Spring is around the corner and you might need to stock up on new-season essentials. Perhaps you need a new wardrobe, a healthier pantry or supplies for an outdoor hobby.
Before rushing off to your nearest shopping mall, I encourage you to look local and support small businesses in your area, not only on Small Business Friday (7 September) but every day.
Small businesses are the lifelines of every community. If we don’t support them, the economy suffers, and we miss out on great benefits.
Here are a few of those benefits:
1. Unique products and services
Small businesses exist because the founder identified a gap in an unsaturated market. In your community, this could be transport to schools in the area, or a home cooking service that delivers freshly prepared, healthy meals to your door.
Small businesses sell high-quality, locally produced products, manufactured in small quantities. This means you can own something thatfew people have. Something that’s unlike anything you’ll find in a supermarket and that will last a long time.
If you need to buy a gift for someone, visit the local market to find something unique and special rather than something anyone can ownif they visit a big retailer.
2. Unrivalled customer experience
Small businesses have a smaller customer base, which means they’re likely to go above and beyond in their efforts to service their customers.They take the time and determination to get to know you and go out of their way to ensure you have a pleasant experience.
If the owner of the local bakery knows that you love her cherry pie, she’ll make sure there’s always one in stock. And she’ll probably keep the last one for you. When you start forming these types of relationships with local business owners, it can quickly start to feel like you’re supporting family, which makes your community stronger.
3. An opportunity to develop your community
A significant portion of the money you spend at a local small business funnels back into your community. The taxes paid by small businesses could go towards infrastructure maintenance and development – like keeping the grass cut at the park or upgrading the roads. This, in turn, increases property prices and makes your community an attractive place to stop for those passing through. They may even spend the night at the local Airbnb.
Small businesses also support each other, creating a ripple effect for growth. A local construction company, for example, might prefer to offer their services at a lower rate to smaller business within the community. That small business could call on the community hardware store to do their paving.
The more a small business grows, the more jobs it can create for locals, helping to reduce poverty and crime in your area.
4. A chance to give back
Small businesses give back to the local community, not only through job creation and supporting other businesses, but also through corporate social responsibility initiatives.
Whether it’s allowing young people to job shadow, picking up litter in public areas, or donating food to the community’s old age home,there’s usually a small business taking the reins. When you support them, you indirectly support your entire community.
5. A chance to grow the economy
You already know that South Africa’s economy is under pressure. Supporting small businesses is the best way to indirectly play your part in economic development. Small & Medium Businesses make up 91% of formalised businesses in the country. They provide 60% of all jobs and contribute roughly 34% of GDP. In other words, they form the backbone of our economy,which means we should support them as much as possible.
And because they sell unique products and services, they help to diversify the economy and stimulate innovation.This means you’re funding great ideas and ventures that only exist outside of mainstream, corporate chains.
Starting and growing a business is hard work and takes a tremendous amount of risk. The South African government recognises the important role small businesses play in the economy and has built frameworks to support them, but we need to play our part, too.
The best way we can show our appreciation for small businesses – apart from buying from them – is to talk about them. Tell your friends,families and networks about the excellent products and service you got from them. Leave a positive review on their social pages – one positive review could raise much-needed awareness about the great work they do and bring in more customers. Also, if you have a friend or family member who owns a small business, support them – and pay the full price. Asking for freebies or a discount puts them in an uncomfortable position, especially when they’re trying to grow their business.
Let’s get the ball rolling this #SmallBizFriday. Remember, buying small adds up to big returns – for you, your community and the entire economy.
By Viresh Harduth, Vice President: New Customer Acquisition (Small & Medium Businesses) for Sage Africa & Middle East