The Buy from the Bush social media movement is giving businesses in the Narrabri region a much-needed boost during the drought.
“I am really just in awe and it’s touched my heart to see the support that is coming from the city,” said Shawn Wales, proprietor of The Grayhound in Narrabri.
“The response has been overwhelming and apart from the financial value, it’s just so heart-warming to see so much support flowing out to bush businesses,” said Lady Kate knitwear founder Penelope Ashby.
The online initiative showcases products and boutiques based in rural Australia on its popular social media accounts with the aim of connecting bush businesses and city customers.
“Having grown up in Sydney, I was very keen to feel helpful in what can often feel like a helpless situation,” said Buy from the Bush founder Grace Brennan who now lives on a farm at Warren, NSW and is well aware of the ripple effects of this drought – from the farm gate to the main street.
When one of Mrs Brennan’s friends mentioned that her family was going to ‘buy from the bush’ this Christmas, it was a light-bulb moment.
And on October 16, with the help of some clever friends, Mrs Brennan launched the Buy from the Bush campaign on social media.
Mainstream media picked up on the masterful plan too, the momentum grew and now the Buy from the Bush team has more than 85,000 followers. And most importantly – the followers like to shop.
Not every business in the district has been featured yet but the Buy from the Bush hashtag does give country business owners the chance to pitch their goods to the big smoke.
It also mentions the names of country towns in posts, putting them on the map for travelling tourists looking for a stop-over.
“This is the perfect solution to help get us through to the other side of the drought,” said Mrs Wales whose shop The Grayhound was featured on the Buy from the Bush account about a week ago and she has posted a parcel of goods every day since.
“It’s been amazing, it’s been wonderful,” she said.
“We were smashed with all these orders online and over the phone.
“In the past people sent items to drought affected people and families but local businesses have struggled because the support hasn’t been there, so this is just the perfect way to keep a township going,” said Mrs Wales.
Businesses in Narrabri have posted parcels to Sydney, Victoria, Western Australia and even England.
Jane Burrell and Amanda Archibald of Marval Designs said the initiative was a ‘great idea’ with the potential to do a lot more than just boost sales; it can help communities strive and survive during the drought because profitable businesses also offer people jobs and keep the town ticking.
Mrs Burrell said the boutique has had a ‘very positive response’ after being given Buy from the Bush’s magic touch online and clothing was probably the most popular product so far.
“They know people in the bush are struggling and they want to support it and that’s great,” added Mrs Archibald.
“They also know exactly where their money is going with this initiative.”
The Buy from the Bush campaign has also rubbed off on locals with Mrs Burrell acknowledging the support of her valued customers from the region.
“One customer said ‘I want to try local before I go out of town’.”
Penelope Ashby runs her Lady Kate knitwear business from home, just outside Narrabri.
Being featured on the Buy from the Bush page has lifted Lady Kate’s online profile beyond Mrs Ashby’s wildest dreams and at record speed.
“I’ve got about a year’s worth of social media followers in one weekend.
“I was really surprised, I didn’t expect to sell so much knitwear in November.
“Buy from the Bush has also connected me with all these people who hopefully, when it gets cold, will be looking for Australian wool knitwear.”
Sarah Wilson from Love thy Farmer said the new brand’s Australian cotton products, from Australia’s cotton capital Wee Waa, were selling like hot cakes since being featured.
“We haven’t been to bed since we were tagged,” she said.
“We only switched on our website on Sunday and then we were tagged on Monday.”
Mrs Wales said it was great to see bush businesses supporting each other too and promoting what the district’s brilliant towns have to offer.
“I also want to say thank you so much to all our wonderful customers for supporting us,” added Mrs Wales.