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Virtual Purchases Give Fire-Ravaged Businesses Hope

possible

Parts of Australia have been on fire for months, and the country is hurting. Entire towns have been razed to the ground, and the cost to human and animal life is unbelievable. Over a billion animals have died including a third of the population of Koalas in NSW.

CNN reports at least 3000 homes have been destroyed or severely damaged and the impact on local businesses and communities is immeasurable. What’s more, there is no end in sight.

Natural causes like dry lightning strikes, extra-dry conditions and highly flammable vegetation like the eucalyptus tree are making the fires near impossible to contain. There is also a sinister side to it too with as many as 24 people being charged with deliberately starting blazes and many more people also fined with fire-related offences, e.g. dropping live cigarette butts.

So it is in these desperate times that we revere in the goodwill of our fellow man. Donations have come in thick and fast from celebrities, the very young and old plus from people all around the globe. Tennis tournaments like the ASB Classic in Auckland and the Australian Open have held fundraising events. Tennis star Serena Williams not only donated her tennis dresses worn at these events but also gave her prize money when she won the ASB Classic.

But what resonates the most with us here at BusinessBlogs is the virtual products and services website set up by local business operator Tennille Bull. With her husband she recently set up It’s My Shout. You may be wondering what’s amazing about this website. Well, it’s an eCommerce site powered by Shopify that sells products and services with a twist, they’re virtual, i.e. not real but in many ways a simulated experience of the real thing. What’s really amazing about buying these virtual products is the money goes to the local businesses affected by the bushfires.

Why Virtual and Not Real?

Well, Tennille, the brainchild of It’s My Shout has been directed affected by the fires and according to Business Insider, Australia Tennille’s main source of income comes from operating three AirBnBs in the fire-ravaged area of East Gippsland, Victoria.

Summer is the busiest time ‘down under’ where most tourists and travellers, keen to escape the northern hemisphere winter head to Australia. So it’s no surprise most of the annual income from Tennille’s three AirBnBs was earned over Summer, and she relies on it to pay her mortgages for the whole year.

The bushfires, however, resulted in the cancellation of every booking for January and February. Not knowing how she was going to pay her mortgages, Tennille had very few options, and without the funds to pay the mortgages, she thought she’d have to sell up and let’s face it selling right now would be bad timing due to recent events.

However, in times of need really amazing people rise up. Realising her business was not alone, and that many small operators are were also facing a similar fate, Tennille Bull came up with the idea of a virtual eCommerce store. Local businesses especially those reliant on foot traffic were encouraged to sign up on It’s My Shout and present the products and services they’d usually sell for their normal price but as virtual offerings.

The response has been phenomenal with virtual purchases of ‘fish and chips’ ‘a night’s accommodation’ or laundry wash set to quite literally keep many businesses afloat while their physical business recovers. After being online for just a few weeks, thousands of dollars have been raised. So I suppose you’re also wondering how do you turn an idea into an overnight success?

From Idea To An Online Success

What we have learned over the years with our own website, is you’ve probably got a better chance of winning a lottery than creating ‘an overnight success’. For startups, factors including unique service, perfect timing, and lots of demand create the perfect environment to exceed expectations.

It’s My Shout, definitely has these factors including a unique way of donating. The process of purchasing ‘imaginary’ (virtual) products and services can be fun as we found out when we did it. Plus the donors feel they are in some small way in direct contact with businesses affected by the bushfires.

So for, It’s My Shout to become an online success, Tennille partnered with Melody Jarvis owner of Shop My Town, a business that’s a conduit for helping local retailers and wholesalers and shoppers particularly in rural areas come together in a more meaningful way.

Shopping locally is said to make us happier, more productive and supportive in communities mainly is isolated areas. People who live alone mainly in sparse regions are more connected to their neighbours and local businesses when they shop in their town. The village environment is still sought after by people who understand the power of communities. It’s one of the drawcards for visiting coastal small cities like those affected by the Australian fires.

With the success of Melody’s site supporting rural communities, the collaboration with It’s My Shout was a natural fit. Distraught business owners know nothing will be the same as it was, but with the donations maybe the foreseeable future will be okay.

What’s also inspiring on Tennille’s website, is the paying-it-forward generosity of many of the businesses left with nothing. When you or I buy a virtual service or product from the ‘pay it forward’ listed companies, someone is benefiting from it. Buying a dress from a clothing store may be given to a homeowner who had lost all entire wardrobe when a fire burned down her house.

We Use ‘It’s My Shout’

coffee

Inspired by the goodwill and having visited Lakes Entrance an area of East Gippsland a few years ago, now it’s our turn to pay a virtual visit. We arrive and I buy a coffee.

night stay

Needing somewhere nice to stay overnight we purchase a virtual luxury room.

retreat

With some time spare before dinner I go for a virtual mini-retreat. 🙂

tapas

The evening is now here, and it’s time for some virtual Tapas for dinner.

wine

Followed by a couple glasses of wine!

While our stay in Lakes Entrance was virtual, it was nonetheless fulfilling and rewarding in the knowledge that we directly helped these local businesses in their time of need. Hopefully, it won’t be long before we can visit these operators in person.

Now It’s Your Turn

Which area are you going to visit today? Where are you going to stay? What will you do, eat and drink?

It’s so much fun, we’ll be back to visit another town very soon.

Summary

Napoleon Hill sums it up well:

Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.

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