The world is a crazy place right now. Especially here in New York, where coronavirus has us all staying home and being responsible about our social distancing responsibilities. Many people are left wondering what to do as they find themselves thrust into the world of homeschooling, telecommuting, and even unemployment. With the recent mandates by government officials to close all non-essential businesses, many business owners also face uncertainty about what the future might hold.
In the long run, things will return to normal. In fact, many of the adaptations we are making in our lives and businesses will likely become the new norm. Even in the midst of Covid-19 worries, people with an entrepreneurial mindset are already finding ways to thrive.
Looking forward to a time when we can all start getting back to normal, it is essential that we all take steps now to support the businesses we love most. Many small businesses operate on extremely tight margins, meaning that even a few days of being closed down can impact them for quite a long time. Closing for a few weeks or months of quarantine means that many businesses will likely close forever.
With this in mind, let’s look at some ways that we can support our local small businesses now so that they will still be there when things settle. While many of these steps do require some monetary support from those who have the means to do so, many are also free, effort-based actions. Even when times are tight, your attention can be the most valuable thing you have to share, and it does make a difference.
1 – Buy Gift Certs
“Cash is oxygen to a business,” says Gary Vee. Without money coming in, it is hard for a business to keep the doors open. While we may not be able to go to our favorite establishments right now, many of them are still open to do deliveries and take calls. Many more have an online presence.
By purchasing gift cards, we can provide those businesses with a bit of cash flow to help hold them over. Essentially, we are helping to flatten the curve of their debt so they can survive a bit longer. Then, when the world returns to normal, we can use those gift cards for a nice treat, or perhaps to celebrate with some friends.
A single gift card may not be much, but when many of us come together it starts to add up quickly.
2- Order To-Go
Even in New York, where all non-essential businesses are closed, restaurants and other foodservice establishments are open for take-out and delivery. Ordering to-go lets the business keep the doors open, but more importantly, it helps them keep their kitchen staff employed.
Many delivery apps, such as Uber Eats and GrubHub, are also providing free delivery services. Be sure to check with your favorite restaurant to see if the business fees have also been waived, or if they have alternate delivery options available.
3 – Shop Remotely
Usually, when you think of shopping online, sites like Amazon or Ebay come to mind. While many small businesses do work with these major retailers, the closer to home we can keep the money, the better it will be for our local businesses.
Many local businesses have online portals or e-commerce sites, or they can custom-build links for the things you need. Other businesses, such as Cow Palace in Middle Island, are accepting orders via text and taking payment over the phone.
4 – Maintain Subscriptions
When things get tight, many people look for ways to trim the budget. While this is certainly important, the current situation is temporary. Once we have coronavirus under control, life will resume. When assessing which subscription or memberships to keep and which to cancel, include the value each brings to your life and the community in your calculations.
Perhaps that magazine subscription could go since you are already three months behind on your reading. The national publishing house will likely be more able to adapt or to leverage credit and government programs to stay afloat.
Your local gym, massage clinic, or newspaper may be more severely affected by short-term losses. Of course, your family’s well-being comes first, but if you have the means, maintaining those memberships for as long as possible can be an enormous help to those small businesses. They will likely make it up to you later with perks.
5 – Window Shop on Social Media
In the world of marketing, word-of-mouth is some of the most powerful advertising there is. The modern version of this idea is social media interaction. Even with brick-and-mortar locations closing, may businesses are ramping up their online spending as a way to attract more customers. This takes a lot of time and can cost a lot of money… money that may not have.
One quirk of online marketing is that the more people talk about a business, interact with that business’s posts and content (such as liking, commenting, or sharing), the cheaper the marketing becomes, and the more people will see it.
When the businesses you like post content on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or their blog, be sure to click on it, like it, comment, and even share it. If you are using that business’s services, this is a great time to leave them a positive review on Google. Every little bit helps, and you may even see something you want or need to buy.
6 – Donate to Non-Profits
Non-profit businesses are committed to causes beyond making a profit, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need access to funds in order to complete their missions. Donating a few dollars to a local charity helps them keep the doors open and allows them to help those most in need. By keeping the donations local, much of the money will also stay local as those small charities tend to serve members of their immediate community.
Even if your budget is tight, you can donate clothing, services, and food. In fact, if you donate those gift cards you purchased, the effects of your efforts are magnified as your initial purchase now helps an even greater number of people.
7 – Stock Up On Local Produce
Farm stands and farmers’ markets conjure thoughts of meandering road trips out the Hamptons or along the north fork. Many of these farms are open year-round, and buying the produce, meats, honey, and other products from the local farmer can help them stay afloat while they figure out new ways to get their products out to retailers and restaurants.
As an added bonus, by keeping your purchases local, fewer hands will touch the food you are bringing into your house. Minimizing contact as much as possible is key to flattening the coronavirus curve. It’s a win-win!
8 – Talk About Them
Many businesses are using the interruption of their regular operations to provide community service. Pizzerias are providing at-home pizza kits to kids, teachers are reading bedtime stories on Facebook, and martial arts schools like 4GK Martial Arts are providing free online lessons.
When you see these businesses doing something good for the community, help spread the word. Post about them on Facebook, tell your friends about them, or even use them as examples as you teach your kids about community service in the face of adversity.
Small Businesses Are The Lifeblood of the Community
We often look to big businesses, the stock market, or celebrities for direction, and in turn, provide them our support. But, when you go about your daily routine, when you drive through your community, when you hear your friends talking about their dreams, it is local business that drives the local economy and supports many of the activities and relationships within the community.
Be sure to support your favorite establishments and you’ll help ensure they are there when it’s time to leave the house again.
Do you have a favorite local business? Shout them out in the comments!
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Author: Michael A Evans
Michael is a 6th-degree black sash under his teacher, Moises Arocho, and has been training in martial arts since 1985. Michael has a degree in Massage Therapy from NY College of Health Professions. He is the co-owner of 4GK Martial Arts in Patchogue, NY, and of Skillz of Patchogue, which is a childhood development facility using martial arts as a vehicle for kids’ growth and success. Michael is also the Lead Consultant for Skillz Worldwide