When Chandi de Silva volunteered to help Fiona Mutton harness the power of online, little did he know he was saving a piece of ACT history.
The Melbourne-based National Australia Bank web designer answered his employer’s rallying cry for volunteers from their 30,000-strong workforce to help small businesses directly and indirectly impacted by the 2019-20 bushfires.
He was matched to Fiona’s family business, the 107-year-old Len Mutton & Co general store in the historic town of Braidwood in NSW.
With experience setting up an online store for his own social venture selling tea and water donations, and general tech knowledge, it was a cinch to Chandi.
To Fiona, it was everything.
Len Mutton’s & Co, the oldest business in the Canberra region, had thrived since 1913 when Edward Norman Mutton opened a clothing and manchester store.
Then, in January 2020, the 300,000ha Currowan inferno severed the road artery between the ACT and the NSW South Coast preventing holiday traffic and daytrippers from accessing Braidwood.
Fiona, who has run the store with husband Ling since 1999, told the ABC at the time: “December and January account for about 35 per cent of our annual turnover and we rely heavily on that bumper-to-bumper traffic that we would normally see this time of year, of all the Canberrans coming through to the Coast.’’
Braidwood was a ghost town. Fiona stopped paying herself and was forced to cut the hours of her 10 staff.
“I’m the fourth generation to stand behind the counter and serve in this beautiful old store,’’ she said then.
“The ship’s not going down with me, but they’re very difficult times.’’
In fact, the bushfire turned out to be an opportunity to move the historic business into the 21st century by using Facebook to lure new customers and encourage existing ones to continue shopping at the business.
“Chandi has been great and will be a great mentor moving my business forward into the online marketplace,’’ Fiona says.
Help a Small Biz founder Renae Hanvin says: “Without the generosity and community spirit of the NAB, this business may have been lost forever. It’s that simple.’’
Are you a small business directly and indirectly impacted by the bushfires who needs help?
To request help, small businesses complete this simple form.
To offer help, business employees complete this simple form.
Suitable businesses will then be paired with business “buddies’’ who will help address their needs so they can recommence trading and go on to thrive.