These are tumultuous times for business owners and employees alike. Nonessential businesses are increasingly shutting down temporarily. Plus, with an increase in people staying home and temporary job cuts, there is now less money going back into local economies.
Congress is making an effort to curb the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, including discussing a stimulus package setting aside money for direct payments to individuals and families as well as for small-business loans. However, while a stimulus package is an attempt to revitalize the economy, everyone must do their part where they can.
Government action can only go so far, so it falls to local communities and individual efforts to help small businesses in their time of need. Thankfully, if you want to support local business owners but aren’t sure how to do so while complying with social distancing, there are still plenty of options available.
How to Support Small Businesses During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Whatever your financial and time resources, there’s likely a way you can support small businesses in your community.
1. Continue to Shop Locally (Online)
Nonessential businesses continue to temporarily close across the country. However, even though you might not be able to visit them in person, you can still support local businesses by buying online from them whenever possible.
These businesses may be closing their physical locations, but many are offering online ordering or curbside pickup as alternatives. Make a quick phone call to a local business or check online to see what options are available before heading to Amazon or a major retailer.
2. Buy Gift Cards for Future Use
If you can’t shop online to help small businesses, you can still buy gift cards to these businesses to provide an influx of cash.
Some businesses’ websites make it easy to buy electronic gift cards. However, if this option isn’t available, there are additional ways to put money back into local businesses.
Kabbage has made it easy to help small businesses by creating a gift certificate marketplace that focuses on local businesses. Any business can sign up for free and offer gift certificates between $15 and $500. Business owners receive the money you spend in as little as one business day.
This platform is still growing, and awareness is the limiting factor here. If you want to support a specific small business in your community, message the owner about this program. Signing up is free and fast.
News media company Gannett has also launched a gift card platform to enable patrons to support small businesses. You can add specific small businesses to this list yourself if they have a section on their website that offers gift cards.
Buying something like a $15 gift card might seem like a humble gesture. But every little bit helps, and you can redeem your gift cards at a later date.
3. Support Local Restaurants
Unfortunately, dining in at restaurants and fast-food chains isn’t an option in certain states right now. Thankfully, plenty of restaurants still offer takeout, and it’s an excellent outlet to support local businesses.
The next time you order, don’t just turn to a massive chain restaurant. Take the time to search for local restaurants to see if they offer delivery. Plenty of family restaurants are incorporating delivery or curbside pickup to make it through tough times. Plus, many smaller restaurants are also available on top food delivery platforms like DoorDash.
Many states are also easing up on alcohol delivery restrictions. Ordering alcohol online through Drizly is another simple way to help smaller businesses in your area and avoid going to stores unnecessarily.
Even if your food is slightly more expensive or delivery options are not as fast, it’s a small sacrifice to make to help keep smaller restaurants in business.
If you can dine inside at restaurants in your state, make an effort to support local family operations. Even going out once per month can make a difference for a struggling business, and it’s a nice reason to get out of the house for an evening.
4. Avoid Cutting Services
If you currently employ someone through the gig economy, maintain their services if you can afford to do so. Many people rely on the gig economy to make ends meet, and this will continue to be the case as people are increasingly unable to go to work in traditional roles.
Ordering food from local restaurants on delivery platforms doesn’t just help the restaurateurs. It also provides more work for food couriers. You can use platforms like Instacart (read our Instacart review) to order groceries online while simultaneously funneling more money into the gig economy. Finally, if you pay someone to walk your dog with Rover, consider keeping these commitments.
Additionally, if you currently employ an online freelancer or assistant for your own business, make an effort to keep them employed. Even though this action might not be local, it still helps a small-business owner or independent contractor to make ends meet.
If you have to cut costs, try reducing hours before cutting a contract altogether. The more runway you can provide a gig worker to subsidize their income, the better.
5. If You Use Amazon, Shop on Amazon Storefront & Amazon Handmade
Half the products sold on Amazon come from these businesses. Amazon Storefront is a catalog of products sold only by these sorts of operations. It doesn’t include any big-box stores or mega-retailers.
Amazon Storefront also makes it easy to support women-owned businesses, military families, and family-focused businesses. Plus, there are plenty of categories to choose from, including electronics, books, groceries, beauty supplies, home and kitchen goods, and pet products.
Similarly, Amazon Handmade makes it easy to purchase handcrafted products from artisans all over the world. Categories include things like clothing, beauty and grooming products, toys, and kitchen and dining.
Even if your order isn’t eligible for Amazon Prime delivery, making this change is a simple way to support small and medium-sized businesses during this difficult time.
6. Tip Generously When You Can
This option isn’t viable for everyone. However, if there’s a time to show your gratitude and support for retail workers or gig economy hustlers, the time is now.
If you can, tip more generously than you typically do the next time you order takeout or pay for a service. The money could mean a lot more for someone than you realize. Plus, most delivery apps allow you to tip as part of your online payment. That means delivery workers can leave food at your door to avoid unnecessary contact and still benefit from your generosity.
7. Follow Local Businesses on Social Media
These days, plenty of small businesses have a social media page. Following them on social media is an effective way to keep in touch and to learn how they’re dealing with COVID-19 social distancing guidelines.
As businesses continue to adapt, they can use social media to announce new services. Maybe your local gym now offers live streaming instead of group classes, or perhaps your town’s music studio has online lessons.
Stay up to date on how your community is changing. The only way to support small businesses during a crisis is to know your options and act accordingly.
8. Encourage Friends & Family to Do Their Part
Individual effort to support local businesses during a pandemic only goes so far. Ultimately, it’s the power of collective efforts that helps keep smaller operations afloat during difficult financial times.
As you make changes to support business owners in your community, encourage your friends and family to follow suit. Don’t be afraid to show your support for local businesses on social media or even send out a message to your circle to educate others on how they can help too.
9. Start a Local Initiative
If you want to support local small businesses and individuals, starting your own COVID-19 relief effort with like-minded people in your community can go a long way.
There are several ways you can do your part, including:
- Starting a donation drive to support local businesses at risk of shutting down
- Volunteering at local charities that might be struggling to stay staffed
- Purchasing gift cards to local businesses and running a raffle in your community
- Starting a new weekly tradition with your friends, like a virtual dinner party where you all order from your favorite restaurants
You can also check your local Chamber of Commerce to find a list of upcoming business events. Many communities are running online networking events, charitable drives, and a variety of other initiatives to help support one another during the pandemic.
10. Lend Your Expertise
If you’re a small-business owner or freelancer who services other businesses, you can lend your support for free or at a discount to help struggling business owners.
For example, if you’re a website designer, consider helping local businesses set up websites that support online shopping if they’re currently offline. Similarly, if you’re an accountant, you can help other business owners with tasks like filing their taxes or applying for financial relief programs.
You don’t have to lend dozens of hours of your time. Every bit counts.
As the saying goes, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” To limit the damage of COVID-19, everyone has to make an effort.
Support your local economy whenever you can. It can be a simple action, like buying a gift card or just tipping more generously. Getting into this habit is of the utmost importance right now.
Additionally, help spread the word about available coronavirus financial aid programs or companies that are still hiring to help anyone you know who’s struggling financially.
Above all else, do your part and stay home. There are plenty of ways to entertain yourself at home, and following social distancing protocol is by far the most straightforward way to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.