Small businesses are the heart of any hometown. Thriving small businesses create local jobs, support local charities, and have a plethora of goods and services to choose from.
Small businesses had to quickly adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic, and many are still rebuilding after lost revenue. It’s always been important to support local businesses, but it’s even more important now.
But where to start?
Let’s be honest: sometimes supporting a local business is just an excuse to buy something you really want. There’s nothing wrong with that! But emptying your wallet isn’t the only way to show some appreciation to the small businesses you love. We’re sharing creative ways to support local businesses–and why it’s so important.
Why support local businesses?
Before we get into how to support local businesses, let’s talk about why it’s so important—and not just for those businesses but for your community and yourself!
It keeps small businesses alive in your neighborhood
Your town’s character comes from the vibrant coffee shops, restaurants, art studios, and stores in it. Without them, the soul of your community is missing. Supporting local businesses ensures that you’ll have storefronts alive in your local neighborhood, instead of hollow commercial space available for rent.
Small businesses support other local initiatives
The money you spend at local businesses pours back into your community. Small businesses donate a whopping 250% more than big businesses to local charities, youth organizations, and other nonprofits.
Minority-owned businesses need your help
Many small businesses were hit hard by the pandemic, but minority-owned businesses experienced an even higher drop in business. Black-owned businesses were hit the hardest, as business activity declined by 41%. Latinx businesses dropped by 32%, and Asian businesses dropped by 26%.
The minority-owned businesses that are still open could really use your help. Find the ones near you with the Small Business Administration’s directory of minority-owned businesses. It’s also a great resource to use to search for women-owned and veteran-owned businesses.
Related: August is Black Business Month. Make sure to show your support using these ideas!
Small businesses provide more handcrafted original products to choose from
You can find a plain candle at just about any department store. But can you find a one-of-a-kind candle? A bath bomb that looks like a geode? A birdhouse made from recycled bottles? It’s simple: the more local businesses, the more diverse collection of goods you get to choose from.
Want to receive a compliment when you give a gift? A handcrafted good is the way to go.
It helps the environment
Small businesses are worth every cent: literally. Big retail stores typically import goods on cargo ships. The retail shipping industry produces one billion metric tons of climate emissions, according to a 2019 study by Pacific Environment.
If you shop local, you can walk or drive a short distance to pick your goods up. Many local stores carry items made from recycled items. Plus, many small businesses intentionally try to make an environmental impact by using recycled packaging, recycling, and implementing sustainable business practices.
It’s good for your local economy
Small businesses employ nearly half of all United States employees. In 2021, small businesses added 466,607 jobs to the economy.
Plus, the money you spend at a local business will stick around. On average, 48% of each purchase at a local business is recirculated through the local economy. Local businesses also generate revenue through local property and sales taxes.
Related: Worried about the economy? Find out how to recession-proof your small business.
How to support local businesses
You don’t have to spend money to support local businesses! Here are 18 different ways for how to support local businesses.
1. Visit your farmer’s market
Do you know where your food comes from? You will if you purchase produce from your local farmer’s market. Produce grown locally is often fresher than what you’ll find on grocery store shelves.
In the United States, meals travel an average of 1,500 miles from the farm to your home. That’s the distance between Los Angeles and Dallas, or the length of 2.6 million football fields. That food delivery service comes with a huge environmental impact between the fossil fuels it uses, the packaging required for shipping, and the resources used to grow it in the first place. Lessen your environmental impact by buying fresh food grown locally.
Plus, visiting your local farmer’s market (or orchard or farm) is a fun experience for everyone. Many of them will allow you to pick your own fruits and vegetables, explore corn mazes, or at least provide a beautiful backdrop for new photos on the ‘gram.
In many communities, businesses have to pay a small fee to reserve booth space. Your support helps them recoup that investment and turn a profit.
2. Buy and gift local artwork and decor
Rather than decking out your home with prints from retail stores, search for artwork at your local stores. Some businesses specialize in art sales, but even bookstores and coffee shops will hang artwork for sale. You’ll find the perfect piece of art to brighten up your plain wall.
