Have you ever experienced an event in life that completely changes you – the way you think about something, the way you do things, and even the way you talk to others about things? I’ve heard people talk about a mission trip or a service project that completely changes them.
For me, that experience is owning a business.
I’d heard people talk about supporting small businesses. I tried to attend local festivals when it fit my schedule. I thought I was being supportive. Until I experienced the other side.
Today I’d like to share with you a few ways that owning a small business has changed what I do. I hope that my experience can enhance the way you support small businesses all around you.
Festivals and markets are probably the first place we think of seeing a small business in action. Because I vend at markets, I attend quite a few over the course of a year. Prior to owning a business, I can’t say I put much thought into going to markets – from farmers’ markets to festivals to handcrafted fairs.
I look at them completely differently now.
I used to make a quick lap, get what interested me and run home to scurry about my day. But I didn’t realize how short I was selling myself until I stood on the other side of the table.
Now, I make sure to stop by as many vendors’ tables as I can. I talk to the vendors about how they make their products and I appreciate the work that goes into every product at their booth. Even if I’m not interested in buying anything, I try to visit with a vendor and learn something new and appreciate what they have at their table. It’s my respect to their presence at the market.
I also try to focus on vendors who are by themselves. Have you ever noticed that vendors almost always come in twos? I never really paid much attention to why – vendors are humans, too. They need to eat, empty their bladders and stay hydrated just like everyone else at the market. But it’s really hard to do when you’re going non-stop from set-up to break down. When I see a vendor by herself, I take extra special note to say something kind and encouraging. It’s a lot of work for one person, and every kind comment helps!
Finally, if it’s a slow day or a low attendance, I make sure to buy something. I decided to make the effort to minimize my visits to discount stores (like dollar stores and home stores). The money that I save from not buying the made-in-China stuff I don’t need goes into a stash that I take with me to festivals. On a very slow day (like if it’s bad weather, or if there are competing events at the same time), I’ll visit with vendors and buy things from their booths with the money I’ve saved up. They go in my gift drawer (a drawer I fill with “oh no, I need a gift for so-and-so today!” type items) or they go in my own home. I have found it to be so much more meaningful because I know who made it, and there isn’t another one like it in someone else’s home.
Have you ever used a search to find the store you’re looking for instead of typing the store’s website in your browser? When the search engine gives you the results, there are usually a few “ads” at the top of the search. Did you know that every time you click on an ad, the business is charged a fee? It’s called a pay-per-click ad. If I’m searching for a small business that has an ad, I scroll past the ad and look for the result that is the exact same link (usually a few lines down), but it doesn’t have the “ad” identifier. That way, the business doesn’t have to pay for my search.
Another thing I do differently now is giving feedback. If I’ve purchased something from a smaller company because I wanted to try it, I make sure to leave a review – either on their website or on their social media page. I’ll be honest with you… I was never one for leaving a review. I was quite content to use the product and move on. But what I have come to realize is that other people will be much more likely to support a small business that has honest feedback that isn’t written by the business owner. Have you ever read a review before purchasing something? Small businesses have a much smaller customer base than the giant online retailers, so statistically, getting a review is a lot harder. If I can help someone else feel comfortable buying from a small business, then I’m blessing that business twice over. Once with my own purchase, and another time by facilitating others to purchase from the small business.
Finally, I try to share links with my friends. If I am happy with the service or product from a small business, I am much more intentional about telling my friends who would benefit from knowing about that business. Before owning a business, I really didn’t see the value in making it a priority. But now, I understand how hard it really is to get the word out and to get honest recommendations. I realize that my recommendation is actually valuable. So I am much more vocal and intentional about the small businesses that I have done business with.
This is probably my least favorite. You probably know I’m not a big social media person. But as a business owner, I’ve come to understand that it’s a great way for a business to connect with someone who may not know about the products or services they offer.
Before owning a business, I never sat and thought about how the posts in my feed were filtered and organized. After owning a business, I came to a better understanding of social media algorithms and fees. I had no idea social media platforms charge businesses to display their posts. I also had no idea how many billions of dollars these social media sites made on this simple small detail! I have realized that regularly liking and sharing posts of small businesses actually helps the social media algorithms for that small business.
I also learned something interesting about the number of likes a page has. There are set numbers (kind of like levels in a video game) that the social media algorithms have. When a business page reaches one of those numbers, that business is able to do certain things. For example, if a business has 100 followers on their IG page, that business gains access to certain functions it didn’t have prior to the 100 followers.
So now, I make it a point to follow and like a business page in addition to a business post. I also leave reviews on social because that helps their algorithm performance, too.
Finally, I’ve changed the way I shop at small boutique businesses. I don’t think I ever really bothered to stop into a boutique type store prior to owning a business… it just wasn’t “my thing.” But after gaining a much more in-depth understanding of costs, it’s really a wonder any small businesses have retail fronts!
I make sure to purchase anything I can locally instead of online. Yes, I do spend a few extra pennies more, but what I didn’t understand before is that these small businesses don’t get the tax breaks, incentives and quantity discounts that the larger retailers do. Spending those few extra pennies locally feeds someone’s family. It builds my local community. It keeps options available in my small town. It really does make a difference.
Finally, I stop and talk with the proprietors. I have found that most small business owners really enjoy talking with customers. I honestly had no idea how satisfying it was not only for them, but also for me. It has opened my eyes to the reality of the situation. It has made me not only a more aware shopper, but a more intentional shopper.
I hope you have been inspired to consider different ways that you can support the small businesses in your area. If you have any other ideas of how you can support small businesses, I’d love to hear them! Add your ideas to the form below so that you can inspire others who read the article, too.