It’s easy to feel helpless about the bushfires raging across Australia. Aside from donating money directly, you can give needed goods (when the time is right), volunteer your time, give blood, or spend your money at any of the businesses in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, your local area, and online donating proceeds to the relief effort.
But in the months to come, when the immediate crisis subsides and life returns to normal for many Australians, residents of fire-ravaged areas will only be beginning the long journey towards rebuilding. Supporting local and small businesses in these communities helps them bounce back now, and keep them afloat later on.
That’s why NSW South Coast locals Turia Pitt and Grace McBride started @spendwiththem, an Instagram account featuring businesses in fire-affected areas. They were inspired by @buyfromthebush, which started last year to support companies affected by drought, and #GoWithEmptyEskys, a campaign that encourages people to travel to affected areas (once it’s safe to do so) and to spend their money there.
“Obviously our community has been so deeply affected by the fires over the last few weeks – physically, financially, emotionally and mentally,” says Pitt, a motivational speaker and athlete who suffered severe burns after being caught in a grassfire during an ultramarathon in 2011. “We wanted to do something right now that would make a difference to [these businesses] and would continue to support them for months, and hopefully years, to come.”
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.
“You can simply buy from them online and know that you’re helping them both financially and emotionally,” Pitt says.
Since Spend With Them launched on January 6, the account has gained more than 69,000 followers. Only eight businesses have been featured at the time of publication (a recent post says technology issues have kept them from posting more) but tap the tagged tab (underneath the email button) to see posts from other users that have tagged @spendwiththem – many of those posts are generated by the affected businesses themselves.
The account highlights Milton Mushrooms, a one-woman gourmet mushroom grower on the South Coast of NSW; micro gin-distillery Stony Creek Farm near the Sapphire Coast, NSW; Guerilla Roasters at Mossy Point, NSW (which uses fully traceable beans); and Vinteloper, a 30-hectre vineyard in the Adelaide Hills destroyed by the fires.
“We have received literally thousands of requests from small businesses around the country that are in fire-affected communities,” Pitt says. “We’ll be aiming to showcase businesses from all corners of Australia.”
For now, Pitt and McBride are only promoting businesses that can take orders online or over the phone, as not all affected areas are safe to visit. In the future, they hope followers will make the drive to support businesses as they continue to rebuild.
“The reality is that these towns and communities are going to need our help long after the initial threat is over,” Pitt says. “They’ll need our support for the long term.”