She said people redirecting their dollars to local providers is having a ripple effect both in terms of instant sales and psychological support to the featured businesses.
Ms McBride and author and motivational speaker Turia Pitt, who both live in Mollymook on the South Coast of New South Wales, were inspired to start the account to help provide immediate relief to micro and small businesses affected by the fires.
“We were trying to get back to work, and trying to get back to life last week, but just thought, God, it’s so hard to focus on anything when the streets in town are empty, when normally, they’re packed with tourists and the summer trade,” she said.
“We’d be walking down the street to get a coffee, and could see that our friends and business owners are clearly struggling without that. And that’s the business they rely on to get through the rest of the year.”
Ms McBride said support for the account, which effectively now operates as an impromptu marketer, catalogue and agent for local sellers, has been immense.
Mathew Hatcher, who co-runs Guerilla Roasters at The Mossy Cafe in Mossy Point on the South Coast, has hired three new people to help fulfil their record orders.
This flood of fresh orders was a turning point for Mr Hatcher. Between the bushfires, road closures, and lack of regular tourist trade, his business the last few weeks was pretty much facing “crisis mode”.
“It has literally, in the span of three or four days, taken us from a spot of – all of our suppliers had already said, we understand what you’re going through, we’ll work with you – but we can actually pay our suppliers,” he said.
Both the Bondi and Bronte surf clubs have also reached out to enlist Guerilla Roasters as one of their ongoing suppliers to help provide longer-term support.
Similarly, OrganiQ Australia, a skincare company based on Kangaroo Island, experienced a huge boost in sales after @spendwiththem posted about it.
Volunteers are helping to run @spendwiththem by processing inquiries from hundreds of small businesses and writing informative captions.
Another Instagram account, @buyfromthebush, which was started three months ago to help small businesses in drought-affected areas, many of which have now also been hit by fires, is helping to connect local and global consumers with rural and regional Australian businesses.
Facebook partnered with @buyfromthebush to run small business workshops in regional New South Wales towns to help educate small and midsize businesses on how to respond to and benefit from a rapid increase in online engagement.
Mr Hatcher said although @spendwiththem has helped provide much needed help and hope to him, his business partner and family, it was hard to adequately convey the ongoing “gravity of the situation here” for the broader community.
“From Batemans Bay to Broulee, there is not one tree that is not just black, and a stick,” Mr Hatcher said.
“Half the town of Mogo – it’s ash.”
He is also co-leading a local response in the aftermath of the fires, setting up the Facebook page South Coast Donations Logistic Team to help facilitate local communication and connection.
“We’ve become this group, who just go case by case, and work out what people need. Campervan, that’s what you need. A generator, that’s what you need. Toilet paper, that’s what you need,” he said.
“Government isn’t set up to do that. They’re set up to give everyone $5000, and tell them to spend it how they want.”
Not all business types are suited to @buyfromthebush or @spendwiththem, and Mr Hatcher said many are still closing down or facing closure.
“We’re still in the trauma phase. People don’t even understand the extent of this,” Mr Hatcher said.