The coronavirus (COVID-19) situation is developing rapidly. As many of us start - or continue - to work from home, limit our time spent in public areas, and adjust our buying habits, it's clear that we are having to come to terms with temporarily embracing a new way of life as we know it.
For many small businesses, a crisis of this volume can be challenging, to say the least.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration 2018 Small Business Profile, there are 30.2 million small businesses in the United States, providing jobs for more than 58 million employees. Right now, many of those small business owners are trying to figure out how to adjust to moving their business online and others are worried about how to pay their dedicated employees.
And while you can't visit your favorite bar or shop as you normally would, there are still many ways you can support your small business community without leaving your house.
Of course, as always, as you engage in supporting small businesses, be sure to follow all CDC-recommended guidelines and precautions to do so safely.
When it comes to a time of crisis, how can you continue to support the small businesses and nonprofits in your community?
What can you do, as a consumer, to continue to support small businesses during the coronavirus outbreak? Here are some tips:
Buy gift cards
Gift cards are a great way to support a small business now by getting yourself something in the future. This is a great idea for your local boutiques, go-to restaurants, and pet supply shops. Plus, many small businesses are now offering the option to purchase gift cards online, saving you a trip to the store.
Shop local - online, that is
If your favorite local small businesses offer online shopping, consider getting a head start on any upcoming birthdays, holidays, or "just because" purchases. Think of it this way - you'll be able to cross that task off your to-do list while also helping a small business get through a tough time. It's a win-win!
Do you have a favorite shop that hasn't, in the past, offered the option to make purchases online? Check again. Many businesses are making the switch to online stores as a result of coronavirus and you may be pleasantly surprised to find they are now listing the products you love online.
Order takeout or delivery
Many towns across the U.S. have implemented a mandate to close restaurants for eat-in options, pushing for takeout or delivery as the safer and more sanitary alternative.
Consider supporting a local restaurant near you by ordering delivery.
Of course, it is always best to support small businesses directly, but this crisis has brought a couple of delivery options to light that are doing great things for the businesses they serve.
Many takeout and delivery middlemen, such as GrubHub and Doordash, have started implementing contact-less drop-offs, where the driver simply leaves your order at the door and sends you a text to let you know your meal has arrived, falling in line with social distancing best practices. Better yet, GrubHub has also announced that they are suspending their commission collections from independent restaurants, ensuring that restaurant owners will get immediate cash flow relief. In addition, they have created a fund that will take donations from their Donate the Change program and give them to charitable organizations that are supporting restaurants and drivers impacted by COVID-19.
However you choose to order, your money will be supporting those who need it right now.
Which leads me to the next tip (pun intended)...
Tip a little more than you usually would
Coronavirus is deeply hurting service and hourly workers financially. Without the steady flow of tips they usually see on a busy Friday night, these employees are finding themselves short on cash.
If you are in a place to do so, tipping a little more aggressively right now would go far for service workers who are trying to make a living during unsure times. If businesses near you are offering discounts or free delivery in response to coronavirus, take the money that you are saving and instead add it on to your normal tip. The delivery workers or kitchen staff will appreciate the help and you'll be doing your part to make sure that you can continue enjoying your favorite restaurants and small businesses once we return to business as usual.
Leave a positive review online
This one is completely free, takes only a couple of minutes, and can be done from the comfort of your couch.
Small businesses rely heavily on reviews. Think about it - when you're looking for a new place to try in your neighborhood and you see they only have two stars on Google My Business, you're probably less likely to stop there than one with five stars.
If you're finding yourself with a little more free time than usual while social distancing, now is the perfect time to hop on Yelp, Google My Business or Facebook to share a kind note about your experience with a local business. Be sure to include photos of the delicious food you ate or the beautiful layout of the store to add even more value to your review.
Donate to a local nonprofit
Nonprofits certainly aren't immune to the impact a crisis has on the community.
With everyone practicing social distancing and staying mostly at home, nonprofit organizations are suffering from a sudden decrease in volunteers, cancellation of fundraising events, and, for some, a decrease in donations. Chipping in, when you can, will mean a lot to a nonprofit near you.
Want to do double good? Buy a gift card from a local shop and donate it to a nonprofit that can use it. For example, your local pet shelter would likely love a gift card to the small pet supply shop in town. You'll be providing the pet supply shop with immediate revenue and giving the shelter resources they desperately need.
Share, share, and share some more
Everyone loves a good recommendation. And, sometimes, advocating for your favorite small business is as easy as clicking 'share' on their latest social media post.
Now is the perfect time to scream your favorite small business names from the proverbial rooftop. If you share one of their posts to your Facebook feed or Twitter account and a couple of your followers make a purchase, you've directly helped this business by merely sharing your love for them!
Engage with them in new ways
If you're a health-nut, going to the gym isn't really a possibility right now. Many locations have begun to close due to local mandates and those that are still open are finding themselves bare while most people shelter at home.
My colleague, Jake, told me this week that his local gym is offering online video sessions for their members so they won't miss out on their workout while they are closed. His gym hadn't offered virtual courses like this in the past but had added them as an option during this time when people are feeling trapped at home. Plus, working out is a great way to fight off cabin fever!
Another great example I've heard was a local ice cream shop who understood that maybe stopping in for a cone wasn't exactly top-of-mind right now, so they began selling packed pints to-go, a great way to keep making sales while also providing customers with a great at-home snack.
The point here is that many of your local small businesses may be offering alternatives to their usual offerings right now. Take a minute to check in on some of your community go-to spots to see if there are new, alternative ways you can support them during this time.
Small businesses need our support now more than ever
All of us are learning how to adjust to this period of time where things are unknown and in a flux. after you've made sure that you're taking care of yourself and your loved ones, consider implementing a few of these ideas to help support your community's small businesses.