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Hyemi - South Korea

#InThisTogether stories - Little more than a year ago, former international student, Hyemi Lee, decided to start her own business with two fellow international student alumni...

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Little more than a year ago, former international student, Hyemi Lee, decided to start her own business with two fellow international student alumni... LT (Hu Lui) from China, and Henri from Brazil, in their adopted home - Adelaide, Australia.

With all their different skill sets, forming a team together was the best way to mesh ideas and compliment each other’s abilities and passions.

Wining and dining in Adelaide

During their years studying, the team worked part-time in Adelaide’s thriving hospitality scene. Upon completing their studies, they decided to take a different path from what they were seeing many other students doing.

I didn’t want to get a regular job, Hyemi shares. The hospitality industry had become my family and my life. I wanted to still be involved but progress my career in some way, too.

I didn’t want to get a regular job" Hyemi shares. "The hospitality industry had become my family and my life. I wanted to still be involved but progress my career in some way, too."

With their well-established love for unique Australian wines, the three set out to create a small distribution outfit that would supply Adelaide’s restaurant and bars with creative wines from producers all around Australia. They wanted a way to share the products made by winemakers they admired.

Within a year, the team were representing some of Australia’s most beloved small-batch products, with a portfolio encompassing every corner of Australia’s geography, and stocking some of Adelaide’s most renowned restaurants and small bars - their business, now known as et cetera, etc was thriving. Getting approached weekly by new wineries looking for representation, doing tasting after tasting… it seemed like their dreams were coming true.

"It was incredible, these great winemakers from all around Australia wanted to jump on board with us and give us a shot," Hyemi states. "I was very excited and proud to show the world their wines."

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New realities

But then, it all stopped. Globally, the hospitality industry came to a standstill as isolation regulations started to kick in in response to COVID-19. As restaurants closed their doors, orders came to a complete halt.

"It seemed like, in a flash, the world became a different place. We all had part-time jobs at cafés and wine bars at the same time as running the business and over a weekend this all changed. We were out on our own. What were we supposed to do? We have no family here to support us - this community was our family."

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Rethinking, restructuring and retaliating against COVID-19

So, the et cetera, etc team got creative. With a warehouse full of bottles, bills to pay and stockists closing their doors, as well as future government support uncertain from both a personal and business standpoint, there were significant challenges to overcome.

Online sales with delivery directly to people’s living rooms seemed like the only option. The team knew people still wanted wine, the challenge was getting wine to their customers. They needed a website and some slick new photos. Plus, they now had a lot of spare time to hand-deliver their products and organise shipments to go nation-wide.

Since early March, the team have been delivering packs all around Australia and sales of their ‘A Case of Hope’ has been able to keep etcetera, etc afloat. A Case of Hope packs are still growing in the market, but it’s giving the team a chance to keep sharing their passion for wine.

We wanted to call it A Case of Hope because, well, this was our only hope. We needed to make this work - and we didn’t want a case of the virus!" Hyemi laughs. "The community and wine-drinkers around Australia are coming on board and I am very proud of what we have done in this hard situation.

Hyemi’s #InThisTogether message

For others looking to go out on their own and be inventive over during this time, Hyemi shares this advice:

"It's a chance to do something new, and a time to think about what you can offer from a business perspective. Brainstorming costs you nothing and chances are, you have a lot of spare time on your hands. Think of what you can offer to people and start taking the steps towards making that happen. It might not happen overnight, but with perseverance, us internationals are a pretty tough bunch."

You can learn more about Hyemi and her business at https://etceteraetc.co/

What’s your #InThisTogether message?

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