Support Small Business: 6 ways to help businesses in your community thrive
(Family Features) Small business owners faced the challenges of the past couple of years head-on. Nearly all re-evaluated their operations to accommodate new ways of doing business amid changing safety standards and local protocols, and many plan to make these changes permanent.
Over the past year, pandemic-related operational challenges, combined with a surge in physical and verbal attacks, have been uniquely difficult for a group of small business owners.
Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) businesses comprise nearly 10% of small businesses in the United States. Among them, 92% faced difficulties keeping their businesses open and operating amid the pandemic, according to Bank of America’s 2021 AAPI Business Owner Spotlight.
“While almost all AAPI entrepreneurs said the pandemic created additional stress around running their businesses, they remain determined and resilient,” said Carol Lee Mitchell, head of small business strategy at Bank of America. “Even as they faced immense obstacles, AAPI business owners took steps to move their businesses and communities forward.”
Local companies, including AAPI businesses, have proven to be fundamental to strong, healthy economies and inclusive communities. These entrepreneurs remain solution-oriented, quickly adopting new tools and strategies; however, they require support from customers and community members to thrive.
Consider these ways you can support small businesses, including AAPI owners and the community at-large, from the experts at Bank of America:
Choose to Shop Local and Small
Small businesses are ingrained in many local communities. When you choose to purchase from a small business, you’re directly supporting neighbors, friends and the people in your community. This support isn’t taken for granted by entrepreneurs; more than half of AAPI small business owners noted the importance of community support amid the pandemic. Also consider leaving a generous tip when you receive exceptional service – it can make a big difference for small business staff.
Keep the impact that your support could have on local community businesses in mind when shopping for gifts, whether they’re for loved ones near or far. For locals, a gift card to a nearby eatery or business such as a spa, salon or recreation center makes for a welcome gift that keeps your money local. When gifting those who live farther away, you can still benefit small businesses in your community by purchasing a thoughtful gift and packaging locally then shipping it with the help of a business in your area.
Help Spread the Word
Small businesses don’t usually have the means to invest in big marketing programs, so referrals and word of mouth can make a major difference. However, in today’s world, a great deal of consumer research happens online. That means you can be most helpful by taking your stories of great service and quality products to the internet, too. Seek out your favorite small businesses and write reviews on their social media channels. Take it a step further and give them a shoutout (with tags, if possible) on your own social media accounts where your friends and family are more likely to notice.
Help Fill Open Positions
The job market has shifted noticeably over the past year, and local businesses have been struggling to find the talent they need to continue to serve their communities. Small business owners recognize this and are shifting benefits for their employees, allowing for more flexible schedules and additional paid time off.
Since these business owners are looking for employees to help fill some of the uptick in demand, you can help by tapping into your own network and recommending people for different positions you see, whether it be through “Help Wanted” signs or based on the needs you hear from the businesses you patronize.
Be Mindful of Business Challenges
Finding a work-life balance can be difficult for small business owners even in non-pandemic times because they wear so many hats within their businesses, from CEO and salesperson to human resources and everything in between.
Business owners were more conscious of their mental health over the past year, as nearly all AAPI business owners acknowledged additional stress and more than half set aside specific time for self-care and mental wellness.
As a consumer, it’s important to be mindful of the fact that business owners are both short-staffed and dealing with supply chain issues. Take an understanding approach and work with local businesses to make sure they know they are supported by their community.
Check In on What’s New
Just as you’ve changed your consumer habits and needs, small businesses have adapted in dozens of ways. That could mean you have access to new services or options you never considered. For example, your favorite yoga studio may offer streaming classes or a favorite breakfast cafe you haven’t visited in a while might have an all-new menu. Take time to stop in and learn how your favorite businesses are changing with the times and see how those changes may suit your needs.
Look for additional resources designed for small businesses at bankofamerica.com/smallbusiness.Photos courtesy of Getty Images