It’s safe to say that the power of small businesses is one of the most underestimated and misunderstood concepts today.
What is often lost amid conversations about massive corporations—how much to regulate them, how to help level the playing field, etc.—is the reality that they were all small businesses once.
Before Amazon was the world’s largest retailer, an employee would ring a bell in their office every time a purchase was made, and the team would gather around the computer to see if they knew the customer. Meanwhile, the company’s servers required so much power that Jeff Bezos and his wife couldn’t run a vacuum or hair dryer without blowing a fuse.
This sounds like so many of the small businesses I know and work with today. Amazon and Walmart won’t reign supreme forever, and the smartest small businesses won’t stay small forever.
But this is about much more than just me; small businesses are the ones out there sponsoring Little League teams, funding PTAs, working with local charities and giving back on the most grassroots level possible. They build relationships with other small business owners along with their neighbors and community leaders, which is as much a part of the entrepreneurial spirit as coming up with a good business idea.
Earlier this year during Small Business Week, my company shared stories from small businesses, filled with anecdotes, wisdom and advice for others. This was a particularly reflective week for many small business owners, given how much of their livelihood was upended in the last year.
During the week, I also saw a stream of community leaders and politicians affirming their support for small businesses. But the more of these messages I saw, the more I wondered what would become of these words by the following week. Did we keep that sentiment alive or simply return to the big box chains for groceries and household items?
I’m writing this now on the heels of Small Business Saturday to remind us all do our part to shop local in order to keep the vital fabric of America’s main streets alive. Small businesses provide the pulse for our country – moving forward, letting us know what people need and want, sharing our vastly different cultures, and so on.
So spend some time this winter stopping by businesses that have likely been hurting the past two years. Don’t forget the always-growing number of online small businesses either. Before you glide your mouse over to Amazon or Target, research if there’s a local small business that offers the product.
Additionally, gift cards are a great way to support businesses even if you don’t necessarily need their services right that moment; whether they’re for wineries, cafes, restaurants, or spas, these can be used to reward employees or stakeholders if you don’t end up using them yourself.
If we all just took 10% of our purchases from larger retailers, how much business could we deliver to small businesses? If we can do 10%, can we do 20% and really form a movement?
Whether it’s Small Business Saturday or any day, think about what you’re going to do to support small business - the fabric of our communities and the heartbeat of our country. And if you are a business owner, keep pushing, keep innovating, keep making connections, and always remember where you started out.