How to Support Small Businesses

How to Support Small Businesses

Small businesses. We all have our favorites, whether they are around the corner or available only online. I'm personally thrilled to have signed up for a bi-weekly CSA box from a local farm that will fill my fridge with the freshest of organic produce. I have a favorite local coffee shop and favorite restaurants (Madison has sooo many to choose from). Favorite market I patronize for gift giving. Favorite artists I support by filling my home with their masterpieces or buying tickets to see them play shows live. Now, more than ever, small businesses need our help.

I say this, in part, because we too are a small business. We are a team of 7 employees working to connect you with the makers in Peru who so carefully and thoughtfully craft your clothing - who are also, more often than not, small operations themselves. Neighborhood workshops. Wife-and-husband teams who knit in their homes. This work is meaningful to them and imperative to help them continue to thrive.

This time and space we find ourselves in feels unnerving - too many unknowns, no timeline to refer to. And yet, there are actions we can take to support the small businesses in our communities we have come to love.

1. Make mindful purchases.

This may seem like an obvious one, since - yes - money is what keeps businesses afloat. But often times small businesses in particular are working on very real budgetary restrictions - income in the door goes right back out to pay employees and to keep the place running. Small businesses don't have the financial padding that the big guys do. But I'm also suggesting making buying decisions based on the larger world scale - who is benefitting from the purchase of the item? Will it function the way it needs to (and, if a product like clothing, will it last a long time)? Was the person who made it treated and paid fairly? Were the raw materials used safe for the environment, recycled, or repurposed? If you've been buying blindly and hastily for a while, this might be a big change for you. So start small - what's one purchase that you would normally make from a large retailer that you could switch to support a smaller, local business instead?

2. Tell a friend. 

Heck, tell allllll your friends. Small businesses like ours don't have a marketing budget. We don't have an entire team of a dozen people whose job it is to get our name out into the world. Word of mouth advertising is EVERYTHING for small businesses like ours - in fact, I try to thank each and every one of you who I see tags us on social media - and I say just that. Go tell a friend or two about that awesome tee you bought - even if your tee was purchased last year. Take a selfie and share it on social media (tag the brand, please!) - I'm serious, it could help your favorite brand out so much. Something that I've learned while advocating for Dressember the last 2 years is - you never know who is paying attention. In a good way! You may feel silly posting a selfie, but you never know who you might be inspiring. And sharing the love in this way is such an easy (and free!) thing to do.

3. Write a review. 

We've all been there - we're trying to assess the risk/benefit ratio of trying out a new brand or product online (or scoping out our next meal - I see you, foodies). You can't touch it, feel how amazingly soft it is, and you certainly can't try it on (helloooo struggles of selling clothing online!). So, what do we all do? We rely on the customer reviews. Customer reviews are so beneficial. They can help us newbies to a brand/restaurant/product ascertain fit, quality, and overall satisfaction before we even interact with the product in person. So do your favorite small businesses a favor and write a customer review - preferably on their website if it's an option, Facebook page, Yelp (is that still a thing?) or wherever else the business has an online presence. Thoughtful customer reviews give. Us. Life. You're not only helping potential customers, you're providing feedback and - if it's a good review! - giving us the much-needed encouragement we small businesses need to soldier on in this strange time.

4. Get creative! 

Love a small business so much you want to do MORE? Find creative ways to use your talents to help 'em out - host an Instagram Live where you chat about your favorite products. Offer to write an article on their behalf or deliver products to customers during this weird-as-heck time. Host a virtual pop up on Facebook. What I'm suggesting is - become your favorite small business's rouge marketing team. I bet if you pitch a good enough idea, they might just reward you in return.

The silver lining in all this - to me personally - is the opportunity to slow down. Stick a little closer to home. Patronize those businesses in our immediate vicinity (or those offering delivery!) because it's likely that the owners of those businesses are your neighbors or friends. And they're just as invested in your community thriving as you are. That's not necessarily true with the big box stores. Making purchases from the people down the block will leave you feeling more connected to the product, its makers, and your community as a whole. Because - whether across the couch or across the world - we're all in this together.

Stacy Imhoff
Designer + Social Media Marketing Manager, Fair Indigo

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