The power of Instagram to bring together like-minded people has shown through this week, with more than 90 Australian small businesses joining forces in a special online auction to raise funds for families affected by the bushfires in New South Wales and Queensland.
Organised by Melbourne business owner Jacqui Pinge, the Instagram auction went live on Monday evening and will run until Monday, December 2.
Pinge is the founder of Rudie Nudie designs, a small business that sells waterproof playmats for babies and toddlers, which launched in May 2018.
Speaking to SmartCompany on Wednesday morning, she says she had been struck by the enormity of the NSW and Queensland bushfires and was searching for a way to help the families who were losing their homes or “sitting in fear” wondering if the fires would reach them.
Despite being concerned about how she would go about getting other businesses on board with an online auction, Pinge says the support from fellow small business owners has been nothing short of “amazing”.
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Auction Item #73 Donated by @rudienudie_designs ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Rudie Nudie Waterproof Playmat [#2] Your choice of a regular size [90cm] Rudie Nudie Playmat. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Because Nappy Free = Happy ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Stock will be landing in January and will include two new beautiful designs to choose from. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ RRP $74.95 Starting Bid $37
The auction features a wide collection of items, from baby products and clothing, to original artworks and gift vouchers, all donated by small businesses, the vast majority of which are run by mums from their homes.
Each auction item is listed with a photo, recommended retail price and starting bid. Since Monday evening, Instagram users have been busily placing their bids under each item’s photo.
All of the proceeds from the auction will go to GIVIT, a charity that will then purchase essential items for people affected by the bushfires.
The choice of charity was important to Pinge, who loved that GIVIT was able to “really channel the money to a specific region and cause”. She has also established a GoFundMe page for successful bidders to use to pay for their items in order to keep the process transparent and so she is not processing the funds personally.
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A “golden age” for small business
Organising the auction involved Pinge tapping into her existing networks, including at a recent baby expo, via her group of 20 regular stockists, and with the support of Baby Berry Collective, an online directory of online baby and kids stores.
It wasn’t long before the project attracted attention.
“Once word started spreading, it just then started ballooning,” Pinge says.
“We got to about 80 items initially, which was just crazy.”
To date, the auction boasts 105 items donated by more than 90 businesses with a combined retail value of $10,000. At the time of writing, the auction has attracted over $7,800 worth of bids.
While Pinge acknowledges the auction may be competing with Black Friday sales offers over the weekend, the interest from bidders is not slowing down.
She’s also keenly aware the businesses involved have donated items at their busiest time, with Christmas shopping in full swing. She believes, however, that many small business owners were in a similar position to herself and looking for a way to help bushfire victims.
Their willingness to get involved also highlights the growing bonds between small, often female-run, small businesses across the country. These business owners are coming together via private Facebook groups and providing valuable support networks, she says.
“There’s a huge community among them, who are willing to share their learnings and explain how they do things,” Pinge says.
“There’s such a swell of excitement.”
When it comes to Nudie Rudie Designs, Pinge says she was inspired to launch the business by other local businesswomen. And there are so many factors currently working in favour of businesses like hers, she says.
“We are in such a golden era, to be able to work from home, have flexible hours, and be able to promote our businesses online via social media,” she says.
“We are in such a golden age of opportunity.”
More information about the @social_for_goodness charity auction is available here.