COVID-19 had an immediate drastic impact on the creative community of The Olive Tree Market, as well as the Australian creative community as a whole. The majority of the 150 regular small creative businesses who participate at Olive Tree rely on markets for the large part of their income.
With all large events with customer visitation numbers of over 500 people, we too were required to cease operating due to public safety concerns. So not only did our stallholder community lose their ability to trade, and the income they relied on from The Olive Tree Market, they also had all their other events cancelled- both locally and nationally.
As the curator and event organisers behind The Olive Tree Market, it was imperative to me that I found new ways of continuing to support the creative community during a period that presented so many uncertainties.
In the first few weeks, everyone was adjusting to the health and financial implications of COVID-19, so it was important to be sensitive to this. During this adjustment phase, I surveyed both our stallholder and customer communities, to see if there was the desire to trial and support an online Olive Tree Market platform during COVID-19.
The initial aim was to quickly create a virtual ‘portal’ to showcase our artists and designers, which would allow our customer and visitor communities to continue supporting local, and Australian made, creative small businesses, by shopping online from the safety of their own homes. It was important to me that 100% of any income generated through the online market would go directly to the artists, rather than creating a site where The Olive Tree Market charged a commission from sales.
The weeks leading up to the event were very hectic, clarifying which businesses wanted to take part, many stallholders were unable to do so due to not having their own online stores we could link to. In contrast, others were unsure whether an online platform would work given the timing of launching this type of new initiative.
By mid-April it was decided that an initial collective of 60 businesses would participate in the trial Virtual/Online Olive Tree Market, to be held on May 2nd - the date our May market would normally have been held.
Building knowledge and anticipation about the event in the local Newcastle community was vitally important. Since Olive Tree began trading in 2008, our local community has wholeheartedly embraced and supported the market, and have been pivotal to the event's success and longevity. Olive Tree also has a considerable customer community that travels from Regional NSW, Sydney and beyond, to attend the market, so it was also important to reach this audience.
All aspects of creating this new initiative had to happen quickly, including creating online marketing, media and publicity campaigns. Reaching our social media followers was really important, as was reaching out to ask for support from well known local websites, and the traditional press, to help communicate that the virtual market would be launched. And of course, collaborating with the fantastic participating stallholders, to build awareness and excitement about the virtual market through their individual and joint online follower communities, was vitally important.
I also developed a new partnership with D’Alton Baker Productions- run by Angela D’Alton and Renée Baker. They are both powerhouses of the Australian maker community and have worked at Etsy and Finders Keepers. The partnership entailed a social media take over of the Virtual market, and LIVE online interviews with several makers, on the Olive Tree social media platforms (these interviews can still be viewed on IGTV, on Instagram and our Facebook page).
The event was a fantastic experience and the support, both from our Newcastle community, and beyond was amazing. The interest, connection, and engagement with our artists and designers, and the support of local and creative small businesses at this time meant the world. In essence, I believe what the whole COVID-19 experience has shown, is how our community is taking care of each other
And better still – our website analytics from the virtual market showed a lot of customers came from around Australia, as well as overseas, so that was exciting! So now we’re running a global-local Olive Tree Market! Visit www.theolivetreemarket.com.au to find out more or check out our social media pages.