You don’t have to walk down the street in your neighborhood (especially if you should be practicing social distancing and staying at home) to know that small businesses around the U.S. and the world are suffering as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
As local governments enforce tighter restrictions on which types of businesses can operate, foot traffic in previously highly populated areas plummets, and companies deal with limited or compromised workforces due to COVID-19, small businesses will struggle over the next few months to maintain cash flow. Some have already shuttered indefinitely, while others plan to hang on until, hopefully, help arrives.
“Help” should be economic relief from the federal and state government, in the form of business grants and low-cost loans, tax payment extensions, and rent and eviction freezes. But until comprehensive stimulus packages pass, that help remains mostly out of reach.
If you’re a concerned individual who wants to help support the small businesses that power the American economy and make up the fabric of your community, you’re not alone. Here at Fundera and across the internet landscape, we’ve seen an outpouring of support for small businesses. But if you can’t simply go shop from your favorite businesses, how can you help them in this trying time?
We spoke to a variety of small business owners across the country and asked how people can support them while we wait for the tides to change and for legislation to pass. This is what they said.
Restaurants and other food service businesses are taking the brunt of the economic toll during the coronavirus outbreak, as in many cities they’ve been forced to only serve take-out and delivery orders. A major part of the restaurant experience is, well, going to the restaurant.
Daniel DeLeon, president & CEO of Grumpy’s Restaurant, a family-owned diner located in Jacksonville, Florida, says that his restaurant has emphasized direct take-out, rather than delivery:
“Delivery can sometimes be helpful, but a lot of local, non-metropolitan and small businesses either don’t have quality delivery systems to keep up with this ongoing situation, or cannot profit enough after the high costs of third party delivery to stay afloat,” says DeLeon. “Small businesses can implement curbside pickup to provide an avenue for customers who don’t feel comfortable dining in, which has helped us a little to serve our patrons.”
While using third-party apps like Seamless is popular, particularly among younger generations, small businesses have to pay to be featured on those platforms. Calling directly and picking up yourself means all of your money goes directly to the business.
You’ve probably seen calls from many of your local small businesses and other organizations to consider buying a gift card—so you can infuse cash directly into the business now and receive your goods or services when it’s safe to do so.
Another option is prepaying for specific goods or services right now, directly through the business.
Matt McCormick, the founder and general manager of Jet City Device Repair (with two locations in Seattle and Chicago) repairs devices such as laptops, tablets, and phones. He says that prepaying for service you’ll need in the future helps now.
“If customers don’t want to leave their homes, but have a broken phone or tablet that will eventually need fixing, they can prepay for the repair. That would provide the business with a much needed influx of money right now and customers can cash in on their repairs as soon as they feel comfortable coming back into the shop,” he says. “Alternatively, customers can also mail their devices to us and pay online. We’ll fix it and mail it back—without ever physically interacting.”
It’s possible that right now, you don’t have the same kind of disposable income that you once did, and supporting the small businesses you love isn’t financially feasible right now. There are other ways you can do your part, and most of them involve online engagement.
For example, Chandler Tang of the San Francisco-based lifestyle store PostScript asks that you follow the business on Instagram (@post.script.sf) and comment, like, and share the profile. “Engagement truly helps more than ever now,” says Tang.
In addition, writing a Yelp or Google review of a business you love is another helpful tactic, says Tang.
Another way to support small businesses without digging too deeply into your pockets is to share your thoughts and love with them directly.
“We need both emotional and financial support from our customers,” says Mike Bran of Thrill Appeal. “Their little expression of love for us, like mentioning us on their social media platform through our hashtags, or sending us brief courageous e-mails could make us keep going through it.”
In addition, says Bran, “We want our customers to visit our store, purchase a product, and also give us feedback if they find something to be improved. This gesture of connectivity means a lot to us.”
Finally, if you’ve been waiting for a small business to fulfill an order, respond to a question, or otherwise get back to you, keep in mind that the pandemic has disrupted supply chains, shifted workflows, led to layoffs and furloughs, and much more.
