Christmas is coming, and we are avidly searching for those perfect gifts. We can easily just stop at a big box store, or order it from a large online ‘warehouse’.
But a better solution is to shop and support small businesses. If I need a gift, or am looking for something for my home, I know I am going to find the perfect thing through a small business!
When you support small businesses, you are going to find one of a kind items. Big Box stores usually order a few things in bulk, so that pair of earrings you just bought will also be worn by at least 1,000 other people across the nation.
A small business, however, often makes their own products. These small business owners are usually artisans who have opened a shop to sell their creations. By doing so, each one is different and unique.
When you support small businesses, you aren’t just getting a one-of a kind gift. There are so many other benefits that you just may not think about.
Just exactly what ARE Small Businesses?
According to the Small Business Act, a small business is “defined ‘either in terms of the average number of employees over the past 12 months, or average annual receipts over the past three years.’ ”
Most small businesses have an employee workforce that is smaller than 1500 employees with a revenue of under $38.5 million in annual receipts.
While I do appreciate the SBA’s definition of a ‘small business’, for the purpose of this post, most ‘small businesses’ I refer to are those who were at one time considered ‘Mom & Pop’ stores. These usually have no more than 10 employees.
Did you know that according to the SBA, small businesses account for 44% of the US economic activity? This means more entrepreneurs are able to follow their dreams, support their communities, and help others to survive.
Who is a Small Business
Small business are customarily found on Main Street. They are the shops that cater primarily to those who live within the community, and tourists, if the location is a favorite tourist stop. Businesses such as:
- Clothing Boutiques
- Craft Stores
- Restaurants / Diners / Tea Shoppes
- Farmers Markets
- CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture)
- Small Farms
- Local Grocery Stores
- Gas Stations
Another type of small businesses are ‘Virtual’ Shops. Etsy is the best example. Etsy is an online marketplace that consists of many small businesses. There you can find just about anything, although it is primarily known for the artisans and the crafts they produce.
Bloggers are another example of online shops. Many websites offer more than DIY. They also have a shop or marketplace attached to their site, and act as affiliate marketing for other companies. Some of the items you can purchase are physical items such as craft and tee shirts, while others are downloadable products such as e-books.
Benefits of Supporting Small Businesses
One of the biggest reasons I shop small businesses is the people who own them and work there. Let’s take a yarn shop for instance. Which scenario sounds better to you? Imagine you are walking into a yarn shop:
A) Big Box / Chain Store
‘Good morning. Welcome to XYZ Yarn! If we can help, just let us know.’
B) Small, personally owned business:
‘Well, Hey! I am so glad you could make it today. Did that Merino yarn work out for your sweater? I can’t wait to see the finished project! Oh! And how did your granddaughter’s play go? I know she was adorable in her costume!’
The Personal Touch
I am willing to bet when you walked in that chain store, you vaguely smiled at the greeter and kept walking.
On the other hand, when you walked into the yarn shop that is considered a small business your smile was wider and brighter. You stopped for a minute, discussed the sweater in question, got an answer to a problem you were having with it, and flipped out a photo or two of the granddaughter in her angel costume.
From there, you discussed your next project, tossed around the pros and cons of possible yarns and patterns, and left with promises to bring that sweater back in for show and tell.
A small business owner takes pride in getting to know their customers. These owners want to help you, and know the only way to do so is to know who you are, your preferences, your needs, and anything else they can learn to help make your shopping experience fun, and that you purchase only what you need – not some item they need to sell to make room for better things.
How many times have you been in a Big Box store and couldn’t find a clerk to help? And if you did, the clerk didn’t know how to answer your questions. This has happened to me more times than I can count.
But at a small business, the employees are there to help. They understand the merchandise, and are better able to answer your questions. If they can’t, there is always someone else close by that can.
How Small Businesses Help the Economy
Small businesses help to keep a thriving economy – especially in small towns. Their businesses contribute to the tax base, and in many cases, they donate their time, money and ability to civic causes. Many a baseball team have had monetary support through small businesses.
