How To Find Small Businesses To Support
Everyone is becoming more aware of the negative impact of large businesses. Whether it's the giant grocery store chain driving goods across the country or the big box retailer known for its poor labor practices, when you shop at chains and conglomerates it's tough to know whether you're making ethical choices. On the other hand, finding small businesses you want to support can feel too time-consuming to be worth the change. When you want to make the change to supporting small, independent businesses, there are quick and easy ways you can ensure you're shopping dollars are going to the best options.
Adjust Your Expectations
While you want the best customer centric service from any business, it's important to adjust your expectations for small businesses. The overnight delivery and ridiculously low prices offered by large retailers come at a cost. These businesses often use sweatshop labor to manufacture goods and have shoddy labor practices. You won't get your goods overnight without paying a premium for shipping because the fact is, shipping is expensive. When you get free shipping or overnight delivery for a few dollars, the company is paying that shipping by cutting costs somewhere else, usually in pay and benefits for its employees.
If you're used to getting the same vegetables all year round, you've become reliant on a worldwide network of food shipping that transports lettuce from the Southwest in the winter and from Mexico throughout much of the year. When you decide to shop more locally, you'll need to adjust your menu to the items that grow in your area through the seasons. These aren't bad changes to make, but it has to be a conscious decision or you'll feel like you're being punished for good choices.
Use Social Media
Once you've got yourself in the mindset for shopping from small businesses, it's time to find the businesses you need. Start with social media and start local. Both Facebook and Instagram have tools to help you find local businesses. Facebook has a section for Businesses Nearby with an adjustable geographic distance range. In both apps, you can use the search feature to enter hashtags for what you need. Start with the name of your city or town and then add a second hashtag like #vegetables, #clothing or #gifts. If you have specific needs, like organic, gluten-free or locally-made, add those as well. Once you find some businesses, check their page for more information and look for comments from existing customers. For more information, you can message the business owner.
Another option is using review sites like Yelp and Google Maps. After you find the type of business you're looking for you'll be able to read reviews from other users that can help guide your spending. You'll find the best farmers' markets, restaurants and retail shops.
Check Online Marketplaces
You don't always have to shop locally to support small businesses, although it makes the most sense for the environment. Online marketplaces like Etsy can link you to multiple small businesses, making it easy to do comparison shopping. It's important to review the seller information since some large businesses, trying to grab dollars from real small businesses, advertise on Etsy. If you're unsure, always message the seller and ask for more information. You'll find everything from toiletries and jewelry to clothing, plants and gifts.
Another way to put dollars right in the pocket of a single individual and support the environment is by buying secondhand goods through sites like ThredUP, an online consignment shop, or Poshmark, a site that allows sellers to list their own secondhand items. Just like for local businesses, it's important to read the reviews for sellers on online marketplaces. Remember to leave your own reviews too, to help the shoppers that follow you.
Supporting small business doesn't have to be hard or complicated. If you're not ready to make a complete switch, start small. By following these guidelines, you're on your way to a more sustainable lifestyle that directly supports your community and small creators.