What comes to mind when you hear “small business”? Is it the local hardware store? A new diner in town? That great clothing shop that opened up a few months ago.
Small businesses make up a whopping 99.7% of all American businesses, yet many people have a limited understanding of what they are. Even for those who understand small business, the importance of consumer support for them is often overshadowed by the ease and access to large, national competitors offering lower prices with a wider variety of products. With such a vast majority of our businesses falling into the "small business" category, it's important to understand just what these businesses are and how fundamental they are to the fabric of society.
What is a Small Business?
The Small Business Administration defines a small business as a company with 1-499 employees, but most small businesses have less than 100 employees in the company. With a total of almost 30 million small businesses in the United States, it's no surprise that they employ almost 60 million people.
Although facts and statistics are interesting, the reality is that small businesses are much more than just their company sizes. Consider the local coffee shop, the hardware store down the street, or the daycare that you bring your children to. Small businesses are the realizations of their owners' passions. They are the conversion of a hobby into a career, the addition of a new service for a community, or a new take on old problems.
Why does small business matter?
They are a foundation of neighborhoods - the unique combination of people and places around you. To the extent that small businesses have unique storefronts and styles and products, then you have a neighborhood unlike those elsewhere. We have glimpses of what the world would be like if the same chain stores and businesses appear everywhere... and it's horribly boring!
They cater products and services to your community's wants or needs. Many people start small businesses where they grew up or currently live. They have the best idea of what people in your community like or want because they live there with you, not because a large corporate office somewhere decided to locate near you based on market research.
They contribute financially to your community. Small businesses provide significant contributions to the local tax base, which pays for infrastructure and services that benefit everyone nearby. And that money largely stays local - not rolled up into a remote corporate headquarters in another state. Small businesses also provide a diversity of local jobs, which is good for surviving economic downturns.
They bring stability and safety. Since small business owners and workers often live nearby, they are regular faces in the neighborhood. People who are a part of the community are more likely to notice and have ownership for negative changes in the neighborhood because it's their neighborhood, too.
They "pay it forward." Small business owners know how hard it is to start up and become successful. Those entrepreneurs are more likely to be the base of mentorship and support for their neighbors opening businesses around them than their peers in big corporate jobs. Successful entrepreneurs may also become a local source of angel investment to help their communities continue to grow.
How can you support small business?
Your support for small business makes a huge impact - not only for their owners but for our entire economy. You can support small businesses in your community by shopping small. Next time you're looking for a new screwdriver, head to your local hardware store instead of the larger chain. When you'd like a new shirt, head to the local boutique. And don't overlook the benefits of enjoying a meal at your local restaurants instead of major chains!
If you're already a customer at your local businesses, let your friends and family know how happy you are. Small businesses rely on word of mouth marketing to bring new customers through the door, so bring your friends with you next time you visit. If you're feeling really excited, create a "bucket list" of small businesses that newcomers to your city should experience.
Don't be afraid to get digital. If your favorite businesses have social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or any other platforms, be sure to follow them and share their content. You can also leave reviews on Facebook, Google, and Yelp to let the world know how much they can trust these businesses.
Finally, enjoy the experience. Get to know the business owners and employees while you're visiting the establishment. While you're in a local shop, you're not experiencing somebody's source of income, you're participating in someone's passion. So enjoy!