Adapt or collapse. This was the difficult choice faced by numerous small businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic. And while many small New Zealand businesses shut up shop, others were able to use the pandemic as an opportunity to try something new.

The Museum of Transport and Technology’s (MOTAT) new exhibition Silver Linings explores just that; focusing on the stories of hope and enthusiasm that emerged after the fear, hardship, and loss many small businesses faced following the Covid-19 lockdowns.

Senior Exhibitions Curator, Karla Bo Johnson said, “The six businesses that feature in the Silver Linings exhibition responded to the uncertainty of the time and found innovative ways to benefit their communities.

“Many of them could see the increased pressure that their communities would be facing, relating to work, finances, school, and health. The people and teams that feature in the exhibition adapted and used their resources, skills, and networks to support their communities.”

One of the businesses featured is Kami. Founded in Auckland in 2013, Kami is an app-based alternative to taking notes during university lectures. The founders later adapted their software to improve annotation and collaboration between teachers and students in real-time.

When the pandemic re-wrote what the traditional classroom looked like, Kami stepped up with a solution, offering their technology free to schools. The uptake was huge, especially overseas.
Kami is now a huge Kiwi success story, used in 170 countries, with around 26 million users. The headquarters are in Auckland, with teams in the US, the Philippines, and Brazil.

Johnson said, “The story of Kami and what they have achieved in a relatively short time is inspiring. Their progression to become a major online tool for learning, used by teachers and students all over the world is an extraordinary example of New Zealand innovation.”

While Kami was busy making sure education remained available during lockdowns across the globe, another NZ business; Fort Richard Laboratories (FRL) was working on getting everyone tested to keep our community as safe as possible.

When the world demand for large-scale Covid testing was at its peak, FRL innovated to ensure New Zealand’s supply needs were met. With countries unwilling to sell kits to New Zealand due to more urgent international demand, and major flight and freight delays, FRL sourced parts internationally and found innovative ways to manufacture locally. From their factory in Auckland’s Ōtāhuhu, FRL distributed 2 million testing kits across New Zealand.

These businesses are only two examples of the incredible resilience shown by Kiwis during the pandemic.
Is your business in a strong position to face another lockdown? With the future uncertain, how will you innovate to thrive? Is your business adaptable? Do you have a strong crisis communication plan in place and how will you reach customers during a lockdown?

Make sure to view the MOTAT exhibition Silver Linings and celebrate the stories of success, learn from leading New Zealand businesses, and reflect on your own business strategy.

The Silver Linings exhibition is available until December 2021 and the exhibition is included with general admission ticketing. Plan your visit to MOTAT here.

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