11 ways to support small businesses in your community

March 23, 2020
5 minutes read

Small business owners are facing new challenges that make a tough job even tougher. The crucial need for social distancing, as well as economic anxiety, are preventing customers from making purchases and accessing services that were once easy and routine.

The impact has already started to show. In Seattle, one of the most affected areas in the U.S., one survey found that 45% of SMBs in the area have experienced a significant decrease in demand, and 60% are considering wage and staffing cutbacks.

Thankfully, small business owners are a resilient bunch. Many have made swift changes to rise to the challenge and provide customers with new ways to shop and show support. Whether you’re a customer or a small business owner yourself, here’s a list of creative ways we can all help local businesses make it through these difficult times.

1) Browse their online store

Many brick and mortar businesses sell online as well. Visit their website and look for a “shop” or “store” option. Not all small businesses will have e-commerce set up, so you can email or call them to find out your options.

Wallflour Bakery in Bradley Beach, NJ shuttered well before mandated. They’re pointing customers to their Etsy shop and asking them to send in custom orders via email.

Jewelry, apparel, and home goods brand betsy and iya is taking a creative approach to weathering this storm. They’ve released six bracelets online with a sliding scale pricing option, making it available to customers with all kinds of budgets.

2) Purchase gift cards to use later

Lots of businesses already offer gift cards, and many are launching them directly in response to the COVID-19. This helps businesses generate cash flow in the short term, and you still get the full value of your investment later on.

Some businesses are even running promotions to boost gift card sales at this time. You might score a deal, like this one from betsy and iya:

3) Order delivery to your home

Many restaurants and cafes have rearranged their operations to offer delivery services with strict safety precautions. If you can, refrain from using a food delivery app like Doordash or UberEats. SMBs pay a fee for each order through these apps, so going straight to the source will cut out the middleman and put more cash in the business’s pocket. However, some businesses don’t have their own delivery drivers, so there may be cases where a third-party app is necessary.

Retailers have been exploring the option of home delivery. Don’t forget to tip the driver delivering your order. I’ve been hovering around 30–35% tip, but do what you can afford and makes you feel comfortable.

4) Send gifts to loved ones

Let’s be honest: We could all use a little pick-me-up right now. For local businesses that offer eCommerce, delivery, or e-gift cards, consider gifting something to a friend or a family member. Share a piece of your local area with a friend who’s on the other side of the country. Surprise a coworker with a gift card to their favorite coffee shop. Even if eCommerce companies can’t fulfill orders, email the order details or a picture of the product to give someone something to look forward to when the chaos dies down.

5) Attend virtual events

Lots of businesses have turned to virtual events to keep customers engaged and interested. For some, it’s about building a community. For others, it’s about taking a typically in-person event and adapting it for the web.

Zephyr Yoga, for example, is offering virtual yoga classes via Zoom video call.

Share your favorite businesses with your personal networks to help raise awareness. Post on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn, wherever you hang out online. You can also start a thread in a local Facebook group and encourage others to share information about their businesses or businesses around town.

Secret Bozeman, an anonymous community Facebook page, posted this thread to share information about how to support local businesses.

Take it a step further and create an organized effort online and offline. #AshevilleStrong was started by Catherine Campbell and a few other citizens living in western North Carolina as a volunteer effort to bring awareness and online traffic to local SMBs.

If you have a skill or talent that could help SMBs get through this crisis, consider offering your time pro bono. The Women’s Creative is hosting live online workshops around business building, creativity, and health and wellness for business owners.

6) Order purchases to pick up

Many restaurants and food-based businesses have transitioned to a curbside pickup model, limiting personal contact while still fulfilling orders. If there’s nothing on the business’s website or social media channels, give them a call to see if they’re offering pickup at this time.

Double Oaks Bed & Breakfast, for example, hosts a regular Wine Wednesday event, featuring local musicians, food, and wine. During this time, they’ve changed it up to curbside pickup, offering pizza, wine, and beer to go.

Colorado’s Arvada Chamber of Commerce has an entire landing page dedicated to curating restaurants offering takeout dining.

7) Leave a positive review

Your favorite businesses might have customer reviews directly on their website as well as third-party sites. Head to their site and leave a review if possible, and then spread the word on other review channels.

Here are some third party sites where you can leave customer reviews:

8) Subscribe to their email newsletter

Many small businesses have email lists. Subscriber growth can also be a small morale boost, and you’ll also stay in the know about their latest promotions and updates. You might learn other ways to support them at this time, like becoming a part of their community to help lift them up.

Blume, for example, is doing a fun campaign to connect customers during a trying time by collecting and sharing self-care tips.

9) Tip well

Businesses might be allowed to operate in your area now, but the unpredictability of the situation also means they could be forced to close at any moment. While you can, it’s important to tip well. Your delivery drivers, servers, baristas, whoever you can tip — do it generously. They may need extra cash reserves to hold them over until we return to normalcy.

10) Make a human connection

It might seem silly, but a simple note of encouragement can be a real moment of solace in an otherwise scary time. A single “I love your business. I am thinking of you during this time. I can’t wait to visit again when it’s business as usual.” can go a long way. We’re all feeling less connected than usual — a DM or email can introduce a human element during a lonely time.

11) Reach out and ask them what they need

Looking for more ideas? Just ask. Many SMBs are so overwhelmed with just trying to stay afloat right now that they’re not able to actively engage with their audience. Remember, business owners are people. A compassionate note with an ask of “what do you need most?” will give you better insight into the best way to make an impact during this trying time.

Reach out to us on Twitter with other ways you are supporting local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Alexandra Sheehan

The information and tips shared on this blog are meant to be used as learning and personal development tools as you launch, run and grow your business. While a good place to start, these articles should not take the place of personalized advice from professionals. As our lawyers would say: “All content on Wave’s blog is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice.” Additionally, Wave is the legal copyright holder of all materials on the blog, and others cannot re-use or publish it without our written consent.

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