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Regional small businesses band together to send message on same-sex marriage: “It doesn’t take corporate Australia to make a national impact”

Kirsten Robb /

A group of 21 small businesses in regional Victoria that took out a full-page advertisement supporting same-sex marriage in the local newspaper say the positive response to the ad shows small regional businesses have the same power as large corporates to promote equality.

The move comes just weeks after it was argued small businesses could benefit from a $1 billion boost to the economy if same sex marriage was to be legalised in Australia.

Jayson Tayeh, the mastermind of the ad and the owner of Bendigo’s Cafe Cortille, told SmartCompany a recent full-page ad taken out by more than 100 large and medium-sized brands in The Australian newspaper had inspired his decision to place the ad in the Bendigo Advertiser.

“Essentially, I just saw that concept and felt that it was quite achievable,” Tayeh says.

“I don’t think it’s any easier or harder for any big corporate than any small business in a regional area [to make a stand]. I think essentially the message is that we wanted to convey we support equality in general.”

The ad featured the names of 21 businesses, including hospitality, retail and services in Bendigo, asking the community to “join Bendigo’s growing list of regional Victorian small businesses supporting marriage equality”.

Tayeh says since the ad appeared in last week’s Saturday edition of the paper, Cafe Cortille and the other businesses involved have had an overwhelmingly positive response from customers. Cafe Cortille’s Facebook page has had hundred of likes and messages of support.

He says other regional businesses from New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania have also reached out in support.

“Going back to the original idea from corporate Australia, I guess their intention was to take a national stance on the issue, but we’ve really shown it doesn’t take corporate Australia to make national impact,” Tayeh says.

However, Tayeh admits not all feedback has been positive, saying Cafe Cortille and the other 20 businesses did all receive a letter from one member of the community angered with their stance.

The letter listed seven reasons against sex marriage, according to The Advertiser, including the “breakdown of the family unit”, denying a child the roles of the mother and father and “opening the door for the promotion and encouragement of sexual experimentation within our schools”.

Tayeh also says some businesses he originally approached declined to be involved with a political issue for “business reasons”.

“Some of those businesses had political issues in the past and they didn’t want to go down that road again,” he says.

But Tayeh says the group is not concerned by the letter and now plans to place a second full-page ad.

“In the first ad, it was all about showing my world,” he says.

“We wanted to create a message that in my world, I support equality.”

“Our second ad will be about our world, showing that as a community we support marriage equality. Our LGTBI community, they are our customers and business owners and part of our everyday world. We just really wanted to show small business in regional towns can make difference.”

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Kirsten Robb

Kirsten Robb is a former journalist at SmartCompany. Previously, she worked at News Corp as a property reporter for Leader Newspapers and the Herald Sun, and holds a Masters of Journalism at Melbourne University.

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