Friday, 30 April 2021

60 ways to support small businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic *The ULTIMATE list*

60 ways to support small businesses during the pandemic: What to do to support local stores during Covid-19, and what not to do

60 ways to support small businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic *The ULTIMATE list*

There's a lot of things about the pandemic and lockdown we can't seem to agree on, except that we're ready for this to be over. Another thing everyone seems to agree on is that small businesses need support. Every time a small business makes a sale, the employees do a happy dance! That's because your purchase directly impacts their family and livelihood. Our community needs support. Please remember this important fact: Most small businesses are not closed, they just aren't letting folks in. Curbside service and online shopping and delivery are available for many small businesses and many offer debit or e-transfer options for those without credit cards. There are many ways to support small businesses. I tried to create the ULTIMATE list of ways to support small businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic, taking into account businesses of all types and different ways we can offer help. There are many ways you can support small businesses without spending money too, which I included because I know many are struggling financially but still want to support their community. I've also included what not to do to try to support a small business. 

To be clear, I'm not encouraging anyone to leave home for a non-essential reason. Stay home and stay safe. But if you're performing a charitable act to support a small business, I believe that is an essential service that can be done by a healthy person wearing a facemask and maintaining a six-foot distance. If you can't support a small business without wearing a mask and physically distancing, you're not being creative enough!

60 ways to support small businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic *The ULTIMATE list*

