4 Steps to Supporting Local Businesses and Loving It!
I recently worked on the 5 Year Strategic Plan for Be Local Northern Colorado and one of the things that came up a number of times was the importance of encouraging more people and businesses to shop locally. You see, by supporting, local, independently owned businesses, you are contributing to a thriving community, creating local jobs and supporting the unique businesses that make where you live special. But what does it look like to shop locally?
Our Handmade Client Appreciation Gifts. Notice the eco-friendly wrapping!
I recently put together a special client (and supporters) appreciation gift. November 10th is my Grandmother’s birthday and I thought it would be sweet to honor her by sharing gifts with all my awesome clients in appreciation for the opportunity to serve them. I wanted this gift to be enjoyable, meaningful, affordable and locally sourced (as much as possible).
I was faced with many different decisions as I embarked on this journey. First thing first, I set my budget so I knew what I had to work with. Then I decided on the gift; because my Grandmother and I loved sharing a pot of tea together while we chatted I thought tea would be a fun, unique and memorable gift. So I made a list of the materials I needed and started to research my options (I even made a spreadsheet including cost, product details and vendor information).
Where was the first place I looked? Online of course, I started doing my research at 9pm at night so no stores were open anyway. And to be honest, I found everything I needed at various online retailers but what I didn’t know was the reputation of the companies, the quality of their products, the amount of shipping time required, etc. Many people will stop their search there, click buy, put in their CC information and wait for the delivery.
Loose Leaf Tea, Labels, and Ingredient Cards
My search, however, did not stop there because my goal was to support local businesses as much as possible. I went to our local tea house, Happy Lucky’s and inquired about getting a special blend made for Rosabella Tea. The staff was incredibly helpful and I ended up paying less for the tea and tea bags there than I would have if I bought them online (when you add on shipping, costs tend go up a lot)! Plus the quality was exceptional and I got exactly what I wanted, no sacrifices made there.
I thought for sure that I was going to have to buy the stickers from a company online because I needed round ones and last I checked for a different project those were only available from a special online store. But I thought to myself, “If I’m really doing my best to support locally-owned businesses I better do my due diligence first.” So I looked at the local office supplies store, My Office etc. Lo-and-behold they had round stickers, exactly what I was looking for at a fraction of the price.
The one thing I decided to buy online were the round metal tins. There was just no price comparison there, I got a sweet deal and was able to get the quantity I needed. The only local option I found was to buy them from a chain store and they didn’t have the quantity in stock, were more expensive and lower quality (for me sustainability of a product is also important, these tins can be reused again and again).
Cards Made in Nepal
What’s really cool is that I was way under my budget at this point! And as a result I was able to purchase beautiful, sustainable, fair trade cards from Green Logic. When I started this project I figured I could always buy some paper and make cards myself to keep my costs down. But as it turned out, buying locally was all I needed to do to keep my costs down!
At this point, supporting local businesses is a habit of mine. One of the greatest rewards of this habit is that I get to socialize with my fellow community members and business owners when I’m out and about shopping in town. Building relationships with other professionals and entrepreneurs is just one of the many benefits of shopping locally.
I realize however, that this is not a habit for most people. Whether you run a business or not, here are four steps to supporting local businesses you can start following today.
Create Procurement Policies that require local and sustainable purchasing whenever possible. In other words, make a commitment to vote with your dollars.
Research local business options online, by talking with friends and colleagues, and looking at sites like BeLocalFirst.org.
When-in-doubt if you can’t buy it from a locally-owned store at least purchase it from a locally located store! That way you’re still supporting local jobs and contributing sales tax to your community (in states and municipalities where they collect a sales tax that is).
In what ways have you made an effort to support local businesses lately?