There is no denying that 2020 was less than stellar. Most people are happy to see 2020 in their rearview mirror. It was an unpredictable year where many businesses had to adapt to a new normal. Small business owners in particular were forced to adapt and overcome in order to survive, and many are still on the ropes. In an age where it’s so convenient to turn to behemoths like Amazon, they don’t fill every need (yet) and we still rely on small business to get us what we need.
- There are over 30 million small businesses in the United States
- Almost 60 million people are employed by those businesses, which is almost 50% of our entire workforce
- Small business generates nearly 44% of the U.S. GDP (Gross Domestic Product, which is a measurement of national productivity)
- Only 4.5% receive business loans from financial institutions
- Over 21% use personal savings or rely on family for loans
What is the point of these statistics? Businesses like Amazon, Walmart, Costco and other huge mega corporations are public companies with access to financial resources that no small business can match.
Because of the pandemic, many small businesses are in trouble. They deserve our support and since they don’t have the same access to the financial resources that they require, we can best help them by continuing to do business with them.
COVID-19 has created some trends that are certainly interesting but that probably won’t last. Things like cutting your own hair (I’ve cut my own 3 times since this whole thing started) and people baking their own homemade bread…enough that there was actually a run on yeast and shortages reported.
While those examples might bring a smile, one trend that is not likely to change is online grocery buying. Grocery stores already had razor thin margins prior to COVID but with big chains like Walmart and Target throwing their hat into the mix, local grocery stores will feel the strain even more. Many communities rely on their local grocery chains, which provide jobs and also fresh produce that is usually locally sourced. Online orders of groceries jumped by over 300% from the same quarter (4th qtr 2020) in 2019 according to Bloomberg. The pandemic provided shoppers with a reason to try these services that have been offered by Walmart, Target, Costco and other large companies for several years.
Small businesses need to offer similar services if they hope to survive. While many people love Amazon and other online companies, lots of people still want to shop small. Our friends and neighbors own these small businesses and we need to use them now IF we want them to still be there in the future. People want to support their local businesses but those businesses have to make it easy for consumers to use them.
Why you should support your local small business:
1. Almost all independent businesses are run by people…not by stockholders or boards or (like Amazon) mathematical algorithms. You get a much different kind of care because YOU are their business. Their work is not just the products they sell, it is WHO THEY ARE! They are not worrying about franchising, satisfying their stockholders or figuring out their expansion. They are focused on being the best at what they do and delivering high levels of customer satisfaction. In most cases, the owners are on-site watching over their livelihood and making sure you are being taken care of.
2. “Independent businesses bring variety and originality to our world that is increasingly becoming homogenized” – Craig Costello (Artist and founder of KRINK)
3. Local business owners care about you and what you want, large retailers don’t. “You want to shop and live near places that actually mean things to people; places that have a real effect on communities. You can feel when someone really cares about the neighborhood that they’re running a business in.” – Sandeep Salter (co-founder Picture Room and Goods for the Study)
4. Small businesses provide a feeling that a real person is behind it all, that someone who cares more about giving us a quality product or service is who we are interacting with, rather than someone who just takes our money.
and my favorite:
5. “By doing so, you’re directly putting money back into your own community. You’re funding great ideas and ventures that can only exist outside of mainstream, corporate chains.” – Tamara Santibanez (artist, tattoo artist, publisher – Discipline Press)
What Can YOU do?
I’ve talked a lot about why you should support small business but you might be asking, what can I really do? Here are a few simple things that you can do that can make a difference. If we all unitedly participate, it will keep small businesses in our communities thriving.
- Shop locally online. Watch for shops that remain open, but don’t forget online operations too. Even with stay-at-home orders in place, many of your favorite local spots have an online presence. Those sales will be crucial to stay afloat.
- Be consistent. Commit to doing one small thing for a favored small business each week, whether it’s a purchase or a shout-out.
- Buy a gift card. You may not be able to shop now, but having cash coming in from these sales helps out and is a promise that you’ll continue to be a customer later.
- Postpone, don’t cancel appointments if possible. It’s a commitment that you’ll be back.
- Order take-out. Many restaurants are open for curbside pick-up or delivery. Some popular delivery services also have reduced their fees to encourage customers to continue ordering out.
- Buy merchandise. Businesses that have lost traditional foot traffic often have tees, caps or other branded items for sale online.
- Tip generously. Tips are even more important right now for small business workers who might have lost hours as in-house service shut down.
- Stay up-to-date on social media. Watch for updates and inspiring posts from a business. Owners might be thinking of unique ways to serve you so keep in touch via Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn etc. And share – it’s good exposure for them.
- Write a review. Now more than ever a review about customer service will make a difference as businesses keep on providing great care, even during the crisis.
- Send a donation for employees who’ve already been displaced. The United Way and the USBG National Charity Foundation are accepting online donations to tide over workers until they can get back on the job. Use the United Way’s search tool to find your local fund.
- Visit and use sites like ETSY. When you shop at ETSY.com you are buying directly from someone who put their heart and soul into their creation.
We Can Make A Difference Together
There is strength in numbers. With so much that divides our country, this is one thing in which we can be united. Lets join together and be there for the entrepreneurs that support our communities. If we band together, we can help these businesses weather the storm of our current challenges and keep all that is good about America.
If you’re looking for ways to re-open due to COVID, read my post entitled “Reopening Your Business During Coronavirus.”