3. Order takeout and delivery
Restaurants were particularly hit hard by the pandemic, and they could really use your orders. You could probably use an evening off from cooking! If you can, pick up your order instead of having it delivered. Many local restaurants don’t have drivers—or have staff shortages—and third-party delivery apps like DoorDash, Postmates, and Uber Eats charge restaurants a fee.
4. Take a class or watch a live stream
Small businesses will often offer classes to supplement their offerings. Local gyms will have classes on different exercises, while some eateries offer cooking classes. Hardware stores may have do-it-yourself workshops. Gardening businesses and botanical gardens may offer classes on horticulture, gardening, or nature photography. Some small businesses even built their offerings around providing classes, like art studios and craft shops.
The pandemic caused many businesses to grow their virtual offerings. Look for workshops and classes near you. These days, it’s easier than ever to pick up a new skill.
5. Tag local businesses on social
Supporting local businesses can be as simple as sharing photos of them on social media. The next time you’re at your local farmer’s market, snap a photo of the produce! Make a quick Instagram reel featuring your favorite items at your local store! This free promotion will mean the world to the store’s workers and will build trust and social proof with other consumers.
Amplify the store’s message as much as you can. The more people hear about them, the more sales they can make.
Related: Not sure how to tag someone on Instagram? We’ve got you covered!
6. Leave a positive review
When was the last time you bought a product without checking online reviews? If you’re having a hard time remembering, you’re not alone. Nine out of 10 people worldwide check out reviews before making a purchase—and even negative reviews can have a positive impact on sales. Reviews generate word-of-mouth marketing and add credibility to a small business’s reputation.
Leave an honest review about the company’s excellent staff members, the quality of its products, or just your thoughts on its vibe. The business staff will appreciate your kind words.
Not sure what to say? Here are some examples of reviews:
- Service was slow, but the pizza was delicious!
- The puppy came home tired and happy after some playtime at our doggie daycare!
- I really recommend #yoga at our #localgym. Sign up for the newsletter to get $20 off a class.
7. Recommend local businesses to friends, family, and colleagues
You may not be able to support local businesses with your money, but word of mouth is just as important. Try recommending local businesses to your loved ones and colleagues. Your friends, family members, and colleagues are more likely to support a local business after it’s got a recommendation.
Here are a few easy ways:
- The company you work for could treat employees to dinner at a local restaurant.
- Your family could book a local venue for family photos.
- Your friends could meet at a local coffee shop for board games instead of playing at someone’s home.
8. Comment, like, subscribe, and share
One of the best ways to support a business you believe in is by amplifying its message on social media. Small businesses put a lot of work into posting on social media, even though most business owners have many other responsibilities to tend to. It’s a job that takes a lot of time and strategy, so the least you could do is boost their engagement by liking posts, commenting occasionally, and sharing posts into your feed so your audience sees them.
Here are a few easy ways to support businesses for free on social media:
- Comment on social media posts when you can! Maybe that means answering a question the company posted, or raving about the effectiveness of a product on a post featuring it. Comment away whenever it feels natural!
- Use Instagram’s “Support Small” sticker. Whenever you feature a small business in your Instagram stories, place the “Support Small” sticker in the corner so they can direct viewers to its content. Tag the business so it can reshare your story to its story.
- Subscribe to its YouTube channel so you get notified when new content is out!
9. Buy gift cards
You might not use a gift card immediately, but the immediate revenue can really help a small business stay alive. A gift card is a physical promise that you’ll support that store later. Plus, it’s a wonderful present to give someone.
Here are a few thoughtful techniques to make your gift card the best present for that special someone:
- Give the gift of a day at the spa! A gift card lets people choose which services they’ll enjoy.
- For people with a green thumb, a gift card to your local nursery or plant shop would be lovely!
- What about people who cooking challenged? People just starting to use their kitchens and aspiring chefs alike would benefit from a gift card to a local cooking class or kitchenware store.
