Here’s what you can do to support local businesses right now, and why you should. It’s easy!
Small, local businesses are the financial lifeblood of local communities. Small businesses provide jobs, sustain families, and boost the local economy. Local shops and restaurants are hubs where community members gather and share life experiences. While big box stores can sometimes offer more convenience or better prices, small business owners are more engaged with the people around them, and their success leads to economic advantages felt by the entire community. (For all the environmentally-conscious people, small businesses also tend to have a much smaller carbon footprint than big box stores.)
Here’s why you should support your local businesses, and some tips on how — even if you're short on dough and want to learn how to support local businesses for free.
Top reasons to support local businesses
Why should you shop local and support small businesses? The answer is that local businesses help a community thrive. Shopping locally, eating locally, and even banking locally means participating in a powerfully productive ecosystem that we call sustainable banking.
It can sometimes be harder to find the small business or local shop to fit your specific shopping list than going to a one-size-fits-all big box store. But that chain store isn’t very invested in your community beyond wanting to take your money. That money mostly exits the local economy when it’s given to an international big box chain.
Supporting locally owned businesses, on the other hand, means more of the dollars you spend stay in the local community. To the neighborhood mom and pop corner store, the farmers market vendor, or the beloved hometown greasy spoon, you are more than a consumer: you’re a neighbor.
To shop within local communities — at a Small Business Saturday event, for example — means to invest in communities. In return, local small businesses and stores are more responsive to the immediate needs of those around them, especially if they offer local-based support. (Few big box stores do!)
Ways to support local businesses
Local businesses need their customers more than ever during these hard times. What are some effective ways to support your local businesses? How you can help local businesses as a conscientious shopper?
Odds are your favorite local business or local restaurant has had to change their operations up significantly since last year, and find creative ways to connect with potential customers. Many restaurants have upped their takeout game and adopted an app-first approach. (If you’re reading this and getting hungry, look up that new restaurant in town your friend told you about on your delivery app of choice. Boom: local small business supported!)
A lot of them have also instituted curbside pickup, rewards programs, and gift card giveaways as pandemic adaptations. Follow your favorite locals on social media and they'll tell you what they’re up to!
Small shops and local vendors are also fighting for your attention (and dollars) during the holiday season. Have you checked out your local farmers market, makers fair, or flea market lately? These days they’re full of upstart entrepreneurs from your local community, many of them trying to make a living and go from online seller to bona fide small business owner. You can find any kind of gift for any kind of occasion from cool local brands — you just need to look around!
Another way to support local business is to bank locally. This might not seem as obvious, but your local bank or credit union is just as invested in community as your favorite local coffee shop or produce seller. Shop local, eat local... why not bank local?
How to support local businesses for free
“Buying stuff from them” is a pretty obvious tip to support small businesses, admittedly. What can you do to support local businesses if you don’t have the money to burn right now?
For one: How about getting them to pay you?!
What skills or experience can you offer local businesses? Many of them are just the business owner and a small, core team of people filling in wherever they can. The Covid-19 pandemic has led to many restaurants and shops reducing hours or closing due to a reduction in work force.
If you have a favorite local shop or taco joint that you could see yourself spending a lot more time at — why not go old-school and ask for a job application? Even if you’re not on the market, spending some of your free time at weekend events like a farmers market or Small Business Saturday can be a fun and engaging day’s work. It plugs you in with community, and earns you a few extra bucks on the side. (You’ll keep those dollars local by shopping local, of course!)
Maybe you have a professional skill that you could lend to a struggling local business you want to support. Are you a social media wizard? A meme master? A networking butterfly? Using your skills to advocate or putting in work on behalf of a small business that you care about is a great way to become more involved in your local community, and help your favorite local business owners keep the lights on. Cheap acts of kindness and other forms of no-cost support are the stuff of true community.
How local businesses help your community
Small-scale entrepreneurship is an essential ingredient in every local community. Small businesses are the backbone of the country as a whole, and also its smallest component parts. They’re one of the few things that really unites us.
If you’re still asking yourself, "Why buy local," remember that your local community and your local economy are practically inseparable. When you shop at big international chains, your money goes where they want it to go. When you prioritize buying local, you are making a significant economic impact where you live. It’s an act of community involvement.
If independent businesses are the lifeblood of the local economy, your local credit union or bank is the heart that keeps it pumping. They take the money invested with them and give back by sponsoring community events, extending personal loans to dreaming entrepreneurs, and create opportunities for local youth. Just like your go-to farmers market stall is a much more human experience than getting your lettuce from a big box store, your local bank or credit union will be far more interested in you than anyone at a national chain megabank. That’s why here at Kasasa® we believe in shopping local AND banking local!
Discover more about Sustainable Banking in our previous blog post, "Guide to sustainable banking: Helping communities thrive."