Driven by a desire to “give back” to the community, Melbourne business owner Catherine Blackford is raising thousands of dollars to send care packages to Australian nurses on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic.
At the same time, Blackford and her team’s efforts are designed to keep much-needed orders flowing through to local artisan producers who are bearing the brunt of the crisis.
Blackford is the founder of Bindle, an e-commerce gift business that turns over $1.5 million annually and employs a team of nine.
Founded in 2012 as a “hobby”, Bindle curates boutique hampers or ‘bindles’ for individuals to send as gifts, or corporates to give clients.
From housewarming gifts, to Mother’s Day packs, and collections to celebrate new babies, each Bindle contains a selection of locally made, artisan products, including chocolates, teas, wine, hand creams and accessories.
It was seeing the effect of the coronavirus on the makers of these products that in part led Blackford, her partner, and friends, to develop the idea for Nurture 4 Nurses, a crowdfunded campaign to recognise the hard work and sacrifice of Australian nurses.
The other piece of the puzzle was hearing of stories from friends who work in hospitals, who have sacrificed time with their own families and young children to look after patients with the virus.
“My husband and I were thinking of ways to give back at this time,” Blackford explains.
“A few friends had been made redundant or stood down, and rather than stay home and twiddle their thumbs, we thought we would combine our skills.
“We thought, ‘what can we do to say thank you?’”
Launched through crowdfunding site Pozible, the Nurture 4 Nurses campaign is seeking to raise $10,000 to send at least 100 Bindles to Australian nurses, who have been nominated by members of the public.
To date, the campaign is over halfway towards that goal, having raised close to $5,500. Donations start at $20, and anyone can nominate a deserving nurse to receive one of the packs, or nurses can nominate themselves.
With 13 days left in the campaign, Blackford is working hard to meet the $10,000 target, as the all-or-nothing nature of the crowdfunding process means the group need to reach this goal to be able to send out the gifts.
If that goal is reached, the team will add a ‘stretch’ goal to send out even more packs.
At $100 per gift, the donated money will cover the cost of all the products, which are not being supplied at discount, says Blackford, as well as packaging, delivery and labour costs.
“We’re not making a profit from this,” she adds.
Blackford admits it has been hard to gain momentum for the campaign, given the “saturated” media environment, but says the comments being left by people when nominating nurses to receive a gift show how deserving this group of workers are.
“It’s been amazing; we’ve had over 150 nominations, which has been fantastic,” she says.
The team has been cross-checking the nominated nurses and the suburbs where they work against a national database and have been touched by the thoughtful comments being left by their nominees.
“Great sense of community”
Blackford said Bindle’s community of small suppliers have responded enthusiastically to the project and have been spreading the word through their own networks.
“The money goes straight to them as a normal purchase order,” says Blackford when explaining how the project also supports these small makers.
“They want to get their products into the hands of deserving people”.
Many of these suppliers have traditionally relied on bricks-and-mortar retailers to sustain their business, says Blackford, and the coronavirus restrictions have made it harder to get those same sales.
“They want to stay afloat and keep relationships with their clients as well,” she says.
“There’s a great sense of community.”
Blackford is urging shoppers to get behind the small, boutique producers, who she says are “suffering a great deal” in the current climate.
“Out of this, hopefully, comes a story of people looking in their own backyard rather than purchasing offshore,” she says.
Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, Blackford says 95% of the Bindle’s sales came from corporate clients, particularly in the real estate industry, while 5% came from individual shoppers.
This split is starting to change as online sales increase with more individuals looking to send gifts to family and friends who they haven’t been able to visit in person, and some corporate clients hit “pause” on their spending.
Bindle offers custom branding on gift packages for these corporate clients, via its Bindle Nude service, and Blackford is expecting to feel the full effect of a slowdown in this space in six to nine months, as activity in the housing market also slows.
“We’re expecting to see a big drop,” she says.
However, the lead time is giving the founder time to prepare, and Blackford has been laying the business development groundwork in other sectors, including with technology companies.
“We’re trying not to put all our eggs in one basket,” she explains.
“We’re also seeing it as a time to consolidate, as it’s easy to get stuck in the day-to-day operations.
“We often don’t have time to source or research more products. We’re putting time into that to that when people do come backfiring, we’ll have a more tailored approach”.