Home » Podcast » Ashley Watt, encouraging people to ‘Shop Local’

Ashley Watt, encouraging people to ‘Shop Local’



In this week’s episode, Geoff is talking to Ashley Watt from Why Leave Town Promotions who was a Winner in the 2021 Community Achievement Awards for Regional NSW & the ACT.

Why Leave Town Promotions of Narrabri is encouraging people to ‘Shop Local’. Why Leave Town Promotions (WLT) offers community gift cards that use a ‘closed loop’ technology that ensures dollars stay local. The WLT Community Gift Card can be purchased at local ‘load up’ points or online and can only be spent back on participating local businesses. WLT works with over 60 communities across Australia and has created a website, Shop Local Hub. In 2018, the gift cards were used by organisations to distribute funds raised to support farmers and others in need during the drought. To date, WLT has helped keep over $12m in local communities.



To find out more about Why Leave Town Promotions go to www.whyleavetown.com 

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[00:00:05] Annette

Welcome to the inspirational Australians podcast with a chat to people, making  a difference in their communities and in the lives of Others. And here is your host for today. Geoff Griffin.

[00:00:20] Geoff

Welcome to the inspirational Australians podcast stories of inspiring achievements  and community contribution. Every week we celebrate an award program category,  winner or finalists. We hope you’ll be inspired and encouraged to know that Australia is in good hands,  together with our corporate partners and not for profit partners, Awards,  Australia. Showcase ordinary people from right across Australia are doing  extraordinary things. If you enjoy hearing the stories of our inspirational Australians,  please subscribe. Write us and us. We’d really appreciate it.

[00:01:01] Geoff

I’m delighted to be chatting with this week’s podcast guest Ash walk from why leave town,  or WLT.  Otherwise known as and in recognition of the significant contribution  the organisation has made to their local community in Narrabri and now across  Australia. Loyalty won the twenty twenty one Prime Super business  innovation award, a part of the community achievement Awards. This is  a really fabulous story that we can all gain some great ideas and insights from Ash.  Welcome to the podcast, Ash.

[00:01:40] Ashley

Excellent. Geoff, thanks for having me. And I’m always happy to chat shop local to anyone who wants  to listen Rami again. Thanks for having me.  On

[00:01:48] Geoff

Brilliant initiative and so important that in these times after covid, businesses have really struggled,  that we really focus on shopping local travelling. I feel, you know, spending our money in Australia,  in our local communities where we can. So for personally,  for those that may not know where abouts is Narrabri, where it all started for you,  how many people live in the town and region. And can you tell us  a bit about the Narrabri history before we go on to talk about wild take?

[00:02:20] Ashley

Yes, sure no. So Narrabri is a regional town in New South Wales sort of five hours,  five or six hours from Brisbane five, six hours from Sydney and five,  six hours from the coast. So it’s sort of in the middle of nowhere there,  but it’s out around about ten thousand people and about twenty thousand in the  region, a place which is growing quite  a bit over the last couple of years. Lots of sort of industrial change in the area.  So it’s a place which is starting to boom, quite  a bit. But in most parts it’s a, it’s a small country town and  a place where myself and my business partner Justin both grow up. And you’re born  and bred there and you start raising families there as well. And so it’s just, it’s  a nice little part of the world.

[00:03:10] Geoff

Fantastic.  And how did the IDF wild tea come about?

[00:03:16] Ashley

Yes, I actually started watching ten more as it was more from a,  an event management point of view. So I will be possibly thinking more from  a consumer point of view. Is that why, why travel to the city to, to get  a particular event, or why travel to a particular wine region? It might be one of the,  some of our earlier events we tried to bring those events to our region and to,  to narborough in particular. And so that was more the focus is that we want to just  people to enjoy where they are, but still be on experience,  things that are in town. But it’s sort of, we did that for a couple of years and we did  a lot of different events. And through that we started actually doing  a lot of work with local businesses, but didn’t really understand,  I guess the importance of shop local when we first started it. So it was more from  a consumer point of view. But in dealing with more and more businesses,  we saw that really the importance of what they sort of top of events,  actually the impact it had on local businesses. And that’s when we started to think, well actually,  how can we do more to generate more regular income for these local businesses as well?  ? Because obviously that’s the lifeblood of any community. And that’s where eventually it evolved into our local gift card program,  which we became something which we could be helping to inject money back into local  businesses all year round outside the events. And now we pretty much,  we haven’t done events for, for a number of years now, and it’s all just the local gift cards,  which is our main focus these days.

[00:04:46] Geoff

Interesting. So it started with the events to bring people into the town,  working with the local businesses and the community realised the importance of the  Valley to them. And so you try to, I guess,  make it more Micro in terms of how you can impact them. So that’s pretty,  pretty awesome when you’ve turned into a business. Well, I guess it started as  a business with the events. So the main purpose is to support local business clearly.

