COVID-19: Nine-day turnaround to create a new business

Woman in kitchen with apron
Pamela Brook

Pamela Brook is the co-founder of Cape Byron Distillery and Brookfarm, and Chair of Northern Rivers Food.

When asked what lessons she has learnt from COVID-19 Ms Brook said being respectful, caring and considerate was very important but “most of all, listen.”

“Where you see a synergy and have a great idea that will be mutually beneficial, now is the time to reach out.”

“Collaborate, support, connect and move heaven and earth to make it happen. Live for the day and appreciate those around you.”

Ms Brook learnt these lessons while one of her businesses successfully developed an entirely new product and another had to send the office into remote mode.

Cape Byron Distillery

Cape Byron Distillery lost all of its bar and restaurant customers and its cellar door tour trade. The business decided they could, however, produce a hand sanitiser, as they had access to alcohol.

“The need from medical practices, emergency services and the public was huge,” said the distillery co-founder Pamela Brook.

In just nine days they delivered the project from start to finish. They then redeployed their cellar door team into production, sales and delivery. They were not only able to keep all of their staff, but also take on new employees.

“We focused on product development, packaging and ingredient sourcing and worked all of our contacts – we did it together as a team and made a product that we are truly proud of –that helps people, and they love.”

“It has been a huge task and we were so fortunate to be able to assist the community and our employees.”


Brookfarm, which produces gourmet macadamia products, lost all of its airline, hotel and foodservice business.

“Our office staff now work remotely, and we changed our production shifts to protect our workers, so one shift is well separated from the next. It had already been a challenging year before that and we had been working on a strategy to build our manufacturing capacity to be able to make products for others and fully utilise our teams.”

“We have exciting plans and although challenged right now we are optimistic and looking five years ahead.”

Northern Rivers Food

Northern Rivers Food, a food industry member organisation which Ms Brook Chairs, cancelled all member subscription fees for six months to support its members.

“Getting people to eat well and cook from fresh, using local produce, is key to good health and helping local companies survive.”

“We are providing up-to-date information to our members that is relevant for the food industry and connecting people. The food industry in our region is creative and entrepreneurial but we face huge challenges right now. An organisation that connects people and takes their messages to Government is essential right now.”

Ms Brook’s final message for all is to: “Stay home, stay safe, wash your hands and go one hour, or one day at a time to get through if things are tough. Eyes on the prize at the end and try to think what that will be.”