When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, communities across the US gathered to help small businesses by launching “local” initiatives, buying gift cards, and running fundraisers.
Now that states have started pulling back social distancing restrictions and vaccination rates continue to rise, small businesses are still small need further assistance.
“When we shop locally, statistics have shown that more money goes into your community and you benefit from it,” said Ash Cintas, founder of City Shoppe, an e-commerce platform that serves local retailers and products in multiple cities served.
Every dollar spent locally helps companies get through this challenging time so that we can preserve our communities and the character of our cities, she says.
We spoke to small business owners to find out how consumers can best support them as they slowly emerge from the pandemic. Here are five of their tips:
1. Change your attitude
Put small, local businesses at the forefront of your thinking – and your shopping list. Although large retailers like Amazon or Walmart offer speed and convenience, ask yourself, “Can I buy this from a small business instead?” Patrick Connelly, co-founder of Stellar Villa, said in an email.
“It’s important to remember that the cheapest option isn’t always the best,” said Connelly, whose company sells art from Brooklyn, New York. “Often times, small businesses can offer unique products (as opposed to bulk products), a more personalized experience, and superior customer service compared to large companies.”
2. Do your research
Explore your area, search for small businesses online, and also check out businesses in those regions while you travel.
“Depending on where you live, most communities have pop-up markets, flea markets, and of course, local boutiques,” said Cara Luke, owner of Hope Street Candle Co. in Providence, Rhode Island. “(They) really need people to come and shop, and at least where I live in Rhode Island, they are still taking a lot of precautions to make sure consumers feel safe.”
Luke recommends searching online or local community publications for business directories in your area that highlight the small businesses you want to support. You might find a list of small businesses on a city’s Chamber of Commerce website, or you can check websites like Tripadvisor or Yelp.
3. Tell a friend
Don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth marketing. Tell your friends, family, and coworkers about your favorite small and local businesses – and suggest they do the same.
“Small businesses have a distinct disadvantage in being found online compared to their large counterparts,” JB Manning, owner of Wimberley Puzzle Company in Wimberley, Texas, said in an email.
“Telling our friends, neighbors, and the social media world about great products with great service will be the key not only to success for small business recovery, but also for future growth,” said Manning.
4. Go digital
Instead of just following your favorite small businesses online, share them with your own followers. When you have a particularly enjoyable visit or purchase, create a post and tag the company.
Subscribe to newsletters, take part in virtual events or workshops, add local products to gift lists and write reviews.
“If you love what we do or have had a great experience with our team, share it,” said Jason Kuipers, CEO of Zox, via email. Kuipers and his brothers have been selling collector’s bracelets in Los Angeles since 2011.
“At a time when many people bother leaving a review only when they’re upset, it helps more to let others know when you’ve found a company that goes beyond what you will ever realize could – that’s how small brands end up with a large following, ”he said.
5. Think creatively
If a business near you is struggling, consider starting a fundraiser, volunteering to set up a stand or sell goods at a flea or farmers market, donating your professional skills, or hosting a small business support event near you to organize.
Avani Modi Sarkar, co-founder of Modi Toys in Edison, New Jersey, recommends helping local businesses in Small business grant Competitions.
“I have entered a few scholarship competitions where finalists were selected based on the number of votes they received from their supporters. This is the easiest way to support a small business as it doesn’t cost a dime, ”Sarkar said via email.
When in doubt, speak to local small business owners about what they need and where you can help. And remember, the pandemic was a difficult time for small businesses and consumers alike, so a little kindness and compassion can make a real difference.
This article was written by NerdWallet and originally published by The Associated Press.