[00:05:17] Ashley

That’s right. Yeah.

[00:05:18] Geoff

How many businesses benefit from the promotion? I guess firstly in Narrabri and  a naive spread across the country now and I’ll ask you a bit about that in  a second, but how many businesses are involved in community groups in, in Narrabri, in the region?

[00:05:34] Ashley

Yeah, sure. So in-a-row eventually back in,  back in the early days. Now we’re talking about this little bit later on in terms  of how to bulk, but it started with Around thirty businesses. But now we’re up to about one hundred  and twenty just in Narrabri that operate within that within the program. But that’s just within that Aussie one,  one little market and that we’re now the number of businesses that are across  Australia is around about six thousand businesses. And growing pretty quickly, and that’s  a number that I looked at as possibly three or four months ago as well. So it’s  supposed to increase quite a bit from then as well, because we are growing on  a daily basis now. So it’s growing quite big from those initial three businesses that we started out with.

[00:06:16] Geoff

So that’s amazing. And tell me  a bit about the gift card idea. How did you come across that idea and what’s that  actually mean and involved?

[00:06:27] Ashley

Yeah, sure. The main thing of the idea of the cards is that it’s very simple,  always looking it to say a westfield’s gift card, where you get  a Whiskas gift card. You go into the westfield’s building and there’s lots of  different stores there where you can actually use that, that gift card. So we took,  I guess that’s most of the concepts and we applied it to that particular town. So  thinking of now abroad as, as an example, you can purchase  a narrative card and you can only use it in those one hundred and twenty  participating stores in that town in a similar sort of way.  As some of those,  those big chain stores operate their cards. The whole idea of that is obviously  that the money then stays in that local community. And that actually evolved one  from Yeah, talking to businesses. But also,  we noticed we got in the local post office in those heaps of different gift cards  as heaps of gift cards in the market have been for some time. But we had  a whole heap in narborough where you could purchase the card,  but they stores weren’t actually even in the NAB outrage. And you had to actually  travel several hours to actually access some of these things. So we had lots of  people locally buying these gifts for people, for Christmas,  and birthdays and so forth. And then I would actually then go out of town to use  them because I could actually access them here. And that’s why we thought,  wouldn’t it be great if you could have something which was more locally focused?  And then we can do it more cost effectively,  rather than everyone having their individual one on site where you can just buy one  card and it can basically any type of demographic can,  can then use it. So you could pick which type of store you wanted to use it with  you making sure that money staying local all the time. And we like it all down at  the moment through just the eftpos terminals. So we can actually control where  those cards are spent and when they can’t be spent. So you can’t grab an outbreak  card then head across to get an order and use it. The card that it has to be spent  in those one hundred twenty soles.

[00:08:18] Geoff

Awesome.  How many people would purchase a gift card for Narrabri in from Sydney? I guess not to many.

[00:08:27] Ashley

Yeah, it’s normally we’ll get a, there’s  a couple of different ways I guess we operate and when we first started,  it was mainly someone in Narrabri for example, wanting to purchase  a birthday gift for them, for their grandmother or their son, or whoever or  a friend that purchased that nowra gift card and give it to them. So most locals  giving to local locals each time. But we’ve definitely seen it evolve since that  that is early days. And as we start to expand across Australia with the program. And in particular we see  a lot of organisations coming to port. We have lots of pubs and clubs that use the  cards for their local other wakely Raffles. So rather than giving the meat tray, for example,  they can give one of the local cards and I can support my connection. A really good  fit for service clubs in particular to show how they support the local community.  We have lots of big employers, bit mines or councils or whatever,  who decide what we’re going to reward our staff.  But let’s make sure rewarding stuff,  but also having an impact on the local community as well. And then we really saw  a big increase in the usage during the drought period,  which was supposed to really start to take off because we saw the benefit and  people saw the benefit of using the cards to offer relief and recovery purposes as  well. So rather than just give a farmer one hundred dollars to try and support them,  you could give them one of our gift cards. They were getting a benefit,  they’re not actually going to spend it in the local stores as well,  who were also suffering during that time. So you’re really doubling the impact that that relief relief money can,  can have. And so we saw that on the bill in the back of the drought. There’s all  sorts of things that we’ve had a pretty turbulent last five to ten years with across Australia with our bushfires  and floods and all sorts of other disasters. And then obviously covid.  And yes,  there’s just been lots of different otherwise where we’ve seen the cod really make  a big difference at sort of just normal gifting. And for us,  it’s been really rewarding because although it’s great to have that gift option there and,  and support local businesses to really say the cards have an impact from  a relation of poverty point of view is yeah, it’s definitely been really enjoyable to watch how it has can,  can have that really positive impact on a community

[00:10:51] Geoff

has fantastic, really Brilliant for local communities to support each other. I absolutely love it.  How and to whom do you promote to me? See you right across the country

