We are experiencing something completely unprecedented with the arrival of COVID-19 in the United States. “Non essential” businesses are closing their doors due to state-issued executive orders. From a public safety standpoint, closing local businesses is a responsible way to help flatten the curve of this global pandemic. For small business owners, however, it’s absolutely devastating. Independent businesses were already struggling to stay afloat in the face of large chain stores and online shopping platforms…and now this. We might be homebound as consumers, but we still have one crucial asset to help small businesses: buying power.
This article outlines some tangible steps you can take to help support small businesses and organizations in your area. We will also highlight some phenomenal small businesses that are leading the way in terms of innovation and adaptation. Please note, this article focuses on how to utilize disposable income to help small businesses. At PSM, we understand that many families are not in a financial position to do that right now. The spirit of this article is about using your privilege to help uplift others.
Support Small Businesses by Eating and Shopping Locally
Few industries have been hit as hard as food and beverage services. Many local restaurants are trying their best to convert their entire business model to 100% take out/delivery. One way you can support these establishments is by ordering in several times per week. You’ve likely trained yourself to reel in this spendy behavior, but that was pre-pandemic. If you have disposable income, use it. Think of all the money you’re saving by staying at home every single day. No lunch with co-workers, no happy hours, no fancy date nights, no $15 AMC movie tickets, no $20 popcorn and concessions, no spending money on travel or gasoline. You get the picture. The amount you’re saving by socially distancing more than covers the cost of ordering take out. Use that money to support your favorite restaurants that are struggling to survive.
Be especially mindful of supporting minority and/or woman-owned businesses at this time. North Folk Winery, located in Stark, MN, is owned by Ann and Mike Tessneer. They’re staying in front of their customers by posting regularly on social media and were quick to remind folks on Facebook that: “Our wine is sold in most local liquor stores, and if not, ask for our wine! And, you can always purchase directly from us. We’ll have your order ready for you, curbside.” Food, alcohol, homemade goods…buying local is absolutely crucial right now.
Be Flexible and Patient with Technology
COVID-19 has forced many small businesses and organizations to innovate like never before. Unplanned innovation often means utilizing new technologies and dealing with learning curves. Video conferencing has been around for long time, but not all customers are gung-ho at the idea of interacting via Zoom or Whereby. Obviously, hosting classes, work sessions, or seminars online is not ideal for many people, but that’s what we have. In order to ensure the survival of our favorite businesses, we need to make concessions with new technology, have patience, and be flexible.
One small business that’s done a wonderful job adapting to this new technology model is Ripple Effect Crossfit in St. Paul, MN. Ripple Effect is a small Crossfit gym that opened in June of 2019. Since Minnesota Governor Tim Walz declared the closure of all “non essential” businesses, Ripple Effect had to adapt fast. Within days of the announcement, the gym had already set up virtual health coaching, long-term equipment rentals, online classes, video demonstrations, and a comprehensive online presence.
Another business that is adapting smoothly is Scout & Morgan Books in Cambridge, MN. Scout & Morgan, which is a brick and mortar independent bookstore in rural Minnesota has shifted their efforts from in-person book sales to online and audiobook sales (profits are still funneled through the bookstore). Don’t buy books on Amazon when you could be helping support small businesses like Scout & Morgan through thoughtful online shopping.
Support the Arts
Famous artists, actors, and musicians are flooding social media with free performances, which is awesome for our morale….but less awesome for our local theater companies, art galleries, and performers, who are dealing with the real-world ramifications of COVID-19. In many cases, plays, shows, openings, and ticket sales are postponed indefinitely. Again- if you have disposable income, consider making recurring donations to your favorite non-profits. Buy art online. Do what you can.
Even in this terrible situation, artists are adapting. One great example is Walking Shadow Theatre Company in Minneapolis. The theater company is hosting a series of Facebook live-streamed productions in the weeks ahead and asking viewers to donate what they can.
A lot of the advice in this article centers around spending disposable income, which a lot of families don’t have. This is an extremely difficult time. You need to take care of yourself and your family first, we get that. Having extra money to spend is a privilege. For those in a position to do so, you can use your privilege to help your community pull through this economically earth-shattering crisis. For more information on the ramifications of COVID-19 on small businesses, explore PSM’s COVID-19 Marketing Toolkit. If you have any questions about the content above, feel free to email me at [email protected] or give me a ring at (651) 295-7333.