More than 2000 Australian businesses have already signed up to be part of a new online marketplace designed to showcase locally owned and made products.
Founded by Mitch Catlin, the Buy Aussie Now marketplace has evolved from a popular Instragram account that was launched as the coronavirus pandemic took hold in Australia.
The marketplace officially launches today and will begin selling products from businesses in August.
Australian-owned businesses that make products locally can register on the Buy Aussie Now website to participate in the marketplace, while consumers can also sign up to receive updates and related content, via a new publication called Australian Life, purchase gift cards, and participate in a loyalty program.
Local makers with items in the marketplace will also be featured in weekly Instagram Live sessions via the Buy Aussie Now page.
It is free for businesses to list their products on the Buy Aussie Now site, with the platform then taking a commission of 8% on each sale, plus payment processing fees.
However, there are no fees for Indigenous owned businesses and not-for-profits.
Speaking to SmartCompany, Catlin says businesses in a variety of sizes and geographical locations have registered for the marketplace.
This includes makers of “traditional, very small, homemade” products, such as candles and jams, says Catlin, as well as larger whiskey distillers and dairy producers.
Among the more established businesses participating in the venture are body-care brand Bondi Sands, alcohol brand Batch & Co, chocolate maker The Ministry of Chocolate, and Sand & Sky, a beauty brand developed by Bellabox founders Sarah and Emily Hamilton.
The focus of the marketplace is firmly on promoting Australian-made products, but Catlin says businesses are getting involved for different reasons.
“Some want people to know who they are, and some specifically want others to know they are Australian made,” he explains.
“For others, it is the opportunity to be aligned with other Australian-made businesses, and being part of an Australian community together.”
Finding the gap in the market
Catlin says the idea for the marketplace, and the Instagram account that started it, came from a conversation he had with his mother in March.
The founder of Catchy Media, Marketing and Management recalls it was March 13, or “d-day for marketers”, when almost all of the upcoming work he had for his marketing consultancy simply stopped as it became clear the global pandemic was taking hold.
“I lost probably a third of my year’s income,” he says.
As clients started cancelling their projects, Catlin said he spoke with his 80-year-old mother, who told him that people now needed to make sure they “buy Australian”.
This gave the business owner food for thought, and prompted him to research exactly what was in the market to help consumers identify which businesses and products were made locally.
Within three days, Catlin had created the Buy Aussie Now Instagram account, and four months later, to the day, is launching the retail marketplace.
Teaming up with business partner Chris White, who is now chief executive of Buy Aussie Now, Catlin set about developing the business model. He says the pair knew they had “something” — the Instagram account has about 21,000 followers — but it took some work to understand “what the gap was” in the market.
What they discovered was there was no one “go-to shop or destination for people to buy Australian”.
Investors agreed and Catlin says they very quickly were able to raise “several hundred thousand” in capital to get the marketplace up and running.
“The sentiment right now is, people have always wanted to buy Australian, but they haven’t known where to go, or they’re time poor and don’t want to spend time looking for it,” he explains.
Both Catlin and White are not taking a salary from the business, and neither is their third team member who heads up the content side of the business. They have a number of volunteers also involved, and hope to be in a position to create paying jobs in the next few months.
Catlin and White are not the only ones paying attention to a growing preference among local shoppers for locally made goods.
On Wednesday, eBay Australia launched a partnership with Australian Made that will see it highlight brands selling locally made products.
The new “Australian Made on eBay” section of the retail platform has been set up to filter for locally produced products, as more Australian shoppers seek to buy local. According to data shared with SmartCompany, eBay has seen a 57% annual increase in sales from Australian Made brands among its 11 million monthly unique visitors.
When asked what will set Buy Aussie Now apart from initiatives like the eBay one, Catlin says it’s simple: “The money is staying here.”
While the makers selling their wares through both platforms are local, the retail juggernaut that is eBay is not.
“One, we’re Australian made, and two, we’re Australian owned,” he says.
Catlin says his platform “would love to partner with Australian Made”.
“I think it’s a little strange that Australian Made would partner with eBay, given it is not an Australian business,” he adds.