'It's Booming': How To Help Bushfire-Affected Towns By Online Shopping
Small businesses in towns that have been ravaged by bushfires say a new Instagram account showcasing their wares has "changed their entire business".
Motivational speaker Turia Pitt and colleague Grace McBride set up an Instagram page called 'Spend With Them', urging people across the country to get behind local businesses as they begin to rebuild.
Pitt lives on the NSW South Coast, where horrific bushfires have torn through several small towns and communities, destroying homes and closing businesses that rely on tourists.
She told The Project she and a friend were discussing how they felt "helpless and useful" amid the ongoing crisis when they came up with the idea.
"I have a toddler at home, I'm eight months pregnant with my second child and there wasn't much we felt we could do," Pitt said on Tuesday.
"We want people to be spending money in these fire-affected communities right now ... they really need it. This is a tourist town where I live at the moment and there are no tourists there."
The platform was set up two days ago and already has 110,000 followers.
It has featured businesses including 'The Ruse' -- a bar in the NSW coastal town of Ulladulla offering vouchers for locals -- and 'Guerilla Roasters', a small, ethical coffee roaster which also runs out of the south coast.
Mathew Hatcher, from Guerilla Roasters, told 10 daily the initiative has had a "huge" and "instant" impact on his business.
"We have done five or six times more business in 48 hours than we ever have," he said.
It has changed my entire business. It's booming.
Hatcher set up Guerilla Roasters 13 months ago and had been gearing up for the summer season before fires tore through the area.
After purchasing $30,000 worth of 'green' beans, the business ran into cash flow issues as their suppliers were forced to close. Hatcher accepted he would "not have an income" and decided to turn his efforts to helping out in the community.
But that has started to change.
Since being featured on 'Spend With Them', Hatcher said the business has received 500 orders. Before the campaign, they'd had 72 orders since launch.
Hatcher said the turnover was at least $5,000 and on the rise. The influx of orders prompted him to hire one casual worker, with plans to bring another staff member on board soon.
"I can't stress enough how much it has helped us instantly," he said.
For Gab Good and her mother Vic, the campaign is "the best thing that could happen to [them]".
Good and her mother run 'Spaces 2538', a homewares store in the NSW coastal town of Milton. The store has been very quiet as fires ravaged the area, and they were forced to close their doors.
"Business was not happening for us. It was safer for everyone to leave town," Good told 10 daily.
Since being featured on Instagram, the store has opened and has received about 50 online orders. Normally, they'd have one "here and there".
"I have no words. I'm still astonished," Good said, adding orders are coming from overseas where freight costs are higher than the products being bought.
"This kind of devastation does bring out the best in people. It's amazing to see."
But while the campaign is helping now, Hatcher is worried about keeping small businesses in his town, and others along the south coast, afloat.
He is working with private enterprises, surf clubs and schools to connect those who wish to donate items with local businesses who can supply them.
"The fires have obliterated these towns' economies. There are so many jobs and businesses that have been lost," he said.
"It's hard enough being a business in a small town, but for that town to be wiped out ... you're fighting a losing battle."
Hatcher believes the "Spend With Them' campaign will have flow-on effects if money can continue to be injected into small businesses long-term.
"It's how we ride that wave I guess, and we need to ride it for as long as we can," he said.