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18 Things You Can Still Do to Support Your Favorite Small Businesses

If you're wondering what you can do to help your favorite small businesses stay afloat during these trying times, we've made a list.

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How to help

While the novel coronavirus spreads around the world, everything is changing. From children attending classes to adults going to work, restaurants shutting down, and airlines grounding flights, COVID-19 has impacted every single aspect of modern society. As more people are instructed to stay home and self-quarantine, this hurts small business owners who are working to keep up with ever-changing demands and restrictions. As the saying goes, it takes a village, and thankfully there are multiple ways that you can help, that are free and inexpensive to the gift of giving that can go a long way. For perspective, here’s how much the novel coronavirus is costing the world (so far).

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Offer moral support

In the time of the novel coronavirus where there’s so much uncertainty, words of comfort spoken now can go far. “Even if you’re limiting spending, you can support your local shops by engaging with and sharing their social media posts or signing up for their email newsletters,” Laurie Monteforte, president and CEO, Strong Mountain Media, Inc. tells Reader’s Digest. “That moral support is going to offer some hope to business owners who are struggling during this time.” If you need more of a boost, here are 17 uplifting quotes that will stay with you.

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Pay for a service…and then don’t use it

It might seem ironic to pay for a service and then not use it, but it could really help small businesses. “From one small business owner to another, I am highly mindful of where I spend my money and do my best to support small businesses whenever possible,” Romy Taormina, CEO/Founder, Psi Health Solutions, Inc., the maker of Psi Bands, tells Reader’s Digest. “Pay for services even if you are unable to use them, if you have the resources to do so. Examples: You have a cleaning service come to your home. Pay them anyway to NOT come. You may see your hairstylist on a regular basis. Pay him/her anyway and do not go.”

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Leave positive reviews on websites

If you’ve ever had a good experience with a small business, now is the time to write about those positive moments. “I own a small photography business in Rhode Island. Photographing mostly weddings, we’ve been hit hard by the Covid-19 outbreak,” Kathryn Wallace Yeaton, a wedding photographer with Brave Hearts Photography, tells Reader’s Digest. “I’ve suggested that one way to help small businesses that doesn’t cost any money and just takes a few minutes of time is to leave a positive review on your favorite small businesses Google business page. Not only will that help the business attract customers in the future but it’s also a morale boost for the business to see nice things being said about them.” Need a laugh to cheer you up right about now? Try out these funny product reviews that will leave you cry-laughing.

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Connect with your community through a new hobby

Every small business is feeling the pressure of COVID-19. However, this knitwear brand is finding a way to connect with their community by teaching them a new hobby during this period of quarantine and isolation. “We created The Quarantine Kit…and have already sold over 1,000 kits to people who want to learn a new hobby! The kit provides the tools to learn how to knit: chunky yarn, needles, a pattern, and a way to connect with our team through virtual “how-to” tutorials,” Megan (Schaefer) Teggart, director of communications for knitwear brand Sh*t That I Knit, tells Reader’s Digest. “The therapeutic, meditative benefits that knitting provides has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety – definitely something we all need right now! During this crazy news cycle, we hope this news is a bit uplifting – albeit silly but definitely true to our brand.”

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Buy beauty products from your favorite spas and salons

You might not be able to practice social distancing when getting a hair cut, but you certainly can do so when buying products. “I think we should encourage our customers to support their local beauty practitioners, salons, and spas by purchasing products from them. Products can still be mailed or left for customers outside of the building. Every beauty establishment usually has product lines that they sell,” Elina Fedotova, owner of Elina Organics Spas in Chicago and Kalamazoo, tells Reader’s Digest. “At ElinaOrganics, we manufacture our own products from scratch that we distribute to many spas and medical offices. We also retail online to customers. The majority of beauty salons do not manufacture their own products but are retailing other lines. It helps to continue selling products for the clients and for the business owners.” Here are 38 secrets your hairstylist won’t tell you.

