A new Instagram account is helping to connect consumers with the small businesses affected by Australia's bushfire crisis, encouraging Australian shoppers to be mindful of where they spend their money and help it reach those who most need support.
Launched by motivational speaker and business woman Turia Pitt, along with marketing and content manager Grace McBride, the official Spend With Them Instagram account has already amassed over 50,000 followers - profiling small businesses across a range of fields, including local fresh produce, wines and fashion.
Turia's message to followers
“Once these fires are finally ‘over’, it won’t be over for many of the local businesses in fire-ravaged towns. A lot of these places (like my home in Mollymook, and Mallacoota, Kangaroo Island, Eden, etc), rely on the tourist dollar for their very survival,” Pitt wrote in a post on Instagram.
“This is a way to put money directly in the pockets of the people and communities who need it the most, and need it NOW. Long after the threat is over and the choppers stop flying overhead. Long after summer ends and the wail of sirens ceases in the streets. Help them rebuild. Make them feel heard. Spend with them.”
While the Spend With Them initiative will be ongoing (follow them here), some of the fire-affected businesses already featured include Milton-based clothing store Akwa Surf, the Stony Creek Farm Distillery in Bega Creek, and the Adelaide Hills winery Vinteloper, whose vineyard was “obliterated” by fires just before Christmas.
“It will take them seven years to regrow what was destroyed,” the Vinteloper post reads. “But every bottle sale will help.”
Hope for rebuilding
While the devastation of the bushfires can't be overstated, small businesses impacted are taking to social media to share messages of hope.
"Three days ago, I sat on the ground among the debris and thought - I’m done," wrote Vinteloper founder David on Instagram, after his vineyard was obliterated by fire.
"But then, something happened. You wrote messages of encouragement. You bought wine. You told others, and they did, too. My phone started pinging with orders from complete strangers saying 'keep going!' and 'you can do this!' and 'I hope this will help!'"
He continued: "And I started to feel revived. Alive. So, THANKYOU. From the bottom of our hearts. Thankyou too, for supporting our neighbouring Adelaide Hills growers and wineries. Thankyou for the messages, emails, calls, texts, handwritten notes, and the jar of chutney a 7-year-old presented me with. It’s the little things. And it has buoyed me more than you could ever know."
Concluding his message, David promised to write back to all those who had reached out with messages of support, writing: "Our entire team and family are so overwhelmed and grateful to every single one of you."
South Coast coffee roasters Guerilla Roasters shared a similarly optimistic message with their followers, encouraging Australians to spend their money meaningfully as entire communities struggle to rebuild.
"Moruya has power again and will start trading as normal as soon as possible," the business wrote on social media. "The Bay is still waiting for power to be restored but should happen by Wednesday. The more we can get out and support small business and those in the community who have lost everything the better."
They added that the town was already planning an event to help regenerate local tourism.
"We are already working with some big players in Canberra to get an event in May happening for the region to get tourist back. The best thing anyone can do for this region is when safe to do so, visit and spend money.
"We thank all of our industry friends from around Australia who have checked on us. We will get through this together."
Other ways to help
There have also been calls on social media for Australian grocery shoppers to support Batlow apple farmers, after the small Snowy Valleys town of Batlow was ravaged by "undefendable" bushfires over the past week.
Some other great initiatives assisting rural businesses affected by the fires include Buy From The Bush, which showcases all the beautiful things you can buy from rural communities impacted by Australia's ongoing drought, and One Day Closer to Rain Rural Cottage Crafts, a Facebook group showcasing the wonderful handmade arts and crafts available from makers living in the bush and regional areas.
SBS Food also has a wonderful guide to helping put food on the table for those who need it (including Australia's beautiful wildlife), which you can read here.