What to do to support a small business during the pandemic

  • Disagree with the government's support of small businesses? Make your voice heard by contacting your elected officials and policymakers. Start a letter-writing campaign and encourage others to join. Call their office relentlessly. Tweet them and comment on their Facebook posts. Attend virtual town halls and ask questions. Start and circulate a petition online. Contact your local news media or write a letter to the editor.
  • Order more take-out, but when possible order directly from the restaurant instead of using an app like Uber Eats or SkipTheDishes. And order on a weekday! Their busiest days are Friday and Saturday, so order on Tuesday instead!
  • Here comes a Girl Guides plug! Buy Girl Guide cookies from local grocers! That's how the girls fund their program and they can't get out and sell them. 
  • Support small businesses in the best way possible- purchase their products and services. SHOP LOCAL! Stop going to big-box businesses that have corporate bailout support and buy your coffee at the local coffee shop, your groceries at the local grocer or farmers market, and clothes from the small boutique. If a business has an Amazon, eBay, or another website that hosts their store, see if you can avoid using that site and order from the business website instead. Shop hand-made items on Etsy.
  • Buy a gift card from a small business if you have no pressing need to shop there in the near future. Or you can buy a gift card as a gift- that's why they call it a gift card!
  • Volunteer to deliver small businesses' products to their consumers for free; if they usually charge a delivery fee, donate it back to the business.
  • Ordering takeout? Make it a point to decline all cutlery, napkins, and condiments. That stuff costs them money and you have it at home anyway
  • Reuse items like coffee sleeves, bring your own bag and straw; it's eco-friendly and saves the business money. Small businesses are reducing their spending, so every little bit counts.
  • Don't cancel your appointment if the business closes during lockdown- reschedule instead! 
  • Pre-pay for your car to be detailed or purchase car detailing as a gift from a locally owned mechanic shop. Pre-pay to have your winter tire put on. Summer is coming after all!
  • Buy holiday and birthday gifts now when the businesses need the extra support and store them until the special day arrives. 
  • Some smaller online news publications are allowing free readership. They are doing this so you will have access to important information to keep you safe. Subscribe anyway to help the loss of income. 
  • Small businesses have had to innovate quickly. Some of them launched online stores and contactless services faster than they would have liked. See an error on their website? Contact them to let them know.
  • Need to make a return? Don't! Choose a store credit or exchange instead of a refund. 
  • If you love a small business go to their Facebook page and Google listing and leave a glowing review. It will help encourage others to shop there.
  • In the Springtime small businesses hire seasonal workers to perform maintenance. They may not be able to afford it this year. Visit a small business and pick up litter on their grounds. Contact them and offer to mow their lawn, rake their leaves, weed their garden, and wash their outside windows for free.
  • SAY NO TO AMAZON! Just say no.
  • Pay for an online exercise class, guitar lesson, paint party, etc. These are small business owners adapting and innovating to make a living. 
  • Are you crafty? Offer to make facemasks to donate to a small business.
  • Do you have a talent or ability that would be useful to a small business? Own a business that offers a service that can help? Donate your time and expertise. Volunteer your company's services. Design social media posts, write website copy, offer team wellness coaching virtually, legal advice, maintenance services, all for FREE!
  • When ordering from restaurants using an app make sure you tip the restaurant and the driver- not just the driver.
  • Follow BIA's (Business Improvement Areas) online to keep up with local businesses in your area. It will help you find out what they need. Sometimes they run fun contests to help you support local!
  • If the business accepts cash payments then pay in cash- you avoid the business paying debit machine fees. There is very minimal risk of fomite transfer of the virus, so paying with cash is not a huge safety risk. 
  • Keep your appointments. Do not, under any circumstance, no-show for an appointment. Not showing up and not calling in advance means the business can't re-book the time slot. That's a complete loss of income. And it's just rude!
  • Taxi drivers are technically small business owners. They have car fees and car insurance payments regardless of how steady their business is. Driving a taxi is usually their only source of income, they are not moonlighting. Pick a cab over Uber and tip generously. 
  • Renew memberships to places even if you can't visit them now. Don't cancel your memberships. 
  • Encourage your employees to buy from small businesses. Share take-out recommendations, favourite stores, and service-oriented businesses in a work newsletter or staff memo.
  • Animal shelters and wildlife conservation have been hit especially hard. They have an influx of animals in their care but are unable to host the fundraising events that provide significant funding for their shelters. Ask them what you can donate: time, money, bedding and towels, pet food, animal feed, cat litter, dishes, toys.
  • Donate food and gently used items to soup kitchens, food banks, women's shelters, and mental health support centres. People struggling after job loss may require their services.
  • Free shipping? Sometimes it's optional. Opt to pay for your shipping anyway so the business doesn't lose money.
  • Do an online fundraiser for a small business you love! 
  • Cut out the middle man and buy directly from local farmers and greenhouses.
  • Ditch the Wonder Bread and shop at your local bakery. Who needs Maple Leaf Prime when you can buy from the local butcher. 
  • If you attempt to shop a small business online and they don't accept your tender type (you don't have a credit card, they don't take debit/PayPal, don't take AMEX) contact them directly to see if there's a way you can still make your purchase. They may find a way to accommodate you.
  • If you're really worried about a business then offer to donate directly to the business or set up a GoFundMe.
  • If you have a standing monthly appointment at your salon, pay anyway. Your kid's gymnastic classes were canceled- decline the refund and donate it back to the business. Are you picking up what I'm putting down?
  • Order from used bookstores online or curbside. They are hurting and you may have more time for reading anyway! Plus, eco-friendly. Win-win!
  • Some salons are selling DIY kits you can purchase. Some nail salons have created press-on options to sell. Salons also sell other general care products you can purchase to help them stay afloat.
  • Buy locally brewed beer and wine. If possible, donate their empty bottles back to them.
  • Promote the business on your social media. Shoutouts are free and you can do as many as you want! Use hashtags. Tag the business. Share and like their posts.
  • If you've hoarded ANYTHING during the pandemic (I see your toilet paper!) offer to donate it to a business. 
  • Share local restaurant menus on your social media and tell everyone what your favourite dish is!
  • Check out the #SmallBusinessEveryDay call to action and participate in the challenge to support a small business in some way every day!
  • Purchase branded merchandise from small businesses and wear it proudly. You're a walking billboard for your favourite business. 
  • Buy tickets to online shows. Theatre and ballet companies are hurting, and it's something fun to do with the family while safe at home!
  • Small businesses are suffering from high turnover right now. If you see a job ad posted by your favourite small business, share it on social media! Recommend the job to a friend. 
  • See if local shoe repair and tailors are doing curbside. Don't buy new shoes, pay to repair them. Don't throw away the hoodie with the broken zipper, pay to repair it. Bonus points because doing this is eco-friendly.
  • Resist sale shopping. Try not to opt for cheap and convenient fast food. Remember, when we get a discount, the business takes a loss. 
  • Offer to make signage for businesses. They may need signage to promote a contactless service or educate about their safety measures. 
  • Farmers market season is coming. Need I say more?
  • Provide educational resources, like an online handout sharing information about the government funding available to essential workers and small businesses during the pandemic. Include links so it's easy for them to apply if needed. Provide a handout with mental health and wellness resources in your community, as well as free support services like food banks, women's shelters, homeless shelters, and addiction counseling services.
  • Buy local handmade and artisan products: soap, coffee, preserves, honey, candles, baked goods.
  • Tune in to live streams presented by local businesses. They often feature local musicians who need support too. Like, comment, share, and don't forget to tip.
  • Speaking of local artists, what about local artists! They are small business owners too! Buy local art! Can't afford to? Then share it! Pin it on Pinterest. 
  • Reach out to local media outlets to tell them about your favourite small business. Let's get some good, free press going!
  • Tell the business what you need from them. I want delivery, online ordering, more tender options to pay with. They want to adapt to their consumer's needs, but they can't if they don't know what they are. 
  • Tip! Tip! Tip! Tip extra.
  • Don't ask for a payment plan. From any business. Just a reminder: Veterinary clinics, physiotherapy, and dental offices, ect. are small businesses too. Don't ask them for a payment plan because what you are really asking for is a small personal loan from the business owner, and many of these business owners are taking out their own loans right now.
  • Dog walkers, pet sitters, housekeepers- businesses like this are often one-person operations that rely on their clientele. They may not qualify for government assistance. Make a donation to businesses like this. Promote their services online. Pre-pay for future services. 
  • Don't stop shopping from small businesses once the lockdown is over and the pandemic is under control. They will be feeling the effects of this for years to come. 
  • Be kind! Be accommodating and understanding of their safety measures. Do what they ask of you to keep everyone safe. Be patient. Kindness is priceless! 
  • Call them and ASK what you can do to support them. Their answer may surprise you.

