The Buy From the Bush campaign, first launched to support business in drought-stricken regional Australia, has delivered $5 million in revenues to SMEs. And, a bushfire crisis and a pandemic later, those business owners are still feeling the positive effects.
The Facebook and Instagram campaigns, first launched by Grace Brennan in October last year, encourage people in metropolitan areas to support, and purchase from, rural and regional businesses.
The campaigns went live in October and immediately gained traction. The Instagram account gained more than 50,000 followers in its first nine days.
Nine months later, a report commissioned by Buy From The Bush and Facebook has quantified the effect the campaign had on the 275 regional businesses featured in the first four months.
“We have seen this with our own eyes in the communities surrounding us. We have heard the stories and watched the growth. But now we have data that helps us tell this story,” a Buy From the Bush Instagram post says.
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Thank you. . . In the first four months of BFTB your support achieved some pretty remarkable outcomes for rural Australia. In the midst of severe drought, by buying from the bush, you changed lives. And communities. . . We have seen this with our own eyes in the communities surrounding us. We have heard the stories and watched the growth. But now we have data that helps us tell this story. To read more about the economic and social outcomes checkout the full report at www.buyfromthebush.com.au. . Thanks to Jasmine and the Facebook Australia team for making this report happen and for the hard work of alphaBeta for carrying out the research and making sense of the numbers. Thanks also to the bush businesses who took some time to complete a pesty survey. . . To the communities still waiting for rain… ❤️. #buyfromthebush #cityandcountry #economicimpact #drought
The campaign brought in $5 million in total revenue for featured small businesses. On average, those featured saw a boost of 300%.
Lucy Moss is the founder of Mink and Me, a homewares, gifts and clothing retailer with a coffee shop attached, based in Coonamble, New South Wales.
Featuring on the Buy From the Bush platform offered a “massive” boost to business, Moss tells SmartCompany.
“It all happened at the most ideal time to make the biggest impact,” she says.
Mink and Me featured in October, and the exposure allowed the business to grow throughout the Christmas period, and beyond. She’s still feeling the positive effects today, even as new crises wreak havoc on the small business landscape.
“It was basically a life-changing experience,” she says.
“Having that exposure to that increased customer base in the last eight to nine months, because of Buy From the Bush, has basically saved us,” she adds.
“It’s such a simple concept and simple initiative but so worthwhile.”
And the effects have been ongoing, she notes. Through the exposure gained via that Buy From the Bush platform, Mink and Me secured new Facebook and Instagram followers who may never have discovered the business otherwise.
They’ve hung around, she says.
“They might not have bought something at the time, but they’ve seen posts after that and purchased.”
The report also found one-in-five featured businesses were able to hire new employees, and 38% started shipping interstate for the first time. Also, 19% started shipping internationally.
The majority of the businesses — 80% — were based in New South Wales, and are largely located in areas worst affected by the droughts. About 15% were in Queensland, 3% were in Victoria and 2% were in South Australia.
About 60% of the revenue generated was directed to ‘nano-businesses’, or, those bringing in revenues of less than $5,000 per month. On average, these businesses saw a 750% jump in revenue in the month after they featured.
At the same time, business owners reported that they were able to develop their professional skills, in IT or marketing, for example.
They also reported improved wellbeing, with 90% saying the campaign has generally improved their quality of life, whether that’s by giving them a boost to self-esteem, relieving financial pressure, or creating connections with other entrepreneurs.
As a result of the revenue boost, 54% increased spending on discretionary goods and services, while 45% reported learning a new skill, and 48% said they spent more time with family.
However, entrepreneurs also chose to give back to their communities, with 23% signing up for community organisations, and 21% volunteering.
Boosting women-led business
Businesses that benefited from the campaign were overwhelmingly women-run — accounting for 97%. That’s a stark difference to the 34% of small businesses that are run by women Australia-wide.
Moss suggests that’s partly because this is farming country. Her own husband is a farmer.
“Women out here, a lot of them are looking for a little side hustle — something to supplement a farm income.”
Farming incomes are not necessarily always reliable, she notes, even without a drought to contend with.
Many women have also moved to rural towns and brought their skills with them. Making use of their talents, and making some money at the same time, is a win-win.
“It’s fantastic that [Buy From the Bush] has given a lot of people a platform to develop those business ideas.”
This report takes into account data from October 2019 to February 2020. Of course, since then, the COVID-19 pandemic and related travel restrictions have caused even more trouble for rural and regional business.
“We needed that like a hole in the head,” Moss says.
The crisis has deflected some attention away from the drought and bushfires, she suggests. But, at the same time, Coonamble did see some rain in late-February and into March, which took a bit of the pressure off.
“It definitely did take the spotlight away from the drought, which is fair enough — it’s a global issue rather than just a localised one.”
But, she still stresses the importance of consumers in cities and metropolitan areas continuing to support regional business.
A lot of businesses in Coonamble had to close their doors to protect staff, and the local community, including vulnerable indigenous communities.
Mink and Me closed its doors for nine weeks, and traded entirely online.
“A lot of the orders weren’t local,” she notes.
“That definitely picked up the slack.”
At the same time, consumers are undergoing something of a mindset shift, she suggests. She’s noticing more demand for Australia-made products, and more of a focus on where products are coming from.
“They’re looking at it from a different perspective now, coming out of this crisis,” she says.
“Consumers are making a more conscious decision.”