We’re almost two years into the pandemic, and the rollercoaster effect is far from over – state borders have continued to change from week to week, mask-wearing rules are frequently shifting, and large portions of our population are unsure of when they’ll get out of lockdown. Despite this ongoing uncertainty and constant change, there have been a handful of industries which have thrived and grown, opening doors for our most entrepreneurially minded Australians to turn ideas into tangible businesses.

Ecommerce is one of the industries that experienced this boom during the pandemic, seeing an incredible $4 billion growth by October later year. But it wasn’t necessarily the case that by simply being in ecommerce, a business could experience immediate success. There were a range of factors that differentiated the pandemic survivors from those who were left behind, and these entrepreneurs were the most willing to bust some of the biggest retail myths in their endeavour to be customer-centric and digital-first.

Myth 1: Size matters

Size has never mattered less in entrepreneurship, than it does today. Our latest survey of small businesses and entrepreneurs across Australia and New Zealand highlighted more than half (56%) are ‘solopreneurs’ operating as a one-person business. While there are some obvious challenges and restrictions due to the pandemic, these entrepreneurs are taking a bold stance in 2021, with almost a third (31%) planning to start a new business this year.

It used to be the case that being truly innovative and customer-led involved millions of dollars spent on data analytics, cutting edge product design, and dynamic pricing models. Until recently, only large enterprises or startups with significant funding could afford these investments. But today, and particularly since the start of the pandemic, we’re seeing Aussie and Kiwi innovators pop up across all corners of the region, using off-the-shelf and simple retail operating systems to bring exciting products directly into the hands of consumers.

Myth 2: In tough times, money is everything

To be clear, money does matter. During tough times like a pandemic, it matters a lot. In fact, over a third (36%) of small business owners and entrepreneurs recently identified cashflow and profitability as their main challenges. However, we’d be missing a much bigger trend if we were to assume money was the biggest and most important thing to today’s entrepreneurs.

Grit, determination and resilience were considered most critical to 41% of Australian business owners and 38% of Kiwi business owners. In comparison, only 22% in Australia and merely 15% in New Zealand attributed their survival to government-funded financial support, including JobKeeper in Australia.

Today’s fast-growing community of ecommerce entrepreneurs is business savvy and commercially minded, though it would be a mistake to assume that their personal drive and purpose are not equally, if not more, important aspects of their business models.

Myth 3: Digital transformation is costly and time-consuming

Whether it was major international brands like Lindt, or local solopreneurs like Doury, we saw first-hand the ability of businesses to shift to an online model or upgrade their online presence in a matter of days and at a fraction of the cost of traditional software options throughout the pandemic.

Digital transformation used to be a term commonly used among enterprises to reflect the complex and multi-faceted business strategies required to transition a physical or bricks-and-mortar business to an online format over several years. Today, digital transformation starts with the ambition to be customer-centric, and can end a few days later with an either completely online or hybrid business model, depending on where your customers want and need the brand to be.

There is no doubt that many retailers are still struggling during the pandemic, particularly if they have been relying on a bricks-and-mortar business model for decades and are challenged with ongoing internal hesitancy to change. On the flip-side, there is an exhilarating uprising of traditional retailers exploring new and entrepreneurial ways of reaching customers, and completely new entrepreneurs on the scene wanting to address an untapped market need. Regardless of their size, target audience, or digital literacy, each of these entrepreneurs are using their grit and determination to redefine the retail industry as we know it, and they aren’t hesitating to challenge the status quo while they do it.

Shaun Broughton is managing director for Asia Pacific at Shopify.