By Genevieve Waldie
The pro-active small business owners, Shell Richter and her husband Cam Richter, have always dedicated time and effort to their community.
In parallel with the writing and editing job, Shell is also the administrator of a Facebook group, the South East Brisbane Community Noticeboard. When COVID-19 hit, she saw on it an opportunity for the page to morph into a local hub for other small businesses: South East Brisbane Small Business Hub.
“The Facebook group had been around for five years as the South East Brisbane Community Noticeboard…And then COVID-19 hit Australia, and the entire business landscape changed. We were hit hard by COVID-19 and had to get creative with our businesses to stay viable,” Shell explains.
“However, we watched on in horror as many of our friends closed down. So many of these small businesses were running on tiny profit margins, trying to compete with the Kmarts of their industry…and COVID-19 cost them their livelihoods.”
Despite the challenges, Shell was quick to see the silver lining and the opportunities that COVID-19 begun to present, as people started to buy local products and increasingly to support their community.
She believes people are really seeing the benefit in avoiding the big chains and superstores and buying local even though they may pay a little more for it.
“I’m a passionate local and small business owner. These businesses are the ones that keep our community – our school fetes, our churches, our suburban shopping precincts – ticking along,” she says.
“These businesses are run by passionate and enthusiastic owners who offer better quality products and services, better and more authentic customer experiences and invest in their communities – they are worth every cent. And, we all know that when we support small businesses we are helping our neighbours pay their bills.”
In a few days after the pandemic started, Shell transformed the common Facebook page into a community network opportunity for others to connect.
“I want this community to support local businesses and help them not only weather the COVID-19 storm but also to help fuel their longer-term growth. I don’t want to watch another local business shut its doors – the impacts of this are more significant than what they first appear.”
With this in mind, the business owner will soon be renaming her digital environment to “Buy Local: South East Brisbane”.
The motto of ‘think local’ is what Shell wants to her neighbours to absorb and when they go shopping, their first stop will be the online community hub where they can connect directly with business owners who are ready to help.
COVID-19 has reminded the world about the importance of connection, and Shell says this is exactly what the hub is all about.
“We are now a place to connect customers who want to buy & support local to the services and products available from small businesses in the area.”
“We are also building community connections. It’s a serious work in progress and with engagement in the last month up 25%, I know we are heading in the right direction. To me, that’s a good response.”
An increased commitment to ‘Buying Local’ will be a lasting legacy from the pandemic thanks to Shell Richter and other committed small business owners of Brisbane who have fought COVID-19 and shown just how much one person can do.
“I buy and support local as much as I can. I promote local businesses on my Facebook and Instagram posts. I write reviews and references, and I tell my friends about them. But, I’m just one person, and one person doing this stuff is cool, but not enough to make a difference.”
“But, one person creating an online community that specifically connects small businesses to customers and encourages business owners to network, collaborate and raise each other up and makes the community stronger… well, that is something that can make a difference.”