This article first featured in: Rebuilding Australia: the role of small business. This report uncovers the impact of COVID-19 on different industries across the country. For more insights and help for small businesses, check out our Behind Small Business page.
With lockdowns threatening the viability of Game Enough’s shop and catering arm, the Indigenous Australian business responded quickly. They built an online store and developed new product lines to suit the evolving conditions.
Bush to bowl
COVID-19 delivered a crushing blow to the hospitality sector, with restaurants closed and events cancelled. Brisbane-based native food supplier, Game Enough, was gearing up for a busy event season when the pandemic struck.
“From March to July, there’s Harmony Day, Reconciliation Week, Queensland Small Business Month and NAIDOC Week. This year, we had nothing to cater for. The catering sector stopped overnight,” explains Carol Vale, co-owner of Game Enough.
Growing up on an Aboriginal mission in Armidale, NSW, Carol learnt about bush food and medicine from her parents and while visiting her grandparents who lived on the north coast.
“People talk about paddock to plate. But for us, it’s from the bush to the bowl,” she says.
A Dunghutti woman with bloodlines to the Anewan and Gumbaynggirr people, Carol started Game Enough with her husband Greg to showcase Aboriginal culture and provide employment opportunities for Indigenous people and marginalised groups.
“We try to create flexible roles for Indigenous and non-Indigenous mothers who struggle to find work because they might only have a few hours available each week,” she explains.
The business also supports Indigenous-owned businesses and suppliers, with Game Enough’s bookkeeping managed by Indigenous-owned Xero partner, REM Business Solutions.
After launching in 2016, Game Enough operated from a rented kitchen in Caboolture before opening a retail store and commercial kitchen in Banyo in December 2019. The newly-opened store was in the process of finding its feet when the pandemic interrupted its momentum.
With only a basic website in operation, Greg set to work building an ecommerce site that allowed Game Enough to process online orders via Shopify instead of relying on foot traffic and events.
Getting comfortable with the new site represented a steep learning curve for the Game Enough team.
“We completed online sales and marketing training to learn how to exist as an online business because we couldn’t rely on people walking in the door anymore,” explains Carol.
New recipes for success
Like many other small business owners operating in the food and beverage space, Carol and Greg adapted their service to suit consumers who were eating at home more during the pandemic. New product lines for locals to order online and collect in-store included takeaway meals with a native twist such as emu lasagne and crocodile meatballs.
They also created NAIDOC gift boxes featuring items like native spice mix, bushfood jams and bookmarks made by the Warlukurlangu Artists of Yuendumu. The boxes can be ordered online and delivered anywhere in Australia, expanding Game Enough’s customer base beyond Brisbane.
Even with a new website and fresh product lines developed to suit pandemic eating trends, Carol says that business has been tough. Despite growing awareness of native foods, she believes there’s still a way to go before the general public warms to eating bush meat.
“Australians will happily eat lamb but not kangaroo, so we’re collaborating with other Indigenous food businesses to tell stories that help people understand the nutritional value and sustainability of bush meats,” explains Carol, who is trying to stay positive and proactive amid uncertain times.
“Right now, Game Enough is surviving. We’re always looking for new ways to generate business. It’s hard but every day we keep looking for new opportunities.”