Bringing back a sense of optimism to businesses was a key focus of a conference headlined in Warrnambool by TV personality Catriona Rowntree on Tuesday.
About 150 business owners, tourism operators and event managers gathered for the Level Up conference which aimed to help them thrive in the rapidly changing world.
Roundtree said many businesses had told her that it had been "horrendous" over the past two years of lockdowns. "The ripple effect on so many, we will never know the full scale," she said.
"There's also a uniting string of emotions that we all go through when various events are cancelled - anger, depression then surrender.
"We are now at the tale end of that where we've got to move forward."
Rowntree said she had managed to work on different projects around Australia during the pandemic and while everyone had different experiences there was definitely a unifying feeling of "can we just please move forward?"
And coming out of the pandemic, Rowntree said there was a sense of optimism amongst the business community who were keen to connect, network and move forward.
"There are many people in business who are really proud of all of the new skills they've picked up and are eager to learn more," she said.
"We're all back at square one and if you are still here and you're still wanting to connect then everything is stacked in your favour."
Headline speaker Alex Wadelton, who counts McDonald's, Nike, Myer, the Australian Defence Force, AFL and Cricket Australia among his past clients, talked about being creative in business and unlocking your hidden creative potential.
The advertiser, social activist and author said there was a feeling of cautious optimism coming out of COVID.
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"There's reason to be optimistic. If we can get through this, we can get through anything," Mr Wadelton said. "We've had to learn a lot because it's been a hard few years."
Mr Wadelton said a lot of human connection had been lost as a result of lockdowns, and that had led many to rethink what they wanted out of life and work. "It's really exciting for everyone to be getting together and talking about something optimistic and thinking about the future rather than just getting by," he said.
Mr Wadelton said the internet had opened up so many avenues for business.
"If you've got a business in Warrnambool, there's no reason why you can't have customers in Paris, New York or London now," he said.
"If you've got a really creative idea, you can have a really massive reach for not very much money."
Public relations and marketing professional Karen Foster presented a grant writing masterclass at the conference, while retail expert Martin Ginnane spoke about overcoming challenges and embracing opportunities in 2022 and beyond.
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