How do you support the small businesses in your neighborhood? We’re talking the businesses that employ one to twenty employees. The businesses that start with a bootstrapped budget and a big idea. The businesses that often begin right in our own homes (hello, first-time founder), on our blocks, and at our community markets. This article unpacks five key strategies from Future Front Texas on shopping small and supporting local. Use these tips to vote with your dollar, learn more about the small business owners in your community and show up for a future that better includes us all.
Five Ways to Show Up for the Small Businesses You Care About
1) This may seem obvious, but it’s the most realistic first step: Shop Local.
Take a peek at your expenses and bank statements over the last few months. What businesses do you spend your money on? An even better phrasing of this question is: What businesses do you assign value to? Are local businesses on that list? If not, that’s a good place to start. Local businesses better support our communities’ economies.
Reports show that local businesses generate 70 percent more local economic activity per square foot than big box retail, because they hire locally and typically do not outsource labor. And the businesses in your local community are more likely to be owned by women, people of color, LGBTQ folks and more. When it comes to diversity in ownership, small businesses beat large corporations and Fortune 500s by a long shot.
2) Be Loud About the Small Businesses You Do Support
Women, LGBTQ+ and POC small business owners, solopreneurs, freelancers and side hustlers are part of the largest growing segment of entrepreneurs—yet simultaneously the most under-funded.
They (i.e. we) deserve community support, visibility and opportunities to market to larger audiences. So become part of the movement by becoming a fan. Advocate for the business owners that you know, research businesses you could better support in your community and amplify the spaces and places that put diverse business owners on. Whether you post on social media or tell your friends, spreading the word works.
3) Vote With Your Dollar—And Pay Full Price
This one’s tough. So many of us make our lifestyles work by shopping large retailers, getting those big box discounts on groceries, or relying on Amazon for cheap solutions and deliveries. When we pay a little more to go local—when we pay small business owners for services and products that we *might* be able to get cheaper elsewhere— we are doing our part to ensure they can earn a living wage and pay a living wage to their own employees and staff.
Studies show that our economies and communities only stand to benefit from more gender-equal business ownership, as women are also more likely to advocate for equal pay, create socially conscious businesses and media and employ more diversely. Also, when we consciously support racially and culturally diverse businesses, we have the opportunity to redistribute economic wealth and value within our communities more equally. And that’s something we can get behind.
4) Just Show Up
When we pay attention to the small businesses in our immediate communities (like the grocery store down the street or the barber shop around the corner or that nonprofit community center in our neighborhood), we create a sense of place. The small businesses and organizations around your physical home often double as community spaces, too; you can physically see and be around other people who live in your area.
Moreover, in times of crisis or gentrification, small businesses’ successes or failures may be a significant indicator of changes that will impact you or neighbors. So, when budgets are tighter than usual, you can still support businesses you care about by showing up to their events, opening emails, reading their announcement and/or paying attention to what’s going on.
5) Check Yourself
If you want to build supporting local, diverse businesses owners into your lifestyle, make it real. Audit your bank statements once a quarter, take stock of where you’re assigning value with your spending and then adjust. Being mindful—and realistic—about how you participate in your local economy and community will make you a better advocate. You’ll better understand how you contribute to the ecosystems around you and how you can continue to show up and support.
It’s time to get some practice. After going through the tips and exercises in this guide, where are you going to start? Which small business will you support next?
Future Front Texas
Written by: Jane Hervey, Executive Director of Future Front Texas
Images created by Girls That Create