It’s always a good idea to support small businesses while doing your holiday shopping, but with so many companies negatively impacted by COVID-19 shutdowns and restrictions, it’s more important than ever this year. While the most obvious way to support small businesses is to buy their goods or services online or in person, there are also other ways you can help.
1. Buy Gift Cards
Yes, gift cards make great Christmas gifts, but you can also buy gift cards from local businesses for your own future use. This can give the companies some much-needed cash flow right now, which is especially important for places like salons and spas that might be temporarily closed or have a reduced client base.
You can also start a gift card chain by buying a $5 or $10 gift card from a local business and giving it to a friend with the condition that she gives a gift card for another local business to one of her friends, who must give one to another friend, etc. It’s kind of like a chain letter, only it’s not annoying, makes people happy, and keeps small businesses alive.
2. Buy Your Books from Independent Bookstores
You might love small bookstores, but what if you're in full lockdown? Or what if there aren't any in your area? Support them from your house by shopping on Bookshop.org, which donates a percentage of the profits to independent booksellers. The site even allows you to do a search for booksellers near you, so you can better direct where the profits will go.
Alternatively, find out if your favorite local bookstore has its own website so you can ensure that 100 percent of the proceeds from your purchase go to that specific shop.
3. Buy Food Directly From Restaurants
Food delivery apps are convenient, but they take at least a 30 percent commission from each order and often charge even more fees: In May, a restaurant owner shared his statement from Grubhub showing he only earned around 36 percent of what customers paid the app. While the apps have reduced some of their fees since then, there are no fees when you order directly from the restaurants.
Alternatively, use ChowNow, which may have fewer restaurant listings than its competitors, but is a commission-free alternative that charges restaurants a flat monthly fee.
4. Buy Some Booze
No need to get drunk, but consider adding a cocktail, beer, or wine from restaurants when you place a to-go order—alcohol purchases make restaurants a lot of money. Many areas are also allowing bars to sell to-go drinks, and they, obviously, can’t survive without selling alcohol.
And don’t forget to support your local breweries, wineries, and distilleries. You can buy growlers, bottles, cans, and even merchandise to help them keep their doors open. Plus, many distilleries are making their own hand sanitizers and disinfectants, so you can help keep yourself safe with high-quality products made by a local business.
5. Shop Your Local Farms or Specialty Markets
Just because your holiday dinner may be limited to immediate family only doesn’t mean you can’t have an impressive spread. So why not visit a local farm for organic eggs, meat, or produce, or head to a nearby specialty shop that carries delicious gourmet delights? If there was ever a year to spend a little extra on tasty treats, it's 2020—so you might as well visit your local farms and specialty markets for everyday groceries as well.
6. Leave Reviews for Your Favorite Businesses
A good review doesn’t just give people the confidence to try a new place, it can even help the company rank higher on Google or Yelp, leading more people discover the business. Make a list of your favorite small businesses and either set aside a block of time to review them all at once or leave a few reviews whenever you have a moment of free time. Either way, the reviews will help more than you might expect, especially if you take the time to share them on social media.
7. Support Makers by Buying Handmade Goods
Traditional indoor craft shows have largely been canceled this year in an effort to reduce the risk of coronavirus worldwide, so check Festivals.net for virtual craft shows. You can also support makers by shopping on Etsy and Amazon’s Handmade section.
8. Support Small Businesses on Amazon
Amazon is a huge company, but you can support small businesses using the site: Visit the Amazon Small Business portal, where you can find products made by companies in your region or items made by Black-, women-, or family-owned businesses.
9. Offer Your Professional Services for Free
If you offer professional services to businesses and you can afford it, consider offering your services for free to small businesses in your area. If you’re a web designer, offer to create a website for a restaurant that doesn’t have one. If you're a woodworker, build eye-catching shelves for a nearby bookstore. Painters can spruce up the windows of an independent grocer. Marketers can help a local print shop attract more clients. Just think about what you can do, think of a local business that could benefit from it, and then offer up your services free of charge.
10. Play the Proofreader
Many business owners create their own websites and social media profiles themselves, but they aren’t professional writers or programmers. So if you notice a spelling or grammatical error or a broken link on a company website, tell the owner. You might feel like a know-it-all, but remember that every error could potentially cost them a customer.