The Covid-19 crisis has not dampen spirits of couple Gus and Sophie Meyer, who run a black pearl business in Arorangi.
Instead of succumbing to the economic downturn, the owners of Gus and Sophie’s Pearl Lounge are looking to venture into other businesses, to help stay afloat.
They have been working on opening a beauty salon, that will create two of three new jobs, and say they have more new businesses in the pipeline.
Despite the Covid-19 downturn, there are 35 businesses offering 238 vacancies in Rarotonga.
According to Internal Affairs, these include cafes, restaurants and bars, general administration, construction and caregivers.
But government economist Natalie Cooke warned that none of these vacancies were linked to tourism, which has taken a major hit in the crisis.
There were 89 people on the unemployment benefit, she said, of whom 17 have now got work.
Those on the unemployment benefit receive $266 a week for four weeks. The benefit is being extended in phase two of the economic response plan, starting in July.
Gus Meyer said they would offer work to those on the unemployment benefit, I they had the right skills.
“We are looking at home first and absolutely, the job will be available to those on the unemployment benefit. We rang up the trade school two weeks ago asking for graduates from their beauty classes and they were helpful.”
Their pearl business was badly hurt by the border closures, as they relied on visitors for revenue. But they remained optimistic – Covid-19 is not the first economic disaster they have faced.
They were also hit hard by the 1996 economic meltdown but managed to survive by innovating. “We have been in business since 1994 and for the last 21 years we have been in the black pearl business but what we are doing at this time is diversifying a little bit,” Gus said.
“We were already moving in this direction so what this time did was great. It freed up all the time and with government help with the wage subsidy for our two employees and the grant, we now have time to look into other businesses.
“We are also doing some renovation work at the same time.
“Our attitude is when all this is over, do we come out exactly the same or do we come out stronger? And if we haven’t come out stronger, what lessons have we learnt?”
Sophie added: “Our biggest energising is we are Christians and we love the Lord and He has given us the creation and ideas.”