“Our supply chains have been affected by the pandemic crisis, and that means a longer time from order to delivery. We’ve done all we can to inform our customers via email and social media, but there’s little else we can do about the situation, as it is very much out of our hands,” says Vinay Amin CEO of Eu Natural. “A little patience, a bit of kindness, a whole lot of understanding, and the knowledge that we will get your products to you, it’s just going to take a bit more time than usual.”
Why should you support small business? Well, there are lots of great reasons.
Investing in locally owned small businesses keeps money in your community to support other important initiatives through local sales tax earned: from education, to the police and fire departments, to parks, and other publicly funded programs. According to American Express, approximately two-thirds of every dollar spent at a small business stays within the community.
Small businesses are still the heart of the American economy. According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses make up 99.7% of U.S. employer firms, and since the last recession, they accounted for 67% of the net new jobs created. Supporting small businesses means supporting jobs in your community. Simple as that.
Shopping at local small businesses creates a unique experience you can’t have online. Small businesses tend to provide a more personal customer experience and offer special things you wouldn’t find elsewhere.
Wherever you’re from, chances are there was a small business that played an important role in your life. Maybe it was the diner you and your family went to on Sunday mornings for breakfast. Or the landscaping company that gave you your first summer job. It might not have occurred to you at the time, but these businesses helped make your community what it was.
Small businesses tie communities together. They form the character of a neighborhood, transforming otherwise innocuous places into areas people want to congregate and spend time.
Starting any business is risky. Patronizing a local business is an acknowledgement of that risk and the challenges inherent in starting your own endeavor. Furthermore, you are showing the small business owner that you are choosing them over a larger competitor with more resources.
Whereas big businesses with boards and shareholders can get preoccupied with efficiency, profit margins, and expansion, many small businesses are more product oriented. This means you can often find more unique products with a different level of care and quality, as many small business owners see their products as a reflection of themselves.
Shopping locally means spending less time traveling in your car. Maybe you can even leave the car at home and do your errands on foot or by bicycle. Fewer cars on the road means less traffic, less noise, and less pollution.
A small business is often the realization of a life-long goal or dream. The products sold represent the imagination, passion, and dedication of the small business owner. We all have dreams, and we all want them to be supported. Know that when you shop local, you are supporting the dreams of another human being.
Though it can feel much easier to type in a website on your browser or fill up a shopping cart on an ecommerce app, we feel the aforementioned reasons make supporting small businesses a more rewarding and worthwhile experience.
The coronavirus outbreak won’t last forever, and once it’s over, your favorite local businesses will still need your help. Here’s a list of 17 tips for how you can support small business owners—either as a consumer or fellow small business owner—year-round.
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. What better way to genuinely support small businesses than by patronizing them? You can do this whenever, wherever. Just step out your door and take a walk down Main Street.
Small Business Saturday is an American shopping holiday held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving—it will be on Nov. 28 in 2020. Similar to Black Friday, it’s a day for small businesses to entice more customers by offering deals and discounts or something special.
Whether you’re a consumer or small business owner yourself, promoting Small Business Saturday inherently promotes small businesses by helping them generate even more revenue during the busy holiday season. It reminds people that while they may get great deals at department stores or big-name brands on Black Friday, there are still opportunities to spend locally and get a great deal.
Unless it’s to support a small business, consider staying home on Black Friday. One way to support small businesses is to not spend your money at non-small businesses like department stores or major national or international brand stores. Those places are likely to be total zoos on Black Friday anyway—so save yourself the hassle and visit a small business instead.
The holidays are always a major boost for businesses—this past holiday season spending exceeded $850 billion, up 5.1% from the previous year—and is always a healthy percentage of consumer spending for the whole year.
This holiday season, think about where you’re spending your money. Although ecommerce is becoming more and more of a driving force for economic growth—due to convenience of shipping and ecommerce advertising efforts—it’s worthwhile to consider how you can support small businesses during this all-important revenue period.
If you have a good experience at a small business, talk about it! Word-of-mouth marketing drives $6 trillion in annual consumer spending and accounts for 13% of all consumer sales. The more people you can tell about a small business, the more you are helping that business.