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Work on a donation match program

Helping small businesses isn’t reserved for individuals. Small businesses can help out other small businesses, too. “Our firm has long realized that the community has enabled us to thrive and, given that, we have a duty to give back. To that end, we are supporting local businesses in a number of ways, including by buying large amounts of gift certificates so they can have some extra cash flow during these times,” Jay Edelson, founder and CEO of plaintiff’s law firm Edelson PC, tells Reader’s Digest. “But our goal is always to have as large an impact as possible, so we are working with other business leaders who will be matching our efforts. And we are letting them know that we will look for ways to support what they are doing to help the community.”

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Create websites that support local businesses

As a co-founder and creative director of Familiar Creatures, an advertising agency based in Richmond, Virginia, Justin Bajan worked with his team to come up with a creative solution to help local businesses in his area. They used their experience as strategic and creative makers and launched a campaign called Keep Calm and Nom Nom Once the website was built, they “started aggregating hyperlinked logos from all of the restaurants in Richmond, encouraging everyone to buy gift cards to these great places and use them when things settle down,” Bajan says. “Over the course of this week, we’ve received lots of emails from thankful owners as well as ones asking to be listed on our site. We’re supporting the campaign with paid social and other organic social outreach.”

But creating a website isn’t all Bajan is doing. “We’re also looking to partner with a custom graphic T-shirt company who can make shirts for each participating restaurant and give the proceeds back to them directly,” he said. “We want to see our city withstand this crisis. It’s the least we can do.” Just be sure you aren’t falling for these common gift card scams.

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Talk to your small business directly for a refund instead of through a third-party

“One of the biggest, most critically important ways you can support your favorite local business is also the most overlooked: If the pandemic has altered your future plans, then please contact the business directly to request a refund, instead of first filing a complaint with your bank or credit card company,” business expert Monica Eaton-Cardone, COO ofChargebacks911, a financial technology company that helps businesses and entrepreneurs avoid fraud, tells Reader’s Digest.<
“Most businesses are extremely happy to offer you a refund–and not just because it’s the right thing to do during these chaotic, uncertain times, but because it actually saves them money: Businesses can lose $3 or more for every dollar lost to chargebacks, when you factor in the loss-of-product, punitive fees, penalties and more,” Eaton-Cardone says. “So do the right thing, and ask your local business directly for a refund–instead of first turning elsewhere. They’ll be very grateful you did!” For reference, this is how you can get a refund on just about anything.

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Set up a GoFundMe account

Can’t think of any other way to help a small business other than monetarily? A crowdfunding campaign might be the way to go. “I’m recommending small business owners set up crowdfunding campaigns on GoFundMe. When setting up a campaign for your business, don’t simply ask for money. Set up ‘rewards’ on the crowdfunding platform to essentially pre-sell products and services,” Blake Stockton, small business analyst at FitSmallBusiness.com, tells Reader’s Digest. “Rewards are similar to gift cards, except more specific. Additionally, add a video to the platform and speak directly to your customers asking for their support. After we get through the Coronavirus crisis, your customers will feel even more loyal to your business for helping in a time of need.”

Make sure you choose your fundraising platform wisely. “Remember, GoFundMe is preferable to Kickstarter because if your campaign doesn’t reach its goal, you can still keep the funds donated,” says Stockton. “With Kickstarter, if you don’t reach your campaign goal, all the money gets returned to supporters.

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Stay connected to your favorite local bakery

“This is obviously an incredibly difficult time for our industry and for the world. I encourage everyone to stay connected in any way that they can,” Greg Rales, baker and owner at Red Gate Bakery tells Reader’s Digest. “For us, we want to know what you’re baking at home. We’re always, always happy to share recipes with folks (and know our industry friends and family are too!). Reach out to your favorite restaurants via DM and ask for our recipes. Tag us in your baking (or cooking) projects! With kids home from school, too, we imagine people are looking for a project–get them involved and let us know how you’re doing. We’re here for you!” Interested in baking? You can get a head start with any one of these 35 recipes you should know before you turn 35.

