A hashtag that inspired hope in bush businesses ravaged by drought by connecting them with city customers and helping sales to boom continues to attract "incredible" interest and support one year on, its founder says.
Buy from the Bush was started by Grace Brennan of the Warren district with a post to Instagram on October 16, 2019, and within a week had 10,000 followers as it showcased "the beautiful boutiques and wares" available in rural communities.
In its first four months Buy from the Bush helped generate $5 million for featured businesses, a portion of which hired workers, and started shipping interstate or overseas, and empowered female entrepreneurs, analysis by AlphaBeta showed.
On Tuesday Mrs Brennan reflected on the phenomenon that has 243,000 followers on Instagram, another 198,000 likes on Facebook, and has grown to include "little sister" page Stay in the Bush.
"It feels really momentous, one year on, that Buy from the Bush still seems to have meaning both among the community of small businesses in the bush, but also customers in the city and across Australia," she said.
"It's incredible the ongoing interest and support we're getting and it just kind of keeps finding new legs, which in the wake of what has been a pretty unpredictable year, I think it's an incredible achievement really."
Dubbo stores and artists were among the businesses to tell of the massive impact the movement had on sales and orders, coming at a crucial time in retail and as the drought's hold tightened.
"The lead-up to Christmas and that kind of initial rush and high of just non-stop messages from everybody and the most positive wave of energy that you could ever imagine was certainly an amazing way to kick it off," Mrs Brennan said.
Another pivotal moment had included taking 20 bush businesses to markets in Sydney's Martin Place, attracting city consumers, the founder said.
"Literally seeing it in front of our eyes, those city people supporting and having real conversations, that was beautiful," Mrs Brennan said.
"I think the opportunity to give the Australia Day address in January after bushfires was for me an incredible personal achievement, but also a great opportunity to broaden the conversation around Buy from the Bush."
When devastating drought and bushfires were followed by the global coronavirus pandemic, the campaign founder said it had meant "wondering what the hell Buy from the Bush would mean to people in times of such uncertainty".
But people had continued to connect with it, and small bush businesses were suddenly really well-geared to respond to the situation and the lockdown, Mrs Brennan said.
"They had a greater digital presence and they were selling online, sometimes for the first time, but if not for the first time, certainly more aggressively and energetically and they had a new customer base they could connect with when their shopfronts were closed and suddenly realising that this might have a real permanency about it, and a permanent long-term impact," she said.
The visionary, who grew up in Sydney before falling in love with a farmer, believes there has "always been a fondness and an affection for the bush from the city", but with social media it is easier to "tap into the connection".
"When times are challenging, like drought, bushfires and COVID, I think people are looking for ways to, I would say, have an impact or create change and Buy from the Bush has been an easy mechanism for that to happen," she said.
People know that when they shop through Buy from the Bush and when they support these bush businesses, money is flowing back into communities at a time that community really needs support from outside.Buy from the Bush founder Grace Brennan
"People know that when they shop through Buy from the Bush and when they support these bush businesses, money is flowing back into communities at a time that community really needs support from outside.
"So I think COVID has only strengthened Australians' desire to support local and to connect with stories behind businesses, and shop and also travel with purpose, which our platform is an easy way of doing that."
The posts continue to flow and the founder shows no signs of stopping.
"We've got some exciting developments in the works which I can't wait to share with everyone when the time is right," Mrs Brennan said.