Small businesses are struggling. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. If it saddens you, though, there are some action steps that we can take to help some of these businesses survive.
We’ve tried to adopt these practices into our lives throughout the pandemic, and it’s been important to us as a family to revisit them in order to continue to be purposeful in our actions.
Even if it means setting aside some of our previously held money beliefs and loosening up our budget some. But it’s not all about spending. In fact, some of the most important things you can do have nothing to do with you spending your own money.
Because it’s not just about one person anyway!
Why Small Businesses Matter
Before I share the ways we are trying to support small businesses, I figure it important to remind ourselves why small businesses matter.
First of all, I am completely biased. My dad owned an auto repair for three decades, and I grew up understanding what it means to support small businesses on a deeply personal level. I saw just how profound a burst of new customers can be, and I was bowled over time and again and people’s fierce loyalty to my dad and his business. But not everyone shares that perspective of course.
Even if you don’t have small business owners in your family or know any of them well, they make up many of the people within your very community. Small businesses often know shoppers and customers better than we know ourselves, offering a much more personalized shopping experience and more tailored customer service than big box stores and chains.
From a purely financial standpoint, too, it begets all of us to shop small. With estimates that 67 cents of every dollar stay within our local community, it’s no wonder why Small Business Saturday has become A Thing in recent years. So when you shop local, you aren’t just supporting a single business–you’re supporting your entire community.
One of the most important things that we can do to help our community is to get the community transmission levels down. Numbers here have rocketed up from 3-4% this summer to well beyond 20%. By masking up, washing our hands, keeping our distance, and staying home whenever possible, we can help our community numbers go down. When these numbers go down, small businesses (and our entire community!) can inch their way back.
Yeah, this involves an actual phone call. But hear me out! It’s really tempting to use UberEats and all those third-party delivery services. (Unless you’re me and then it’s just overwhelming because you are 34-going-on-97.) But they take a huge bite out of what restaurants make. If you are ordering takeout to keep your favorite local spot afloat, order directly. Even if it means making a phone call.
The benefit, of course, is that if you order frequently enough, they not only recognize your name from your number…but they know your whole sushi order. Or so I’m told.
Tip Like You’ll Never Tip Again
I thought the best advice on tipping that I have heard during this pandemic was to tip like you ate there even on carry out. But I actually think we all need to tip like we will never tip again. Because there’s a very real chance that your favorite restaurant won’t be there next year. There’s plenty to critique about tipping culture; but in a pandemic when people are struggling to put food on their own tables. Yeah, now is not actually the time.
If takeout isn’t your thing, no judgment. But if you are ordering out, think about how much $5 or $10 or more might mean to someone else.
Spread the Love
If there’s an eatery or a shop that you love, tell everyone. No, really. Share their social media posts. Write Google and Yelp reviews. Do whatever you can to let other potential customers know why you love them. I’ll never forget how excited my dad used to get when people used to leave kind comments about his shop on Yelp, so it makes me really happy to spread the love to other small businesses.
Should you run into a snag, definitely ask for the issue to be corrected. But there’s no need to do this publicly. Business reviews can make or break sales for people.
Vote with Your Dollars
Many people have very limited options in terms of what they can and can’t access. But a lot of small businesses are more than willing to accommodate phone orders and shipping requests. It sometimes takes a little more leg work than clicking through Amazon.
That said, it may not be possible to shop small for everything. That’s OK. Just remember that every time you purchase something, you’re sending a message with your money. Make sure it’s a message you mean to send.
This is part of why I spent so much time thinking about my Black Friday purchases. Not because I didn’t want to shop the sales, but because I wanted to try to be really intentional behind how I shopped.
Think Beyond Yourself
One of the most challenging parts of being in the middle of a crisis is feeling like the responsibility is all on you.
We live in a society, and one of the foundational pillars of society is to support each other. That means that there are many things that we can (and should!) do on our own to help if we are able.
However, there are plenty of other people with a much greater capacity to help. Of course, I think people should reach out to their state leaders. But there are Chambers of Commerce and local governments that are also in a position to help.
For instance, our Chamber of Commerce realized that people felt so strongly about supporting small businesses, they’ve set up not one but two Go Fund Me fundraisers that gathers donations to purchase meals from local restaurants at full price to then donate to our local hospital workers and first responders. That was all based on community outcry, and it wouldn’t surprise me if both campaigns brought it almost a quarter of a million dollars combined this year.
So as much as it is important to do your part to support small businesses, call on people who have a greater capacity to help. We keep saying that we’re in this together; sometimes, people just need a push to act accordingly.
So Tell Me…How are you supporting small businesses either in your community or online? Have a favorite local business? Feel free to drop the name (and the link — I’ll fish it out of spam!).
revanche @ a gai shan life
I haven’t kept track of numbers but wherever possible we are buying take out directly from local restaurants, and shopping indie bookstores locally and nationwide. We’ve had to do a fair bit of shopping at bigger chains for things we couldn’t get from small biz too but we do our best to start checking the small biz first and to make amazon our last resort stop instead of our first. These seem small but it adds up! Also when friends share their favorite small business or local food pantry, I try to add some dollars to those as well.
Thank you for mentioning the aspect of tipping, as my side hustle involves delivering pizza on the weekends. Although I’m grateful for any gratuities, the $5-10 tips (once even a $20?) are a genuine lifesaver during these trying times.
Another really good thing to do would be to call your senators (especially if they are republican) and demand that Mitch McConnell stop holding the next CARES act hostage to blanket amnesty for large companies if their actions cause workers to get COVID.