In January, NSW South Coast locals Turia Pitt and Grace McBride started @spendwiththem, an Instagram account featuring businesses in bushfire-affected areas.

The goal was to help rural and regional communities bounce back after an unprecedented fire season by encouraging Australians to buy directly from the shops, farms, wineries, distilleries and more outside our major cities.

Now, as another once-in-a-generation disaster pummels businesses nationwide, the account has found new purpose: it’s connecting Aussies with businesses struggling to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

“[As the Spend With Them] community grew, and grew, and grew, we did have a thought that perhaps we’d be in a position to help other businesses in other times of crisis,” Pitt and McBride wrote on Instagram on Thursday.

“We never thought the next disaster would hit so soon, or be as wide-sweeping in its devastation as Covid-19. [But] because we focus on businesses who can take orders online or over the phone (no in-store sales or visitation), we’re in a unique position to help.”

Spend With Them isn’t a middleman or intermediary between the businesses and customers – it simply promotes ventures that need help and directs Instagram followers to profiles and websites where they can make direct purchases.

The account will continue to promote businesses based in bushfire-affected regions, but now it’s also including businesses impacted by Covid-19, with a focus on products you can buy from your couch.

As Pitt, a motivational speaker and athlete who suffered severe burns after being caught in a grassfire during an ultramarathon in 2011, explained to Broadsheet in January, “You can simply buy from them online and know that you’re helping them both financially and emotionally.”

Since launching on January 6, the account has gained more than 200,000 followers. Many businesses are featured in the main feed, but if you tap the tagged tab (underneath the email button), you’ll see lots of posts from other users tagged with @spendwiththem – many of those posts are generated by businesses themselves.

Recently featured items on the account include Signature Oysters (which can be delivered anywhere in Australia); Bush Organics honey harvested on King Island; and Alabasta’s vegan skincare. There are now more than 300 posts to scroll through on the Spend With Them feed.