9 ways you can support local independent businesses

Small, local independent businesses have a vital role to play when it comes to changing the planet for the better.

In recent blogs, we’ve looked at how local food systems can enrich communities and benefit the environment or how community ownership can transform high streets.

One of the biggest reasons to shop locally is that the money you spend will stay within your local community, rather than being invested elsewhere. This can help to create new jobs and leisure opportunities, build local supply chains, lower pollution levels, and much more.

Local independent businesses are often run by people with a strong connection to the area, people who truly want to operate ethically and improve the lives of their customers.

So, what can you do to help your favourite local independent businesses thrive?

1.      Shop local

When was the last time you explored your local area? You might be surprised by the small businesses now trading on your nearest high street or even run from your neighbours’ homes.

One of the most powerful ways to support local independent businesses is to buy from them in person or via their website, especially if they moved more of their offering online as a result of COVID restrictions.

Buying from a local business helps to keep money within the local community. It can create job opportunities, enable businesses to connect with local suppliers and reduce your carbon footprint by being within walking distance.

If you have no choice but to shop with a larger chain or brand, such as a supermarket, to get what you need, try to choose one that stocks local produce or supports local community initiatives.

2.      Leave positive reviews

If you have a great interaction with an independent business, then leave them a good review. It will make such a difference.

Every year, a company called BrightLocal does an in-depth consumer review into how people interact with local businesses. In December 2020, the latest review found that 87% of consumers read online reviews about a local business before buying. Only 48% of people will buy from a business that has a lower than four-star average and 73% of people only consider reviews written in the last month.

If you leave a good review on Google, it will also help the business to show up in search engine results, especially in local searches. This can help to flag up services to other people within your community.

3.      Shout-out on social media (and in person)

There are other ways you can help to spread the word about brilliant local independent businesses.

If you have a great experience, tell your local friends or family.

Post something about why the business is so good on your local community Facebook page.

You can also help local independent businesses to grow their reach by interacting with their own social media pages. Every like, comment or share will help to boost the organic reach of their posts (i.e. how widely posts are seen without paying for advertising).

With money being tight for many small businesses, anything you can do to spread the word free of charge will be appreciated.

Another tip is to ask a small business whether they have an e-newsletter that you can sign up to. As well as keeping you up-to-date with news from the business, this is also something you can share with your friends and family to get them shopping locally too.

4.      Pay now, enjoy later

Does your favourite local independent business have some form of “Pay now, enjoy later” scheme? Maybe they offer gift cards, experience days, vouchers or a loyalty scheme.

These schemes can help small local businesses to maintain their cash flow, which they can continue to invest in growing the business and its role within the wider community.

5.      Explore your local area for days out

The next time you’re planning a family day out or a get together with friends, why not investigate what’s happening locally rather than travelling further afield?

Not only will it reduce your need to use transport, thereby cutting pollution, but it’s another way to invest in your local area.

One great idea is to search for local social enterprises. Like traditional businesses, social enterprises aim to make a profit but they’re committed to investing their profits in a way that drives positive social change.

Social enterprises exist in nearly every sector. Two famous examples are The Big Issue and the Eden Project.

Have a quick look on Google and you might find local cafes, cinemas, parks, sports facilities, museums, galleries and more that are run as social enterprises. These businesses often create jobs for those marginalised from the workforce, as well as investing in the local community or committing to sustainability.

6.      Ask how you can support them

If you’re not sure how to support a local independent business, why not pop in and ask them or drop them a message on social media?

The chances are that they’ll welcome the opportunity to talk about what they do and explore how you can get involved.

7.      Volunteer

Many local independent businesses welcome the support of volunteers. They might need someone to work on the shop floor, connect with suppliers, write social media posts, represent them at community events, help with admin, or something else entirely.

If you know of a local business that supports a cause close to your heart, volunteering can be a great way to get involved and meet like-minded people who share your values.

8.      Buy from a trainer or tradesperson

Local businesses aren’t just bricks and mortar shops. There may be tradespeople or instructors offering evening classes who are part of the fabric of your community and need your support.

Have local evening classes moved online? Signing up to one could help you learn a new skill and lend your support to a self-employed instructor.

Has a plumber, electrician or builder been a pleasure to deal with? Make sure to give them a review on whichever online platforms they use to find work.

Supporting them is another way to help keep money in your local area and provide opportunities within your community.

9.      Explore delivery and collection options

COVID restrictions have prompted many small businesses to change their model. A surprising number are now offering takeaway and delivery services, so it’s worth checking this.

Does your local zero waste store offer home delivery by bike, for example, as a way to top-up your household essentials? Or can you pick-up meals from your favourite restaurant to eat at home?

Even if a business’s physical doors are closed right now, it doesn’t mean the business is.

If you know a local independent business that’s making a positive difference in the world, shout it from the rooftops, share it with your networks and invest in that business by buying from them. It’s one of the most immediate ways that we can encourage change.

And if they’re not listed in the Ethical Globe directory yet, remind them they can suggest their listing for entry here.


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