The Farmer Wants a Website: The Spend With Us Story | #142

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In this chat, Jenn and Sarah share their passion for rural small business and how their marketplace has grown.

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Nathan Bush is a director at eCommerce talent agency, eSuite. He has led eCommerce for businesses with revenue $100m+ and has been recognised as one of Australia’s Top 50 People in eCommerce four years in a row. You can contact Nathan on LinkedIn, Twitter or via email.


Jenn Donovan, marketing thought leader, change maker, coach and mentor for small businesses, keynote speaker and podcaster (Small Business Made Simple – 160 episodes and growing!). Founder of Social Media and Marketing Australia, founder of the extremely successful community Facebook group - Buy From a Bush Business (currently 340,000 members) and the Co-Founder of Spend With Us - Australia's answer to Amazon but only for rural and regional small businesses. Jenn lives on a farm near Rennie with husband Ruston and their 3 children. Jenn has 10 chooks, 2 peacocks, 2 guinea fowl, 1 dog and 1 cat and several pet lambs – she’s banned from going around the sheep in lambing season now


Creator and founder of Spend With Us - Buy From a Bush Business Marketplace, an online shopping marketplace directly supporting Australian rural and regional families and communities. The platform supports small businesses that find it hard to compete due to location, size, technology, and other adversities. Sarah has been working in the digital media space for over 17 years and during this time has developed a broad range of industry experience in design, inception, and development. She has been freelancing since leaving her full-time position as Multimedia Manager for Sydney based Spanton Media Group in 2009 and has worked closely with The Onn Agency in Sydney over the past few years as well as partnering with a wide range of organisations from individuals, to startups, as well as large enterprise.

In this episode of Add To Cart, we are joined by Jenn Donovan and Sarah Britz.  Jenn and Sarah are Co-founders of Spend With Us, an online marketplace and directory for rural and regional small businesses of Australia who have taken a hit from bushfires, drought, and coronavirus.  Sarah, a web designer, had built a website to help bush businesses as they struggled with adversity.  Meanwhile Jenn, with her marketing background,, was growing a community with her facebook group ‘Buy From a Bush Business’.  These women joined forces and Spend With Us was born.   The marketplace showcases the rich crop of talents that operate in the bush, with over 1000 businesses listed, selling everything from fashion and art to food and drink….you can even book accommodation.  In this chat, Jenn and Sarah share how they keep on top of both sets of UX – their sellers and customers, the ingredients that go into a super successful facebook group and how all they want is to be as much of a household name as Amazon…gotta love an ambitious goal! 

I get a little bit tired of how the media only really talks about rural Australia when there’s a bush fire, when there’s a drought…you know, there’s so much talent out here.

Jenn Donovan

Questions answered in this episode include
  • How did you grow your hugely successful Facebook group?
  • What influenced your decision to set up the marketplace using custom code?
  • What stand out as some of your favourite bush businesses?

Making a difference

(Jenn) “For me, two stories that come to mind really quickly is one, a lady who was selling a Country Women’s Association cookbook, and she sold so many copies of that cookbook through the Spend With Us Buy From A Bush Business marketplace that they got a new playground for their town. The CWA were able to donate all that money for a new playground. That’s the essence of what we’re doing. We’re trying to build a community, trying to make a difference in communities, and so that was kind of like, “Ah! That’s it. That’s exactly what we are trying to do.” 

And the other one that really stands out, which probably is a bit more of a heart tug, was a lady who lost her husband in a farming accident, and she just really felt like she found a community of like-minded people who knew what it was like and that were able to support her, and comment on her posts and push it further, and get some really good sales and just understand some of the setbacks of what living in rural Australia is.”

Educating our vendors

(Sarah) ‘We’ve created a lot of instruction guides, so it’s hopefully easy, and we have a store wizard that as soon as they get online, set up and register for their store, they go through the store with this wizard that helps them to set up their logo, create their store descriptions, and everything. But adding the products and doing the settings for tax, for shipping, for all those kind of things, it’s a big learning curve for alot of them to learn how to do it and have to set it up properly.

(Jenn)  “One of the little issues we came up against a couple of months ago was that we discovered people could put products on the site and not have their shipping set up. So from a UX point of view, someone could say, “I really like that fluffy teddy bear,” put it in their cart and all of a sudden they couldn’t check out because the person hadn’t set their shipping. So it was a matter of introducing some code to say, “You can’t have your store live until you’ve set up your shipping,” and then going back and finding out all the people that hadn’t got shipping and contacting them, and then archiving their products or having them fix it.”

Custom code

(Sarah) “As I’m a web designer and developer by trade, when I decided to make it, it took me about seven days, day and night basically to try and get this marketplace up, the first version of it. I knew that something needed to be up quickly because these small businesses that were contacting me needed online space really fast.  The first version of the marketplace was a bit clunky and so on, but it worked and we’ve just been working on introducing more features.

I developed it from scratch, but I did use a multi-vendor marketplace software as my backend to build it around because developing that completely from scratch would’ve taken more than seven days.  It was my first time building a multi-vendor marketplace. I’ve built a lot of e-commerce sites before, but building a multi-vendor one was a bit different and even now I’m still learning lots of new tricks and and how it should work.”

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