[00:11:02] Ashley

now? Yes, sure. So I guess we’ve got  a couple of different ideas in terms of how we operate. And we changed our model  a little bit from the early days as well. We used to deal direct with businesses.  Now we found that it’s much better to operate at a macro level. So as  a starting point for wallet town, we market to local councils. The local chambers of Commerce deposit to my clients.  I guess that when so we would sell the program to a particular council or Chamber of Commerce,  and I would then open that up to their businesses in their community. So if it’s  a Chamber of Commerce, they might then open up to all their Chamber members. I’m  a really good way to actually draw Chamber membership as well would found where  council is a little bit different. A lot of times  a council takes out programs that open up to all local businesses in that actual  Shire. So that’s who we mainly deal with on a, on, on a, on  a daily basis. But then obviously once we’ve got a council or a Chamber on board,  then our focus shifts on to getting those local businesses on board,  which is pretty much a diverse range. Now, Well, early days it was ramp was,  the gifting you had mainly your retail type of stores were part of it. But as our  programs evolved, as I said before, the cards have been using seventy one. There’s pretty much,  no business which that can’t be a part of lots of services that are involved. We’ve got schools and retirement  homes, you’ve got all sorts of different, weird and wonderful businesses that can actually benefit from the program. So  precious is that. And then after that it’s, it’s down to the people who actually purchase the so it’s,  it’s just general consumers. It’s a pretty sort of wide audience then. Because everyone is in the market for gifts,  from a personal point of view.  And then for us to really see, draw,  we sort of focus on the board and then local clubs that want to be involved as well.  With a lot more of the big employers that want to be using the cards. Well,  so we’ve got, I guess, seven different laser marketing sizes. So a long answer to your questions.

[00:13:04] Geoff

Now, it’s absolutely fantastic. There are a lot of great ideas for our listeners because sometimes we can presume,  well that sounds always you’ve just done so great. Why have you magic wand and it  all happens, but I know it would have taken  a lot of hard yards to get this set up. How long did it actually take to get off  the ground and did you get immediate support from the community?  Or has it really taken some time to build momentum?

[00:13:34] Ashley

Yeah, we started back in twenty ten is when we first launched the program,  we now brought out look at some of the figures now. And you said that our first  twelve months of the program operating abroad. We crawled our way up to twenty  twenty five businesses that are participating. And I think we did about sixteen  thousand dollars worth through the program. In the first twelve months. These days we get. Yeah, we’ll get  a single order worth sixteen thousand dollars coming through our program. And so it  took a number of years and even if I go back in in NAB, I say it was  a slow start. It took us,  it was plus about twelve months in the program that the local Chamber in gunnedah,  Wendy said hey, what you doing in Narrabri? Can we do the same thing here?  That’s the first time we sort of thought outside of just our own little community.  Go and hang on. Actually to have  a really good impact on so many other places. And so really appreciate the guy in  the windy Chamber who actually gets that idea that we are this could work. But we  had, there’s a lot of trial and error in those early days to find out what works,  what’s going to work. But we’re not actually in  a community as well. And so those several years of actually developing the product  in that way. And even if I look back to around about twenty seventeen we were operating in, I think,  twelve different locations around Australia at that point. And today we’re in about eighty different what we operate, eighty programs,  but some of those programs operate across two different LGA. So it covers around  about two hundred fifty postcodes. So it’s really in the last five years,  I guess is where we’re seeing the real big growth. But like most businesses, it takes  a long time. So I guess establish yourself as one to get it right. You got to make  a lot of mistakes along the way as well just to work out what’s going to work,  particularly on our side, because we’ve got so many different different groups that we market to along the,  in the, in the structure of business. You have to work out what can,  what’s going to work for a council. He might not work for Chamber of Commerce,  which might not then work for all the businesses that we’re trying to service,  which also might not work for the consumers. The Bobcats, Bobcats,  a lot of things that we had to figure out,  but I think we possibly hit that sort of sweet spot so five years ago,  and that’s where it’s really taken off. But inside that we’re constantly innovating with different. So why is it,  how can we make it better now is where we’re at. And

[00:15:58] Geoff

I think there’s some really important messages there for people. You know,  we make mistakes and you learn from your mistakes. If you’re afraid to make a mistake,  you never going to grow and it would never have taken off.  So it sounds like your  successes have come, like everybody, with a level of failure or  a level of learning. And probably some patience required and tenacity to  really keep going. And it would have been many times I’m sure that you thought I  was just all with or was it going to really take off?

