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Three rural women have designed a way for Australians to buy from bush businesses without trawling through websites, scrolling through social media pages, or travelling hundreds of kilometres.
Launched this month, Spend With Us is a central marketplace and directory of rural and regional businesses. Millions of Australians who prefer to support small businesses can now shop online at this one location.
The online marketplace was created by Sarah Britz, a web designer from the Central Coast of NSW, Lauren Hateley, a clinical psychologist from rural Victoria, and Jenn Donovan, a Riverina-based marketer. Jenn launched “Buy from a Bush Business” on Facebook in 2019. Today that group has a quarter of a million Australians shopping with small-town businesses.
Co-founder Jenn Donovan said that supporting local small towns has never been more important following the debilitating droughts, bushfires – and now, COVID.
“Small businesses were already on the back foot this year, so we want to help Australians support Australians by getting money circulating in local economies,” she said.
Donovan added the pandemic has highlighted Australia’s reliance on imported goods, and also a willingness to support local economies.
“The first thing we had to do was build an easier way for small businesses to sell online. 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,” she said.
The site provides tips, advice and resources to small business owners to successfully sell online. You can purchase everything from homemade condiments, quality clothing and even river adventures in a canoe with champagne and canapes.
“We know Australians are mindful of where they spend their money, and this website makes it easier to back the little guys who offer great products and services. We also know being a small business owner can be stressful and isolating. We’ve created a virtual community that serves to support and generate additional revenue for them,” said Donovan.
Small town businesses can join, with or without a website, and the platform offers a free support plan for businesses affected by bush fires. Shoppers can also ‘pay it forward’ by donating products or vouchers to businesses and community members in need.
Some more about the founders of Spend With Us
Sarah Britz lives on a rural property on the Central Coast, NSW, Australia with her husband, two young children and two dogs. She’s a web designer and developer passionate about helping small businesses fulfill heir dreams & bring their ideas to digital life (www.sarahbritz.com.au).
Spend With Us came about after she offered her services pro-bono to any businesses affected by the bushfires. Britz’s family were extremely lucky that their property survived the recent bushfires and she wanted to help using her skills and knowledge and give back to the community as best as she could.
Britz built this website in her spare time and continues to provide support to the many businesses that have joined the platform. She hopes it will give small business owners a space to promote their businesses and gain new customers. Her aim is for these rural & regional small businesses to be able to increase their sales and get the word out to Australians who wouldn’t otherwise know they exist, and for customers to find and purchase amazing local products and pay-it-forward gifts, knowing that their money is going directly to those in need.
Lauren Hateley resides in a small rural town in North East Victoria, Australia with her husband, two young boys and a few special pets. She grew up on a family farm and as a Clinical Psychologist, she is passionate about supporting children, young people, parents and families through difficult times. Hateley’s family also owns a farm supplies store in rural Victoria, and so she is appreciative of the challenges faced by small business owners during times of economic instability.
Hateley also has a deep passion for rural health and created the Vic Spend With Us Facebook page in January 2020 due to feeling helpless whilst the bushfires were raging across Victoria and wanting to do more than just donating money to her selected charity. Her goal was to provide a platform to directly support Victorian families and their children who were suffering adversity and trauma following the bushfires and in turn positively impact their well-being and livelihoods.
Hateley and Britz joined forces as a collaboration and together, Spend With Us aims to show Australian’s who have been impacted by bushfires or drought that we are here to support them. They want to show people who are in rural communities, who have lost their homes or have properties devastated by natural disasters, lost significant income in their business, and are feeling a build-up of emotional distress, that they can continue to be supported via an online platform.
Jenn Donovan lives on a farm in the Riverina of NSW, with her husband and 3 children. She runs a social media and marketing business from her home office (Social Media & Marketing Australia) and supports small business owners by helping them get the most from their marketing.
Donovan travels around rural towns hosting marketing and social media workshops, and it was the return from a week’s tour of drought-ravaged NSW that she came up with the idea, in October 2019, to start a Facebook group, called Buy From a Bush Business, which would allow businesses in rural areas to gain more traction with their marketing, and obtain more sales and more customers.
Initially, Donovan invited all her clients, workshop attendees and friends to the group and really underestimated the power of what she’d created. In only a few short months, the group hit over 150,000, and in 6 short months has over 260,000 members. It’s an economy all unto itself.
But, wanting more for her Facebook group sellers, she initiated a conversation with Mateley and Britz, from Spend With Us, and they subsequently collaborated to produce the Spend With Us website. Donovan is so proud of what they have created, an online platform that is changing lives every single day and helping the Australia bush economy back onto its feet.
To support Spend With Us, take a look at the website and see if there’s something you’d like you can visit the website at www.spendwithus.com.au/