on the local communities pulse and provide for them whatever they need,” Arthur Palioudis said.

Helen, Jim, and Arthur Palioudis

Enjoying the great outdoors, from home

More recently this local institution has introduced a new offering, branching out to sell plants and garden supplies. As Jim would remark to his son Arthur, “You can’t sell sorry.” With their customers now staying at home and looking for new hobbies, gardening has become a key focus for the Sunshine West community.

Arthur confirms that their most popular cold weather plants can be grown in your everyday garden: cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and pak choi. If you’re in an apartment or have a smaller garden, Helen, Jim and Arthur can help you work out what to grow to make the most of the space you have.

“There is no better way to spend your time than outside creating a small garden,” says Arthur. “The sense of achievement of nurturing a plant which you can then cook for your family is extraordinary.”

D & H Hardware have made a number of changes to respond to the covid-19 emergency including providing a drive-thru pick up service and free local delivery. You can also now make your order via phone, email, or Facebook, and make payments by phone or online.

“Our community and our local customers are our lifeline. We need the community to: Think. Shop. Buy Local. Give your local hardware store, milk bar, fruit shop, dry cleaners, and bakery a go,” Arthur said.

How can you help this small business thrive? If you’re in the Sunshine area and looking to grow your garden, give D & H Hardware a call to see if they have what you need. Make sure you share your experience by reviewing, commenting, or recommending to friends and family.  

Arthur continues, “We would love our community to pop their head over their neighbour’s fence next time they are taking advantage of our free delivery and ask if they would like something also.”

Business details

D & H Hardware
70 Glengala Rd, Sunshine West
9311 1500

Arthur Palioudis on a delivery



Mitko and Suzana from Mitko Deli in Albion
Published: 23 April 2020
Mitko Deli is owned by Mitko and Suzana Bundevski, who started their family business thirty years ago as a small corner shop in Albion, Victoria. What has blossomed in the intervening years is a specialty store filled with locally sourced produce, imported European groceries, cheese, cakes, and freshly brewed barista coffee. Today, they employ eight staff members, support community events and charities, and can proudly say that they’ve watched generations of local families shop within the store.  

“Mitko Deli has become what we are today only because of our local community. The community’s support and our dedication together have allowed us to provide for our clients who have become amazing friends”

It’s clear that the feeling is mutual, with patrons patiently lining up outside the store waiting to enter, and gifts of roses, babka, and chocolate arriving for the team in the week leading up to Easter. 

Social distancing regulations

Mitko Deli has implemented a new system for the store to comply with social distancing regulations set in the wake of the novel coronavirus-19 pandemic. Numbers are provided for entry and tape is laid outside to provide a guide as to the proper social distancing space. 

“We have always had very high regard for cleanliness, especially since dealing with food; gloves and regular, thorough hand washing is nothing new to us. We hope that our clients can continue to come without fear, knowing we are practicing to high standard.”

Suzana and Mitko have limited the number of store patrons to three people at a time, to ensure there is adequate space to move through the shop. But don’t worry if you’re wanting to just make a quick stop for coffee or takeaway: a staff member is available to take orders outside to help everyone get their lunches on time. 

Community support

The Albion community is one to envy, with support flowing strongly for the local deli’s new social distancing processes. Suzana confirmed that there hasn’t been a single complaint about the new rules, and that kindness and respect has been on show by the customers over the past few weeks. 

“We have seen things that make us proud such as people giving up their spots in the line to elderly clients. We appreciate community support now more than ever.”

If you’re working in healthcare in the area, make sure to drop by: Mitko Deli is providing free coffee to healthcare workers and emergency services personnel as a special thank you for all their support. So what should you pick up next time you’re in the Albion area? We’ve heard that the produce is absolutely worth waiting in line for, and the donuts are a very popular treat. Get on it, before they all go!

Business details

Mitko Deli
39 Perth Avenue, Albion
9311 8490

Think. Shop. Buy Local

Find out which businesses are open, who is delivering, and how you can think, shop, buy local during the COVID-19 emergency. See which businesses are open for takeaway and delivery here..