[00:16:30] Ashley

Yeah, I think that that’s, that’s the nature of operating  a small business full stop at the end. You need to be pretty resilient in that  point of view. To realize that every mistake is an opportunity to learn more. And  as a, in the early days we had a, we thought to be easy for,  we don’t direct with businesses and we found that one business would make might be  better footing ten thousand dollars a year out of  a program. And other might be benefiting ten dollars and you sort of have that sort  of mismatch between those two business. And that’s what we thought would be much  better at a macro level. Because as long as there’s money spent locally,  it’s always having an impact for everyone. And little things on that which we had  programs that failed because of that model. It’s been great to see most those  programs many years later come back then the more the capsule, the Chamber model, and doing well. So again,  you need to realize that there’s going to be times where things aren’t going to  work and you’re not going to understand it until you actually fully try it as well.  So you’ve got to got to be willing to follow a few times, I think. Yeah,

[00:17:30] Geoff

one hundred percent. Do you have any idea how many gift cards may have been purchased across

[00:17:39] Ashley

time? Yes, sure. Also we track everything and there’s actually a, I do a bit of  a price chart every now and then and showing what’s the value of cards sold in  each of our programs. I’ve got a background in market research as a matter of research shift and use  a lot of jumping in the data. So we’ve got the stats on everything basically. So  we’ve done around about two hundred and fifty thousand cards so far in the last ten  years. And that’s to the value of close to eighty million dollars now. And most of  that has also just come in the last couple of years. So as I said that,  that first she was around about that sixteen thousand puzzle would have only been a couple of hundred cards and  a lot of hard work to get those first couple of hundred. So it was  a number of years until we even hit that first million dollar market. But now I  think the last twelve months we did about five and  a half million dollars through the program, which is great. And that’s five and  a half million dollars. That is actually been spent in local businesses where don’t  get a percentage of that unfortunately, but, but yeah,  that’s all money that has actually gone into the local businesses. So that’s the whole point of a model.

[00:18:49] Geoff

And the two words,  you mentioned that resonate are hard work and it does take hard work if you want to  be successful. Most of us have to put in the hard work. Some are lucky enough and I  keep saying to my wife, cut the crust Lotto is our high in our retirement fund,  but hasn’t come through yet. You’re working. But it sounds like you love what you  do. Can you make a difference? And that’s really important as well. To have a purpose, positive purpose that you

[00:19:21] Ashley

are definitely an asset particularly in these last few  years when we’ve really seen the impact it has on communities and when we’ve got yeah, we’ve had  a few organisations who donated funds to that particular drought period and you’ve got you know,  funds up to eighty thousand dollars in one sort of order going out and just seeing  the impact that has. And we get the conversations with end consumers when they  react to different things. And we’ve had lots of letters from different people  showing their appreciation of how it’s worked for their businesses as well. So  those things make it definitely worthwhile for that hard work as well. When you  actually say, I think having some sort of positive impact on the world is makes it  a lot better. It’s not just about making money. And yeah,  it’s more if you can actually make a difference in those communities,  then I think it’s, you know, it does help. So turn a computer on each time

[00:20:15] Geoff

and wonder, as you said to,  for all that money to be spent locally rather than going out of the country. Yeah,  and most of those would have been small businesses. There have been impacted as you say,  over the last number of years for various reasons. But I absolutely appreciate every  dollar spent in the local community.  How can people buy a gift card?  You know, I guess you would have done a lot of work on your website building that to,  to be user friendly. And how do you ensure that the money is spent locally?

[00:20:53] Ashley

Yeah, sure. So in terms of purchasing them, we’ve basically set up some local places in town as well,  where people can actually go in and physically buy the cards over the counter. And  again, that all operates at the moment through the POS terminals. We’ve had  a few issues with that in the last couple of years, which I guess is held us back  a bit in terms of what efforts will allow and won’t allow. And part of the,  on this part of us, even picking up innovation water to use some of the work we’ve done around that  site was a, can we can’t load a card or  Silicon this way. What, what can we, how other, what other way can we do it? I guess it’s,  we had to develop our own platform that would allow us to do that in stores and try  and still maintain that. What has been so successful over  a number of years that that’s our approach that we’re seeing  a lot more purchase has been done through our website. Now  a lot more people are buying online. A lot of the bigger organizations,  we have it all set up through our website where they can contact us. And if they  want, you know, a thousand cards going out for all their employees,  we can do it all at our end. And we possibly, we  we prefer that sort of product so we can take the onus off the local businesses are  doing a lot of the heavy lifting. But we do have  a couple of places set up in town where you can actually purchase the cards locally.  And we’d like our backend system, basically blocks all those channels down to make sure that they’re only spent in  a particular particular place. We manage that basically on  a daily basis we see we can see where cards are being attempted to be used. And we  can basically say, yes, we want it to be work in this terminal. And it’s not  a part of it. It’s not part of this group of terminals,  then the card won’t work on them. So as I said before you now we operate saying in  Narrabri, Brian moray, you can’t take that now to moray and use it. Now we’ve got two different programs  that they’re completely separate, so we’re basically locking down each set of terminals to each set of cards. And  that makes it that way. There are more ensuring that that money can only actually be spent. You can’t,  in those places you can’t go to the ATM ATM and take money off the card and do  things on that side. It’s a really good way for us, ensuring once that money is loaded on the cards,  it’s going to filter back into those local businesses.

