February 15, 2021 by Andrea Rajic
The only predictable thing about 2020 was that it was unpredictable. We all had to adapt, as big corporations went remote, retailers went online, schools went virtual, and delivery services became our best friends. While everyone faced challenges, the global pandemic delivered a significant blow to small businesses, especially those relying on local customers and foot traffic.
The fact that small businesses are the backbone of our economy often slips our minds because they typically don’t get the fancy news coverage or have high-profile executives in charge.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2019 Small Business Profile, small businesses comprise 99.9% of the U.S. economy. These are the businesses that are owned and run by our neighbors, that get involved in supporting our schools and community services, and that sustain our local economy. During these tough times, they need our help, so here are six small steps you can take to help local businesses and, by extension, your community thrive:
Whenever you need something specific, make sure to search for it in your area first, to see if you can get it from a local business. Instead of going online to order it off of Amazon or a big box store, check out neighborhood guides and recommendations. You will likely discover a provider who is close to you with superb products and unparalleled service quality.
This one may seem obvious, but it’s amazing how often it’s overlooked. You probably take the time and make the effort to visit a local coffee shop or get your groceries from a farmer’s market or local grocer. But, that’s not all you can do.
You can go to your local florist every week for your dining table centerpiece, or get a new outfit from a small store on the main street, or plan your birthday and holiday gifts to be entirely local. Once you discover your local stores’ craftsmanship, quality, and dedication, it will be hard to go back to generic, mass-produced presents.
Leaving a review online, tagging your favorite local shop, and even just telling your friends and family about it, can go a long way in helping the business gain new customers. Have in mind that local businesses don’t have big advertising or marketing budgets, so if you really like the product or service they offer, make sure everyone you know knows about it.
Note, when you’re promoting a small business on social media, don’t ask them for freebies! Most small companies appreciate and reward their loyal customers in their own way; they don’t have the time or money to cater to aspiring influencers who are only looking for a free drink.
It’s a great feeling to know the owners of your local shops, restaurants, and businesses. Connect with them, if that’s an option, and check on them regularly, especially in times of crisis. Giving feedback and advice when they ask for it will mean a lot to them and their business. In addition, you will promote closeness and community building, which are the foundations of thriving neighborhoods.
If you’ve been working remotely lately, you’re probably doing it from home. And while it is convenient not to dress up, sometimes you need a change of scenery. Consider a workspace that’s not downtown, but in your neighborhood. You can walk to your neighborhood office every day and grab a latte from a nearby cafe. Plus, you’ll be spending more time moving around your neighborhood and exploring it, which is never a bad idea.
Small business owners usually take on many roles — accountants, HR specialists, payroll managers, and marketing gurus. Chances are they don’t have enough expertise or funds for some of those tasks.
If you’re a marketing professional, you can help your local businesses thrive by offering your skills pro-bono. Come up with an idea for a promotion or a content piece and offer your assistance or guidance. You can also contribute to teaching the basics to the owners. This type of help is precisely what good neighbors do!
At Gable, we strive to strengthen local communities by making neighborhood workspaces available for professionals to use to work and connect. Check out our locations on our website or follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.