After one year of bumper success, the founders of online marketplace Spend With Us are reflecting on how it helped 800 rural Australian businesses survive what turned out to be another challenging year.
In January last year, Sarah Britz, a web designer from the New South Wales and Lauran Hateley, a clinical psychologist from rural Victoria came together to form Spend With Us, an online marketplace that showcases regional businesses.
Eight months later, the online marketplace merged with Jenn Donovan’s Facebook community Buy From a Bush Business to create Spend With Us — Buy From a Bush Business.
The Buy From a Bush Business Facebook group is now a 300,000 member-strong network that not only encourages Australians to buy from rural businesses but has also fostered a sense of community.
“We have been overwhelmed with the community we have been able to build,” Donovan tells SmartCompany.
Donovan says Spend With Us was first conceived in response to the bushfires and droughts of 2019, which had a devastating effect on small, regional businesses.
Among the hundreds of brands the online marketplace features are Victorian-based Alpine Valleys Fine Foods, Australian Merino Wool brand Leroy Mac Designs and handmade gifts business Am Paperarts.
Donovan says the platform’s achievements have so far included facilitating 250,000 sales through the website and recording nearly 2 million website page views since August 2020.
The small team have big plans for the future of the site and have set the goal to be the the most popular online shop for all regional businesses in Australia.
“Our big, audacious goal is that we become the Amazon for rural and regional Australia and become a household name,” Donovan says.
While the marketplace was first designed to help small businesses after the bushfires and drought affected their towns, Donovan says no one could have been prepared for the the pandemic as 2020 rolled on.
“Whilst the pandemic has highlighted Australia’s reliance on imported goods, it amplified our willingness to support local economies and other Australians doing it tough,” she says.
Spend With Us – Buy From a Bush Business Marketplace has the mission to ensure Australia is talking about rural and regional areas, not just in drought, flood or bushfire times, but all the time, Donovan explains.
“I think the platform has successfully done that,” she says.