How To Support Small Businesses Through Uncertain Times

The community of small businesses owners and creative freelancers out there need our support now more than ever. From using your purchase power to helping them grow their digital presence, here’s what you can do to help. 

The situation that the world is currently facing can feel somewhat overwhelming. While difficult to describe, two of the phrases that have resonated recently are from the WHO, who described the current climate as “uncharted territory,” and Livia Firth who quite simply summarised that we are indeed living in “weird times.”

While it’s easy to feel helpless when something seems so wildly out of our control, there has also been a heartwarming surge in people using the power they do have to protect the most vulnerable. Notes to neighbours are aplenty in apartment blocks, and apps such as Nextdoor are helping communities pull together. We have certainly woken up to our potential to support others, and we can take this approach to our finances as well.

As cafés, bars, fitness studios and small shops around the world make the decision to pull down their shutters, choosing to put our pounds behind sustaining these small businesses has never been more important. While the government has announced grants and protective measures to help both independent companies and those working on self-employed basis, there are still concerns about sick pay for freelancers and economic support for those working in the gig economy. And government funds of course require assessment and authorisation which both take time; as customers however, we also have a huge hand in helping these businesses through just by using our purchase power and individual voices. 

From your local café owners and your favourite yoga teachers to the artist whose work you have saved on Pinterest, it’s time to reach out and help those who bring a little joy to our daily lives. After all, as Livia noted in her letter earlier this week, isn’t that what sustainability is all about: seeing ourselves and others though these tricky times? So let’s come together to support the small businesses around us, so that we can continue to enjoy them when the seas settle. Here are a few things that you can do to help.

Buy a voucher from your local café 

While you may not be able to pop down to your favourite coffee or lunch spots while working from home, you can make sure they have money coming in by purchasing a voucher to use in the future. Visit their websites or social media channels to check if they are already offering a similar scheme. If not, perhaps drop them an email to suggest it and let them know you’d love to help support them. It will be sure to brighten their inbox. 

Sign up to a video yoga class to support your teacher

With gyms and fitness venues closing across the country, many independent studios have turned to technology to help deliver your daily dose of zen. Signing up to a paid video class will help protect your teacher from unemployment, as well as contributing to any studio rent that will of course have to be paid. It also means that you can participate in classes from anywhere in the world – I’ve loved being (virtually) back in my favourite Milanese studio BaliYoga

Share the work of your favourite freelancers 

With bigger businesses making cuts, and freelancers facing some uncertainty as to any sick pay they receive, there has never been a better time to support those who are self-employed. Many of us surround ourselves with the work of independent artists every day, from the music we listen to on Spotify to the beautiful graphics we admire on Instagram. Use social media to share some of the creations of the self-employed workers you are loving at the moment – you’ll help them spread the word about their services and hopefully find future clients too.

Images: Birdsong, Hanna Fiedler

Purchase made-to-order garments that will arrive in a few months’ time

In a time when we can’t visit physical stores to buy new clothes, there has never been a better moment to free ourselves from the cycle of instant gratification that comes with shopping. Instead, support independent makers and small businesses by choosing a made-to-order garment that can be shipped at a later date. Not only will it give you something to look forward to, but you will likely feel far more attached to your item after waiting for it for a while. For inspiration, browse Birdsong‘s new collection or Hanna Fiedler‘s timeless designs. 

Buy a print to decorate your desk

As many of us turn to our desks and dining tables to work from home, why not brighten up the space around you? Purchasing a print from an independent illustrator, photographer or graphic designer can help support them in the case of important work opportunities being lost or simply having to take time off work due to illness. A couple of my favourites at the moment are James Wilson and Aeand Studio.  

Follow a few small brands on Instagram

Many independent businesses are dealing with the closure of their own physical stores or those of their stockists. So, help them build their digital presence by following them on Instagram, and encouraging your friends to do the same. One of my favourite features on the app is the recommended follows tool, which gives you suggestions based on a particular profile; it’s how I’ve discovered many of my now favourite brands. Happy exploring!

Images: Veg Heads, Aeand Studio

Leave a positive review for one of your favourite restaurants

One of the economies that is arguably being hit the hardest by the strict social distancing measures needed at the moment is leisure and hospitality, including bars, cafés and of course, restaurants. While you may not be able to pop out for dinner, what you can do is help these businesses build up their reputation online. Take a moment to write a positive review based on a meal out that you have enjoyed recently. Not only will it bring back some cheerful memories, it will give their future business a much-needed boost too.

Order takeaways to be delivered to your doorstep

Staying put at home doesn’t mean forgoing your favourite food – actually, ordering takeaway to your doorstep is another way you can help sustain local restaurants at the moment. Deliveroo is adapting to the changing times, adding the option of a ‘no contact’ delivery for those having to self-isolate. My London go-to is Veg Heads.

Shop locally, but online

The independent shops you usually visit might be having to close, and perhaps it’s not possible to venture to a grocers or plastic-free store anymore. However, many independent retailers also have online outlets, and it’s important to keep sustaining these while you are at home. It may be less convenient than heading down to your local supermarket, but they are much more likely to have what you want in stock! Rather than sustaining a big chain retailer, your purchase will directly benefit a small business owner instead.