A man stands in the doorway of a small coffee shop

Ways to Support Small Businesses

Updated October 18, 2021 . AmFam Team

Small businesses are a cornerstone of local communities, and it’s important now more than ever to support them. Learn how you can support small businesses.

Did you know that there are over 30.2 million small businesses (Opens in a new tab) in the United States? These small businesses account for roughly 48% of the American workforce — almost half of the U.S. workforce are dependent on the income provided them by small businesses.

So, it goes without saying that any amount of support we can provide these small independent businesses is crucial — not just to the businesses and their employees, but to the economy as well.

The good news is that there are many great ways to help small businesses near or far.

9 Ways to Support Local Small Businesses

One of the many ways to support small businesses is to purchase online. Whether it’s a gift card or a to-go order, a prepaid arrangement with your landscaper or a virtual session with the piano instructor, modern problems require modern solutions! Thankfully, we have the internet and each other.

To help do our part, we’ve collected a list of ways we can support small business all year round in a constantly connected world.

1. Shop online

One of the simplest ways to help also happens to be one of the most effective — shop online! Many of your favorite retailers offer opportunities to order online or over the phone. By checking up through Facebook or other social media, you can find your favorite retailers making great efforts to bridge the social gap by making mail order or curbside service delivery options available.

When it comes to shopping locally online, there are even some major eCommerce websites that let local shops from all over the nation sell their wares digitally, with Etsy (Opens in a new tab) being a prime example. Shopping local doesn’t have to mean that you’re shopping only for your community’s local shops. Not every city has everything you need! But on Etsy, you can shop for a product provided by a local vendor anywhere in the world. Even though that item came from 500 miles away, you’re still shopping local and supporting a small business.

2. Purchase gift cards

Think outside the stocking! Gift cards aren’t just last-minute gifts meant for the holiday season; gift cards help inject much needed revenue into the small business economy. Get some coffee for coworkers. Plan a spa date for a special someone. Buy a thank-you meal for the essential worker in your life. By purchasing a gift card from your favorite retailer, you’re keeping independent sellers in business all year round.

And remember, a gift card is more than just a small, plastic, unwrapped gift that easily fits in wallets and purses. A local business’s gift card is also:

  • A branded advertisement. This helps that shop spread awareness about their brand.
  • A “guaranteed” sale. Even if the gift card recipient doesn’t use their card, it’s money in that small business’s pocket.
  • A small business booster. When someone uses a store’s gift card, how often do they end up buying more than the gifted amount? If you’re a small business owner, there’s plenty to love about the answer, as: 61% of consumers spend more than the gift card’s value (Opens in a new tab).
  • A chance to earn new repeat business. Getting new customers into a small business is a real challenge. When someone uses a gift card either online or in person, it’s a chance for that small business to win over a new shopper. And if that shopper is impressed, they could become a new regular.

3. Get it delivered

Your stomach is growling and you’re not sure what to cook. Well, did you know that many of your favorite eateries and prepared goods shops can be found through apps like Grubhub (Opens in a new tab), EatStreet (Opens in a new tab), Uber Eats (Opens in a new tab) and  DoorDash (Opens in a new tab)? Go ahead! Give it a try. Download one of the convenient delivery apps and search for some of your favorite dishes to be delivered right to your door. Usually, first-time orders will even net you a discount!

Purchasing food for delivery from a local restaurant from third-party ordering services is a great way to help local restaurants. However, if you really want to maximize that local diner’s profits, ordering your food for pickup at the location, or going to the restaurant to dine in-person are much more profitable. The reason for this is that companies like GrubHub, Uber Eats and DoorDash charge a percentage for each restaurant that they deliver for. So, you can save some of your hard-earned cash and provide more of a profit for your local restaurant by simply “showing up,” to eat in-person!

4. Tip like you mean it

Most waitstaff rely on the generosity of their patrons to make ends meet, so remember, if you order something, tip well! For the most part, 20% of your post-tax food total is the standard.

Tipping is crucial to the waitstaff and/or servers that pamper you while you dine-in. Here are some quick facts that many people are not aware of about how service industry employees make a living.

  • Servers may make less than minimum wage. The federal minimum wage is not the same for restaurant servers. In fact, it’s much lower — $2.13 an hour plus tips (Opens in a new tab). If the server earns the equivalent of minimum wage — the federal minimum is $7.25, but the wage varies from state-to-state — in tips plus their hourly pay, restaurants do not have to pay minimum wage to their tipped employees.
  • Credit card tips are taxed. If you have a $20 meal for example, pay for it with your credit card and tip the server $5, the server must pay taxes on the tipped amount.
  • A full-time server rarely gets a paycheck. Another wrinkle to the $2.13 an hour wage is that a server may only be making is that if a waiter earns more than minimum wage on their claimed tips, the restaurant is under zero obligation to pay them the $2.13 an hour. Many full-time servers receive $0.00 checks every “payday.”

How much to tip, who/when to tip, etc. can be a divisive topic. But next time your local restaurant’s sever goes the extra mile for you, why not throw a few dollars more into that tip than the standard 20%? Regardless, now you know that most waitstaff earn their living and pay their bills with money that is never guaranteed.

5. Keep supporting small

Treating yourself now and again can certainly feel good, but perhaps the greatest feeling comes from knowing you’re supporting small, local and independent businesses. Businesses that, in turn, support the community and local economy. Rather than scouring hundreds of pages from your go-to big box retailer, consider giving that local shop a visit.

6. Donate instead of refund

Did you miss a showing for an event you had tickets to? Rather than seeking a refund, you could consider it a gift and forego the refund. Why would you do that? Well, many local theaters, music halls and entertainment venues take huge losses when events are cancelled. Your “donation” could help them offset the financial hit they take when events are cancelled.

Or you could simply request your refund be in the form of a gift card for that same venue. That way the money stays where you originally spent it, and the local venue can still profit.

7. Schedule your shopping trips

Holidays are still planned throughout the year, so consider your gift purchasing a little early. This could also be a nice time for you to support small businesses by purchasing a service now that can be used later. Maybe you needed some work done around your house? Small business owners love to see their calendars marked up with work, so help by contacting them today.

8. Promote small businesses via Small Business Saturday

For those that aren’t aware, Small Business Saturday is the Saturday after Thanksgiving and one of the busiest shopping periods of the year. The purpose of the day is to boost the revenue for small businesses in your city, town and all around the nation.

Now that you know what Small Business Saturday is about, here’s an idea for you to help your favorite small business after this year’s Thanksgiving:

Think of your favorite local business. Any business will do. Ok, now think of five friends you would like to share your appreciation of that small business with. That’s it! By promoting your favorite local establishments to friends, family and followers you care about, you can make some of the biggest Small Business Saturday impacts.

9. Give thanks

By supporting those who serve and support us, those who feed and clothe us and those who provide good times, we’re offering a bit of gratitude for what they do for our communities. We wouldn’t be the us we are without the small, independent businesses who see that our needs and wants are met, day in and day out.

Give thanks by giving back and consider supporting your local small businesses as best you can.

This article is for informational purposes only and includes information widely available through different sources.

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