While I know most of you hard working moms are working on businesses that primarily function online, there are also plenty of you who are at least partially involved in building your businesses offline in the “real world” where local customers are your bread and butter.

And, even if your entire business resides online, you and your family are still an integral part of your local community and you have money to spend to purchase what your family wants and needs.

So, with those two thoughts in mind, let’s take a moment to look at a serious problem that can affect all of us:

Why are our local businesses in danger?

The fact is, between the ease and convenience of ecommerce and the prevalence of huge box stores within easy driving distance of nearly every home in America, the small, local, independent businesses that used to be the only option in most small towns and cities are facing a true crisis. We might call it a figurative “mass extinction event.”

In case you’re not familiar with that term, it’s the scientific term used to describe cataclysmic events that cause huge numbers of species to die off. Like the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs, for instance. And it’s not melodramatic to say that the current trends in service trades, food service, and specialty retail could spell similar disaster for the small, local shops and restaurants along Main Street, USA.

Is there a bad guy to blame?

Unlike any other time in history, it’s not only possible but it’s actually easier for the majority of consumers to avoid small, independent shops and restaurants in favor of one-stop-shopping at Wal-Mart or Target, and consistent menus at large chain restaurants like Applebee’s or Chili’s.

Now, there’s nothing wrong at all with shopping at Wal-Mart or eating at Applebee’s. These companies provide a valuable service, convenience, and quality products, not to mention a significant number of jobs in the community. The danger, however, is in patronizing these large chains exclusively in lieu of our smaller local businesses.

While the competition provided by the inclusion of a large box store or popular chain restaurant should theoretically have a positive impact on the local retailers, all too often the huge price differences and overwhelmingly larger marketing budgets of these large stores create an environment where smaller business owners can’t afford to compete.

In those cases, it’s really up to the business owners themselves to become more creative in their methods of differentiating themselves and adding value to their offerings, and it’s up to the local consumers to recognize the importance of helping these smaller shops stay in business.

Why are these small businesses so important?

While the large box stores rake in billions of dollars in annual revenue and can’t help but have a tremendous impact on the local economy in terms of job creation and tax revenue, the combined value of the smaller local businesses in the area nearly always exceeds the value of the large store.

The reasons are simple:

  1. In any economically viable community, the number of small independent businesses will likely outnumber the larger national chain locations 10-to-1 or better. All of these stores and restaurants will have employees and tax responsibilities, so they combine to amount to a greater impact than the large store.
  2. Unlike a large national chain or franchise location, nearly all the money spent at a local independent business stays right in the community since the owners and employees all live in the area and there is no national or international corporation taking the lion’s share of the proceeds to invest elsewhere. 

So, logically, every dollar you spend at a small local store or restaurant provides a greater investment in your own community than that same dollar spent at a franchise location or box store.

And, there’s also the matter of longevity and a commitment to the local community. While the fate of a franchise restaurant or large box store depends completely on the balance sheet and it can be closed down in a heartbeat if an accountant a thousand miles away decides it’s no longer viable, a small local business is generally being run by an active member of the community to wants to stay right where they are for the long term. By supporting their efforts, we can support the long term growth and stability of the local economy.

What can we do to help small local businesses THIS MONTH?

You may already be aware that Saturday, November 28th is “Small Business Saturday”.

This is a perfect opportunity to show your solidarity with the local business community and to explore the incredible variety of products and services available from local professionals, retailers, restaurants, and craftspeople.

Small Business Saturday is held each year on the day after Black Friday (when we realize the huge box store savings opportunities are impossible to ignore) and Cyber Monday (when ecommerce holds sway across the nation.) It’s the perfect balance to these two annual shopping events that encourage investing your holiday spending outside your community.

Do you know what’s going on in your local community on November 28th? Most likely your local economic development organization or Chamber of Commerce already has a series of events planned. If you own a local business, investigate what they’re doing to celebrate the day and participate! Even if you don’t own a business with a physical location in the area, see what you can do to add to the publicity surrounding the events and make sure you take the time to shop at a local stores on that day!

And, if you don’t currently own a local business but you have dreams of entrepreneurship, consider buying a local business that’s for sale and keeping the dream alive in your area.

By supporting Small Business Saturday, we set a precedent that can have an impact throughout the rest of the year as well: we stay aware of the great things our local independent businesses have to offer and we let them know just how much we appreciate and need them.