5 Ways to Support Local Businesses That Are Struggling Right Now

With mandatory closings just beginning to lift, your favorite restaurants, coffee shops, and boutiques need your support now more than ever. Here's how to help.

Owned by our friends and neighbors, your corner coffee shop, go-to bakery, and date-night bistro make a big impact on how sweet and spirited your day might be. Of course, they also play a big role in the economy. A whopping 44% of the total American economic activity is driven by small businesses, and they generate two out of every three new jobs in the U.S., according to a 2019 report from the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy.

Small business owners in every community across the country are feeling the very real impacts of the coronavirus closures and are adapting day by day to serve their customers and take care of their staff. And just as some of the restrictions began to lift over the last few weeks, small businesses in big cities have also had to adapt to additional closures and curfews initiated by the worldwide protests happening right now.

With all that's going on, far fewer Americans are dining out, shopping for their summer vacation swimsuit, swinging by for a daily tea, and booking an in-person yoga class. So, what can you do?

At the very least, says Christina Moffatt, owner of Creme Cupcake in Des Moines, Iowa, pick up the phone, send a text, shoot them a quick note of support. “From a mental health perspective, check in on the operators. It’s more than stores closing, people stand to lose their homes and families,” she says.

young woman looking at her cell phone eating Chinese take out
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5 Ways to Support Your Local Small Businesses Today

You can still help out your favorite businesses without stepping foot inside.

Buy a Gift Card

Infuse their business with extra funds now for a treat to enjoy later. And you need not take any social distancing risks for most locations: Check the website or call one (or several) small businesses to see if you can purchase a gift card or certificate to be mailed or emailed to you directly. Most vendors that don’t offer online gift card options are happy to coordinate purchase by phone. Since they mainly process through your credit card number, have your wallet handy. Or if you’re feeling healthy and well and the shop is still open, next time you’re out stocking up on your fresh produce and gallon of milk, swing by and purchase at a safe distance.

Order Delivery or Takeout

Many cafés, bakeries, and restaurants are still closed, and those that have reopened have limited dining room service. As a result, most have increased their to-go and delivery options like curbside pick-up and more food delivery app partners. Visit the website or social media pages of your top spots, and try to spread the love (without spreading any germs). Or send a dose of sunshine to friends and neighbors by ordering springy bouquets for delivery from a local florist.

Book an Appointment or Event for Later

For salons, event venues, and bakeries, call or email to inquire about future treatments, party bookings, or baked good bulk orders for business or social events. Bonus points if you can prepay now (with a contingency plan for rescheduling options, pending the timing of when it’s safe to resume normal social interactions). Several businesses that operate past normal work hours (think hair salons that book customers for after-5:00 appointments) had just re-opened when curfews forced them to begin closing early, so your support will be appreciated more than ever.

Leave a Positive Review

If now isn’t the best time to spend extra money, use your words. A positive review on Yelp, Facebook, or Trip Advisor can have a long-term impact on the businesses’ reputation, and it doesn’t cost a thing but a few minutes. Be specific with what and why you appreciate the small business, and share explanatory and attractive photos if you have them. This is one tangible way to help a business that's been damaged or closed in the last few days. If you can't physically be there to help rebuild the space, positively promoting their business on social media will be extra helpful as they move forward.

Send a Supportive Email or Note

Draft an email or handwritten note to send as a way to let the small business owners and teams know how much they mean to you. Whether it's letting them know how much you missed being in their space during the pandemic, or sending words of encouragement in this difficult time, the owners, operators, and staff members will appreciate your kind words now more than ever.

None of us know what to do, what to say, or how to feel right now, but a little mental or financial pick-me-up could make all the difference to help your most treasured small businesses stay strong and well through (and beyond) these unprecedented times.

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