January 31, 2020

Phoenix Rising

A very large part of Australia is kicking around in ash.

There is, of course, the tangible ash that bears lightly on the earth as a whispy remnant of the fires that tore through the nation with such violence and furious anger that we have never witnessed. Hopefully, we will learn our lessons and better understand and manage the terrible potential of fire.

With the ash and the rains, we are on our way to managing the blazes but now there is the muck. The great, thick and dirty job of rebuilding on heavy ground is the beginning of a new and very long chapter in the Australian wildfire crisis of 2019/20.

Rebuilding is a complex enterprise. When you break down a community into different parts, the interconnectivity between families, buildings, schools, parks, industry and businesses is complex. The web of ways that all of these elements move money through businesses, families, and communities is important. We cannot hope to re-build communities without understanding all of the moving parts.

Small businesses have an important cog in that machine and an integral part of that machine. Some businesses in fire-affected areas are reporting cancellations and losses many years into the future, far beyond what they have sustained in the burn and far beyond what their ordinary marketing channels can overcome.

When the fires were burning, there was a tangible feeling of helplessness from good people everywhere who were called to help. The flow of donations has been the most unprecedented flow of love from all over the world, celebrities but mostly ordinary people, leading ordinary people on the road to recovery.

Within the communities themselves, it is the job of local business, local employers and community leaders to keep their heads above water and sustain the social and economic aspects of thees communities through the rebuild.

Some of our friends thought about creating a channel directly to small businesses to buy from them to help. Not only to collect small businesses who are doing this tough work in the muck and the ash, but to collect their stories and create a direct connection between the giver and receiver – with a sense of story and transparency.

The initiative is called PhoenixMRKT and you can enter the marketplace here to shop the small businesses in fire affected-communities:

As well as finding some very cool things to purchase from the small businesses and artisans in the fire-affected communities of Australia, browsing the stories from these business owners on the front-lines makes for an incredible testimony of the spirit of regional Australia.

Self-reliance as an important part of the Australian psyche and so initiatives like Phoenix MRKT  and the empty esky campaign are as place to connect businesses affected by the fires with a ready market to get money moving through these communities in the usual ways.

It’s a help-up rather than a help-down approach, enabling people to rebuild and find their new normal with empowerment, momentum, and pride.

If you own a business in a fire-affected community or know someone who does, the platform is free and we can get you set up in under 5 minutes.

If you want to support these businesses and communities, you can browse the MRKTplace to shop and invite everyone you know to #jointheregeneration at Phoenixmrkt.com.au

It is a completely free service built and driven by volunteers with a small business background and a kinship with those trying to rebuild.

Here is a small collection of stories from the MRKTplace:

“We have suffered a loss in income and struggling to catch up but the emotional toll is real…The fear is still there and my wife and I have also suffered health wise. The lull in trade in the Blue Mountains has a knock on effect to our business.” – CLH Restore, Unique cushions and homewares – Blackheath

“The bush fires have scared away customers. This resulted in our shop only doing 30% of our normal sales during Christmas time. This lull in business is threating our abilliy to remain open in Katoomba. If something dosen’t change we will be forced to close down within the next two months.” – Uplift Fair Trade, Ethical gifts and homewares – Katoomba

“On New Year’s Eve around 10:30pm we slept rough in the shopping centre car park a few kilometres away as we could see the flames in the trees up the road from our home – it was frightening…So many rural, coastal and regional businesses really need your support.” – In My Element Glass Design, Handmade Fused Glass Gifts – Batemans Bay

“The fire danger over summer turned Katoomba into a ghost town. Like many other local shops and cafés we needed to cut back hours for our casual staff over Christmas.” – The Little Lost Bookshop, Books and Gifts, Katoomba

“We were evacuated New Year’s Eve and were only able to re open our business three days ago. We have lost two of the most crucial trading weeks of the year. It has affected our ability to maintain all our staff.” – Reva at Tilba, Jewellery – Central Tilba

“The Southern Highlands was sandwiched between two fires, closing in on us daily. We had homes lost in our towns and mass evacuations & road closures which meant no-one was coming in or out between Sydney and Canberra for over a month. Our traditionally busy short-stay season evaporated into thin air. Our shops closed by 11am daily because of the smoke, and there was no-one to serve. Our businesses are the livelihood of our region, and we need the economic return to keep us open. We are struggling as it is in regional small business, the fires devastated lives and livelihoods.” – Banter Group, Marketing and digital services, Bowral

And while it is easy to think that one person or one purchase can’t make a difference, here is the best story about the purchase of 100 tea towels that you will ever read: Click here to read



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