[00:23:09] Geoff

Fantastic.  On your website, does it Showcase what businesses part of the programme in their area?

[00:23:16] Ashley

Yeah, that’s right. So we’ve got an what we’re doing  a lot of work around our website because I guess one of the things we’ve found is  when you, when you grow, obviously things have to change  a bit as well. Back in the early days of having only a handful of programmes,  it was, it was quite easy to just fly over different businesses. Now,  as I said before with six thousand businesses too. And some,  some of that programmes have over three hundred businesses that are involved in the  programme. So we’re doing a lot of work at the moment, actually to make  a lot easier for that user experience. Because once you’ve got a card,  you do want to know where it’s got no value unless you’ve actually got where you  can spend it. And in some communities where there’s only  a handful of places where you can use it, really easy to jump on  a website and see the list. Others where it’s three hundred places you need to scroll around and we’re doing  a lot of work at the moment on our website to ensure it’s just really simple for  people to know. Yep. This is where I can use it. But also we do  a lot of work with the councils and chambers that we work with. Just say,  what’s your branding look like in store? Because we’re dealing with locals in local markets. So having the Windows stickers  imposes on the flags and different things. If you walk down one of the main streets  in one of these communities, you should be able to say, okay,  this is where I can spend my card. And in most of our most successful programs,  that pretty much got most businesses involved in the program. So it becomes more like  a local currency which is like that. Then it opens the doors for lots of different  things. And we definitely saw that from a relief point of view outside organizations wanting to inject money. We had  several different markets where every person in town received twenty dollars gift  cards. Know we did similar up in Glen Innes,  I think was on the back of bushfire recovery. And it’s a good way to say, well, yeah let’s,  let’s get people out there spending money and open up to the businesses in town to  actually get the benefit from it.

[00:25:14] Geoff

You must have a good Web developer to help you grow the Web site.

[00:25:19] Ashley

Yeah, well look up to this point,  we’ve done it all internally.  And this is where I think it’s one of the things I’ve  learnt over the last ten years is you need to know when the point is to,  to outsource different things as well. And,  and just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should do it, which,  which I possibly struggle with the most. So we’ve got, yeah,  we’ve actually outsourced it for the first time now and you definitely see the  difference. What we’re actually going to launch next. Couple weeks is if you get  someone who really knows what they’re doing and to when you get to a point where,  you know, as we’re operating across so many different markets, you need to have  a site which really functions for that. And so yeah,  definitely pays off to have the right people doing the right, right, jobs at a phrase,  your own time up to focus on the things that you’re good at as well. So we’re  looking forward to the new website coming out very soon because it said it’s is  definitely outgrown. I guess what we’ve built with the businesses that ran our website, and hence what we’re also investing  a lot into at the moment.

[00:26:23] Geoff

Good advice.  What to outsource when  a lot of it will come down to finances as well  Can we afford to do that or can you afford not to? I

[00:26:33] Ashley

guess that’s right.

[00:26:34] Geoff

Is the other question at some point in time there would be quite  a lot of updating. I mentioned regularly with all of the businesses that come

[00:26:42] Ashley

forward and that the downside is comes down to what systems you have in place too. And  we’ve changed again quite  a bit over the last ten to fifteen years in terms of what systems we have to  operate. Because when you are already dealing with a small group of people,  then you can do things a lot more manually. As you grow,  you can’t be updating six out details of six thousand businesses in a manual process. So we’ve put  a lot of time and effort into making sure what we have in our back end talks to  every other part of the system. So you can make one change as, as  a new business comes into our program. That then sort of triggers  a several different other things across different systems. And that makes it more  sustainable for us. It makes it easy for us to grow. Our plans not just to stay on I.T programs,  we’re constantly sort of growing that and so we’ve got to have the systems in place  to enable you to do it as well.

[00:27:40] Geoff

Yeah, well and it’s not inexpensive to be adding all of those back

[00:27:45] Ashley

  1. That’s right. In our

[00:27:47] Geoff

eyes as well. But as I mentioned,  you won the business innovation award last year in the community  achievement Awards for new South Wales in the a.c.t.,  which is an outstanding achievement. Must have been an honour to have been  initially selected as a finalist in the Awards.

