Australia is officially in a recession, and the economic outlook for the near future is looking bleak and especially tough for those running small businesses.
And if you’re in a small regional town, where many shop fronts have already been abandoned, getting through this time is going to be a hard slog. Especially as people move towards global markets and online shopping.
Queensland entrepreneur Melody Jarvis believes many small businesses across regional Australia benefit when they have a strong online presence.
She’s just launched an expansion of her online platform Shop My Town, that helps bricks-and-mortar business in regional areas build a presence online and sell their products to a wider audience.
It was first launched in 2014, from her home in Gatton, Queensland, while she was working in marketing and caring for her four kids.
The movement later attracted co-founder Kelby Williams from the startup funding world.
The platform has proven to be especially successful for business owners who are not tech-savvy, as it allows them to sell to the wider world without having to build and run their own website.
Shop My Town is easy to use and inexpensive for business owners, meaning it’s accessible to traditional brick and mortar shop owners in small towns.
Since 2014, Shop My Town has worked with small business throughout regional Queensland and as a bushfire relief strategy in Gippsland, Victoria and on the New South Wales South Coast.
It’s now being rolled out widely with much success across Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.
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Jarvis’ vision for Shop My Town is simple. She creates a desire for local products by telling the region’s story.
And by 2030, she wants to have 10,000 Shop My Town communities globally.
In the lead up to Shop My Town’s recent expansion, Jarvis, who comes from a marketing background, took part in the Lenovo Thinkbook Mentor program, where she was mentored by Red Balloon founder and Shark Tank presenter Naomi Simson.
Jarvis says her mentorship with Simson played a huge role in the successful launch of Shop My Town’s expansion into more regional communities around Australia.
“Naomi led me through developing a proper checklist to validate our storytellers and our vendors, to ensure we had proper checks and balances,” Jarvis told Women’s Agenda.
“As a result, I have been in tears watching our storytellers replicate the vision to create a desire for local products by telling the region’s story.”
Jarvis says the vendors that are signed up to Shop My Town are now all credible, properly registered and motivated to start a new journey with their business.
“It’s because we have gone through a selection process to permit them on the site,” Jarvis said.
“I am so grateful for this mentorship, and it was refreshing to meet such an authentic and downright funny person, who I had only seen as a TV personality before.”
Shop My Town launched in Ipswich a few months ago, and received some funding from Advance QLD and Ipswich Council, who reached out with support the week the platform launched there. Many local businesses from the area are currently on the platform, where customers can browse local stores, buy products and have them delivered, or click and collect.
Shop My Town websites for more regions have launched this week, with small businesses able to now sign up as potential vendors.
This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.