If we lived in a world without small business, all we would have is big companies and chain stores, and they would hold a lot of power over what is available to us.
The beauty of small business is that it brings greater choice, diversity and experience. Small business in a way helps us be more of who we are. We are not dictated by trends and what the mass market wants. We can have coffee at a little coffee shop filled with books and cats if that was out thing. We can buy handmade one of a kind item to decorate our homes, buy boutique fashion made in small quantities. It allows us to have those unique buying experiences.
Not only that but it is also more personal, and creates community and connection. We get to know the people running the business we buy from, we support our local community, support makes and creators, and allow people to pursue the work they love and create the experiences and products they dream up and not what is in just in trend or most safely marketable.
The internet has added a whole new dimension to this too, something I like to think of as the ‘post-industrial revolution’.
When machines took off, we began to lose the craftsmen and little local makers, but then something interesting happened. The internet! It opened up small business to the world and not just the local community, and people had grown tired of the limited choice, mass production and lack of character. And so a new revolution took off. The handmade revolution, the online business revolution, the service based businesses that could now offer services all over the world and work from home. This new platform opened the floodgate for creativity, choice, diversity and unique products and services being accessible to anyone. It meant the cost to run a business was low, and the small business was no longer competing with the big boys but had a unique opportunity and market segment.
If you sell knitted cat bonnets. There are going to be few people locally that will buy from you, but when you can open up globally and people who want what you have can seek you out and you can find your little community of fans from all corners of the globe, it means you can create something very different and traditionally risky, and be successful.
I recently got an email from Etsy, and they mentioned that they have been going for 13 years now. For me, Etsy is what sparked my passion for small business. I discovered them when they were 2 years old, and I jumped in almost instantly and fell in love with the creative community and supporting other makers and small businesses. I was able to find amazing unique gifts for people and even get things custom made.
Why Small Business Matters
Small business is important. It makes communities and families thrive. It spreads money around and keeps it within communities. It allows people to follow their dreams and creates choice and diversity.
It Impacts the Local Economy
A small business, in a community, whether operating in town or in someone’s home has an impact on the local economy. In fact, small business is vital for a thriving local economy. The meet local needs, serve larger businesses and bring money into the local economy, and the more local businesses the more the money circulates and grows in that area, rather than leaving the area. So even if you have an online business, if you are making money from people around the world and then spend some of that money at local small businesses, you are helping your community thrive.
It Provides Choice and Diversity
Small business has the unique ability to be able to niche. Large businesses need to appeal to a wider customer base, in order to be big. So what they offer needs to be safely appealing to a lot of people. This means they follow trends and do not take big risks. While you still may be able to get some nice and interesting things, it is mass produced, trendy and common.
Small businesses and provide things for unique and small niches. They can take risks, as production is small scale, and make things that may not be safely on trend, and therefore are more innovative and creative. They can tailor make and customise. They can offer one-offs and limited editions. They can offer the unusual and special.
A More Personal Experience
Small businesses are far more personal. You can get to know the owner and get to have that one on one experience directly with them. It creates a special connection and creates a better experience for both parties. It also means that your needs are more likely to be addressed and mt, as the people running the business are right there listening to the needs of the customers and tailoring what they offer to what their people are wanting. People will end up choosing to work with or buy from a business because they feel a connection with the owner, something big business can never really replicate. It creates a strong sense of community, whether local or based on common interests.
And even if you buy from a small business online where you are not making that physical contact, there is still a personal experience. The maker of the item you purchase personally writes to you and lets you know it is on the way, it arrives beautifully wrapped with a handwritten thank you note. You can go check out their blog or social media and get a glimpse of their life and behind the senses, you can connect with them and get to know them.
Why Small Business Needs your Support
Now that you know why small business is important, why is your support so critical? We all love browsing or hanging out with the small business’, or having sweet little shops in our local area, and choice when we go online.
But unless we actively support small business, it can not thrive and will lose out to big business. If you want to keep small business around, it’s not enough to just like it or check it out, but you need to invest in it and spend your money with small business.
That money won’t be going to a big CEO or funding sweatshop labour. The money spent with small businesses goes to hard-working makers, creators, entrepreneurs, families and communities. And it keeps the small business alive.