10. Buy merch
How to support local businesses without constantly buying products? Buy and wear its merch. Businesses often have t-shirts, hats, mugs, stickers, and sweatshirts branded with the business logo. Support local businesses by purchasing a piece of merch, and then support them again and again by wearing or using it.
11. Sign up for newsletters
Signing up for newsletters may not seem super supportive, but it’s a free way to show your appreciation. Small businesses often run promotions that newsletter subscribers hear about first, so you’ll hear about special sales before others do.
12. Search “support local businesses near me” or “small business near me”
Some local businesses don’t have storefronts or are located off the beaten path. A simple Google search will allow you to discover small businesses you wouldn’t have heard of otherwise. Search “support local businesses near me” or “small business near me” to see a page full of places to support.
13. Change your online ordering habits
Stop filling up your cart on Amazon! Opt instead for small independent stores that ship products right to your door. Most small businesses have an online shop you can browse. Etsy is home to many local makers, while bookshop.org benefits local bookstores across the United States. Some communities may even have e-commerce sites that support multiple stores, like Opllo, shopwhereilive.com, and locally.com.
The next time you’re shopping online, pause before purchasing your cart. Many of the items you’d like to buy are available at your local stores and you won’t have to deal with long shipping times. Do your research and see if you can spend your money locally.
14. Pay attention to what local businesses need
Sometimes local businesses will put out calls for help. The business might be collecting donations for a worthy cause, or need supplies for a project. The business might need volunteers for a beautification project, or volunteers for an ongoing program like tutoring. If there’s a need you can meet, get involved! Volunteering with a local business is a wonderful way to make connections in your community.
15. Hire small businesses
Choosing to hire a small business professional supports their work and saves you time. Try making a list of tasks that you spend too much time on. Can you outsource any of that work?
It’s easy to hire artisans, technicians, and handymen in any town. Here are a few ideas of how to get started:
- Instead of picking up a cake from the grocery store, purchase one from a local bakery.
- Hire a local muralist to decorate your garage, wall, or building exterior.
- Hire a handyman to fix leaky faucets, clean gutters, and make other home repairs.
- Skip filing your own taxes and employ a registered accountant to sort through your important documents and receipts.
16. Check out your local independent business alliance
Many small towns and cities have a local independent business alliance that works to promote locally-owned businesses and educate citizens about the importance of supporting small businesses.
Many local independent business alliances need volunteers to staff large events like buy local fairs or farmer’s market booths. They’ll often host classes aimed at helping business owners improve their businesses, or provide resources that help owners succeed. If you choose to volunteer with them, you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at the challenges businesses face in your community. Otherwise, your local independent business alliance will be a great resource to consult.
17. Do your holiday shopping early
Impress everyone by getting your holiday shopping done early. Shopping early alleviates some of the holiday stress from extra busy workers. In one 2020 Google study, 66% of consumers said they were planning on shopping at local businesses. That means small business workers will be busier during the holiday season than at other times of the year.
Besides, you’ll be able to stop stressing over gift shopping and focus on gift wrapping, holiday dinners, and relaxing. It’s a win-win for everyone.
18. Treat local business workers with respect
Many small businesses are run by a small crew, and they have a lot on their plates. Try to be patient. If you can, tip generously. Many waiters, cooks, and other small business workers lost wages when small businesses temporarily closed in-house services during the pandemic. They could use every penny.
Supporting local businesses is easier than you think
You may not have to change many of your shopping habits to support small businesses. Any support you give local businesses will be deeply appreciated. Try implementing just one change at a time. Start with something easy. Before you know it, more of your time and money will be spent at local businesses.
Here are the best ways to support local businesses:
- Visit your local farmer’s market
- Buy and gift local artwork
- Take a class or watch a livestream
- Order takeout and delivery
- Tag local businesses on social media
- Leave a positive review on social media
- Recommend local businesses to friends, family members, and colleagues
- Comment, like, and engage with social media posts
- Buy gift cards
- Buy store merch
- Sign up for newsletters
- Search for “support local businesses near me”
- Change your online ordering habits
- Pay attention to what local businesses
- Hire small businesses
- Do your holiday shopping early
- Treat local business workers with respect