Four practical ways you can help fire-affected small businesses


Employment Hero co-founder Ben Thompson. Source: supplied.

Australia’s recent bushfire tragedy will have a lasting impact on all of us. For business owners in and around fire-affected towns, the road to recovery is long, and they will need as much help as possible to get back on their feet.

The government recently met with small business groups to discuss the most effective ways to help fire-affected local businesses. While there are grants available to those whose businesses have been burnt, there is nothing to aid the businesses that are still standing, but are yet unable to operate due to evacuations, road closures and the resulting lack of tourism.

The Australian small business and family enterprise ombudsman, Kate Carnell, predicts more than 100,000 small businesses have been significantly affected. While government support is desperately needed, it can be slow to take effect — so now is the time for individuals to band together and help those that are struggling.

Here are four ways to directly support fire-affected small businesses.

1. Bring an empty esky to a fire-affected small town

The Empty Esky Bushfire Recovery initiative encourages Australians to visit a local bushfire-affected town with an empty esky to fill up with local produce and goods.

The summer holiday period is often the peak season for small businesses in rural towns to make money, and with the bushfires making it impossible for these businesses to operate, they’re missing out on income that could support them throughout the quieter winter months. The Empty Esky campaign asks individuals to take the pledge to visit a fire-affected town with an empty esky — better yet, an empty boot — and buy locally made goods to help these small towns stimulate their local economy. Small businesses have the opportunity to register themselves to be featured on Empty Esky’s social media (followed by nearly 20,000 people), with links to online stores too.

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Grab your #EmptyEsky guys!! You asked – you got it! Our map is now live!! Head to to start planning your road trip to fire impacted towns. We are so happy to see so many of you already supporting Australia’s local tourism and economy. So many local businesses have taken a huge hit and there is an estimated 4.5 billion loss in the tourism industry. So lets do our part and shop local, stay local to and love our locals! If you are a fire impacted business, make sure you register through our site so we can include you on our map, and everyone can visit you! HUGE thanks to the amazing team at @gdjadvertising for collaborating on our website and being a superstar team to make sure everyone can do their bit to support our economy and country! Please make sure you are checking your safety apps to make sure it is safe to go to your chosen destination. #australianfires #supportlocalbusiness #shoplocal #localbusiness #australia

A post shared by Empty Esky Bushfire Recovery (@emptyesky) on

This is just one of many inspiring initiatives to get behind; there’s also Spend With Them, featuring local makers, goods and suppliers, as well as StayintheBush, which showcases rural accommodation. The basic idea behind all of these campaigns is to support small businesses by consciously choosing to put your cash in their pockets, whether that’s online or in-person — every dollar counts towards helping them get back on their feet.

2. Pay with cash

The best way to support fire-affected small businesses is to pay with cash.

Many fire-affected towns are experiencing cashflow problems due to payment terminals and ATMs being offline or inactive. Employers need money to pay their staff, bills and general operational costs.

Paying for your goods or services in cash is the quickest possible way to help small business owners relieve the pressure of expenses.

3. Plan a winter escape to the bush

The bushfire crisis wiped out the peak season for many rural small businesses, so book a holiday during the winter period instead.

A road trip can be an excellent way to visit a number of towns at once, and with winter being months away, it gives you plenty of time to plan the most effective route. Resources such as Spend With Them and StayintheBush showcase the best of Australian small towns and businesses alike, so you can use these platforms when planning where to stay, eat and shop.

Use your own social platforms — no matter the size of your following — to share your holiday. Attracting as much attention to these small businesses is key, so be sure to spread the word far and wide.

4. Volunteer for a day

A volunteer-based organisation called BlazeAid works with families and individuals in rural Australia to help them recover from natural disasters. They organise volunteers to assist individuals and families affected by the fires to rebuild their communities. Anyone can register to be a BlazeAid volunteer and help small businesses rebuild fences and other damaged structures to ensure they can start operating again, as soon as possible.

Make a day out of it by inviting your friends, family or workplace to join in on the initiative too. If you’re part of a local sports club, encourage your team to do their pre-season training as volunteers for a fire-affected small business.

Rebuilding can be a tough workout, so use it as an opportunity to get fit, and do good. As well as providing physical labour, volunteers can have a huge impact on communities’ spirits.

NOW READ: Confusion reigns as promised $50,000 bushfire grants for SMEs split in two

NOW READ: This bushfire support platform allows you to shout someone a coffee, and help small businesses keep their doors open


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