Virtual business and corporate mammoths dominate commerce yet it's the small businesses in our communities that serve the most important role by: anchoring neighborhoods, giving charitably, and widening the social safety net for aging or disabled customers. From realtors sponsoring free e-cycle days to cleaners that organize a coat drive- local businesses see what the community needs and invest in civic well being. From the financial investor prioritizing employment for people with disabilities to the hairdresser scolding a taxi for overcharging her aging customer....small business owners are on the front line of community service supporting their neighborhoods, caring about individual patrons, and helping us age in place.
Small business serves multiple generations playing the role of providing goods and civic structure in your community and mine. Today, many struggle to compete with powerful corporations or beat online merchants but those that survive define and revitalize our neighborhoods and communities by hiring locally and providing immediate access to pharmaceuticals, groceries, supplies and services. Want free product advice or free estimates? Need a wheelchair, tires, shoes or other items that really aren't easy to buy online? Want to walk into a cafe that knows you by name? The heartbeats of small businesses are interdependent with that of our neighborhoods.
"There’s much to be said for the value of doing business with people who know us and whose success is intimately tied to the well-being of the community," Grist.org asserts in an article profiling the history of small business and it's positive contributions to civic well being. There's a lot to be said too for the way small business goes beyond anchoring community by giving charitably to community events. "...every single dollar spent at a local business leads to two to four times the amount of jobs, income and wealth, tax collections, and charitable contributions,”economist Michael Schuman explains to blogger Kelly Spors at American Express.com. Up to 75% of small businesses contribute charitably according to a Forbes.com article.
Economic support from small business can make or break a community. Additionally they lend support to individual customers by providing kindness and extra service as we age or encounter greater need. Small business often greets customers by name, knows how to help, and understands that good service will be rewarded with loyalty from that individual and likely her family, friends, or future generations. "We find that some of our older customers appreciate when we take an extra few minutes to help them with the kiosk or to show them how to use their new digital camera," explains Joe A, co-owner of Photo Mission in NYC. He participates in New York's Age Friendly Business Initiative, a program helping business owners market to and accommodate older customers. "So just going the extra mile takes it a long way and creates a loyalty. People will come in and they'll know me by my first name...." Joe remarks.
Yes, Joe, customers will be loyal and grateful to businesses that extend special kindness and support. While anchoring neighborhoods and giving to local charity are essential contributions to our communities this blog is motivated by my gratitude to the small businesses in my mother's community that reach out to help her maintain independence. Those varied gestures: the bank that warmly greets her by name and enables monetary withdrawals despite forgetting her checkbook and account number, Tony, the home food delivery man, that purges expired frozen products when he delivers new ones, the pharmacist that asks how she's doing when I pick up her medicine...these kindnesses extend my mother's support network and lift my awareness about all the little things local business does to strengthen neighbors and families in communities across America. If you're reading this blog because you work for a small business or are an owner or proprietor. Thank you. I hope you realize the essential role you play in our neighborhoods and personal lives.