This can be published online or as a handout. Share a list of the incredible small businesses in your area and what makes them so awesome. The guide can also act as a coupon for small businesses, if you work with them to provide incentive for customers who find their store through the guide.
If there are some centrally located small businesses around you, it’s a good idea to set up an information center to welcome tourists or locals and help them get the scoop on all the small businesses in your area. You can offer guides to local small businesses, coupons, and more. Set it up somewhere anyone passing through would see and on high traffic days like weekends, Black Friday, and Small Business Saturday. This will encourage shoppers to shop at small businesses by providing them with immediate incentives they wouldn’t otherwise know about.
If you’re a fellow business owner, find a way to cross-promote your business with another small business to generate revenue for the both of you. You can do this by providing discounts for small business patronage. Say you own a bakery and want to partner with the wine store down the street, you could offer discount bread orders for people who come to your bakery with a receipt from the wine store, and vice versa. Advertise this feature in both your store fronts and voila—increased foot traffic and interest in your two businesses. And hopefully, of course, more revenue.
Gather with other small business owners in your community to collaborate on ideas. This is a great way to encourage partnerships and other ideas that can help benefit the local small business community overall. Encouraging small businesses to support each other or work together is a great way to support the health of your local small business community.
Small Business Saturday doesn’t have to be the only revenue-generating event of the season. Think of ways you can generate more buzz about small businesses through events and get customers through those shop doors. Small businesses can sponsor the event, sell their wares, and promote special deals. Examples of events could be a local block party, carnival, festival, or parade.
Nothing says local like sponsoring a little league team or working with the Girl Scouts on a project. If you are involved in a community organization, look at how you can partner with small businesses in innovative ways. Maybe you team up to clean the park, or invite a business to make a guest appearance at a school event.
In the days immediately leading up to Christmas, ecommerce shopping shows a sharp decline. This is because products ordered a few days before Christmas won’t be delivered on time. This is a great opportunity for local small businesses to attract consumers to their brick-and-mortar stores. Although online shopping can feel convenient, customers can avoid concerns about last-minute shipping by shopping locally. Advertising this insight and providing incentives for last minutes shoppers is a great way to encourage more customers to shop at small businesses.
If your spouse usually does the grocery shopping at Whole Foods, encourage them to try out the local supermarket. Tell your friends you’ll only accept gifts from small businesses. Refuse to go to dinner at franchise restaurants. These are just a few of the ways you can persuade people within your sphere of influence to support small businesses.
Enjoying the cookie from your local bakery? Share it on Instagram. Shopping for gifts at a local boutique? Check in on Facebook. Sharing on social media when you patronize a small business is free advertising for that business and a great way to encourage others to patronize them as well.
You can help small businesses by taking the time to leave positive reviews on sites like Yelp, Foursquare, and Google. This will increase their visibility in search results when consumers go to find specific stores in their area and will foster a sense of trust in small businesses.
Small business owners work hard for their customers. What better way to reward them than by showing them how much they mean to you and the community. You can do this in a number of different ways. Maybe send them a thank you card, or drop off a gift. You could also just say “thank you” after every visit. Demonstrating your gratitude for their hard work motivates small business owners to keep doing a great job.
Is there a long-standing small business in your community that has fallen on hard times? What about a new business that is flailing and needs a little extra umph? In these situations, you may consider launching a Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund for that business. Kickstarter allows anyone to launch a campaign to support goods or services.
Perhaps seeing someone not involved with the business try so ardently to help it will foster the momentum needed to help the campaign take off. Even if you don’t reach your fundraising goal, it is still a lovely gesture and a great way to draw awareness to a business.
There are so many ways to support small businesses—with your money, your business, community organizing efforts, or thoughtful consumer habits. Supporting small businesses in your community supports the community at large.
Now that we have provided you with ideas, it is time to act. Maybe you start by foregoing Starbucks for the local coffee shop. Or by leaving a kind review for that deli that makes your favorite sandwich. There are lots of tiny actions you can take that will mean the world to the small business owners in your community. So what are you waiting for? Get started!