Boda Hair Boutique has locations in Richmond, Prahran and Malvern. Here, owner and founder Martha Kourtidou explains how Covid-19 has affected her business, and her concerns about the future.

We are a small business, and our business only works if our clients are able to see us – I think people often forget that for many small businesses, there is no way to successfully pivot during lockdown. We can’t cut hair remotely.

I appreciate that our state government has made decisions driven by health needs. I don’t want to open up our businesses prematurely and see a third wave of this virus – but I do feel there has been little support to keep our businesses afloat.

We’ve struggled tremendously, both in the economic sense and also the toll it’s taken on our mental health. The thing is, the bills didn’t stop just because the world stopped. I employ so many international visa-holders who were ineligible for Jobkeeper, it meant I had to dig into my own pockets to keep them because I don’t want to let them go.

The mental strain is due to the uncertainty. For example, leading up to second lockdown we did anticipate what was going to happen, and we prepared for it as best we could. But by week three, it really hit us that [being closed indefinitely] isn’t sustainable. It’s also the personal impacts of lockdown. We all know this isn’t how we were designed to live. While it’s been necessary, there’s no denying it’s been a long struggle on top of the worries I already have for my business.

How does a business like mine survive in a Covid-safe world? While there is a tentative reopening date for hairdressers, there’s been little discussion around the kind of working conditions we’ll be required to provide. Speaking to other business owners, the anxiety is around how we will operate post lockdown. Will we be able to operate to a level where we can generate enough revenue to get back on track? Or will we be severely limited?

I want to see more transparency around what’s next for local businesses. We need a roadmap for what’s next economically, not just a roadmap out of lockdown. The radio silence around future relief has also left a lot to be desired – I would love to see a separate stimulus package tailored to businesses like mine, and how we will move forward from this.

I’ve been fortunate. My team and I had the innovative idea of home colour kits, and that will keep us afloat for 12 weeks. But who knows what the future holds? I’m hoping to open when the roadmap allows, but I’m worried there may be extensions, in which case we won’t be able to support those team members who are ineligible for Jobkeeper. We will be unable to keep up with rent repayments, and we may be one of hundreds of businesses that will have to close for good as a result.

Boda's home colour kits can be purchased here.