In an age of raging capitalism, more and more local businesses are being displaced by chains and corporations. Our busybody culture largely favors convenience over all else, and each time we swing through the Starbucks drive-thru for a pumpkin spice latte, we reinforce that culture. And while there’s no shame in occasionally caving into our easy-everywhere economy, I want to encourage you to push back against convenience for a little something more.
When you choose to shop at a local, independent business, you’re not just choosing between coffees. You’re investing in values, community and real people.
- You are choosing real people over corporations, boards and stakeholders.
Customers are what keeps a business going, so when you put your dollars into an independent business, you are helping to keep someone’s dream alive. Behind each local coffee shop or boutique is an entrepreneur who’s taken a risk to follow their passion. Shopping local helps someone continue to do what they love.
- Shopping at local businesses supports families.
When you buy from a major chain, your dollars will simply continue to fund the extravagances of the one percent. When you buy from an independent business, though, your money isn’t going to line the pockets of some billionaire. Instead, it’s going to do so much more: It'll help a mom put food on the table, a family buy school supplies, and parents enroll their kids in dance classes. It might even help a family go on a trip to Disney!
- Small businesses care about your neighborhood.
They keep money nearby, investing in the locals. Major corporations keep very little revenue in the community, so when you shop small, you have the chance to give back to your neighborhood. Independent businesses are part of what makes a community healthy!
- You help to create local jobs.
Small businesses are generally better about creating higher-paying jobs for people in the community because they care about their employees beyond the labor they provide. When you keep your business local, you help them to increase employment in your neighborhood!
- Small business owners care about you.
To them, customers are more than just walking wallets! Local businesses offer personal, quality customer service that you won’t find anywhere else. They form relationships with their customers, and will go above and beyond to help you figure out what you need. They don’t just cough up mass-produced products — they tailor their inventory to the wants and needs of the community to bring you relevant, high-quality products.
- Local businesses are more environmentally friendly.
Often, a small business provides a much more sustainable alternative to major companies, which produce massive quantities of waste. They care more about offering biodegradable packaging and sustainably sourced products, while chains care more about making as much “stuff” as possible, as cheaply as possible. Small businesses also source more locally, helping to reduce the waste produced by importing goods!
- You’ll find unique products that you can’t get anywhere else.
Small businesses are remarkably authentic! They provide the consumer with an opportunity to purchase original products that can’t be found on the shelves of every other department store. With homemade recipes, artisan products and fashion produced by smaller designers, local businesses offer a greater range of choices to their customers. When you start to see the same things from the same brands across multiples stores, a small business helps you find something a little more unique, made with more quality and care than what you’ll find at your average chain.
- Independent businesses bring vibrancy to the community.
If every neighborhood was filled with nothing but dozens of the same restaurants, fast fashion outlets and department stores, everywhere would start looking the same. You could travel from Orlando to L.A. and never know the difference. Small businesses are what bring character to your community. Unique attractions make your community a destination, helping the local economy by bringing visitors, tourists and new neighbors to your door! They are also entrenched in local history and culture, keeping your hometown rich and grounded.
While we can’t eliminate the excessively industrialized world that we’re living in, and sometimes the ability to shop small can come from a place of privilege, our choices as consumers can make the world of a difference to a small business owner. A large corporation won’t be hurt by our choice to take our business elsewhere from time to time, but when we relocate our dollars to a small business, we play an active role in keeping those businesses alive and protecting the things that really matter.
A vote for independent sellers is a vote for people, communities, the environment and originality. It’s a vote for all of the best parts of humanity.