During unprecedented times like these, we need to care for each other. The recent pandemic brought about by the spread of COVID-19 has put an immense strain on businesses of all sizes from just about every industry, among those most affected are the small businesses that make our communities unique. Even in these times of confusion and uncertainty, small businesses are finding ways to step up and take leadership in helping their employees, customers, suppliers and neighbors get through this hardship.
On the flip side of the coin, customers of these small businesses are finding ways to show their support as they adjust to what the new normal of businesses will look like for the next few months. Looking out for one another is important in times of crisis, and a little extra kindness can go a long way for someone who really needs it.
Small Businesses Continue to Serve their Community
Although small businesses are being hit hard by mandated closures and loss of foot traffic, they are taking opportunities to lift up individuals being affected by this crisis. Because small businesses are so ingrained in their communities they have a special ability to identify where their resources can be used to address the needs of their neighbors.
One example of this is Ranger Creek, a brewery and distillery located in San Antonio, Texas. It’s nearly impossible to find hand sanitizer bottles available for sale anywhere now, in stores or online. To combat this shortage, distilleries like Ranger Creek are utilizing their employees and materials to make large batches of alcohol-based hand sanitizers and offering them for free pick-up to those who need it. Durnham Distillery in Durnham, North Carolina, is donating its sanitizing solution to its hospitality colleagues to wipe down high-touch surfaces.
Millwright’s Restaurant and Tavern in Simsbury, Connecticut, has made it their priority to take care of local food service employees laid off due to restaurant closures. Owner of Millwright’s, Tyler Anderson, has taken it upon himself to offer free, hot to-go meals to restaurant employees who have either lost their jobs or are not being paid due to the recent closures. Additionally, he has called for other restaurants who are still open and wholesalers to join him in expanding this initiative.
Senior citizens and immuno-compromised individuals are among the most vulnerable when it comes to COVID-19, and grocers of all sizes are finding ways to help them stay safe and healthy while shopping for necessities. Smaller grocery chains like Geissler’s Supermarket in Connecticut for example, have created designated times to allow these community members to shop without worry. Additionally, they’re deploying personal shoppers to deliver food for those who can’t make it out of the house due to fear of being infected or self quarantine.
Small Businesses Find Ways to Adapt as Situation Unfolds
Social distancing and self-quarantining have made a new normal for small businesses to operate within, creating a need for these businesses to adapt their models, offerings, and services. This has sparked a wave of innovation, as moments like these create an urgency for new ideas.
Most gyms have been closing their doors in efforts to control the spread of COVID-19, but some are adjusting their strategies to keep customers engaged. Take for example Fearless Fitness clubs in Connecticut, who are offering online workouts and to-go workout packages to help members stay fit while they’re closed. Each of their members can stop by one of their locations and sign out a sanitized set of dumbbells, a kettle ball and one mini band to use at home while they workout to their online workout programs.
Riverbend Book Shop in Glastonbury, Connecticut is physically closed to book lovers during this time, but is still finding ways to keep their community entertained. This small bookshop is offering a concierge service, where customers can call for book, puzzle, and game recommendations, place orders, and have their goodies delivered by one of their booksellers or available for curbside pickup. Riverbend is also offering a virtual storytime service to make sure children don’t have to miss out while they’re home from school.
Classic Cakes in Carmel, Indiana, wanted to give back in a way that shared kindness and was helpful to families. A team brainstorm led to the launch of four new programs to show their community love. Through cake donations, their decorators are making and delivering special cakes for local emergency responders to say thank you for their hard work in this time. Realizing that practicing social distancing can make it tough for families to stay entertained, they also created take-home cake kits to inspire kids and parents to get creative. The ability to create new offerings is not only good for business, but can help make things feel a little more bearable for those affected.
Support the Small Businesses that Have Always Supported You
Unlike large, national retailers, a few weeks to a month of lost business and cash flow can be detrimental for small businesses and their employees, so doing your part to lend a helping hand and show support in any way possible goes a long way. A recent study showed that almost 96% of small businesses have already felt the effects of COVID-19 in the past few weeks. Because of this, thousands of employees across the nation have lost their jobs while businesses are forced to close up shop or drastically reduce their offerings and hours in accordance to preventative regulations.
Now is the time for community members who are able to to go the extra mile for these businesses and share some much-needed kindness.
Ways to Extend Kindness to the Businesses in Your Community
You don’t necessarily need to take a trip out to support the small business around you. Even though you may not be physically visiting a local store right now, there are still ways you can help out:
Many restaurants and cafes are closed to the public right now, but are offering takeout and delivery services. Ordering from your favorite local establishments will help them stay afloat and keep employees on payroll until things return to normal. Be sure to leave generous tips if you are able to help out staff members while traffic is slow, both for food runners and delivery drivers.
Purchase a Gift Card
Buying a gift card to a few of your favorite local businesses is a great way to show your customer loyalty, even if you aren’t able to make it to their shop front. If you’d usually be going for a haircut this time of month, buy a gift card instead from your local stylist as a promise you’ll be back. The same goes for restaurants and other small businesses in your area.
There are a number of small businesses that are closed physically, but are open online via their website or through social media platforms like Instagram. Local artists and musicians are also hurting during this time and buying a shirt or ordering a small piece of art from these sellers can be the helpful hand they need.
Tell Them What You Need
Many small business owners are trying to figure out how to adapt and what new services or products they can offer to retain and attract customers and generate some revenue. The best insight for these business owners comes from direct customer suggestions with needs they want help addressing.
Give a Little Extra
If you’re able to, give a donation to a local business or employee in need. There are resources out there that allow individuals to “tip” local service industry workers who have been laid off or have had their hours cut because of the closures locally. Check small business sites and social media to see what they may be in need of, or give them a quick call to find out. Donating doesn’t have to be about money either, you can cook a meal for employees who have been laid off, donate supplies, or just lend a helping hand.
Support Your Community, Support Small Business, Together We Will Get Through This
When it all comes down to it, we could all use a little extra kindness in our lives right now. Banding together to take on these problems and each do their part, whether as a small business owner or member of the community, is crucial to the well-being of everyone around us now. Times may be tough, but extending just a small amount of good can help us rebound as a stronger community.
Jennifer Smithberger is chief seeder and co-founder for seedership, a social impact and storytelling marketing platform for local businesses to differentiate and grow by expanding connections with their communities