They also pull the community together. A local diner is often the place where people gather to eat and catch up on all the local news. Around here, cattle prices are discussed, recipes are swapped, and anything of importance is announced over a cup of coffee and a daily special.
The money you spend is also kept local. Spending your dollars with a small business means you are supporting your community. Spending your dollars with a Big Box store means you are adding a few more bills to the pockets of investors.
Small business create jobs. Many small businesses depend on locals to work, and often hire after-school and summer help. This means our teenagers stay closer to home and still are able to have money to spend and save towards college or other needs and desires.
In today’s economy, having a job means contributing to the household bottom line, and being able to pay bills and feed a family. Having teenagers work means relieving some of the financial burden from homes that are already living paycheck to paycheck.
Local business owners also have decision-making leverage in many small towns. They have their fingers on the pulse of the community, know what it needs and wants, and can help make those decisions.
Supporting small businesses in your area also helps to preserve the uniqueness of your community. Because weaving isn’t common in our area, I have been known to travel over two hours just to visit a favorite weaving/spinning/yarn shop. It is a small business, and I was able to find not only what I needed, but plenty of supplies for future projects.
Because of the owner and her employees, I made new friends who were always on standby to help me through the latest ‘tangle’, and were always there to offer encouragement and support.
Small businesses in turn support other small businesses in your community. To maintain their business, they may purchase from local farms, beekeepers, grocery stores and other small shops.
A local Tea Shop may very well purchase their breads and desserts from a local bakery. A gift boutique may be a sales outlet for local artisans. A clothing store may use the services of a local tailor. By doing business like this, it keeps the dollars within the community, and small towns are able to thrive.
Having an eclectic group of small businesses in your area also helps to promote tourism, which in turn helps to support your community. ‘Outside’ dollars are spent in communities with enough uniqueness to encourage their visits.
I love taking a day trip with friends. When we go, we usually have an agenda – the search for fabric, craft supplies or antiques. Before we go, we search for a small town that will have everything we want, plus a few things we may not know we want. While there, we shop, and usually find a local diner or restaurant for lunch.
By doing so, these communities have ‘outside’ help through their uniqueness, the great service and friendly people – not to mention some of the best food I have ever eaten.
But to preserve that wonderful eclectic tourist friendly community, you first have to have those small businesses.
How Supporting Small Businesses Helps Them
By supporting small businesses, you are giving the owners an opportunity to do what they love, and support their families at the same time.
All too often, we are stuck in jobs that make us miserable. We are subject to layoffs, being passed over for promotions, or at the mercy of the company for raises.
That doesn’t count the fact that many of us take a job ‘just to pay the bills’, and end up being a square peg in a round hole.
Small business owners are a courageous lot. They have stepped out on a limb to create a business that they love. That passion for their business is reflected in the way they interact with their customers.
They also have a better means of supporting their community. Not only do they in turn donate to non-profit, local causes, but support their community through keeping their spending local.
Small businesses are there to make a profit. To do so, they understand the value of having a unique quality product that their shoppers love, but also act as a part of a tourist attraction, which brings in more money to the community.
Did you know that $68 out of every $100 dollars a small business makes stays within the community? That is a serious reason to support small businesses!
How to Support Small Businesses
There are ways to support small businesses even in difficult times. Here are a few ways you can – even if you cannot visit the actual shop:
- Shop local stores first
- Purchase Gift Certificates
- Share on Facebook and other Social Media
- Do some of your grocery shopping at a local Farmers Market
- Join a CSA (or other local memberships, such as a gym)
- Ask your local business if they can order an item for you
Small businesses are truly the backbone of America and are one of the best representations of living the American dream. Support our country, your community and their dreams by supporting the small businesses in your area.
And if you just need a day trip, find a small town or community that has a large percentage of small businesses. And go ahead and splurge on that pie. It is well worth the entire trip!
Thinking of Opening Your Own Small Business?
Visit my Work From Home Series!