60 ways to support small businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic *The ULTIMATE list*

What NOT to do to support a small business during the pandemic

  • Attempt to ake their rules. Don't tell them the virus is no big deal and they should return to business as usual. They decide what's right for their business- not you. Don't be entitled. Before you say that, go volunteer at the hospital. In the Covid ward. See if it's business as usual there.
  • Protest in their name without doing any of the things listed above that could actually help them. Because of the new variants, a large group of people not physically distancing or wearing masks could cause a surge in infections, leading to longer business closures. It's counterproductive, especially because you won't be heard. The only folks who will hear you are your neighbours- not the government. Many news media outlets have made the ethical decision not to give coverage to these protests.
  • Discipline their staff. Don't be rude or mean to small business workers because they have safety protocols you must follow to shop there. It's not fair for you to refuse to follow their safety requirements and put up a stink about it, then still expect to shop there or be provided services. Yes, you may have a medical exemption regarding wearing a facemask but ALSO YES, businesses are protected by law to develop and enforce their own health and safety policies. There's nothing about facemasks in the Canadian Charter of Rights. Freedom of Expression is protected, but not harassment or hate speech. Your values regarding the pandemic may differ from a small business, but they're doing these things to keep everyone safe- including you. It's actually more difficult on them than it is on you. You are being mildly inconvenienced by having to wear a facemask for a few minutes or wait outside. Be patient. Be kind. Don't overreact and treat them poorly- especially if you then plan on talking to your friends about how "small businesses aren't being supported" or protest in their name.  
  • Write a nasty review or post negatively about the business online, especially if your complaint is regarding their pandemic safety rules. They are struggling and don't need to be kicked while they're down. Have an issue? Contact the manager and air your grievance. Like a grownup.
  • Set them up for failure. Spread misinformation about the virus and vaccines. By spreading misinformation, you are encouraging the disrespectful behaviour small business employees are being subjected to by people who don't agree with their safety measures or believe in the virus. They are trying to keep their team safe. By sharing unsubstantiated claims and false information, you are contributing to the 'Karen' culture that is treating essential workers like shit. Pardon my French.
  • Disregard lockdown rules and safety measures like masking, physical distancing, and staying home. That will only extend the lockdown and keep small businesses closed for longer. 

60 ways to support small businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic *The ULTIMATE list*

None of us enjoy lockdown- not even me. Correction, Hazel likes it because I'm home more. Otherwise, we all struggle, we all sacrifice, we all suffer, we all disagree with some decisions made by our government, we all have different opinions and beliefs. But we can all agree that we want this pandemic to end. I'm willing to sacrifice my personal comfort, social life, even my mental health, to save the lives of strangers. My values are to put human life first, there's no grey area. Like my stance on climate change, if we are wrong about how bad the problem is (highly doubtful for both the pandemic and climate change) then I made a few minor sacrifices, all in the name of saving lives. And upholding my values. What are your values?

60 ways to support small businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic The ULTIMATE list

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