Supporting small businesses is not a new concept, nor are the reasons why doing so is so important.
On March 11, 2009, Cinda Baxter wrote a blog titled; “Save the economy three stores at a time.” From this one post, Cinda created The 3/50 Project that changed the way people look at supporting their local small and independently owned businesses. The premise was simple:
3 - What three independently owned businesses would you miss if they disappeared? Stop in. Say hello. Pick up something that brings a smile. Your purchases are what keeps those businesses around.
50 - If half of the employed population spent $50 each month in locally owned independent businesses, it would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue. Now imagine if 3/4 the employed population did that.
With her succinct and impactful message, she was a pioneer and visionary in the modern “Shop Small” movement. Then, in 2010 American Express created the first Small Business Saturday on Thanksgiving weekend, to encourage people to bring holiday shopping to small businesses.
On March 10, 2021, almost 12 years to the day after Cinda shared her blog with the world, we shared this post on Instagram.
Our friend Laughing Frog Studio responded to the post with a suggestion to create an ongoing social media theme of sharing personal recommendations for favorite independently owned businesses to help them reach new potential customers across the country. Megan loved the idea and, as he’s the resident master namer, pitched the concept to John for noodling.
How can we succinctly encourage people to invest in the future of small businesses across the country by either (a) making purchases or (b) normalizing brand advocacy across social channels and encouraging others to take action from these shares, to help our small businesses reach more people who are in a position to make purchases.
Look, we get it.
We order from Amazon, we get groceries from Costco and Albertson’s. We like our big brand products and free shipping, and the convenience of setting up regular shipments for every day products like dog food and laundry detergent. But we also understand that our neighbors own and operate small businesses, and with fewer tourists coming to our quaint little town they need locals to step in and help keep their doors open until visitors return.
Small towns across the country are facing a similar situation, and not every local is in a position to make regular purchases. Add to that the change in travel habits of Americans during and post-pandemic; and areas that have traditionally relied heavily on tourism to support their local economies may struggle to return to normal business levels in time to save some of these local treasures.
Spreading the word and helping bring outside business to our favorite shops is the next best thing we as locals can do, and for many of these shops people can make a purchase online from anywhere in the country to show their support!
Last year American Express commissioned a 2020 Small Business Recovery Research Poll that found 62% of U.S. small businesses needed to see consumer spending return to pre-COVID levels by the end of 2020 in order to stay in business.
Did any of your favorite local spots close their doors permanently because of the pandemic? If they aren’t in the same town as you, have you checked in on your favorite small businesses in other areas?
So we had this idea. Next we thought about how we could support the initiative to get it going. We asked our friends on Facebook to share recommendations for their favorite small businesses that had an online storefront available, anywhere in the country, and set a budget of $20 before tax and shipping for each one shared. We made 13 purchases on the first day.
That was 13 unexpected orders received in the inboxes of 13 passionate small business owners. They covered an incredible array of offerings too; from clothing and crafting, to food, housewares, prints and decor - and even an independently owned bookstore! One of the businesses has been open since 1973; another just launched in January of 2020. We made purchases in nine different towns in three different states: California, Washington and Georgia.
And we are just one household.
Imagine if once a week anyone with the ability to do so picked a new business to support that was shared by a connection through social media, or discovered from an ad on your social media feed. Imagine if, in addition to our everyday purchase habits, we looked for opportunities throughout the year to make small purchases - not because we need something, but simply as a way to say to that business’s owner; “I believe in your dream.”
Because for a small business owner getting a new order for your shop is great; but knowing your dreams are supported is priceless.
So think about your favorite locally owned establishments. Think about your friend or family member who finally opened the Etsy shop they’ve been talking about for years because they lost their job or had to stay at home full time during the pandemic. Think about your top spots to go each time you visit friends and family in a different part of the state (or country).
Then make the pledge and take action each week:
If you can make a purchase at your favorite local businesses, even a small one, do. Then share it on social, tag their business accounts so they can reshare and let others know what you love about their products or services.
If you can’t make a purchase, follow the businesses on social media and help spread the word about their sales and specials by resharing to your feed or stories, or tagging a friend in the comments who might like their offerings.
And if you see your friend share a business they love on social media, take the time to check out the online shop and make a purchase if able. You just might find your new favorite thing, and you’ll be showing your support for the dreams of a small business owner!
Social media has been a lot of things to a lot of people lately; some good and some bad. But it continues to be the only low or no-cost form of communication for many small business owners to connect with their customers on a regular basis. Let’s keep the social in social media, and use this powerful tool to help amplify our favorite things in different parts of the country.
Many small businesses had to find a way to transition to online storefronts when COVID-19 closed down our country. Now we have a unique opportunity to use our social media networks to break down the geographic limitations of shopping small and encourage each other to support all American small and independently owned businesses.
We hope you’ll join us and do just that.
Megan & John
Small Business Partners and Advocates