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7 Ways to Support Small Businesses (for free!)

Supporting local, small businesses is one of the most rewarding ways to combat the guilt of reinforcing corporate greed under capitalism. If we must participate in this economic system, we might as well feel good about it. Small businesses are the cornerstone to shopping ~somewhat~ ethically. When you support local, you reinforce to someone that what they’re doing matters, that their dreams can come true, and that you can thrive in a society where you are your own boss. When you support local, you reinforce to yourself that your money matters, that you care for others, and that your participation in your community keeps it thriving.

At the same time, we may not always have the funds to participate in this economic system even if we wanted to. Sometimes you gotta stretch a dollar over the span of a few days or weeks (or months), and in those circumstances, the last thing you need is to feel guilty about where you need to put your money. Luckily, for those who want to support small businesses, there are countless ways to do so without dropping a dime. Here are 7 ways you can support the small businesses in your community for free:

Interact and engage on social media
With the way algorithms are ever-shifting, it has become increasingly difficult to see the posts you want to see unless you’re actively engaging with them. If you want to support your favourite small businesses, actively viewing, liking, and commenting on their posts will boost their content. In doing so, you’ll see their posts more often (and never miss a story sale or a promotion), and you’ll encourage others to do so as well!

Share content and join giveaways
When you click the little airplane button on a post and send a post to your story, you boost that business’s engagement, and give your own followers a reason to check out a unique brand they never would’ve seen if it weren’t for you. Sharing and engagement is a huge way small brands convert sales and gain support in the day of social media marketing, as word of mouth from a trusted friend means so much more than a generic ad. In terms of giveaways, they’re almost always free to enter, so there’s really no downside! When we already spend so much time on our phones anyways, why not make it a bit more meaningful, and potentially get free product while doing so?

Go to markets and pop-ups, and take business cards
Even when I don’t have money to spend at markets, I never pass up an opportunity to pop into a space filled with artists and makers and dreamers with beautiful products made at their fingertips. When you take the time to talk to creators, and get to know their stories and inspirations, you may leave with your wallet empty but your heart will be full. If you don’t have the means to financially support them in the moment, take a business card and either share it with someone you think might like their work, or keep it for yourself as a reminder for when you get to a place where you are financially capable of supporting.

Interact with small business owners
Going with the above point, interacting with entrepreneurs at markets or through direct messaging on social media are great ways to put a face and a story behind the local brands you know and love. Remember: they’re the face of a little dream coming true, not an invisible corporate CEO. They are real humans, with hopes and stories and ambitions, and taking the time to speak with entrepreneurs encourages them to keep going, and also gives them a face to the people they are creating for. When I ran my own small business, interacting personally with supporters and creating these relationships encouraged me to keep going, and even gave me inspiration for different product ideas.

Leave reviews on products you’ve tried
Leaving reviews on products will always help small business creators in the long run. If you didn’t love your product or experience, try reaching out to them first to see how they can fix your experience with them. Leaving an honest and kind review will show potential future customers that other real people have had good experiences with the product, that they can trust the maker, and that there is a real person behind the business.

Sign up for their email newsletter or text list
If there’s a small business you love and want to support, and they have some sort of promotional text or email list, join it! This is a quick and convenient way for makers to connect with and market to their consumers. Most of us blindly check off the boxes and are now accidentally subscribed to lifetime emails from big corporations like Sephora or Indigo that end up clogging up your inbox with new products you do not need. That said, who can say they haven’t purchased at least one thing from email marketing before? It does work, so you might as well be choosy about which emails you receive! Sign up for alerts and who knows, maybe the deal of your dreams from your favourite small business might start knocking on your door.

Put your money where your mouth is
When you do end up with some extra wealth to spread around, remember to put your money where your values are. If you have the funds and the convenience to shop local, and you prioritize supporting these small business owners, make the effort to follow through with your word. If you’re going out for a weekend coffee date with a pal, opt for the local standalone cafe across from the Starbucks you normally go to. If you’ve been meaning to buy a new outfit for an event, try the consignment or thrift store before stepping into Zara or H&M. Saw a new BookTok title that sounds really good? Check your local Book Warehouse or Pulpfiction Books before you hit up Indigo. Putting money into the corporate realm oftentimes helps a billionaire get richer while paying their employees a minimum wage (when all people deserve a living wage). When you go out of your way to shop local, you’re putting money directly into the hands of a real person — a person who feeds themself and their family through their business, and has often dedicated their lives to following their dream.

Local businesses are an important part of our community and our economic system. When someone has decided that they’re done with the corporate realm, and are ready to become their own boss and work towards their dream on their own, nothing fills my soul more than supporting these folks and encouraging them to keep going. When supporting small business is accessible to you, not to mention free, there’s really not much to lose!

By Vic Cooke

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