Buy From The Bush: Harnessing the power of digital tools to create lasting change in rural Australia

March 03, 2022
Buy From The Bush: Harnessing the power of digital tools to create lasting change in rural Australia

When I started Buy From The Bush (BFTB) I never anticipated an Instagram account could start a national movement that changed the lives of thousands of people living through drought across rural Australia.

In the two years since its inception, I’m proud to see that BFTB has evolved into a successful purpose-driven business with more than 550,000 followers across Facebook and Instagram and even more importantly, generated over $9 million in revenue for rural small businesses.

Today I want to share a new report in partnership with Meta which looks at the longer term impacts of BFTB on rural businesses and communities. The report draws on three main sources including BFTB commissioned research by YouGov, data from the BFTB Marketplace and survey responses from our loyal Instagram followers. In the report we found:

BFTB promotes the growth of female-led businesses which diversify regional economies
BFTB has shown how digital tools like social media can empower entrepreneurs, and in particular women, to launch and scale business from remote communities. YouGov found that seven in ten (70%) rural SMB respondents agree that online/digital businesses have helped women in the regions gain economic security.(1)

Digitally-enabled small businesses can crisis-proof rural communities
BFTB was launched on Instagram when regional Australia was in the grip of one of the worst droughts on record. Soon afterwards, the global Covid-19 pandemic arrived and made the notion of crisis-proofing economies even more relevant to all Australians. More than six in ten (62%) SMB owners and managers agree that digitally enabled SMBs can help to crisis-proof rural communities.(2)

BFTB is broadening people’s perception of rural Australia’s potential beyond the farm gate
BFTB has created a powerful platform to showcase the breadth of enterprise in regional communities and drive new growth in non-traditional industries like e-commerce. This produces tangible benefits for bush businesses. In fact, social media drove 36% of all users to the BFTB website in the last 12 months,(3) and when we asked our Instagram followers what they thought about us, 70% said that we had changed their perception of rural communities.(4)

The report also looks into the impact that the initiative had on five businesses including Peggy & Twig (Trangie, NSW), Emmanate Creative (Dubbo, NSW), Perennialle Plants (Canowindra, NSW), Singing Magpie Produce (The Riverland, SA) and PHYLLi Designs (Scone, NSW).

Their businesses show the very best of rural resilience. Earlier this week, I was delighted to sit down with all of them, together with Mr Bruce Billson the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) and Mia Garlick, Director of Policy at Meta to give these businesses an opportunity to share their stories and launch this report. We discussed the themes of the report and what we can be focussed on in the year ahead to continue to build resilient, disaster-prepared rural business communities. This conversation also complements the important work Mr Billson is doing around the Small Business Natural Disaster and Preparedness and Resilience inquiry.

In the wake of what has been a very heavy week in parts of North-Eastern Australia with devastating floods, it’s more important than ever that small business in regional Australia remains visible and accessible. Bush businesses - if enabled - are well positioned to leverage opportunities arising from a post-pandemic world and will undoubtedly play a critical role in rebuilding the Australian economy.

Our hope is that off-farm, women-led enterprises continue to grow and contribute layers of diversity and opportunity to rural Australia. Further, that BFTB can continue to forge a meaningful and permanent connection between the city and the bush. In doing so, we believe we can help to crisis-proof rural Australia.

Find out more about the Report or view highlights from our Regional Round Table with Bruce Billson, Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO), five BFTB small business owners and Mia Garlick, Director, Policy - Australia, NZ & Pacific Islands, Meta. The full video edition from the Regional Round Table can be viewed here.

Footnotes:
1 Buy From The Bush, YouGov Research, n=>307, September 2021.
2 Buy From The Bush, YouGov Research, n=>307, September 2021.
3 Buy From The Bush Marketplace data, 2021.
4 Buy From The Bush Marketplace data, 2021.

*/ -->