Support Our Local Businesses

By Cathy Balach, Director Napa-Sonoma Small Business Development Center

Local Businesses are a critical piece of our community. They are run by our neighbor s and our friends. And, dollars spent in our community tend to stay in our community. Please “Think Local” before spending your money online.

It’s that time of year when holiday decorations fill shop windows and ads all around us implore us to open our wallets and spend a fortune at Costco, Amazon, and all the big-box stores. It’s also the time to remember that the fortunes of many local businesses took a major blow in the pandemic – and they continue to suffer.

Small Business Saturday is a humble but important day to celebrate our local businesses. It’s a day that highlights the importance of spending our shopping dollars in our local economy and the many small businesses who depend on our community commitment to them.

Every time you buy a cup of coffee from your neighborhood cafe or purchase a gift from a local small business, you’re shopping small and making a difference. As a consumer, you’re a vital part in helping small businesses thrive.

Why does shopping locally matter?

You might already know that small businesses are good for our community. When you spend $100 at a local small business, $48 stays in the community – versus $13 at big box stores, or $0 when spent online or out of county. Local businesses create jobs and the thriving atmosphere our towns depend on.

But here’s something you may not realize: Small businesses often offer better products and services. When you order items from a big-box store or a mega-giant like Amazon, it can be difficult to know what went into producing those items. But when you buy from a local business, you’ll often get an opportunity to talk to the owner about product sourcing. That may enable you to shop with more confidence.

And another reason to keep it local: Small businesses can help property values improve or stay strong. Communities with thriving businesses make for a thriving town, and are thus attractive to prospective home buyers and can also help when it comes to attracting tourists.

Needless to say, shopping or dining at our small businesses matters all year-round; each time you choose local, you’re expressing your dollar vote for our communities. American Express reported that 78% of small businesses say holiday sales will impact their ability to keep their doors open in 2022.

If you are a local business owner, don’t miss this opportunity to connect with customers. Here are a few suggestions:

— Promote your participation in Small Business Saturday on social media.

— Show your support for other small businesses near you. Consider partnering with other local businesses and promote each other.

— Announce and celebrate your identity as a small business. Tell how and why you got started. Share what makes your products or services special and personal.

— Offer a Small Business Saturday discount. For instance: a 15 percent discount on all new items or perhaps free coffee and cookies for shoppers. Consider offering a free gift with any purchase over $50 or maybe free gift-wrapping.

— Remind your customers of ways that you support the community, such as giving back to employees and non-profits.

Even after Small Business Saturday, don’t forget to follow up with your customers. A small thank you will only take a few minutes to create. Or share photos on social media: “Thanks to everyone who stopped by to #ShopSmall this Saturday. We appreciate your support and hope to have you back again soon!”

And don’t forget to appreciate the hard work you have done yourself! At the SBDC, we have seen small businesses change their business model, add delivery, drive-by pick up and/or shipping services, and doing whatever it takes to keep their customers.

Some businesses have added virtual training and webinars; others added online shopping e-commerce services, and the list goes on. You may not have thrived, but you survived. We honor and celebrate our resilient and innovative business community!

Last year, the Napa-Sonoma SBDC helped more than 1,128 local businesses of all sorts navigate the pandemic and access $32 million in capital to start or grow their business and create a meaningful impact on our local community. Learn more at www.napasonomasbdc.org

Don’t let Small Business Saturday get forgotten between the gap of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Make the time to visit your neighborhood shops and restaurants on Nov. 27 for Small Business Saturday, and then make sure to return throughout the remainder of the year.

Thank you shoppers and businesses for supporting our local community. Shop small!