How to Support Small Businesses in a Pandemic
It wasn't until I became a small business owner myself, that I learned what supporting a small business really means. It's not just buying local. Sure that's part of it, but supporting a small business goes far beyond buying a good or service. And if you can't afford a good or service, there are many other free ways to support local. Now, more than ever, we need to be putting all of our efforts into supporting the small brick and mortar shops in our community. Small businesses are at the heart of every community- they employ your friends and family, and bring new innovation to your neighbourhood. They're also usually the first to step up and help support you in your own fundraising endeavors.
Purchase Goods or Services
This is obvious. The easiest way to support any small business is to purchase the goods and services they offer. Many businesses, such as your local photography studio, are closed because they have been deemed inessential by the government. However, just because their shop is physically closed, doesn't mean they're not still selling products. Purchasing a gift certificate that can be used on a later date goes a long way in supporting a business and putting food on the table for a business owner and their family.
If you have a membership, keep paying that membership. Gyms are closed right now, for example. Many are locally owned and run. Don't cancel your membership for the duration of a one-month lockdown. Instead, keep paying and show your support for their service. Their facility may be closed, but they will still have to pay bills. And government support only covers so much.
Ask the business also how they're re-tooling during the pandemic. They may be offering new services to help cover some of the losses. For example, I am offering digital Valentine's Day cards since I cannot actively take Valentine's Day photos. While the income I am generating from these digitals is significantly less than a mini photography day, income is still coming in and helping lessen the margin.
Try to support new businesses and bring them into your new-normal. Maybe you used to eat lunches out with your co-workers before the pandemic but can't do that anymore. Instead, consider getting a take-out lunch once a week from a different business. And hey, why not connect with your co-workers virtually over lunch - it'll be like old times!
Leave a Tip
If you have the financial means to do so, leave a tip. People are accustomed to tipping in the restaurant industry, but often don't recognize that tipping in the service industry is perfectly acceptable. You can tip your hair dresser, your make up artist, masseuse, manicurist, courier, and even your photographer, to name a few. Tipping shows your appreciation and gratitude toward a job well done and also helps cover essential costs. Those in the service industry have been hit the hardest by provincial closures and changes to operations due to the pandemic. When allowed to open, those in the industry aren't allowed to welcome back as many clients for safety reasons, and therefore, are still operating at a lost. A tip helps cover some of those losses.
Engage on Social Media
We're a technology-first community and the majority of people are on at least one social media platform, businesses included. Liking and following a page, commenting on a post, or sharing a post or page, helps raise awareness of a specific brand or product available. You're also helping to build the audience of that business. What's better than liking, sharing, and commenting? Leaving a review. Many people rely on customers' honest reviews before committing to a product or service. Your recommendation will help strengthen a business's authenticity and encourage others to buy. Plus, it also helps boost the business's search engine optimization (SEO).
Engage with the Business on a Personal Level
Get to know the person(s) behind the brand. Check-in with the owner and the people who work for the company. Simply asking how someone is doing shows sincerity and that you're thinking of them and understand they're going through difficult times. For me personally, I have people - many who are complete strangers - check in with me on my Instagram page daily, asking how they can help, how they can support, or just to show they are thinking of me. These sentiments help keep my mental health balanced, and make me feel essential, even though I've been deemed inessential.
Bring Them Into Your Everyday Life
Don't Ask for a Discount or the Friends & Family Rate
This is a big one. Please, please, don't ask for a discount. Remember, many businesses have actually closed due to the financial constraints of the pandemic, and many are on the verge of being shuttered. Business owners are placed in an uncomfortable situation having to say "no" to a discount. Businesses know their worth and have set prices to match what they think is fair and covers their cost of doing business. Know a business's worth. Show your appreciation for their craft and skills. Don't undercut them. Instead, let the business come to you about a discount. I will always offer a discount or promotion to a client who has continuously supported me throughout the years.
It's easy. And you'll feel great afterward. Contact the business you want to support and ask them if you can volunteer in anyway to help them out. You could help tap trees for your favourite maple syrup producer; if you're a financial analyst, you can offer financial advise. Your investing in a business.
This is the most important of all. Be kind. It's the simplest thing you can do and it is free. Emotions are extremely high right now. Everyone is experiencing Covid-fatigue. People have lost loved ones. People are sick of wearing masks and cancelling events. We are all in this together and we all are sharing these sentiments. Being angry, frustrated, or mad at an essential worker will not help. Instead, be kind. Smile with your eyes. Say thank you.