It’s a way of voting with your money. Showing you appreciate what they do, that you want them to stay around and that you believe small business matters and that you support the ethics and methods of that business.
7 Ways to Support Small Business this Year
Supporting small business, does not have to mean you go all in or nothing. It is about conciously choosing to supporting small business when you can and considering it when you need things. Sometimes money will be tight and making your transaction with a big business is the best option for your needs. But here are some tips, to help you better consider small business as you go through the year. Keeping small business alive doesn’t mean spending every penny with them, it is all those little purches here and there, and supporting when you can that makes a difference. If everyone just supported as best they were able to, then small businesses will stay alive.
1. Shop Small Business for Small Things, or when Possible
So you may need your everyday item, groceries and such from the big stores. So think about the little things and gifts you can get from the small businesses. Maybe you get your main groceries from the big chain, but then grab some nice peanut butter and fresh juice from the little local food store. Or most of your cooking and dinnerware is mass produced, but you get a few little special items, like a handmade salt and pepper shaker or milk jug from a maker. Or most of your clothes are from chain stores, but you buy one special dress or a bag from a little boutique or maker. The idea is, that you may not be able to buy everything through small businesses, but find small ways to support them, and in return you add unique touches to your home and life.
2. Go to your Local Markets.
Markets are a great ground roots way to support small business owners and also makes a great experience. Make it a regular event, maybe you go once a month, and buy a few nice things and chat with the stall holders and have a nice day out. Head to your local farmers market and buy some nice produce and support your local producers and businesses.
3. When you Need a Service, Look to Small Businesses.
As you go through the year, when the need for a service arises, be it cleaning, mowing, painting, a haircut, a new website or hiring a truck, look for a small business to help you first. There are big chains that offer services, and their are sites that allow individuals to take odd jobs on for you, but if you first look to small businesses for help, you are able to support them and keep their little businesses thriving. Local service providers help keep a community alive, as they often keep a lot of the money within the area and the area flourishes. And if you are looking to a more digital service, seek out a small online business to work with that you can support and in return get personalised help with the service you need.
Some people like to go with bigger companies as they feel they can trust them, due to their big name and feel less sure about using a small business. Don’t let this put you off trying a small business. Do your research, look for testimonials, personal recommendations and get to know the business and check them out and learn about them.
4. Create a Treats List.
So it may not always be possible to buy from small businesses for every single thing we need, and our day to day buys. But one great opportunity to buy small, is as a treat. We all have those moments we treat ourselves. Maybe you just accomplished something, it was a special occasion, you just want to brighten your own day or you mad or were given some money and you want to get yourself something nice.
Keep a list of things you love from small businesses, so whenever those treat moments come up, you can pick something on your list to buy. This way you get a lovely unique and special treat, making it all the more special and you support a small business.
5. Look to Small First when Shopping.
When you need to buy something, don’t just assume the big company will have something cheaper or easier. Say you need a new journal, why not check the little independent stationary store first, or look on Etsy or another small online retailer. Sometimes it may turn out that you need to opt for the big business option, but by giving the small businesses first dibs, and seeing what they have first, you increase the chances of you making more small business buys. And who knows you may get tempted by other pretty things they sell while looking too.
6. Do Your Gift Shopping with Small Businesses.
As birthdays, Christmas and special occasions pop up through the year, turn to small businesses to buy gifts. Not only are you supporting small business this way, but you will find special and unique gifts, and can really track down that special something that is just perfect for the recipient. The recipient will really feel loved by the fact that you spent the time tracking down something ‘so them’ and different from everything else out there.
This is another on that is good to keep a list for, as you spot things during the year, keep a list, so when gift buying time comes, you don’t feel overwhem=lemed but can reference your list for perfect ideas. I actually keep a secret Pinterest board, called ‘gift ideas’ and pin things as I come across them, and when buying times comes along I just jump onto the board and pick something out.
7. Head to Your Small Local Cafe Regularly.
Rather than opting for the chain coffee shops, spend your coffee and cake cash with the little independent cafes. Try out a few different ones, and soak up the experience.
Remember supporting small business, in small ways makes a big difference.
How do you like to support small, do you have any of your own personal habits or rules with shopping?