How locally owned businesses contribute to a thriving community
By Taylor Shillam
They may be “small” by definition, but when it comes to small businesses, the word only applies to the technicalities. The profound impact of small businesses is multi-dimensional and often underestimated. Now more than ever, it’s time to rally in support of shopping small.
Can you imagine what your neighborhood or town would look and feel like without any of its locally owned businesses? Each small business adds a bit of value, culture and diversity to their surrounding community in a way that larger chains simply don’t have the ability to. Economically, the impact of small businesses on both local and national levels is critical, and only expected to grow.
The exact definition of “small business” can be difficult to articulate. Most often, small businesses are defined within a specific range of assets, revenues and employees.
The federal government sets the definition by trade; for example, having less than 100 employees as a wholesale company, less than 500 employees in manufacturing, and generating less than $6 million in the retail and service industries.
Consumers may define “small business” as their favorite local boutique, the corner restaurant or bar they frequent, or the locally owned fitness studio where their mornings begin. With some reflection, it isn’t difficult to identify the small businesses that have become a major part of your daily life.
It’s largely because of this, small businesses becoming so ingrained into the daily lives of many, that they have also become a major lifeblood of their local economy. Of their revenue, a significantly larger portion is recycled back into the community compared to chain stores. According to G1VE, one Chicago study found that $68 from every $100 spent at a local business will stay within that community, compared to $43 from $100 spent at a chain.
On a national level, the United States Small Business Administration found that small businesses generated 44 percent of the country’s economic activity from 1998 to 2014, an impressive feat when up against the immensely larger chain establishments and Fortune 500 companies. Today, over 50 percent of sales made in the U.S. come from small businesses.
Sales provide the need for increased staffing and job opportunities. More than half of the United States’ jobs in the last 25 years have been created by small businesses. There are over 30 million small businesses in the country, and as that total continues to rise, so does the potential for more people to be hired.
Beyond their economic impact, many small business owners cultivate an experience within their establishment that transcends outward into the community. Passionate business owners who pursue their ideas and share their talents while achieving financial independence are often, deservedly, a source of inspiration. Times that are difficult and uncertain call for leaders like these; consumers often look to them for comfort, certainty and motivation, just as owners look to consumers for the continued support to stay operational.
The relationships between small-business owners and their customers is truly something special. The care an owner puts into the business they’ve poured their heart and soul into will be the level of care they take with their customers, and that can be felt throughout the “shop small” experience.
Being locals themselves provides small-business owners a greater ability to foster deep connections with shoppers, community members and fellow owners, promoting an environment of collaboration and support. Knowing exactly who is behind a business provides a level of personal relationship and investment to both sides.
Small businesses impact their local community and economy in ways that are unmatched. They stimulate economic growth, diversity and innovation within their communities, both locally and nationally, all while touching the lives of the patrons who walk through their doors.
Right now, the importance of supporting small businesses has become more critical than ever. With uncertainty being a constant presence throughout the last several months, businesses and consumers alike have drawn on creative solutions to stay afloat during trying times. Making cuts and adjustments to everything from operational procedures to the presence of staff, business owners face difficult decisions every day while navigating an unprecedented period of crisis.
Although supporting your favorite small businesses may look different today than it has in the past, there are still ample ways to show your support in 2020.
Some of the most simple ways include ordering takeout and delivery, shopping online and buying gift cards. A supportive gesture doesn’t have to cost anything; it’s also as easy as pausing (rather than canceling) a membership or subscription, and promoting your favorite establishments through word-of-mouth and social media.
Every purchase and each demonstration of support makes an impact. For the business, it contributes to keeping their doors open and their people employed. For the community, it contributes to keeping diversity and innovation thriving, and the spirit of entrepreneurship alive.