The last couple of years have taught us a lot about the importance of community. We’ve learned that successful small businesses are essential to maintaining healthy, vibrant communities—in part because they’re often the ones hiring our family, friends, and neighbors.
Looking for a way to give back? Read on to learn why and how we can support the small businesses that help keep us afloat.
Why support local, small businesses?
There are many reasons to support local businesses:
- Most (about two-thirds1) of the money you spend at a local business stays in your community.
- You help create jobs for neighbors, family, and friends. Plus, local businesses are more likely to give young people their first job experience.
- Small businesses are more likely to donate to local charities, and support things like youth sports and community events.
- You reduce your carbon footprint by cutting shipping and reducing packaging when you shop local.
- Management decisions made by local businesses often have the well-being of the community at heart.
- You get the chance to discover new products and creative services.
7 Ways to support your local, small businesses
There are many ways you can support local businesses while still minding your budget. Here are a few easy ways to start:
1. Shop local—of course!
You might be surprised to learn what you can find in your own community.
- Become a regular at your favorite restaurant or coffee shop. Or, let someone else cook dinner for you and occasionally treat yourself to takeout.
- Make a weekly trip to the farmer’s market and buy fresh, local food.
- Buy gift cards, which provide much-needed cash flow for the business. Then use the gift card yourself or give it to a friend or family member.
- Be a good neighbor. Don’t skip your appointments at a small business—things like hair, nails, exercise classes, tutoring sessions—and maintain your local subscriptions.
- Consider shifting your prescription refills to a local pharmacy. You may even find shorter wait times.
- Have your vehicle washed and serviced regularly; this is good for local businesses and good for your vehicle because it protects your investment.
- Buy your books at an independent bookstore and purchase artwork from local artists. When you need a gift, check local stores first for unique, one-of-a-kind items.
- Be a tourist in your own neighborhood. Take advantage of local guided tours and support local theatre and musical performances. You might even consider attending high school musical or sports events.
2. Tip generously if you can
When you do splurge for a dinner out, or when you hire services such as window washing, tip a little more than usual if you’re able. Many people rely on tips for their income and may be still making up for wages they lost during the pandemic. Generous tips also reward businesses who might be struggling with worker shortages. And if you get takeout, don’t forget the delivery person!
3. Find them online
Use of technology exploded over the past couple of years, which meant that many small businesses now have websites. If you can’t visit a business in person, consider shopping with them online instead of ordering from a large chain or big box store. Many communities and Chambers of Commerce even have websites designed solely to promote the small businesses in your area. Just search “small businesses” and your community’s name.
4. Try their specials and promotions
Virtual classes, free tastings, discounts on local merchandise…small businesses are known for sponsoring creative promotions. This is a great way to try new things and introduce yourself to a local business you haven’t visited yet. You can even check sites like Groupon or Living Social to find deals and take advantage of special promotions offered by local businesses.
5. Leave a genuine review
Glowing reviews can be worth their weight in gold, especially for small companies with even smaller advertising budgets. Most businesses, especially local ones, want you to be satisfied. But with supply chain issues and worker shortages, we all need extra patience. If you had good service, be sure to spread the good news by leaving a positive review with details of your experience. But if you had a bad experience, most small businesses prefer that you try to resolve the issues at the time of service, rather than to leave unhappy and then air your grievances on social media.
6. Participate on social media
Many small businesses have improved their use of social media, so take advantage of that. Follow them on Instagram, like them on Facebook, and retweet news you see about a local business on Twitter. When you engage with a company online, it increases their visibility to others by helping to improve their search rankings. So, share their post, or click the ‘I’m going’ or ‘I’m interested’ button if they have a special event coming up. It’s a great way to thank them for their contribution to your neighborhood. And it costs you nothing!
7. Refer your family and friends
Small businesses rarely have big marketing budgets, so word of mouth and personal recommendations are a terrific way to provide support. If the small business has a referral program, take advantage of it. And when you recommend a local business, mention it to the business owner next time you visit to let them know you value their role in your community.
Bonus: Try “near me” searches
When you use Google, Yahoo, Bing or another search engine to look for a product or service, try including “near me” in your search, which will direct you to a local source. Another way to search for local businesses is to search from an online map, like Google or Apple maps. Use the ‘Find Nearby’ feature for common searches like restaurants, shopping, and salons.
For small businesses, even little things add up to make a big difference. Fortunately, there are many things we can do to support local companies. Successful local businesses make stronger communities, and stronger communities benefit us all.