A not-for-profit Facebook group featuring locally-produced products is receiving overwhelming support, amassing 46,000 new members in just one day.
'New Zealand Made Products' is helping small businesses facing tough times by providing a platform to promote their goods to potential buyers within the group. On April 24 - three days before lockdown ended - the group swelled from 119,000 to 165,000 people, an increase of 46,000.
Founder Sarah Colcord said that as a business owner in the same situation as countless others, the start of lockdown brought lost income and business contracts. Her idea to start the group came from looking for ways to boost her business profile without paying hefty advertising costs.
"I came across 'Australian Made Products': that group has only been in existence for four months and already has over 1.5 million members.
"I thought I was capable of replicating that similar level of success here with a Kiwi version," Colcord explained.
Typically, businesses promoting their products would normally sell them at markets, which during COVID-19, was not an option. Providing a new way to put buyers in touch with sellers, the Facebook group enables businesses to advertise for free, with posts ranging from practical, to philanthropic - even quirky.
"[Examples of] small businesses that post are upcycled furniture, high country salmon, holiday accommodation, cleaning products that employ those with intellectual disabilities, [even] pink gin," Colcord said.
"As the organiser, I don't benefit in any way: this is completely voluntary and I'm spending near[ly] 40 hours a week (alongside my full-time job), to manage and moderate the group," Colcord added.
Due to a waiting list of over 5000 posts waiting to be checked and published, businesses currently wait three-to-four days before finding buyers, from whom they take orders away from the Facebook group.
"We ask buyers to connect with the seller directly through either the website or social media links that the author has included in their post," Colcord explained.
Among the most unusual products posted to the group are BBQ covers ('skins') made from discarded billboards, a new RTD range called 'lockdown' and manuka-smoked whisky.
"The most popular product is Te Reo wrapping paper created by a 13-year-old entrepreneur from south Auckland," Colcord said.
Some sellers had reported selling out of stock, receiving a run of orders for the next few months.
"Vickie's Funky Cushions was one of the first posts to go viral: she usually gets 20 visits a-day to her website [and] after she shared about her business in the group, she got over 2000 visits over the same period."
Joining the Facebook group requires people to answer three basic questions, including their reason for joining, if they're a buyer or seller and acceptance of the group rules.
On Wednesday April 22, ahead of moving from lockdown into alert level 3, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern encouraged Kiwis to support local businesses and wherever possible, use their services to help reduce costs.
"What I would encourage consumers - all New Zealanders - who may be looking forward next week to accessing takeaway food, is just to look at your favourite local eatery and see whether they offer delivery directly themselves.
"That will often be then at a lesser cost to them as a business and just see whether they've got contact list options as well," Ardern said.
The country will remain on alert level 3 until May 11 at the earliest, providing an ideal time for cash-strapped businesses to start contactless trading - and for Kiwis to help them by shopping local whenever they can.