Who has time to shop small?
I’m the president of a company, a wife, a mother, and an active member of my community. I get stressed out just thinking about the commitment it takes to go to stores in my small town and shop. Truth be told, I don’t have time to do much purchasing that can’t happen on a flight or after I’ve put the kids to bed — even for groceries. If that’s the case for me, I know that it’s the same deal for your potential customers. That’s why, as business owners, it’s important to educate the community about shopping local.
I live in Sonoma County, where the Kincade fire recently devastated the region. Local businesses have been hit especially hard by the fires themselves and by PG&E power outages. The last time I was at the grocery store, it occurred to me that I shouldn’t be buying strawberries from seven states away or a different country. I need to put my money where my mouth is and shop local businesses. I love farmers’ markets, but struggle to make time to get there. I still have to buy groceries, so I’ve switched from my nearby Safeway to a store that sources food only from within Sonoma County called Oliver’s Market.
That’s just one way that I’ve found that I can give a boost to small businesses without going out of my way. In honor of Small Business Saturday, here are others ideas for how to help your area entrepreneurs this holiday season.
Challenge customers to eat local for Thanksgiving and other meals.
I already talked about how I’m doing this every day, but even confirmed local diners sometimes find it challenging for the big events.Your job is to convince your customers that it’s worth the effort.
Do you have a cracker company that would be perfect for a celebratory cheese plate? Consider partnering with a local dairy to get the word out. Whether you’re a turkey farm, are smoking up the best hams in town, or have a small business selling tamales to add variety to shoppers’ holiday tables, your community needs your flavors right now.
Dessert is easy. There are plenty of people looking for local bakeries ready to fill up a flaky crust with pecans or chocolate cream. Being mindful of where your food comes from isn’t just good for local business people, either. It’s better for the environment (bye-bye food miles) and is likely to be healthier, too.
Buy from small businesses on Amazon.
Most of us think of Amazon as the big, bad brother. I mean, it’s been accused of being a monopoly. You can’t get any further away from being a small business. But in reality, there’s more to it than that.
Amazon Sellers are small-business people. They are just using the biggest platform they can to get their products to the masses and I respect that. One user I know is Crystal Swain-Bates, whose excellent line of children’s books ensure black children are highlighted throughout stories. Goldest Karat Publishing made her an Amazon featured seller. For the holidays, I especially love Amazon Handmade, a community just for artisans to sell their handcrafted wares.
But I promise this isn’t just an ad for Amazon. I also love Etsy. You can search it by location so you can specifically choose gifts made by someone in your community. I’m always surprised by all the cool handiwork my neighbors are presenting.
Make time to go analog.
Yes, I know I said I’m too busy to shop downtown, but I can make an exception a few times a year. Heading to Main Street has many advantages. If your business is brick-and-mortar, congratulations. If not, it might be high time to get involved in a holiday market or two.
Connect with real, live people with whom you can have lasting relationships for years to come. As you get to know their likes and dislikes, you’ll help them learn to shop smarter — and with you.
Look at your own company.
OK, you’re not buying your business a Christmas present, but when it comes to shopping for yourself and your team’s daily needs, you can keep small and local in mind. For example, at my company, we use a local business for many of our printing needs. It’s harder than going to Office Depot, but well worth it. In our Houston division, we just moved offices, and we’ve made it a point to work with local designers to get everything on point.
Whether it’s candies or technology, we try to shop among the people who need us most. In my experience, that’s how you find the best gifts of all, just shop small.