[00:28:03] Ashley

Oh definitely.  I think a lot of times know and because we operate across many different places,  you can be feeling a bit isolated, I guess at times as well because we’re,  we’re not as if when you actually going  a shot as such and you’re dealing with the customers face to face everyday,  I guess you’re getting that feedback a little bit more direct. Our business is  a little bit different in that way. And we’ve got all our,  all our workforce basically work from home offices. And we’re all spread across  different places as well. So when you actually get that sort of acknowledgement  it’s, it’s good that you’re going to business to, to get Awards. But it does, it said it does make  a little bit more rewarding when you know that someone’s acknowledging that the work you’re doing. And particularly for us,  innovation has been something which we pride ourselves on since day one. And it’s  not always getting it right, but we take,  we were always striving for them. We’re constantly thinking how can we make this  process easier for the council? How can I get busy for the business? The people buying the cards?  I’m the organiser, bigger organisation cards as well. So to be acknowledged in the innovation space is  something which we really always prided ourselves on.

[00:29:19] Geoff

Fantastic. And as you know, unfortunately the twenty twenty one Awards were held online due to covid,  but it must have still been a real thrill to have been announced as the winner.

[00:29:28] Ashley

Yeah, definitely. And it was disappointing that we couldn’t do it all face to face. And  again, particularly that time, albeit by different times,  I guess we say opportunities like this is a great way to grab  a table together and then have a night out and look  it, it is what it is. It has,  I think we’ve gotten used to over the last couple of years during that period of  time. Not doing the face to face, but it was so good. I think I had  a glass of red here in front of my computer and still sort of enjoyed the night  that way. But yeah, it’s a different way of doing Awards. I think. And I think everyone is looking forward  more to do more. They see face to face.

[00:30:09] Geoff

Yeah.  One hundred percent. But we’re also very grateful of course to our major partners,  Prime seven new South Wales government, transgrid and Ricoh for making the Awards possible. And to be able to recognise  people like yourself, businesses like why leave town making such  a contribution in the community. And it is really important to give that validation,  as you say, it’s not about the recognition, but it’s about the acknowledgement and people really appreciate what you’re doing.  And to know that a huge judging panel, the guys across  a breadth of four weeks of judging to acknowledge you as the overall winner is for  your award is pretty impressive. Has the Awards winning the award made a difference for why leave town?

[00:31:01] Ashley

Well I think not, and I didn’t go back a step,  not even just winning it to be nominated is possibly was for lack of  a better word was good enough for us in the way that what were the theme that way,  I guess where we see the greatest benefit from anything is that exposure in the  water market. So and even looking at all the finalists,  and now it brought the awareness to those businesses to my eyes as well. And you  just that alone, it’s been acknowledged at that level. Regardless if you,  if you take home the top prize or not,  it’s always great to do it. But for us just the exposure we got through the whole  process was really beneficial. And the way we promoted through mostly the social  media and on the night as well. And there’s obviously for our business where we are  looking to engage councils and chambers of Commerce in particular. A lot of those  organisations involved with the Awards and watching the follies and watching online  beforehand that really helped get our brand out there a lot more. And also while winning, it pushes that  a little bit further. But I think that was possibly the biggest benefit for us is  just that the more people who know about our brand across Australia, we are  a pretty wide net with that the better. And so anything like our Awards are always  a great way to let people know about us. Fantastic.

[00:32:28] Geoff

And to be able to attend the event,  even though we couldn’t last year to hear the stories is really inspiring and  a great networking opportunity as you, as you said, but also to get all your team together. It’s  a great way to be able to do that too.  And the twenty twenty two program judging is  currently underway for this year across the country. And we wish all of our nominees in this year’s program,  the very best of luck. And we’re very thankful for the contribution that you will make to your community,  just like when I leave town. And if anybody would like to attend the state’s award  presentation dinner information is available online at Awards,  Australia dot com right now. So please come along as well if you would like to  see and hear the stories of amazing people,  like Ash and his team about why leave town. And the young achiever Awards are  currently open for nomination. Our other program and we’re seeking young people under thirty to qualify.

[00:33:34] Ashley

I just, I just missed out by about a dozen years. But

[00:33:39] Geoff

Oh, never mind mate. You’re doing great stuff. And we’re looking for you that are  looking for high achievers and community contributors in various fields. Of  Endeavour for the young achiever Awards. And you can go to Awards Australia dot com  for that. If any of our listeners would like to nominate someone or hear more about  sponsorship opportunities as well, drop me an email,  Geoff. She left an Awards Australia dot com. We’ll check out the Awards Australia website, as I mentioned, and  a big shoutout to our latest Awards member to sign on. That’s now Nicole Graham and  emergency Aida, Australia, if you’d like to share your support,  become an Awards member and it costs fifty dollars a year or less than a dollar a week,  and your fifty dollars will go directly towards prize grants for our Awards winners  and their work in the community. So what’s next for why leave town?

