Connecting rural communities to help one another

By Ian Williams 

Primary producer, business educator, defence force member, volunteer fire fighter – Bryce Eldredge has compiled a fairly impressive resume for someone not long out of university.

Now the dynamic 23-year-old can add business co-founder and online entrepreneur to his growing list of achievements after launching a community marketplace to link people in need with trusted rural workers.

Bryce’s latest endeavour – The Rural Network – is filling an important niche among rural communities north of Adelaide and he is in the process of rolling out the service across the rest of the South Australia.

Inspiration for the business came after his grandfather, Dennis Eldredge, died in late 2011. Bryce wanted to ensure his grandmother Glenys had some much-needed support to maintain her large property near Blyth.

“I was serving in defence away from my rural community at the time so asked some friends and colleagues if they could help out feeding the sheep, mowing lawns, weeding etc,” says Bryce.

But not wanting to stretch the friendships, Bryce decided to source casual labour.

“I knew there were a lot of people out in the rural community who would be willing to help if they were paid for services,” he says. “But the biggest issue for my grandmother was trust and she was a bit hesitant.

“So we built an online platform and incorporated social reviews on people who have done tasks in the community.”

From there the concept quickly spread as other people in the area sought support and were quickly matched with those seeking work.

As the business model progressed so has Bryce’s tools of trade. He’s gone from managing contacts with a mobile phone, pen and notebook to a new automated online system developed by his partner, creative designer Ashley Schultz, and launched in late 2016.

Anyone can post a task on the site to seek help from a worker registered with the network. Service payments are managed by the site and The Rural Network deducts a small service fee from the worker.

“If someone wants a specific skill set they can reach out to our network and we have a broad range of skills on offer,” says Bryce.

“The focus really is on helping one another – leveraging technology and keeping rural communities together. That’s the vision of our network and the business just keeps growing, it’s fantastic.”

Meanwhile, Bryce somehow continues to find time for his many other passions.

He delivers online business courses for budding entrepreneurs through The Entourage and is a part-time airfield defence guard for the Royal Australian Air Force.

He also works with Eldredge Properties, an agricultural enterprise, as a member of the board where he helps manage the strategic direction of the business.

Visit The Rural Network on Facebook.

Image credit: Mikala Tavener Hanks