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Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting small businesses has been a focal point in small towns and big cities alike. As the vaccine rollout progresses and municipalities continue to lift restrictions, it’s essential to keep our focus on supporting local shops that make our neighborhoods so unique.

There are many ways we can support local businesses and keep our communities thriving as we continue to navigate through this global health crisis. Let’s take a look at how we can all pull together and help these businesses succeed.

Why is it Important to Support Small Businesses?

Small businesses employ 59.9 million people, or about 47.3% of the U.S. private workforce, and play a vital role in our economy. Without these businesses, communities all over the country would experience hardships that could take years or even decades to overcome.

If you aren’t entirely convinced, here are some reasons why small businesses are so great:

  • They helpboost the local economy and create opportunities for entrepreneurship.
  • They provide more job opportunities in your town or city.
  • They encourage growth and development.

Most importantly, small business owners are our neighbors who care deeply about our communities. This compassion translates directly to their products and services and how they run their business.

So, how can you support local businesses? Let’s take a look at some of the possibilities.

1. Purchase Gift Cards

Purchasing gift cards to your favorite small businesses is one of the best ways to show your support. It instantly puts money into business owners’ pockets, which is why it makes such an immediate impact.

Gift cards are some of the most popular ways to give gifts and for very good reason.

  • Gift cards are simple to give because they fit perfectly inside a greeting card.
  • They’re perfect for birthdays, holidays, and memorable milestones.
  • They create brand awareness by introducing potential new customers to businesses.
  • Business owners can track them automatically with their POS system.

It’s also pretty rare that a customer will stick to the allotted amount on their gift cards. In fact, data shows that 59% of consumers willspend more than the value of the gift card.

2. Get Social

Although gift cards are an immediate monetary boost for a business, it’s not always about the Benjamins.

Word of mouth marketing is more important than ever in the age of social media and sites like Yelp. You’d be surprised how much word of mouth referrals and social media shoutouts help boost small businesses awareness.

Here are a few ways to support your favorite local businesses online:

  • Share special promotions and posts from local business pages on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
  • Write positive reviews on Google and other review platforms to generate a buzz and share your personal experience.
  • Share any other type of posts on your social media stories from your favorite business’ page.
  • Post pictures of you enjoying a meal from local restaurants or your new outfit from the local boutique — and don’t forget to tag the business for more visibility!

3. Engage in Unique Ways

Although social media and gift cards are some of the more obvious ways to support small businesses, there are some other outside-the-box methods that have surfaced during the pandemic.

Many small businesses decided to go virtual at the beginning of the pandemic to continue offering their services to loyal customers. You can still take virtual sessions or lessons that businesses are offering online. Do your research and find which companies are offering virtual sessions that appeal to you.

Many small business owners startedcross-promoting with other local stores. For instance, a local spa may partner with a restaurant or health food store to cross-promote their services. This dual promotion helps promote other SMB’s while simultaneously helping you establish meaningful business relationships in your community.

4. Order Takeout and Delivery

Takeout and delivery services becamea key restaurant trend for eateries of all sizes during the pandemic. Although society is starting to get a glimpse of returning to normalcy, that doesn’t mean that takeout and delivery services are going away anytime soon.

Most restaurants are still required to operate at lower capacities, so takeout service is still vital to their livelihood. By continuing to order takeout, curbside pickup, and delivery, you can help restaurants make up for lost revenue from capacity restrictions.

5. Shop Online

While restaurants were forced to pivot to a takeout model, many small retail shops were deemed non-essential and forced to close their storefronts altogether. These closures put a substantial financial strain on those businesses. 

Many were not readily prepared to shift to an online business model.

Thankfully, with turnkey platforms, many retail stores could start their eCommerce business rather quickly and shift from brick and mortar to digital storefronts. If your favorite boutique didn’t have an online presence at the start of the pandemic, chances are they probably do now, so make sure you check back frequently.

Additionally, resources like Shop Where I Live are growing in popularity as a way to bring Main Street online and more accessible to the masses. Although their marketplace is limited to 14 states and 35 communities at the time of this article, it’s a great one-stop way to shop local businesses without leaving your house.

6. Donate Your Expertise

Local businesses often give back to their communities through sponsorships like youth sports, local fundraisers, and community events. If you’re an expert or master of a particular skill, why not reach out to a local business and see if you can do some pro bono work for them?

For example, suppose you’re a marketer or have web design knowledge. In that case, you could set up a website for an SMB owner who might be lacking an online presence. If you’re a general contractor or painter, why not help your favorite local shop with some cosmetic upgrades?

Here are a few more ways that you can lend a helping hand to your local small business owners in need:

  • Donate to relief fundraisers or spread the word on social media if you don’t have the means to donate.
  • Try to tip workers a little extra for your usual services if you can afford it. Many employees are risking their health to continue to serve their customers.
  • Consider buying your produce directly from the source by visiting local farmers’ markets to purchase fresh produce.

The Bottom Line Supporting local businesses is a great way to be a good member of your community. Small business owners have faced a very challenging year, and we should all do our part to help make sure they succeed long after the pandemic is over.