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Small businesses can help local restaurants, too

Sometimes, employers give employees the means to support local businesses. Darina Garland, the co-founder of Ooni, the world’s first portable pizza oven based in Edinburgh, Scotland, helps support local restaurants by giving each of its employees a gift certificate of £75/$75/€75 to support their favorite local. Garland shared the message on the brand’s Facebook page and encouraged others to do the same.

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Donate to your local food bank

You’re not the only one who needs food–food banks need donations, too, which can then help out communities. “We are honored to provide 5,000 meals for our neighbors with Tarrant Area Food Bank,” Carly Burson, the founder of sustainable women’s fashion brand, Tribe Alive tells Reader’s Digest. “In a season of financial insecurity for many and with children out of school, families are relying on these organizations more than ever. Donating to your local food bank has an immediate impact.” These are the 15 foods you should never keep in your pantry.

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Message your favorite small business

Who doesn’t love to be on the receiving end of a positive message? Small businesses would love to hear from you, directly. “Send businesses an email or message about something they’re doing well, which will serve as a good reminder during this crisis,” Rubeena Ianigro, Founder, The Gray Muse, a six-figure enamel pin shop, tells Reader’s Digest. 

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Share business cards

“Many small businesses still produce business cards, but often they’ll sit in their shop completely untouched. Something that anyone can do which can really help a small business is to actually take these business cards, and share them with others who you think might actually enjoy the product or service,” Sam Williamson, owner of CBDiablo in the United Kingdom, tells Reader’s Digest. “It’s good to verbally recommend a business to someone, but there is something about handing someone a business card which means that they’ll much more likely remember the business, and that sort of referral is so valuable to small business owners. We include a business card in all of our packaging, and we’re delighted whenever we hear that someone has passed the card on to a friend or family member.” These are the 13 facts you need to know about CBD.

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Tell others about your favorite small business via word of mouth

“Supporting your favorite small businesses does not necessarily require you to buy something from them, you could merely refer others to their store. You can significantly assist a small business by sharing the word about them with people you know whenever possible, whether through phone, email, social media or in-person conversations,” Hassan Alnassir, founder and owner of the toy company Premium Joy, tells Reader’s Digest. “By mentioning your favorite small businesses (and their products that you love) to your friends and family members, you help out those companies in building their brand awareness and earning more customers which is a huge support for them.”

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Call your local shelter

“Many shelters that rely on volunteers have had to cancel volunteer services in efforts to flatten the curve,” says Burson. “Reach out to your local shelter to hear the needs and find out how you can step in. We are partnering with our local shelter to provide sack lunches to those in need.” ⁠These are the 15 things dog shelters need you to know.

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Buy customized care packages as gifts

Small business owner Libby Diament owns a jewelry shop in The Wharf, DC’s waterfront neighborhood. During the uncertainty of the novel coronavirus, she tried to figure out a way to keep her employees employed. A friend came up with the idea of “care packages,” where the customer chooses the theme for the package, pays for it, and Libby’s team creates a customed care package by selecting items from over 250 small brands. This allows her employees to have a job and raises awareness for other small businesses by selling products on a larger platform.

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Buy gift cards to favorite restaurants that have closed

“In Charlotte, NC, many restaurants including Peppervine are completely shut down as they don’t offer delivery/take-out as well as don’t have the means to currently offer that service,” Jaclyn Webb, senior account executive at Wagstaff Marketing, told Reader’s Digest. “In this case, locals are encouraged to buy gift cards to the restaurant and use at a later date once the restaurant is safe to reopen.” Own a small business that’s struggling? Here are a few ways you can get free money from the government to help your small business now.

Madeline Wahl
Madeline Wahl is a Digital Associate Editor/Writer at RD.com. Previously, she worked for HuffPost and Golf Channel. Her writing has appeared on HuffPost, Red Magazine, McSweeney's, Pink Pangea, The Mighty, and Yahoo Lifestyle, among others. More of her work can be found on her website: www.madelinehwahl.com