[00:34:42] Ashley

And as we’ve got now, again it’s, it’s always in a very intimate,  intimate for us at while I’m. So we’ve got several things I guess brewing at the  moment too, to really one, continue what we’re doing and build upon what our current platform does as we  brought eighty programs across. And I’m always had  a goal of two hundred and fifty and that’s what we’re continuing to work towards.  And so I think we’ve got  a few things we’ve got sort of in our development sort of scope at the moment.  Will  help us step towards that. There’s obviously lots of things that we’ve found  throughout those covid years that were important to things like being able to use  the, our cards online and how we can actually get  a bit more than that in the digital space as well outside of just physical cards.  So we’ve got several things happening at the moment on that line. And yeah,  just looking forward to just continuing to to find ways that we can help these  local communities and we, we talk a lot about the,  I guess the near on eighty million dollars that we’ve injected into local communities so far. But it’s more,  it’s all about in basic credit that multiplier effect. So any, anything, spend local, I mean,  we often say one hundred dollars spent locally has one hundred and eighty dollar  impacts on the local economy because you spend it in one store and that store that  has more money than I can spend in other places. And you lose a little bit and circulates around,  but it usually has that impact. So that’s what we’re always about trying to  increase that, that number. Because obviously that big a flow on effect,  on communities. And we’re really seeing it have was,  it’s really been needed. The last five or ten years as well. It’s always native, but yeah,  I think in particular in recent times we’ve seen lots of communities suffer for  various reasons. And so we’re just going to continue trying to sort of push that as  much as possible and get it into and growing across more programs or trying to also  just trying to grow out where we’re at the moment. Just how can we make it work  better? Both communities, how can we get more people thinking shopping locally?  And this is Eckhart Roy saying more about conversation starters as well. Not just  about that money every time someone pulls it out,  it’s an opportunity for all to see that the people who are operating the store or  the consumers themselves actually start that conversation as to why should we be  shopping locally? Why should we be supporting those around us?  So yeah, that, that’s, that’s it for us. Just to continue doing that.

[00:37:10] Geoff

Yeah, I guess people are purchasing the gift card shop finding somewhere local to shop  instead of thinking more globally, they’re quite likely to then become  a regular customer which or consumer at that store or with that. Oh,

[00:37:28] Ashley

definitely. I think people often it’s,  it’s so easy is to jump online and to make purchases and obviously today shopping  trips out of town as well. But most of the time, I think if you start to look around,  you actually find most things you need. You can actually source locally and some things which you might think, oh,  there’s no way in the world. I could be able to get that locally. There might be  someone who’s got an nice operation that can,  can cover that for you. And we found we got lots of stories of that happening and  really we promote well before, obviously covid will promoting for people local businesses to be online. Because I  think if people want to shop with local suppliers and they jump online and see someone who’s local,  they’ll still purchase online from those people. So I think all that’s really  important and the more we can actually just continue that conversation. It’s not,  I guess we can try and think it’s what we do is not  a promotion that we used to be equal attempt promotions,  but we say the drop off and it’s supposed to be an ongoing,  ongoing support program which is aimed at Long term change. You can’t sort of  change things overnight. You need to have that long term view on things and give  cards. One part of the solution that we always encourage for people to find lots of different tools to,  to keep that conversation going into anything which is going to help people think  locally. Then I think it’s going to be benefits communities.

[00:38:52] Geoff

Yeah. Well said to have any words of wisdom and encouragement for our listeners who want to be more  innovative in their business or community. And is there anything else about while in town that you’d like to add?

[00:39:08] Ashley

Yeah, I think the media pussy covered a lot already, but it is just,  it’s about willing to make mistakes, I think, and understanding what he tried to,  to actually target what problem you’re trying to solve for them. And then they willing to,  to make mistakes. He was showing that I think there’s lots of good ideas get left  on the shelf, be through fear and failure. And we’ve definitely, we’ve failed  a lot so we know we’ve tried lots of things. I’m  a fervent optimist. And so I’m always willing to, to give things  a crack and I think from that you definitely find out what doesn’t work. But in  that same process you find out what does work.  And yeah, I think it’s all  a journey for small businesses to do that. And I think that definitely left the  I left di wondering that obviously this could have worked or I could have done this.  Yeah. I think yeah, just just had  a crack at it and hopefully you’ll learn from it. And if it’s a massive failure, then it’s a, it’s  a massive learning process as well. So that’s what’s the main thing I think.

[00:40:16] Geoff

Yeah, well said, a very well known marketer, Paul McCarthy. His philosophy is ready,  fire aim. You know, often we need to keep planning, planning, planning to perfect things, and the opportunities

[00:40:32] Ashley

gone exactly.

