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6 Tips to Support Local Businesses in a Time of Need

Social distancing is the main strategy being used across globe to help prevent the coronavirus from spreading, also known as COVID-19. While larger events such as concerts, festivals, and weddings have been cancelled, so too have the smaller events. In fact, groups of more than 10 are heavily discouraged, and in some places groups of more than 2 are disallowed. 

Here in Raleigh North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper has issued a statewide stay-at-home order in an effort to curb the Covid-19 pandemic1. As a result, all nonessential businesses have been required to close, reduce their hours or minimize their offerings.

While the larger business will likely experience some red in their bottom line, it’s the small and local businesses that will suffer the most. Fortunately, there are still several ways to support the small business community during these challenging times. When a consumer buys local, significantly more of that money stays in the community. One Chicago study found that for every $10 spent at a local business, $6.80 remained in the community while only $4.30 of each $10 spent at a chain retailer stayed local.

While these tips were written in the midst of a global shutdown, they apply in our "normal" daily lives as well. In fact, it's important to support your local small business community in times both good and bad. Entrepreneur.com highlights several benefits for you and your community from supporting local businesses, including better customer service, more personalization and an improved local economy, among others2

Here are a few tips to help guide your efforts.

Tip #1: Buy Your Produce Locally

If your community has a local farmer’s market, visit and stock up on vegetables, fruits or local proteins. If you are a weekly customer, consider purchasing a bit more than usual, as the market may have to close in weeks to come. 

Freezing, canning or finding creative ways to utilize these local veggies and fruits is another way to spend the extra time allotted from social distancing.

Here are a few examples of Famers Markets close to the Raleigh / Wake Forest / Durham areas:


Tip #2: Shop for Products or Services Online

If a restaurant or coffee shop that you love sells products online, consider checking out their offerings and ordering a few. Whether it’s a branded t-shirt, hat or coffee maker, purchasing products from local businesses can help sustain them during the pandemic. 

Many health and wellness businesses are now offering their services online as well, via virtual delivery to the comforts of your home. Take Pura Vida Studio for example. They offer classes such as Flexibility for Adults, Yoga Nidra for Sleep, and Morning Yoga classes to get your day started. We signed my son Kayden up for the Youth Yoga and Arm Balancing classes on Tuesday and Friday. The result? We get to support the local community, strengthen his mental focus, and check the box next to “Physical Education” for school. 


Tip #3: Order Food for Delivery or Take-Out 

While some restaurants are closing completely, others are still able to offer delivery and take-out options. 

Some delivery platforms, like DoorDash, Grubhub, and Uber Eats are doing things such as eliminating commission fees for independent restaurants or waiving the fees for your first order.

While supporting the local restaurants helps keep the local economy alive (quite literally for some), the employees often rely on tips as their primary source of income. If take-out is preferred, don’t forget to tip more than usual. These workers will be missing out on a large portion of their pay and every dollar counts. 


Tip #4: Donate Part of Your Refund or Stimulus Check

Donating money to a cause that you believe in, one that supports your values and views of the world, is never a bad thing. You can also choose to donate to other individuals, organizations or even small businesses directly. 

While donating to individuals outside your close network may be difficult, donating to organizations and small businesses can be as easy as going to their website and searching for ways contribute funds via PayPal or Venmo.

Here are a few local health organizations taking donations towards humanitarian efforts in the Raleigh and Durham area:


Tip #5: Help Local Businesses with Marketing

Spread the word about your favorite coffee shops, restaurants and stores. You can do this by:

  • Leaving online reviews via yelp.com, tripadviosr.com, or simply leave your review on their site if the option’s available. 
  • Interact with their social media posts and sharing their accounts with your own friends and connections. Facebook, WhatsApp, and even LinkedIn are great mediums to share your positive sentiment. These small marketing efforts can go a long way when it comes to attracting new patrons.
  • Simply sharing your experience with others via text or in conversation.


Tip #6: Purchase Gift Cards Online

Considering buying a gift card for your favorite coffee shop, restaurant or bar.  Get them as gifts for a friend or family member, or to treat yourself once the social distancing rules have diminished. 

Unlike the other tips listed here, purchasing gift cards for future use does carry some risk. Just because the economy may re-open its doors for business doesn’t necessarily mean the gift card provider will. 

It’s the sad possibility that you’ll find the lights are off permanently, and a big “CLOSED FOR BUSINESS” sign is in the window. If you find yourself in this unfortunate predicament, check out the article posted by Consumer Federal of America titled “Gift Cards: Risks and Protections When a Business Closes’.”

 

Supporting your local community doesn’t mean you have to find time in your schedule for volunteer hours. In the wake of the recent pandemic, volunteering your time is limited at best. The best way to contribute now is to support the local economy in need. This support will vary from one person to the next, but every dollar spent on a small business service or donated to a local charity will contribute to the greater good of your community.


Resources
1 https://abc11.com/nc-stay-at-home-order-rules-what-does-mean-north-carolina-statewide-stay-at-home/6055959/b

2 https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/244839


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