Twelve months ago, three regional businesswomen decided to join forces to launch Spend With Us, Buy From a Bush Business marketplace.
The central marketplace and directory of rural and regional businesses set out to design a way for fellow Australians to buy from bush businesses without trawling numerous websites, scrolling through social media pages or travelling hundreds of kilometres.
At the time, no one could predict just how crucial their website would be in helping 800 rural and regional Australian businesses survive what was to come after already being brought to their knees due to devastating fires and floods.
Sarah Britz, a web designer from the Central Coast in NSW, originally created the website Spend With Us in January 2020, which was supported through social media initiatives by Lauren Hateley, a clinical psychologist from rural Victoria.
Simultaneously, Jenn Donovan, a Riverina -based marketer was drumming up a following on Facebook with her ‘Buy from a Bush Business' campaign. The group quickly went viral with more than 250,000 members joining, all looking to support local businesses.
Because of the success of each of these initiatives, they joined forces and merged in August 2020 to make an even bigger impact on the rural and regional small business community.
“Lots of small-town retailers don’t have e-commerce sites or digital strategies, so we’ve created a way for them to be online without all the hassle, something which has proved invaluable in preserving the income of many small businesses as they were forced to close their doors to customers due to Covid,” says Britz.
“The shop local and shop small movements have gained momentum during the pandemic and the Australian spirit of helping each other remains as strong as ever.”
Indeed, there are now more than 800 rural and regional small businesses on the platform generating over $250,000 sales income through the website marketplace. There have been 1,886,995 website page views since the three women joined forces and more than 303,000 members in the Buy From a Bush Business Facebook Group.
“Reflecting on the year that was, no one could have been prepared for the impact the pandemic would have as 2020 rolled on,” says Donovan.
“Whilst the pandemic has highlighted Australia’s reliance on imported goods, it amplified our willingness to support local economies and other Australians doing it tough.”
She adds that while Spend With Us is an online platform supporting as many businesses as it can, the trio would also like to support rural areas with some off-line support.
“For example, with international travel, at this stage, off the table until 2022, we’d love Australians to jump in the car, head to www.spendwithus.com.au, check out the map that has all our businesses on it, and where possible drop in and say ‘hey’ in person as you holiday in your own country.
“We are also very aware that those affected by bushfires 12 months ago are still struggling to get on their feet. We do have a FREE Bushfire 12-month membership to our platform, but we are always looking at other ways to support them even more in the coming 12 months.”