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From Crisis To Cash-flow: The Social Media Campaign Everyone’s Talking About

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Grace Brennan

Buy From The Bush

The Business
Buy from the Bush
The Founder
Grace Brennan, 2019
The Concept
Connecting the bush with the city through an online marketplace selling beautiful products made by rural communities across Australia
What’s Next
Helping crisis-proof the bush by enabling small businesses
My ‘Pinch Myself’ Moment
Generating $5 million of revenue for small bush businesses within four months of launching

Right place, right time, right idea

Few people could forget the devastating drought of 2017-2020 that decimated much of eastern Australia: images of skeletal, starving sheep, paddocks reduced to dust and the toughest of farmers reduced to tears.

Grace Brennan remembers it only too well, watching as she did from her front row seat in Warren, western NSW where the region was experiencing its worst drought on record. It wasn’t just farmers who were suffering: small businesses in town were closing down, ‘for lease’ signs littered the main street and the owner of Warren’s only boutique was forced to let all her staff go and work longer hours but with reduced new stock, customers stopped coming.

The metropolitan media was finally showing interest but the images always portrayed beaten down farmers, not the broader suffering experienced by small businesses, sole traders and the community itself.

Seizing An Opportunity

Brennan decided to do something about it and connect bush businesses with city people keen to help. In October 2019 she posted a story on Facebook noting the drought was also impacting small businesses such as the local boutique but by buying from them you’d be investing in this small community. A friend commented her family was focussing on ‘buy from the bush’ that Christmas, and inspiration struck.

“I opened Canva and created a logo and Instagram account, Buy from the Bush, showing the beautiful things available to buy from rural communities facing drought, being really shameless about inviting people to follow and use #buyfromthebush. Customers and small businesses began following us which became a funnel for us to identify more small businesses in the bush and showcase them too. We had 100,000 followers in one month.”

Shops began selling out of stock, rural postage shot up 30 per cent and by December #buyfromthebush was the second highest search term nationally.

A glass of margarita with a salted rim, garnished with a slice of dried lime, sits on a wooden serving board next to an open tin of flavored salt—a simple yet elegant setup perfect for an entrepreneur starting a business. A beige napkin is folded in the background, and two additional slices of dried lime rest on the board.

Multinationals come knocking

Before she knew it multinationals including Paypal, Visa and Facebook (now Meta) were offering partnerships. Brennan directed the latter to upskill those small business owners who had been given this sudden opportunity, so trainers were dispatched to rural and regional areas to run social media workshops; while Facebook also gave the start-up free advertising on their platform and a workshop with a digital agency.

“I was learning on the fly… within two weeks I was launching a digital campaign with an agency and having to talk to key messages and reach objectives. There was no time for self-indulgent nerves: let’s create impact!” Brennan recalls.

At the same time Visa ran digital billboards in Sydney and a TV campaign; while Paypal built them a landing page and portal so customers had somewhere to buy.

The start-up pivot

Rampant bushfires, quickly followed by the onset of Covid meant Brennan extended the remit beyond drought affected communities to any rural small business; creating an additional directory #stayinthebush of beautiful places to stay for Australians confined to domestic travel but wanting to support suffering rural and regional communities.

One year after starting the Instagram account Brennan launched a marketplace, with the help of Paypal who provided PR and marketing support. Today 170 businesses continue to sell with them, from primary producers of meat and olive oil to jewellery, fashion, art and homewares.

A charming stone building with a metal roof and a small porch. There are wooden doors and windows, and a few bare trees in the front. The surrounding area is lightly shaded by additional trees, giving the scene a rustic and cozy atmosphere that's ideal for female entrepreneurs seeking inspiration.
A picturesque landscape at sunset with a field of tall grass in the foreground, a wooden fence, scattered trees in the distance, and a sky filled with vibrant hues of orange, pink, and purple as the sun sets behind clouds on the horizon—a scene as inspiring as women in business achieving their dreams.

Positive social impact

The impact has been profound: just four months in, $5 million revenue had been generated by the small businesses, one in five hired new workers, 19 per cent began shipping internationally and 90 per cent of businesses reported an improved quality of life. Remarkably, 97 per cent of businesses were female-led.

“We’re now over $12 million generated so it’s gone on to grow and keep generating revenue,” says Brennan. “The big mission for us now is to crisis-proof the bush through enabling small business and empowering founders, and that means having people want to live here and create interesting careers. Digital tools can enable all sorts of businesses from the middle of nowhere.”

While Brennan is the first to admit timing is everything, her professional experience gave her many of the skills she needed to capitalise on the opportunity. A Sydney woman, Brennan had deliberately sought university training and jobs in areas she predicted could translate to the regions, after falling in love with a farmer. She had broad experience in community engagement through sport, the arts and tourism so was able to adapt learnt skills to bring disaffected communities together through #buyfromthebush

The steep, swift learning curve

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Know your unique value proposition and leverage it: “One thing I see holding back particularly female-led businesses is the cringe factor around pitching; and being able to articulate your worth. For rural Australians modesty runs so deep, it’s important we shake that if we’re going to grow businesses there.”

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Use gut instinct: “Everyone is a little bit blind when launching a business. Your own skillset is worthwhile if you really understand what you're offering.”

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Corporate partnerships are crucial to subsidising the running of the business but can be tricky to navigate: “Be acutely aware of the value exchange and be clear what you want.”

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Invest in a robust business model that allows you to scale

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Use mentors who have the skills you don’t

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Subscribe to industry emails, turn up to events and workshops (even if you think you’re the random in the room)

“EVERYONE IS A LITTLE BIT BLIND WHEN LAUNCHING A BUSINESS. YOUR OWN SKILLSET IS WORTHWHILE IF YOU REALLY UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU'RE OFFERING.”

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