4 Small Businesses Making a Difference in Their Communities

Citizens-Bank-Park, Philadelphia-Phillies
Dmitry K / Flickr.com

Every single day all across America, small businesses find room in their small budgets to give back to the communities they call home. No big-box store in the country can grow local roots as deep as a mom-and-pop store, no matter how massive its corporate community-relations budget may be.

For the savviest of small businesses, however, giving back is an investment in the future. GOBankingRates interviewed entrepreneurs from all regions and industries and found that when small businesses give to their communities, they get plenty back in return.

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Community Commitment Fuels a $300,000 Fundraiser

Richard Clews is the founder and CPO (chief pants officer) at PantsAndSocks.com. He previously ran a chain of brick-and-mortar menswear stores, three of which are still open. In his ventures, Clews:

  • Regularly gives to local charities
  • Gets personally involved in book drives, charity drives, etc.
  • Actively trains and hires local community members
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“We’re not massive philanthropists or anything,” Clews said. “But I feel like we do our part — and the local community knows and notices this.”

That became clear during the pandemic, when he had to temporarily shutter his physical stores.

“With my stores closed for business, I wanted to do something,” he said. “I had the idea to build a store specializing in pants and socks. I didn’t have the cash to do it myself, so I started thinking about a crowdfunding campaign and got massive community support. People supported me with words, pledged money and promised to get their friends and family involved. When I opened the fund collection effort through Seedrs, we quickly went up to $70,000 and ended up raising over $300,000. I know for a fact this wouldn’t have been possible without the community.”

Special Needs Outreach Makes a Sports Store a Fan Favorite

In 2010, Derrick Morgan and his wife launched The Monkey’s Uncle, a boutique that sells retro Philadelphia sports gear. Motivated by their son Brayden, who was diagnosed with autism, the store’s true mission is to create opportunities for the special-needs community, which is so often overlooked when it comes to job skills and mentorship.

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“Monkey’s Uncle quickly became the go-to shopping destination for sports fans looking to give unique retro Philly sports-related gifts,” Morgan said. “But the core mission of The Monkey’s Uncle is to provide mentorship and job skills to special-needs students of all abilities through partnerships with local school districts and support programs.”

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Their “Monkey on a Mission” program teaches valuable skills and gives a sense of purpose and pride to nearly a dozen students every week. They’ve been paid back in the form of intense community support for their business.

“We’re fortunate that we’ve been able to grow our business over the past 11 years and to be part of such a supportive, tight-knit community,” Morgan said. “We’ve seen customers grow to become friends, get married and start families. We’ve also shared with them the ups, downs and in-betweens of our Philly sports teams over that time. But our true motivation is being able to leverage our love for the game and use it to provide desperately needed opportunities for special-needs students to find their value in the world.”

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A Publisher Uses Books to Keep Kids and Communities Healthy

Danielle M. Jackson is a certified health education specialist (CHES) and author who started a publishing company called Hello Legendary Press (HLP).

“HLP is a children’s book publishing company specializing in publishing children’s books that create veggie lovers, community explorers and health-habit makers,” Jackson said. “HLP gives back by visiting schools, libraries, farmer’s markets, community gardens, etc., to read to families and talk to them about the importance of literacy and longevity.”

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Jackson’s brand of face-to-face, hands-on community service puts her directly in front of the kids and parents who are most likely to become fans of her next book — all while giving her an outlet for her passions.

“Giving back has provided so many opportunities for me to do what I love: educate people on the importance of generational health in the best way I know how, and that is through literacy,” Jackson said. “The feedback from families, especially the children, has been overwhelmingly positive. Through word of mouth, I’ve made so many connections that allow me to reach even more children, and that is my mission — to create as many veggie lovers and generational health advocates as I can.”

A Software Firm Trains the Next Generation of Women in Tech

Alina Clark is the co-founder of CocoDoc, a business built on tech and community outreach.

“We’re a lady-owned software-development business located in Los Angeles,” Clark said. “From the onset, we decided that we’d do something to help the community.”

It was slow going in the beginning, “but we went straight into it once we broke even,” Clark said.

Their strategy for making a difference in the community involves providing free coding and software development boot camps in local public high schools.

“We’re especially focused on getting girls to join the tech industry,” Clark said. “This has been a special focus of our boot camps, especially in the low-income neighborhoods where we grew up.”

The boot camps whipped Clark’s business into shape as much as they did her students.

“Ultimately, the time we’ve spent engaging with students who are interested in software development and joining the tech industry has created a side value for our business,” she said. “We’re not just the product. The outreach program has also given our employees a renewed passion to share their skills and stories. It may not be much from a financial standpoint, but the enthusiasm with which our boot camps are received has been a shot in the arm for our business.”

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About the Author

Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street's investment community in New York City.
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