Support for bush

Intuition of Lockhart owner Leonie Golder holding one of her best-selling products (left); Brushwoods' Kendra Kerrisk has noticed a jump in online sales thanks to the #buyfromthebush campaign. Photos: Claire Williams and Kim Woods.

It’s as if #BuyFromTheBush Founder, Grace Brennan could read COVID-19 in the stars.

This campaign has promoted many small regional businesses across Australia whose towns have been plague with years of drought and now the side-effects of COVID-19.

Mrs Brennan started the campaign as she saw many businesses in her own town suffer because of the challenges of drought conditions. The campaign uses Instagram to promote businesses in regional and remote Australia. The Instagram page has over 231,000 followers and products have been purchased all over Australia as well as overseas.

The #BuyFromTheBush has also helped many business owner release the benefits of using social media and online platforms.

Just as the drought has plagued many areas across Australia, COVID19 has imposed more challenges for business owners all over the country.

A lot of regional businesses rely on tourism to improve their bottom lines, however travel restrictions and social distancing has significantly diminished cash flow for many.

Intuition of Lockhart owner Leonie Golder has been shocked by the amount of support her business has received since developing a website. Intuition is a homewares shop run by Mrs Golder and her daughter Amber McLean.

“Since we have shut the shop’s doors, Amber was working non-stop to get the website up and running,” she said. “She has done an amazing job and we are blown away by the amount of orders we have had.”

The pair has been busily packing and sending off orders to as far away as Western Australia and Queensland. The online shop has also been well supported by locals.

“Even with the doors closed, the locals have been supporting the business and are so happy to be able to shop with us,” Mrs Golder said.  “I am very traditional and enjoy the face-to-face interaction with customers, whereas Amber is so good with the technology and design of the website. We are a good team,” Mrs Golder said.

Similarly, Junee Chocolate and Liquorice Factory Marketing and Sales Manager Rhiannon Druce had to quickly adapt the business to enhance online sales.

“Tourism and having visitors come to the factory and experience the Willy Wonka feeling is our focus,” Miss Druce said. “There has never been a better time to improve a business’ online exposure.

“With Easter just around the corner, we had a lot of stock to sell. In previous years, we have hosted Easter egg making days were there have been up to 1000 people on the premises.

“We already had an online presence, however we had many sleepless nights to revamp the online shop to be as appealing as the actual factory.”

Like many others, the business was affected by the 2019 NSW bushfires diminishing tourism throughout the state.

“Because of the challenges we have been facing, we reached out to Grace from #BuyFromTheBush and we received over 300 orders overnight,” Miss Druce said. “Even though times have been uncertain, our online sales have been keeping our 50 staff employed and busy.”

The business has received many flow-on benefits from the campaign.

“Many customers have returned to buy gifts for Mother’s Day and our new customers have started following our social media and are staying up to date with us.

“New customers aware of our business, are making plans to come and visit once travel restrictions are lifted.”

The business’ sister company Corowa Whiskey Factory started manufacturing hand sanitiser, which was another draw card.

“We are currently renovating the factory and building a new freckle making room for our visitors when restrictions ease,” Miss Druce said.

Brushwoods owner Kendra Kerrisk, of Ganmain, has seen a significant increase in produce sales since being featured on #BuyFromTheBush.

The business started out selling olive oil, when Mrs Kerrisk and her family bought a property with an olive grove. Because of the drought, production became limited and four years ago the business began to specialise in selling fresh roll oats.

“Our product is one your great gran would’ve rolled herself and cooked straight away,” Mrs Kerrisk said. “We buy in dehulled oats, roll, cut and vacuum pack them ourselves to keep the product fresh,”

“Freshly rolled oats are delicious and absolutely addictive.”

Brushwoods already had an online store, however it needed to be adapted overnight to meet the huge spike in demand.

“Since #BuyFromTheBush featured us, we saw a 7-8-fold increase in online sales,” Mrs Kerrisk said.

When COVID19 came to Australia rolled oats in supermarket were very limited.

“Now more than ever consumers are wanting an Australia made product that is direct from the producer,” Mrs Kerrisk said.

Many of the businesses buying Brushwoods products have been forced to closed, causing a loss of service, however online sales have more than made up for it.

Mrs Kerrisk is so grateful for the support and isn’t taking for granted the opportunity to engage in producer to consumer interaction.

“We focus on service and will always provide a personalised note or email to any of our customers.

“The number of people who have contacted me directly and shared their amazing stories has been an additional benefit for the business.

“I have elderly customers who ring up and order their oats and have a chat while on the phone,” Mrs Kerrisk said.

Brushwoods is now at a scale of operation where it is economically sustainable and has the strength to be there for the long haul.

Mrs Kerrisk also believes in the social sustainability of her produce and business.

“When people connect with their food and food producer it is so good for their health. When you understand where your food comes from you are less inclined to overindulge and be wasteful,” Mrs Kerrisk said.

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