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Keeping small businesses alive

Tony Rothacker’s small social technology company was less than a year old when the coronavirus pandemic crippled the economy and sparked a recession.

Mr Rothacker co-founded Youngster.co with a mission to combat youth suicide.

His idea was to pair young people with technology-challenged elders in aged care homes to help them complete tasks out of their capabilities.

Based in Coffs Harbour, on the New South Wales Mid-North Coast, that meant pairing struggling youths with elderly customers face-to-face to help them with things such as online groceries or teaching them how social media works.

Within months however, lockdowns were in force and Youngster.co’s entire business model had to change. Aged care facilities were some of the most at-risk locations for the virus.

“When COVID-19 hit we transitioned everything online… It was more of a boost for us,” Mr Rothacker told 9News.com.au.

“All the youngsters were able to understand the opportunity with Zoom or Skype or Facetime and we were able to teach elders how to use it and help them out of isolation.”

As retail sales plundered and the nation fell into the grips of a looming recession, Youngster.co was growing as a direct result of the pandemic.

Mr Rothacker’s idea was to pair young people with technology-challenged elders in aged care homes to help them complete tasks out of their capabilities. (Supplied – Youngster)

But it also thrived on Australians’ willingness to help local businesses survive.

“(It was about) buying from the bush. We’re putting an emphasis on employing youngsters who are locally-based. It’s important for us to be that local connection,” Mr Rothacker said.

The business change has meant Youngster.co has branched out nationally during the pandemic, with state lockdowns working as a lifeline for the regional service.

FULL STORY

Coronavirus: How Australians are keeping small businesses alive by ‘buying from the bush’ (9News)

PHOTO

Youngster.co