Do you want to eat healthier? Belong to a strong community? Posses more meaningful products? Easy. Shop small and local once a week.
Six years ago while studying for my MBA course I wrote a 10 page long paper about how evil Wal-Mart was and how much it hurt our local and global economy. I was so disgusted with everything I found out during my research that I promised to never go back there. A few months later I was back shopping at Wal-Mart full force. Again, last week I decided to write about the evilness of Big Box stores. I redid all my research with more current numbers. The big companies are as powerful as they were six years ago and they continue setting standards for mainstream high volume-fast turnover and low quality/wasted producing products. I promised myself once again to never go back there and lectured everyone around me. Later that week with little money and tired, I went to Wal-Mart.
Instead of focusing on the negatives of shopping at the Big Box stores, I decided to change my focus to the positive of shopping small and local. I have also come to terms that I may never completely stop shopping at places like Home Depot, but I can do things a bit differently.
Small and Micro Business
Small Businesses typically have more than five employees, but can have as many as 500 whereas Micro business is a small business with 5 people or less. According to Small Business Bank “Micro Businesses are changing the dynamics of income, wealth creation and quality of life in America like no other business factor.”
Small Business Hurdles
I owned a small business in the past, my husband owns a small business and I work part time for a small business and I know it is a lot of hard work.
According to Elaine Parker from Jobs Creation Network, America leads the world in small business creation with 28 million small businesses. They generate over 68% of private sector jobs, and instead of encouraging their formation and growth the government is killing small business with excessive taxes, over-regulation and complicated compliance. Big corporations have tons of influence. They get around the red tape, they get tax brakes and other advantages that small business owners cannot afford.
What is so special about Small Business?
Small businesses are the heart of a community. Have you ever visited a place and said “wow look how cute your Target is, or your MacDonald`s is so unique” I don`t think so. Small businesses bring uniqueness, character and identity to the community.
According to SBA people that live in strong small business communities live a happier and more meaningful life, they have more friends and a bigger sense of community. They belong to something significant by supporting each other.
Small business fit into the 4 pillars of sustainability. They are:
Environmentally friendly: Small businesses promote less pollution from transporting goods from far locations, they support local farmers that farm more conscientiously than big farmers, and their products generate less waste compared to lower quality products that you buy cheaper at the big box stores.
Socially fair: Small business employees are usually treated better than employees at big boxes. Sometimes, it has happened to me, the small business owners become partners with their employees to grow their business.
Economically feasible: 2 out of 3 jobs come from small businesses. They are constantly growing due to constant changes in new niches. The majority of the money collected from big companies flow to their headquarters. According to the SBA, out of every $100 spent at a small business $50 stays in the community compared to $15 when you buy at a big box store.
Culturally appropriate: They bring character to the area with their quaint sidewalk restaurants and unique boutiques. Main Street is where dwellers and tourists gather for night outs and different fun events…and if you are not convinced yet, here are 11 other reasons to shop small:
- Small businesses bring tourism.
- They create direct and indirect jobs. Don`t forget they need local lawyers, local accountants, suppliers, marketers, banks, etc.
- They give customers personalized treatment.
- They provide great customer service because you matter to them. You are not just some other customer in a long customer service line.
- They give people the opportunity to grow and become an employer.
- They`ll support you if you ever start your own business. My first and more loyal customers were my fellow business owners’ neighbors, when I had the auto detailing.
- They generally offer higher quality products.
- They will sell you healthier and better food.
- They are the ones more likely to employ your child.
- You will make a difference in someone`s life every time you shop small.
- This is my favorite. Go against mainstream! Those big corporations have enough customers, be different and shop small and local.
How to shop small?
Here are just a few tips to get your feet wet and incorporate shopping small in your life:
- Start with Small Business Saturdays. SBS is a campaign launched by American Express to boost local economy. I would say, start your day with a cup of coffee or tea from a local bagel shop instead of Dunkin Donuts and go from there.
- Before doing your weekly grocery shopping, stop by a farmer`s market, then go grocery shopping. That way, you`re more likely to buy something from them.
- Visit a local farm and see what programs they have to offer. I`ve just learned that a farm near me offers a $10 annual membership. Not only you get fresh produce, you get to play with the animals, pick your own fruits, go for hikes, ride the big wagon, play in their playground and more.
- Bank small. I am talking about Federal Credit Unions. That is not something that I do, but may consider it in the future. I`ve learned that they will give you better rates, more personalized services and will celebrate with you when you succeed.
- Pick local authors when you go to the library. My library has a section for local writers and I thought that was pretty awesome. I almost forgot this one because it is not something that most people think about, when I say most I mean myself.
- Visit local boutiques just for the sake of visiting it. You don`t have to buy anything the first time either. Tell them it is your first time there and you want to see what is available. Sometimes small boutiques intimidate me because I automatically assume that their prices are high. That is the case sometimes, but sometimes it is not. Even if you are paying a little bit more for a piece of clothing, think of the quality and the many years of use you will get compared to something that you would buy at Target, for example.
- Go to a repair shop before giving something up. I love small repair shops because they remind me of my childhood. I have used the shoe repair guy, vacuum cleaner repair, seamstresses, electronic shops, etc.
- Check out privately owned local pharmacies. Start with a non-prescription if you are not too confident. They will often sell unique alternative medicines that you would probably never know about if you go to a big Walgreens for example.
- Eat at a non-chain restaurant. In my opinion, they are the easiest to find. The food is fresher and mostly homemade.
- Shop at small bookstores. You can get books cheaper, they recycle books, they donate to hospitals and different places when they have surpluses and they`ll give you great customer service.
- If you are not familiar with your area, you can use Google maps and type whatever you are looking for around you. I think it is better than just Google itself. There are other ways, of course, to find local businesses like word of mouth, social media and websites.
- Visit small blogs like mine. I immensely appreciate every visitor and every follower. I love you guys!
If you are not used to local shopping, it will take some effort to get out of the routine, and I understand that just the thought of it can seem overwhelming, especially if you have kids. But, it is the good old “one step at a time” that will make things less complicated.
How about you? Do you shop small? Please tell me about it. What are other considerations would you like to share with us?
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