[00:40:34] Geoff

Sure you need some planning. You need to have  an idea and that purpose and your market, but at the same time,  don’t leave it forever because forever may never come. So ready?  ? Fire aim is really good advice and everything you said Ash has been really great  advice for our listeners. I hope people have gained  a lot out of it from today. Where can people connect with you?  Do you have social media? Is your website, what is your website address?  How can people find out about their local markets and where can they buy gift

[00:41:10] Ashley

cards? Yeah, sure. So yeah, whyleavetown.com is the best place to find us and then there’s lots of information there about how you can connect with us, how we’ve got all the,  obviously the standard social media as well. And you can find links that all  through our website. But I guess there’s a couple of different groups of people that come to our website,  I guess it’s one if you’re in a market where our cards don’t currently exist and you’re interested in that,  then you guys can find information, you can get information booklets,  and we can send different things out to you if just by linking up on our website.  We’ve got lots of great testimonials and we’ve done surveys with our current  programs as to what I think works and what didn’t work. So you get  a really good sense as to how it could work for your community. If you’re into that.  If you’re, if you’re a business unit in a town where we do currently operate again,  just jump on our website and you can register to be part of the program. Or you can  actually find out the steps to do that. And if you want to purchase cards as well,  I can jump on out on our site and do all  that. And so it might be if you’ve got a relative in a particular temporary, you’ll probably want to send  a birthday gift as a way to do that. We also set up a few years ago,  I sent donations part of it.  We had lots people contacting us during things like  drought where people would say, oh,  I see you operate in this particular town. Can I just donate a couple of cards?  We’re not a charity organization, but what we,  we had so people doing that through our online purchasing anyway that we set up  a place on the site where people can actually donate  a card. And we just connect with local charities in those in those towns and we can then send them  a handful of cards which they can then distribute in those communities as well. So  there’s lots of different ways in which you can, I guess,  purchase or give. And it’s all about trying to just help those local businesses. Yeah, definitely wallet turncoats will find  a role here. And we may be going to partner with is just  a bunch of random stuff in terms of how do you encourage people to shop local. I  wrote a book about it several years ago as well just because from our experience, you know,  talking to different communities. So we’ve got several different bits of content on  our website outside of just these cards and set gift cards. And just the one thing  that we sort of focused mainly on,  but there’s so much more in that shop local space. And so if you,  if you’re interested anything in terms of how to get more people shopping locally. And that’s  a good starting point. And hopefully can direct you in the right direction from that as well.

[00:43:39] Geoff

Absolutely.  Brilliant such a wonderful concept. Ash, it’s been an Absolute pleasure to have you on the podcast. What  a fabulous idea you’ve created, to make such  a difference in the community. And I really encourage all of our listeners,  everybody to get on board, check it out, Waleed, Waleed,  Townhall.com. There’s something in it for everyone. And it can make  a difference to your local communities. Thanks so much for sharing some of your  story with us. I really appreciate your time today.

[00:44:14] Ashley

Excellent. Thanks Geoff and Patricia always happy to chat, shop local,  and also just thanks to Awards Australia as well. It’s great to be part of the  Awards last year. Lots of great sponsors, not only as sponsors that we’ve been chatted to, several,  the sponsors passed that as to how we could,  how they could help us as well. So again, just a great way of building  a community through all the Awards as well. Thanks for your support.

[00:44:43] Geoff

Absolute pleasure. I’m glad you connected with our sponsor partners and and hopefully some  of the other finalists as well such  a great opportunity and what they’ve done is amazing. So thanks mate until next  week everyone, please be kind and remember together we make a difference. Thanks for those

[00:45:06] Ashley

voices. Thank you. I really, really appreciate

[00:45:09] Geoff

the apologies. I was looking a bit weird. I am to get a migraine.  Oh yeah,  two thirds of the way through what I am trying to say through these lights in my  eyes and read my questions and

[00:45:22] Ashley

I often have that effect on most people’s consciousness.

[00:45:27] Geoff

So yeah, sorry about that.

[00:45:29] Ashley

Not all good or good,

[00:45:30] Geoff

but now was really good. And Annette will let you know when that’s going to.

[00:45:34] Ashley

Yeah, great, just let us know and I’ll get our marketing knowledge under as well as it’s possible  to push it through our channels as well. To be in just over four weeks. Episode  number one hundred and one. Excellent. Awesome, thanks guys. Appreciate it. Thanks. Thanks guys. I’m going to dive

[00:45:51] Geoff

into Bye Bye Matt.

[00:45:53] Geoff

I hope you enjoyed today’s interview as much as I had. It was lovely to  subscribe to our podcast. You won’t miss an Episode. Join us each week as we talk  with ordinary Australians shaping extraordinary things. Did you know that Awards Australia is a family owned business that proudly makes  a difference in the lives of those that make a difference for Others?  And we thank our corporate not for profit partners for making our award programs  possible. Do you know someone that’s making a difference? Well,  maybe your business might like to sponsor an award. Contact us throughout Instagram page,  inspirational dot Australians will head to our website. Awards Australia dot com.  Would be great if you could share this Episode with your network. Because who doesn’t like  a good news story and please write and review us. We would really love to hear your  thoughts until next week. Stay safe. And remember together we make a difference.