While our TV screens and Instagram accounts have been filled with images and information about the devastation caused by the fires, the impact on local businesses is perhaps less visible. In what is typically the peak season, many are facing empty coffers and a long road to recovery. In an effort to combat the slow down in trade, South Coast locals Turia Pitt and Grace Mcbride created the instagram account @spendwiththem , which features businesses that have been affected by the Bushfires and encourages people to ‘spend with them’.

- What led you to create Spend With Them?

@spendwiththem is an Instagram account I started with my friend Grace who also lives locally on the South Coast of New South Wales.  Obviously, our community has been so deeply affected by the fires over the last few weeks – physically, financially, emotionally and mentally.  We wanted to do something right now that would make a difference to small businesses in fire affected communities, and something that would continue to support them for months (and hopefully years) to come.

We were very inspired by Tegan Webbers #gowithemptyeskys campaign, but given it’s not safe to travel to fire-affected communities just yet, we thought this was a way to provide support to business in fire-ravaged areas.  And it was something we could do quickly. Throw up an Instagram page @spendwiththem, ask businesses to contact us that need support, and then share with our audience and encourage them to buy directly from these businesses. 

- Is it just through Instagram or is there a related website?

 At this stage, it’s Instagram only! We are tracking at 157k followers after only three days.  The page has been shared by Celeste Barber and even Kelly Rowland! We are absolutely blown away by how keen people have been to get behind it – but it just goes to show what amazing things Aussies are made of.  The Australian spirit is alive and well.

- What has the response been from people who have featured their business on it?

It’s been pretty epic!  We have been absolutely inundated with messages from businesses in fire-affected areas that want to be featured on the page and we’re getting as many up as we can per day. (We want to make sure each business gets their time in the spotlight for at least a little while before we post the next one!)

We’ve had feedback from some of the businesses featured already saying that they’ve been inundated with orders.  Orders are coming in from people all over Australia and also overseas.  Globally, people are saying they’re happy to pay extra freight charges just to support these small businesses. 

A coffee roaster we featured early on called Guerilla Roasters said they had more orders come in within 24 hours than they’d had in the entirety of their business!  They’ve had to hire someone else to pack orders!

Another business owner said that she normally sells at the markets but she’s missed a month of market days given what’s been going on.  She said she made up for that month’s lost income in just 2 hours! 

We’re so stoked that Spend With Them is working!  It was such a simple idea but it has connected some of these amazing small businesses in fire-affected areas with Aussies from around the country who just want to help and support them.

It makes an immediate financial impact but the impact on morale for these businesses is pretty great too.

- What has the response been from people buying on the website?

Equally positive!  It’s a win-win for everyone. As a shopper, you get to directly put money in the pockets of a small business in a fire-affected area, but you also get something really cool for yourself!  People have discovered amazing wineries, artists, little boutiques that they never would have heard about otherwise.  People are loving it.   Apparently orders are coming in with beautiful words of encouragement for the businesses too.  People are desperate to help and this is just another way that they can.