Written By Gina Stroud
Cover Image Source: Composite image, left from Gina Stroud, right from Gina Stroud’s Facebook page. All other images courtesy of the author.
The following Kindred Confessions article is guest post written by Gina Stroud, in honor of Small Business Saturday!
Owning a small business— it’s kind of a big deal.
You are bringing an idea to life and sharing a part of yourself with your community.
Being able to share this with others is certainly a blessing. Many small business owners will tell you that their business is just the same as the blood running in their veins. It = life.
For this reason, I am a passionate small business shopper, and when I travel, I do everything I can to visit a variety of local shops in that area. These things do not run on their own. You, the customer, make that blood flow.
Here are a few confessions & tips, coming from me—a small business owner and dedicated small business shopper:
1. Seek out small businesses in your neighborhood and pay attention to hours of operation.
It’s one of my most favorite things to seek out small businesses. You can do so a variety of ways. Did someone tell you about a place, did you read about it online, did you pick up the local area magazine and see an ad?
Sometimes it might take a little research but be sure to keep a mental note of those business names and purposely seek them out when you have time to do some shop hopping.
Hours of operation vary from place to place. Some small businesses may only be open 3 hours a day, others 10 (or more!). If you are able to get some local business shopping done during the day, Facebook is a great way to stay on top of who is open when and on what days. I make sure to check this out prior to making the drive, then plan accordingly.
2. Make the inconvenient convenient.
Let’s just admit it: small business shopping is not always the most convenient thing to do. I totally hear you. I’ve been to a trillion places tucked away inside plazas, behind plazas, in parking lots (food trucks), inside old buildings, etc.
Most small business owners don’t have the luxury of starting up right by the highway or next to your office. Whew—imagine that rent. Now maybe that’s in the cards for the future, but currently, most are just lucky to be able to afford the spot they’re in, and to stay there.
If you appreciate their service and truly do love what they do, show them. This is when actions speak much louder than words.
Not that distance matters, but from the perspective of a small business owner, it is such a pleasant surprise when even the busiest travelers from out of make it a point to stop by when they are in the area.
ANYTIME people make a point to make the inconvenient convenient, it is most appreciated.
3. Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Living in NYC for two and a half years taught me that there are some mighty fine gems in the smallest, most ordinary of spaces. Don’t be taken aback if the local business you have just entered isn’t the fanciest of places. Sometimes, diamonds are found there.
4. Respect the heart of the business.
What is the back story behind the business? What sparked the idea, what inspired it? If you don’t know, ask. You may already love what the business has to offer, but once you have a better understanding of the heart of the business, you may love it even more.
5. Learn how you can make an impact.
You are already making an impact by choosing to shop local, however many small businesses also donate a percentage of your purchase to a cause close to their heart. Keep an eye out for this so you are aware that you are also making an impact far beyond the four walls of that local business.
6. Please don’t compare apples to oranges.
One of the most heart breaking things people can do when they enter a small business is request something from them that another business has. That defeats the purpose of the small business your two feet are planted in at that moment. All businesses are unique in their own way. Figure out what you love in THIS place and it might become your new favorite.
7. Enjoy item highlights, as they come available.
We live in a “more, more, more…now!” culture. It’s becoming very common to have a trillion options everywhere you go so many people are becoming accustomed to being able to get everything in one single place.
Please keep in mind that many small businesses do not operate in that way.
– An apparel store may have a few footwear selections, however footwear is not their main business.
– A floral shop may have a few scented candles that can be purchased as an additional gift item, however scented candles are not their main business.
And so on…
As these special highlights come available in the shop, certainly enjoy them, but remember they may not always be there every time you return for a visit.
Remembering that will save heartache for both the shop owner and the customer, as it is certainly not the small business’s goal to disappoint you.
8. Delight in the simple.
Many small business food and beverage establishments offer very simple, to the point menus. I love this because they are sharing their favorites with you. If it’s a build-your-own type thing, don’t be afraid to ask the server what their favorite is. It’s always fun to get their perspective and that will help get your taste buds off to a great start.
9. Acknowledge hard work.
Walk into the local antique shop. The face behind the counter is so familiar…apparently, they seem to be the only person running the shop.
Walk into a local restaurant. Notice how grandpa might be seating you, his grandson might be the server, mom and dad might be the chefs, and their daughter might be running the register.
Small businesses are often run by one person, a family, or a small group of friends. This means that those same people are working for you during business hours, before business hours, after business hours, and on their “days off”.
Quite frankly, they are working 24/7.
Be vocal and let them know how much you appreciate them.
Kind words mean so much.
10. Create a domino effect.
Small businesses rely on you in order to keep going. Advertising costs are high and it is never a guarantee that the advertisements even work.
The best way to advertise is word of mouth.
Love something? Talk about it and bring a friend back so they too can find something they love.
I love seeing this type of chain reaction happen at my shop, and it is also one of my most favorite things to create when I visit other local businesses.
These are just my thoughts from the experience of a small business owner.
I hope this perspective has been of help to you as small business shoppers, and maybe, many of you may even be able to relate to it as small business owners and/or employees.
Ultimately, it’s up to us.
Each of us has the potential to help small businesses grow into something really beautiful.
Now, get out there and show them some love.
Help be their voice.
Without our participation, it’s all just another good idea.
Thanks for reading,
Authors Bio: Gina Stroud was born in 1984 and her love of coffee began in 1984. 🙂 In all seriousness, the caffeine boost wasn’t the only reason she loved it so much. It was also because of the good conversation and company it keeps. All of these things create joy, one of the main reasons Gina decided to quit her very secure job of five and a half years to open up her own local coffee shop (co-owned with her husband) in the Northwest Arkansas community. In addition to creating a relaxing environment, the main goal of the shop was to give back to the community with 10% of every purchase going to support a local cause. For two years the shop brought much joy to Gina and the community. In July 2014 the doors closed, but not without leaving a very unique fingerprint on the community.
Gina now continues to share her love of coffee, baking, cooking, and fantastic conversation with her friends and family and is a passionate small business shopper, showing constant support for small businesses in her neighborhood and in those in which she travels to.
Gina’s motto is a good one:
Shop small: without your support, it is all just a good idea.