The coronavirus pandemic has put a huge strain on small business owners, many of whom have had to close their doors due to local restrictions. A Yelp report from September 2020 found that over 163,000 small businesses had closed at some point during the pandemic, with nearly 98,000 closing permanently. The hardest-hit businesses have been restaurants, followed by retailers, beauty salons and spas, bars and nightlife venues, and fitness studios.
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And although restrictions have loosened in many places, small businesses are still struggling after months of closures. A recent survey conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank found that 3 out of every 10 small businesses in the U.S. said they likely won’t survive 2021 without additional government assistance, CBS News reported. That amounts to nearly 9 million businesses at risk of closing. And while government aid will surely help, there are steps you can take as a consumer to help support your local small businesses during this trying time.
Continue To Shop Local
“The easiest way for you to support small businesses during the pandemic is to buy from them, whether it’s something small or whether it’s on an ongoing basis,” said Catherine Erdly, founder of The Resilient Retail Club, a retail management consulting firm that works with small businesses. “Thinking ‘local first’ is a great strategy — anytime you need to buy something, if you were planning on buying it online could you buy it locally instead. Every single penny counts at this difficult time, and that is the easiest and quickest way to make a difference to them.”
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If the business you want to support is currently closed, consider purchasing a gift card for later use.
Order Directly From Restaurants Rather Than a Third-Party Service
Although it’s convenient to order your takeout and delivery from third-party apps like Uber Eats and Door Dash, these companies take a share of the money you pay for your order.
“For those who are patronizing restaurants, I would encourage them to order food directly by calling the restaurant instead of using any of the online delivery services,” said Chef Sean Andrade, owner of AWG Private Chefs, a boutique catering and private chef company in Northern California. “Most of these services take anywhere from 15-35% commission away from the restaurant, which in truth, results in zero net profit for the business.”
Order Directly From a Small Business’ Website Instead of Amazon
Just as third-party delivery apps take a share of a restaurant’s profits, Amazon charges fees to its third-party sellers.
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“Ordering directly from [a company’s] website instead of Amazon is really supportive,” said Adam Kukoff co-founder and CEO of the emerging food brand, Nutsola. “The fees associated with Amazon are crazy high, and you don’t get any of the customer information to thank the customer or market new products [to them].”
Buy Group Gifts From a Local Business
If you have a friend’s birthday, shower or other celebration coming up, consider pooling your friends together to buy a large gift from your favorite small business.
“It’s an effective tool because it allows people to 1) increase their purchasing power at small businesses by pooling funds and 2) helps advertise the business across a group of friends because when one person organizes a gift, they’re inviting 11-19 people on average to view the business and take part,” said Dalia Katan, founder of the virtual celebration platform Presently.
Leave Positive Reviews
“The No. 1 thing the public can do to support small businesses they love is to leave a review on either Google Maps or the business’s Facebook page,” said Joe Youngblood, founder of Gain Local, a marketing services provider for small- to mid-sized businesses. “Both of these platforms are important for consumers looking for a new small business, and can help drive visibility in search results and in social circles. The reviews can have a lasting impact, helping new customers discover the small business on Google Maps, since Google uses reviews as part of their local ranking algorithm, and it can help users who view the business’s Facebook page decide to contact the small business years down the road.”
Engage With the Business on Social Media
In addition to leaving reviews, liking and sharing social media posts can also make a big impact.
“Support us on social media so that the algorithms show our content to people who are able to buy from us,” said Faith Heck, owner of the pet accessory company Black Dog & Co. “This includes liking and commenting on our Instagram posts. Sharing and saving are also huge now on platforms such as Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest.”
If you like a particular product or service from a small business, consider posting about it on your own social media accounts to help spread the word to your friends and followers.
“For many companies, half the battle is getting people familiar with their business and products,” said Nishank Khanna, CMO at Clarify Capital, a small business lending firm. “Leveraging social media to spread awareness about local companies and small businesses helps resource-strapped organizations gain much-needed visibility. It’s a free and accessible way to help the little guy.”
Start or Contribute To a Crowdfund Supporting Your Favorite Business
“When there’s a drastic reduction in sales, having access to working capital can be the difference between keeping doors open and failing,” Khanna said. “Crowdfunding is an effective way to provide organizations with immediate access to cash. It’s a huge help to smaller companies that tend to have less access to financing products. There’s also a huge benefit to crowdfunding: it allows businesses to avoid increasing their debt load and cutting into future profits to repay borrowed funds and interest.”
Demand Support From Your Local Elected Officials
Small businesses, particularly newly formed businesses, are facing roadblocks when it comes to receiving the aid they need from both the federal and state government, said Will Lopez, head of accounting at Gusto, a payroll, benefits and HR platform for small businesses.
“To unblock these restrictions, it’s going to take active lobbying to get aid to the folks who need it most,” Lopez said. “By calling your local elected officials today, you ensure your voice is heard while advocating on behalf of small businesses everywhere.”
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