If you’re “friends” with me on social media (hi there!), you know I’m never shy about hitting up my online community. When I needed an orbital sander, my woodworker buddy had a selection for me to borrow. When I wanted the 411 on where to go kayaking near Albuquerque, my friends offered up their experiences. But maybe my favorite use of this network of friends — besides a sympathetic audience for my political rants — is crowdsourcing questions about where to wisely spend my dollars. For example, friends have clued me in about where I can get local beer curbside (important!), find an electrician who would take COVID precautions seriously, and hire a talented CPA for a nonprofit.
Sharing info with personal networks is always a good practice, but I feel even more urgency now as we navigate the strangest of times.
Like so many folx who love and value their local, independent business scene, I’m beyond worried about how my favorite haunts will survive. I’ve been making a point to shift even more of my shopping to locally owned businesses, and avoiding national chains and mega-online-retailers as much as possible. But I still am plagued by the reality of how perilous these times are for “Main Street”-type businesses, and it’s giving me the angsts.
That’s why I’m all in for Small Business Saturday this year on Saturday, Nov. 28. Is it a fake holiday concocted by a credit card company? Yes! Does that matter? Nah. Any excuse to shower my indie faves with love and attention (and the dollars that will keep them afloat) is welcome in my book.
The more I find myself thinking about it, I realize the concept for me goes well beyond simply buying things I may or may not need just for their own sake. I’ve taken this pandemic as an opportunity to find ways to reduce the amount of stuff I’m buying, while at the same time consciously shifting my purchasing power to the greater good. With that in mind, here are four actions you can take to help out small, local and independent businesses during this rough-ass year.
- This is so easy (and free!) but it works: Get your friends talking. Use your social media channels to ask for recommendations to great local businesses. “Small Business Saturday” is an excellent excuse to do that. Share your own beloved local shops and restaurants. Spark conversation by asking your online peeps about where they got the best service, or where to buy locally produced holiday presents for their pickiest family members.
- Set goals to shift some of your spending money to locally produced items and retailers. Get specific. What if you made it a point to spend a quarter or a third of your “household stuff” budget on locally produced goods? I’m talking food, beer/wine/booze, furnishings, home decor and clothing. There are almost always some local businesses or makers producing these things. Think too about opting for local retailers instead of chains (online or brick-and-mortar). Bring it up with your friends. Find out if any of them budget in this way and share ideas.
- Remember that many services are provided by local humans working their butts off on their own small-scale endeavors. Therapists, house cleaners, personal chefs and hair stylists are just some examples of local proprietors who will benefit from your patronage, and in turn benefit your community. If a service is unavailable right now thanks to COVID, ask about gift certificates.
- Help normalize paying more for local and/or small-scale produced goods and services. We have been raised in a system that worships abundance of cheap consumer goods, but that system fails to take so much into account. Who is making all that cheap stuff? What is their quality of life? Where does the waste from manufacturing end up? How much fuel is spent jetting it across the ocean? Who benefits: someone who makes more in a minute than you do all year, or your own community? Have conversations about these questions with your circles. Become fluent in explaining why you feel it’s worth it to spend a little (or sometimes a lot) more on goods made by a neighbor or small-scale entrepreneur.
Small Business Saturday is one way to put the spotlight on these issues in a way that can get a plurality of folx talking at once. But obviously all of us can do the most good by creating new habits that positively change our consumption patterns over the long haul. Bottom line, when you buy from local producers and retailers you’re helping them thrive, plus you’re helping industry segments that tend to sustain, rather than exploit, local communities. I call that a win-win.