My love for small and local businesses runs deep. I grew up in small town Ohio, where Main Street was the only street, and the local baker knew me by name by the time I was 5 (aka, the age when I was old enough to pick up Saturday morning donuts on my own). Everything was local, and our family was on a first-name basis with all of the business owners. Even now, when I visit my parents, the locals know my family name and always ask “which kid are you?” Which is bound to happen when you’re the fourth of five children, but I’m getting off track.
ME! Being lost in the 5-kid mix, and finally being old enough to pick up Saturday morning donuts from the local baker all by myself!
Back then it was unintentional… or unavoidable to do business this way- the way of knowing all of your customers and their kids. Seeing them on a weekly or monthly basis, catching up with each other regularly. Now, as a business owner myself, I do my best to develop these same relationships with my own clients, but I also aim to do the majority of my business with other small businesses. Small fine art printers, family-owned gallery providers, female-run prop and accessory makers- the list goes on!
Many of us small businesses are feeling the effects of COVID-19 more now than ever. Business is drying up, we can’t access the manufacturers we used to be able to, can’t travel to our clients or can’t serve them in the same ways we used to. So. How can we lend a helping hand to struggling small businesses during their time of need? I’m glad you asked!
Buy gift cards
What’s currently hurting a lot of small businesses is that the money we relied on for monthly expenses like income, rent, or purchase orders is suddenly gone. A website I’ve been loving is HelpMainStreet , which crowdsources your favorite local restaurants from suggestions you make and helps them receive widespread gift certificate purchases. It basically acts as a small, no-interest loan for small businesses.
Shout ‘em out on social media
A free, quick, easy way to help out your faves? Shout us out on social media! Have a favorite photo from your wedding day? Share it with a little message of how your photographer eased your concerns on your big day! Have a favorite restaurant? Share their menu and your favorite entrees online!
Write a review. Like… a really nice one!
Most small businesses don’t have huge budgets for marketing. We rely pretty heavily on our clients and customers to rant and rave about us to all of their friends. Hopefully you’re not seeing those friends right now- which is great for everybody’s health! But not so great for those of us who rely on genuine and natural referrals casually sprinkled into normal, everyday conversations. How can we fix that? Write a review! Write 5 reviews!
Want to write a review for your fave photographer? You can write reviews for me on The Knot , Wedding Wire , Facebook , or Google ! Superstar points if you write a review for each of them!
And then share it endlessly
Got your reviews? Amaaaaazing! Now- share them! And encourage everybody you know to do the same! One of my favorite reviews I’ve ever received came from the mother of a bride who was admittedly pretty skeptical at first, but by the end of the night, she and I were shimmying together on the dance floor- which she has phenomenal proof of. I didn’t expect her to go home and immediately write a review about her experience with me; I had even never considered asking for reviews from mothers of the brides!
So- even if you think you-as the primary customer, or the one who paid the bill- are the only one who should write a review, encouraging your friends to do the same can move mountains for small businesses!
Ditch the big box stores
It’s difficult not to shop at big box stores under normal circumstances. But many small businesses have developed new ways to get you the things you need. Some have started online shops when they didn’t offer shipping previously, or pick-up options for your favorite local boutiques. If you’re not sure about a particular business, just call and ask!
Tip your delivery drivers… and those who can’t deliver right now!
This is something one of my past brides shared and I love it! There are several online tip jars that allow you to drop tips to service industry workers who have lost hours, wages, or their jobs. Covid Tip Jar , Service Industry Tips , and North Coast Tip Jar are just a few from a list of many more! Select your favorite bartender or barista, or let the virtual tip jars randomize a selection for you!
Still able to order delivery from your favorite local restaurants? TIP!! At least 20%, more if you can afford it, and never less than $3-$5, even for small orders. Just remember that they’re risking their lives to make yours easier.
Keep up with scheduled payments
Got a payment coming up, or already made a payment? Instead of canceling, postponing, or requesting a refund, you can let the payment go through. Obviously not everybody can do that, and if you’ve lost your job or wages, this might not be the best way for you specifically to help out. Even if your service is being temporarily suspended, small businesses are relying on that monthly income to make ends meet.
Donate extra masks, sanitizer, and gloves
Know about a local business that has been deemed essential? Their workers are probably in need of some PPE (or personal protective equipment). When I found out that my favorite restaurant was considering closing, I was ready to give them all of my masks plus the big box of sanitizer I’d just received as a care package. Anything to keep my favorite local restaurant from closing!
If you’re able, keep shopping with your favorites. Many have made adjustments to help keep their customers safe- whether that’s curbside pickup, online shopping and shipping, or creative little at-home kits from local pizza shops and florists. Get innovative with it: ask your personal trainer if they’re offering online sessions you can purchase. For me? I sell prints and albums, and now is a great time to utilize that! Not sure what your faves are doing? Again- just ask.
Bonus tip? Be patient with us!
We’re learning and growing! Even those of us who are creative are struggling to come up with innovative ways to overcome the current crisis. And if you have an idea for something your local fave could be doing but isn’t, consider reaching out and offering a (gentle) suggestion. I’m sure they’re eager to hear how their customers can be best served, as much as you’re eager to help them!