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Covid-19: Manly's fight to keep businesses open during the pandemic

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  CAREER FOCUSED: Charlotte Rimmer took over as Manly Business Chamber president in August 2020. She also owned and run Aide de MD for the past 15 years. Picture: Geoff Jones

WHEN the tourists disappeared, Manly Business Chamber's Charlotte Rimmer's forged a path to help those impacted, she tells journalist Nadine Morton.

"MY first permanent job was working at Chanel in London, which was an amazing job. I went in there as temporary receptionist and then I worked as permanent receptionist. Then I got promoted to assistant consultant manager where I helped to launch Coco in Paris when I was 21. I've always been career focused.

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When I was backpacking I worked in Singapore serving beers. I was meant to go for six months and I went for 14 months, I just loved backpacking.

I've certainly worked in retail. I worked in a swimsuit shop in Wales for oversize women when I was 17, that was a really good learning point.

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I am the fifth in a family of six kids. My family is across the world and I do think that has helped to mould who I am now, because when you're the fifth youngest you have to learn to talk loudly to get heard.

Why did I say yes to being president of Manly Business Chamber? Well 2020 was my year of saying yes so that was one part of it.

When the opportunity came up and the team spoke to me, I just thought 'actually, I've got the skills to help people'. I've always wanted to give back in some way, maybe this is my time, and I had to say yes as it was my year of saying yes.

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Also, I actually think that the business that I have, Aide de MD, where I guide and direct people for strategic growth and strategic planning to ensure they have solid, stable businesses, has been hugely helpful in my role as president. I'm a business consultant and I work with businesses to create independent, clever infrastructure to allow autonomy for the leaders.

I actually don't think anyone realised quite how much of a tourist town we were [in Manly], I think that's been a really good learning.

Thinking about sustainability and longevity of business, when you recognise that you shut the international borders, you shut down almost immediately a large part of the business in Manly. It's been devastating.

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The hardest thing is probably recognising that there is actually very little that we can do today other than be a voice. I'm a bit of a get your hands dirty type person, I like to get in and help business and be constructive and find solutions. There's actually very little you can do in the short term, other than be a really loud voice, and advocate and try and find how you can help people longer term.

I think that was a real recognition for me because you can't turn around and turn the tap on for a bank account, or encourage more people to come in, or suddenly open the borders. You need to go 'OK, strategically, how can we help people long term'.

My family is across the world and I do think that has helped to mould who I am now, because when you're the fifth youngest you have to learn to talk loudly to get heard.
Charlotte Rimmer

Mental health is a massive issue. We can offer and recommend and provide opportunities for programs, which we do constantly through our newsletters, but you can't ask someone who's really busy trying to manage a business, and perhaps homeschooling and worried about the future, to insist that they attend another course to help themselves. There's got to be a bit of self help in there.

In the next 12 months, my focus is a safe summer. We have an awesome environment to be able to provide tourism and for people to get out and have a bit of fun over summer. They can shop outside, they don't need to be in, undercover. Showcasing Manly in summer will help the economy, which will help people feel bright and cheery, it'll help mental health.

One of the biggest kickers was that lockdown we had over Christmas. In those three weeks some businesses would normally generate up to 70 per cent of their revenue for the year. This year I'm keen to have a good solid summer, which will give people a good solid year next year, give them some confidence.

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Also, I'm keen to get The Corso full again, we're 200 per cent down on vacancy in The Corso since pre-Covid. We've actually got some really good, new people [businesses] coming in, but we want it full and bouncing, that's where we want it to be again.

When I'm not working, I do yoga or some kind of fitness every day, I walk the dog, I'm a mum of two fantastic boys and a wife of a lovely husband and I love my socialising with friends. We're in a really lucky, lucky land. I do a lot of work internationally, I'm working currently with India, Singapore, Germany, I've got a meeting at 6am tomorrow with Sao Paulo.

There are a lot of countries having a really tough time and I hang up, I can look outside, put my gear on and go for walk, see the beach. I go and jump in the surf. I did five years at Freshie Surf Lifesaving Club, my go to is always the water."

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