As cost-of-living pressures continue to bite, there seems to be a unique trend among businesses to boost trade and happiness.
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It is a trend that most recently expanded into Berry.
From restaurateurs to retailers, corporate workers to hair stylists, collaborating to either save on costs or nurture creativity is helping businesses thrive.
Earlier this year Maxine Walker made the "heartbreaking" decision to close her Bulli homewares store, 55 Parrots, before finances sent her under.
But news of the closure sent customers into a spin with the majority of her floor and warehouse stock gone in two days.
With a month left on the lease, Walker invited other struggling businesses and artists to bring in their stock and be part of a mega-sale. The success planted a seed of inspiration.
"People need to get out of that mindset that it's not a competition, it's working together ... it's getting behind each other in these tough times," Walker said.
"And from that, I actually took it further."
It was clear there was still a want for her products, but rather than open a new store, Walker approached the owners of Thirroul clothing store Plume to "collaborate", share some costs and boost each other's businesses.
Walker became their wholesaler and curated items to revamp their minimalist store (including a revolving gallery wall for artists), while owners Sarah Gray and Sally Worsley would promote the 55 Parrots website to customers who liked the look of the furnishings.
It's now been three weeks since the brands merged and Worsley said the change is noticeably positive.
"Before we did this we noted that trade was down slightly, that also coincided with interest rate rises and a lot of uncertainty ...people weren't so willing to just throw money away as they had been," she said.
"It's definitely picked up since we did it and we're also getting a lot more customers coming in now."
Jeni Sae-Yang has long held the pipe dream of opening her own restaurant and thought it was out of reach until she spotted an advertisement by another cafe operator.
Chef Luke Whiddett has run the Secret Garden Cafe at the back of Woonona School of Arts since January but wanted to the evening service to save on costs.
From Wednesday to Saturday for dinner, plus lunch and dinner on Sunday, the space is transformed into Duck in Heaven, serving spring rolls, bao buns and Peking duck.
"The whole sharing thing, the spirit to do that, it's really great and we help each other," Sae-Yang said.
"We double the customers who walk in and find the place."
Sharing the rent and equipment, she said, has cost her far less than if she'd gone it alone, and feels collaborating is a "solution for the future".
In the past week, a South Coast distilling company who were on the lookout for a pop-up space in Berry has joined forces with the WorkLife co-working hub on Albert Street.
"Our space was dead on the weekends but we were paying [premium rent] ... so the bar model was a creative solution to a problem of high rents and low availability of affordable spaces," said WorkLife owner Kate Dezarnaulds.
"[Co-working spaces are] flexible, it reduces the masses of the complexity of renting a space ... like the cleaning and all of the outgoings and the IT services. For small businesses, it's cost inefficient and not their core business to do all of that."
Hair stylist Jennifer O'Toole recently opened her own salon Electric Curl inside Wollongong co-working space, The Heart, on Atchison Street.
She chose it to "launch" her own business because of the diversity of creative businesses inside, and the ease of setting up shop in an established space.
"It was like worlds colliding like they advertised that they had a room available and I was like, 'Would you guys like a hairdresser, would it work'?" O'Toole said.
"Coming from a salon I only ever thought the other options were working from home ... or renting a chair which I didn't want to do."
The space houses photographers, an interior designer, an accountant, a massage therapist and a coffee van stationed in the driveway, while the foyer is kitted out with exquisite chandeliers, flowers and vintage furniture thanks to the wedding designers who founded it.
In 2021 Faith Varty (of Lovers and Fleurs) and Jerin-Lei Malacrida (of Bohemian Blooms) wanted to quit working from home but found it difficult to find a big enough space to suit. Collaborating with other businesses seemed like the perfect solution.
However, the founding duo said their space was more about a fostering sense of "community" and inspiring creativity rather than just sharing finances.
"For people who come here, absolutely, it's going to be cheaper to get a space here than get their own shop that would cost them four times as much," Malacrida said.
"But the thing we love the most about The Heart is that we're also supportive of each other and we nurture each other and we bounce ideas off of each other, even though we're all doing like completely different things."
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