How to support your local, independent businesses right now

Small businesses have been hit pretty hard in the past few months, following UK flooding, uncertainty around Brexit and a worldwide pandemic. Because of this, some of your favourite independent shops, cafes and bars may be struggling.

Last week, a popular eatery in my city centre – The Quarter – posted a photo on Facebook of their empty diner. This restaurant is usually bustling across two floors, and you’d be lucky to get a seat. It was reported in the paper that their intake was down by more than 60%, compared to the same day the previous week. These kinds of statistics are absolutely devastating – and I can guarantee the case is the same for a lot of other small business owners.

I’ve always been conscious of supporting local, and had been going about as usual, getting my London Fog or my dog treats from the usual places (North, and Hounds). But apparently, it’s not business as usual for everyone. Whilst people are stock piling for the apocalypse, they’re not thinking about the after effects and what will be left when this has all blown over. Will your favourite craft bar be forced to close? What about the artisan cake shop?

So, in a bid to remind you all to keep supporting local, independents at this difficult time, I’ve put together a list of ways you can show your support. Some ways won’t even cost you a penny – and, if going outside is your fear, some you can do from the comfort of your own home.

Like, Comment, Share, Save

The best free way you can support a local business is by engaging with their social media posts. The easiest way to do this is by turning their post notifications on, so that you’re the first to know when they’ve put something out on social media. The way social media algorithms work is that the more people that like a post as soon as it goes live, the more people it gets shown to.

Double tap, tell them you can’t wait to visit again – or that you love the look of their latest product, share it, and SAVE it. On Instagram, there’s a little bookmark button on the bottom right corner beneath an image. You can save images to collections – which only you can see – and this all goes toward the algorithm, meaning more people will get to see their post.

Post a photo/Shout out on stories

If you have recently purchased a product or service from a small bizz, shout about it online! Post a photo and share it to your IG or Facebook story, tagging the brand in the post.

If you have no products to show, why not get involved with #SmallBusinessSaturday and just share your favourite businesses Instagram feeds in your story and say why you love them!

Leave a review

When shopping around, or picking out a service or hotel – what’s the first thing you do? Check the reviews and ratings! Leaving a Facebook, Google or TripAdvisor review will make a small business owners day – their week even! It will look awesome to people searching for products and services, but also help boost a small biz and help them rank higher in search engines.

If you’ve got a bigger platform – like a blog – why not do a blog post? Or a roundup of your favourite local businesses!

Spend a pound

This idea comes from Just A Card, a campaign where the idea is that if you bought ‘just a card’ from a small business each week, then you’d be contributing to supporting their biz and the local economy.  I love this idea, and most independents will have something for £1, so pick it up – it could be a card, a hair scrunchie, a dog treat, a coffee!

Get involved in events/workshops

I love going to making workshops – whether it’s a Christmas wreath or a flower crown! At home on the Cultural Quarter, we are lucky to have indie eateries supporting indie makers, hosting workshops on their upper floors, like the Nadine Wilde loom weaving workshop I’m off to next week! Off the top of my head, there are some awesome events coming up near me, including WordCraft poetry nights at Bottlecraft, an Easter dog photo shoot at Hounds and a silver earrings workshop at The Slamwich Club! 

Tell a friend – shout about your buys!

One of the best marketing techniques is word of mouth – so use yours! If someone compliments something you bought from a small bizz, tell them where it’s from and then bang on about it.

Thanks! My earrings are from Charms and Chains – I recently built my own Mother’s Day box with them. It was awesome, totally customisable and arrived within a couple of days!

Thank you! My boots? Oh they’re from Sparrowhawk Vintage – they’re Wrangler real leather and only cost me £15. They have awesome new stock in every week that they post on their Instagram story as part of #FreshFriday!

Get the gist?

Ask yourself: Can I get this from a small biz instead?

Could you get your coffee from a small business instead? What about your lunch? Could you buy your candles, skincare or cleaning products from an independent?

Why not vouch to purchase five essential items from independents near you each month?

Make a conscious decision to ditch corporate and shop small instead!

Shop online

Don’t fancy venturing out? See if your favourite indie bizz has an online shop and offers delivery. Keep an eye out on their socials for any discount codes or offers that you can apply at the till. Hounds regularly offer free delivery over £20, or a percentage off online orders.

Sign up to their mailing list

Most businesses offer discount when you sign up to their mailing list, which is a bonus for you! But for them, it allows them to build a relationship with loyal customers, offer tips, share their favourite things and boost sales. There can be some really valuable information exclusive to their mailing list – so be the first to know! Head over to their site and pop your email in that little box now!

Build a relationship with them

Make friends with your small biz babes! Ask about their day and their life, ask them about new stock plans – heck, buy them a coffee because lord knows they don’t have time to pop out. Building a relationship with small biz owners creates a more personal shopping experience. I love when I pop into North for a cuppa and they ask me how my blog is going or what photos I’ve been working on. In turn, I love asking about the new menu in the works, or what events are coming up that I could attend. Since taking an interest in Brimstone, I’ve become their photographer!

Visit a makers market

Discover local businesses in your area en mass at a makers market. Buying from their stall makes their trip worth it, and more sales means it’s more likely that they’ll pitch up again for the next market day. My favourite local market is the Totally Locally Leek market, but I also like to go further afield to the Manchester Craft and Flea! 

Take your own bag

Most independents will offer you a free bag – but those bags aren’t free to buy! If you take your own bag for life, you’ll be saving them a couple of pence. If everyone did it, then there would be less demand for bags, and can save a couple of quid here and there for a small biz!

Pay cash where possible

It won’t cost you any more or any less to pay cash, but you’ll be saving an indie business some pennies. Card payments take a small percentage of a charge, which soon adds up – and that’s profits that could go straight into the till. Particularly for small bills, pay cash if you can, so you can be assured the money is going directly into the business you’re supporting.

This being said, surrounding the coronavirus, many businesses are requesting that you pay contactless to avoid passing on germs – so just check policies over the next few weeks whilst people are being careful!

Buy the newspaper

Okay, I’m likely saying this as a local journalist – buying a paper is supporting your local paper. However, your local newspaper is the first place a business will go to advertise – both paid for and in editorials. Let a small biz know you saw the article about them, or their ad in the paper!

Each Monday, The Sentinel publish their Shop Local feature, which supports a different local business each week. The businesses offer our readers something for one week, like 10% off, or a free coffee when you buy a cake – it’s a great opportunity to both support your local paper, and an independent store.

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Where I am

Staffordshire, UK