Aussie marketplace Buy From The Bush has secured a partnership with fintech giant PayPal, to turn what started as a humble hashtag into a permanent marketplace for regional businesses.
In October last year, Buy From The Bush founder Grace Brennan started an Instagram campaign, encouraging Aussies to do some of their Christmas shopping with small businesses in drought-affected communities.
The account racked up more than 50,000 followers within five days, and by June this year, the campaign had delivered $5 million in revenues to small businesses.
Now, the partnership with PayPal is making the marketplace a permanent fixture, and some 250 small businesses are already on board.
Initially, Brennan thought the campaign would be something her friends and family would support, she tells SmartCompany.
“I had very small scope in my mind,” she admits.
But, it became very clear, very quickly, that there was not only a desire to support small businesses affected by the drought, but a demand for the products they had on offer too.
“What was being produced by these makers and creators and being sold by small retailers was special,” Brennan says.
“The story they had to share was also really engaging.”
While she was originally focused on the 2019 Christmas shopping season, Brennan realised the project had potential beyond that.
She started considering how the campaign could lead to more long-term and sustainable support for rural communities, through purchasing power, not charity.
Partnering with PayPal is the campaign’s next chapter, allowing it to achieve longevity by “giving Buy From The Bush legs, in a really permanent way”, she says.
The deal creates a frictionless connection between city-dwelling consumers and rural retailers.
PayPal is a trusted name, and provides a secure and familiar checkout experience. That just reduces another barrier.
“If we can act as a gateway for people to discover beautiful small businesses … then we’re doing our job,” Brennan says.
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One year of #buyfromthebush!!! Too many lovely stories. Too many anecdotes. Offers of help. Generous contributions. Of time and energy. What a joy it has been! So proud of the seed of change that has been planted and hoping it grows in to a big fat beanstalk (that Jack never chops down while fleeing a giant 🤷♀️). 🌱 Still at the kitchen table with piles of washing and crumbs all around but now joined by @millplum who is the hardest working side-kick on the planet (loose fact). Missing @the_regional_pr_co in Coolamon, NSW who lends her skills and great gift of the gab to BFTB daily. Have also welcomed @emillyfleming_ in to the fam to add a taste of Walgett, NSW to BFTB. A team of weapons (in the best possible way). 👩👩👧👧 In this year of social isolation and great uncertainty, we’ve felt an incredible sense of community. So thank you. ❤️ We have been working on something big. Please stay with us…. May it rain where it’s needed and stay dry where it’s not. And may Vic get some respite soon. . 📸 of us casually walking on a road to nowhere by @natsalloum_photography #Swattingfliesinutes. #buyfromthebush #stayinthebush #2020
This news comes at a time of renewed focus on Australian vendors. In the 12 months Buy From The Bush has been around, we’ve seen not only continuing drought, but also a catastrophic bushfire season and a global pandemic, both of which have kept tourists away from regional Australia.
Buy From The Bush isn’t the only marketplace showcasing Aussie-made products. In July, more than 2,000 businesses signed up to join the Buy Aussie Now marketplace, itself born out of yet another Instagram campaign.
Even Amazon’s Prime Day promised to put Australian businesses front and centre through its ‘Shop Local’ store.
And, e-commerce platform Neto has partnered with the Kogan.com Marketplace, in a bid to extend the reach of Australian businesses to more Australian consumers.
According to PayPal’s eCommerce Index 2020, 38% of Australians said they have been consciously supporting local businesses during the pandemic.
Almost half, 46%, said they’re likely to continue purchasing from local businesses once the crisis is over.
Brennan believes there’s more awareness among consumers, and more willingness to buy local. And she doesn’t believe that sentiment is going anywhere.
“There’s always been a desire to support Australian, and also a nostalgia wrapped up in the bush,” she says.
Now, in light of the events we’ve all lived through over the past 12 months, and amid the continuing crises, that’s only getting stronger.
Consumers are also more enabled than ever to support regional businesses. The technology and platforms are there, and we know COVID-19 has led to more people buying online than ever.
“Online shopping is the new frontier,” Brennan says.
“Consumers want to wield their power in terms of their choice of consumption, and shopping and travelling with purpose at the moment,” she suggests.
“They know how important their investment is.”