7 Creative Ways to Support Local Small Businesses
Where do you go when you’re looking for an eclectic gift? What restaurant is at the top of your list for a one-of-a-kind experience? Who do you ask when you need a sponsor for your kids’ sports team or an auction item for your favorite nonprofit’s annual fundraiser?
More than likely, the answer to all the above is “a local small business.”
Every May, during National Small Business Week, the U.S. Small Business Administration celebrates the hard work and innovation of our nation’s more than 33 million small businesses. And there’s good reason to celebrate them. They are the backbone of our local communities—they create jobs, boost the economy, shape our neighborhoods and give to local causes.
Their numbers tell the story.
According to U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) statistics, small businesses account for 99.9% of U.S. businesses and employ 46.4% of the U.S. workforce. Similarly, in Kansas and Missouri, small businesses make up more than 99% of all businesses. They deliver 43.5% of U.S. gross domestic product.
In spite of the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, small businesses have proven resilient. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that small businesses created more than 1.1 million new professional and business services jobs in 2022.
Notably, small businesses lead the way when it comes to innovation. The U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship reports, for example, that small businesses produce more than 14 times more patents than large businesses and universities and employ nearly 40% of America’s scientists and engineers.
Perhaps most important, when you support small businesses, you strengthen your local community. The dollars you spend tend to stay local: Small businesses will use your dollars to purchase local goods, pay wages to those who live in the community and support local causes. In fact, one SCORE survey notes that small businesses donate 250% more than larger businesses to local nonprofits and community causes, with 75% of business owners donating an average of 6% of their profits annually to charitable organizations.
So, given all that small businesses do, how can you support them?
Patronizing small businesses is the main way you can ensure their sustainability; however, there are other, less obvious, ways to champion them too.
- Interact with small businesses on social media. Liking, commenting on, and sharing the social media posts of the small businesses you work with helps them build their brand and reach new customers. Also, consider posting photos of your interaction with the business—a photo or two of your purchase, something interesting about the store, people mingling at an event the business hosts, or your positive interaction with the staff. Tag the business and use hashtags to help spread the word.
- Write a positive review. In today’s digital world, one of the easiest and quickest ways to support a small business is to leave an online review. Besides the obvious platforms like Facebook, Google and Yelp, consider commenting about your experience on OpenTable, Angi, HomeAdvisor, TripAdvisor, the Better Business Bureau and other websites where potential customers seek insights about businesses. Positive reviews help attract new customers and improve the business's online reputation. They also help boost SEO.
- Offer to provide a testimonial. Small businesses can boast about their products, services and benefits, but there’s nothing like an impartial, third-party endorsement from a satisfied customer to lend credibility to their claims.
- Nominate your favorite business for an award. Many media outlets and business organizations (e.g., chambers of commerce, industry associations, etc.) offer awards for small businesses and entrepreneurs. An award nomination can provide valuable PR opportunities, increase employee morale, attract new customers and validate industry expertise.
- Let them know when they do a good job. Small businesses struggle to find and retain employees, so when an employee provides good service, communicate that to a manager or owner. Also, communicate it to the employee. It could be just the compliment they need to continue providing exceptional service.
- Subscribe to their newsletters. Many small businesses use newsletters to market. If one of your favorite businesses offers a newsletter, consider signing up. You’ll learn about upcoming sales, events and even community activities the business participates in.
- Be a small business advocate. Finally, consider speaking out for policies that help small businesses. As appropriate, you can write a letter to the editor or to elected officials. Or, you can show up on their behalf at city council meetings. When you advocate for small businesses, you help them establish a level playing field.
Patronizing small businesses is critical for the health and sustainability of our economy and local communities. When you shop locally, you help to create jobs, support neighborhoods and nonprofits, and promote innovation and creativity; in other words, you’re helping yourself too!