Ingrid Wellacott on starting a new business during a pandemic

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Ingrid Wellacott, our second NZ partner had only recently opened her first Specsavers Audiology store in Papanui when the coronavirus pandemic took off in New Zealand.

This year has been a tumultuous time for her, between opening her own business, hunkering down in lockdown, and then remerging to continue her business journey. But despite the situation, Ingrid says her spirits have remained high, and she’s eager for what life will bring on the other side of lockdown.

Ingrid says when she opened her Specsavers store she was looking forward to growing her client base and normalising hearing screenings for customers over 40. “I’ve always been really passionate about audiology and all of my friends will vouch for this as if ever anyone talks about a career change, I say, ‘study audiology’.”

“I was really excited about this new adventure.”

And then the pandemic hit.

“It’s interesting because my view of the Specsavers business has remained high, throughout this period. Even though I was new to the business, it really feels as though Specsavers is doing all it can to help the JVP’s to succeed through this period.”

And instead of meeting customers and reviewing audiograms, Ingrid found herself at home and homeschooling!

“I kept myself active doing online exercise classes and spending quality time with my family, video calls with friends and extended family. I also had a lot of contact with my Audiology Relationship Manager, Audiology Training Manager, and Professional Services Consultant, and regular phone calls with my other store partners which helped keep me connected. I also had my two boys, Sam who is six, and Hamish who is four, at home. Homeschooling rendered me insane! I learned that I’m certainly not cut out to be a home-school teacher!”

“I think the whole Specsavers team reacted well, for all the uncertainty that was going on, they always appeared calm and I felt like they had a plan. It was difficult, with our store located in a shopping mall that remained closed, so we couldn’t even help urgent cases, however thankfully because my business had just started there weren’t any of those. And we did a lot to stay in touch, regular phone calls and updates, webinars, and training sessions. I also was glad that the wage subsidy was organised for me, rather than me having to do it personally.”

And now that stage three is behind her, Ingrid is happy to be back at Papanui and building her business.

“My customers are glad that life is returning to a “new normal” and have said it was nice to have time with family and to stay in touch with video calls. Many were glad that their new hearing aids helped them stay connected with family more easily.”

Ingrid’s husband Jim has also been supporting her return to the store in a creative way.

“Specsavers have provided a lot of PPE, and my husband has also designed a clear face mask that I can wear for my customers who rely on lip-reading,” she says.

And while her cleaning protocols have increased, and PPE is a new addition to her daily routine, Ingrid says she’s positive about the future.

“My business is starting to ramp up again, which is great and I’m building a fantastic customer base. Fingers crossed we never have to go through lockdown again!”