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Online marketplace to launch in Benalla enabling businesses to trade during the pandemic

By Simon Ruppert

Benalla businesses will soon have a new website — ‘Buy from Benalla’ — where they can continue to trade in an online marketplace.

The website, which is free for businesses, will go live later this month and is being set up in a partnership between Benalla Rural City Council, Startup Shakeup and Midland Freight.

The Buy from Benalla website is being developed by Issimo Markets, and is an idea that emerged from a Mansfield-based business in the 2019 Startup Shakeup.

In time, online marketplaces for other towns across the north-east are set to be established, based on learnings from the Benalla model.

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Benalla Rural City Mayor Danny Claridge said this was a timely and positive initiative for Benalla retailers.

“This is a really great initiative and an exciting opportunity for all Benalla businesses,” Cr Claridge said.

“As more trade moves to an e-commerce environment, we want to ensure our Benalla businesses have the opportunity to take advantage of this now and into the future.

“The timing of the launch of this online marketplace could not be more relevant, with many retailers having to close their doors in line with the COVID-19 restrictions.

“This means they can continue to trade and conduct their business.”

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Digital Futures Group leader and Startup Shakeup chair Ilena Young said this was a fantastic initiative for both COVID-19-affected and bushfire-affected businesses who had been hit hard this year.

“We’re providing a mechanism through which loyal customers can continue to shop locally while they do the right thing and stay at home,” Ms Young said.

“We’re also providing a portal for our local businesses to be able to trade 24/7, support a local start-up to scale their idea and support local freight companies. It’s a win-win for the region.”

Samaria Farm is one of the first businesses to sign up and owner Vicki Wight said the online marketplace would be a big benefit to her business.

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“We were contacted by council to be a part of the online marketplace,” Ms Wight said.

“We can't do our essential oils workshops or rent out our Airbnb at the moment, so this will help us sell some of our products.”

Samaria Farm is known for its rosewater, among other locally produced items.

And it is one local business that has seen an opportunity in the current circumstances we all find ourselves living in.

“My sister-in-law actually came to us and asked if we could make her some hand-sanitiser, pointing out that we had the equipment to do that,” Ms Wight said.

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“So we started making it for friends and family when we found out how big of a demand there was for it.

“So we decided to make some to sell.

“And now we are in several local stores: Focus Footwear; the Spot 4 Coffee van on the Sydney Rd roundabout; Rustik; and the Swanpool store.

“And it will soon also be available via Buy from Benalla.”

Ms Wight also said they had changed the recipe of the hand sanitiser, so the next batch — which will be available online — will be medical grade and suitable for commercial use.

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“Our first batch was 60 per cent alcohol,” Ms Wight said.

“But all our products will now be 80 per cent alcohol so they can be used commercially as well as by individuals.”

Samaria Farm is also selling one-litre hand-sanitiser refills for $65.

To find out about purchasing one of those, call Vicki on 0417 990 764.

All Benalla and District businesses are invited to register for the online marketplace.

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About the service:

● It is free for any Benalla-based business to register;

● You'll need the internet and a smartphone;

● Simply take photos of your products (in decent lighting);

● Upload your most popular products and add more as, and when, you have time;

● It's developed and managed by local tech experts, so when this crisis is over you can continue to trade in "clicks and bricks" and add more features if you would like to.

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How you can get involved:

1. Register your interest by emailing YES to [email protected] Please include your business name and mobile phone number in the body of the text;

2. You'll then receive a link from Issimo Markets with all the instructions for setting up your page — it's super-easy;

3. Free training, webinars and phone support is also available;

4. Once the site has 20 businesses loaded, it will launch and marketing will be ramped up;

5. Businesses will be encouraged to cross-promote via their marketing channels #buyfrombenalla

6. There will be a small delivery fee charged per transaction, which businesses can choose to absorb or else slightly increase product prices to cover.

Those who already have an online shop are also encouraged to register as Buy from Benalla can integrate with existing platforms.

For more information, phone Benalla Rural City Council on 5760 2600 or email [email protected]

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