Whether you’re at home or abroad, here’s how to support your local businesses

Updated August 2023

First, we had the pandemic, and now we have Mother Nature wreaking havoc all across the globe with wildfires and hurricanes. Climate change is real and it’s a problem, but that’s a whole other post. For today, we are going to focus on what we can control and how to support your local businesses in Vancouver and beyond.

I have always tried to make a conscious effort to shop locally and support small businesses. Interestingly, pre-pandemic, I made more of an effort when I was travelling in other countries. Until now, that is. I actively support local businesses in Vancouver and across British Columbia.

Now, more than ever before, locally-owned and independent businesses need our support. I have always preferred to visit mom-and-pop shops over huge retail chains. Now I make a concerted effort to shop solely at local and small businesses.

I know they need our support if they are going to survive and I shudder at the thought of a world full of mass retail shops. How many times have you simply shopped online at Amazon instead of at a small, local business? I’m guilty as well, but I’m trying to do better!

I prefer getting my coffee at small, local coffee shops over the mass chains. (Photo by Dan Burton on Unsplash)

Shop local, small businesses even when travelling

A while back I was in Mexico visiting a friend who was living there. One night we were deciding what to make for dinner when he said that we should just head to Walmart and pick up some food. Um, excuse me, Wal-Mart?! Yeah no, I don’t think so!

After all, we were in Mexico. I would have no part in shopping at a mass American store. I wanted to consciously support a local, small business. Mexicans rely on travel and tourism money and I wanted to make sure we supported a local business.

I immediately began researching where we could find a local butcher and we set off to find something to BBQ. There was NO WAY this avid traveller was going to shop at anything but a local butcher shop.

Meat just tastes better when it comes from a local butcher instead of a grocery store. Photo by Kyle Mackie on Unsplash

Shop local, small businesses at home

Over the past year, I’ve made the same effort here at home. Before choosing which restaurant to dine at, I look it up to see if it’s a local owner or owned by a larger corporation. Some places have surprised me! I thought I was dining at a new, locally-owned restaurant for dinner one night and after looking it up, I discovered it was owned by a hotel chain.

I have still had the occasional drink or meal at a chain restaurant, but I know that the staff are locals are they need money too. I do my best to choose local non-chain places though.

It’s an understatement to say that times are strange right now. It’s not always as simple as going to a local store and buying something in-person. Not to worry, there are still lots of ways you can support local businesses in Vancouver, or wherever you live.

Here are some ways you can support small businesses without ever having to visit them in person. It is possible to show your support from afar.

8 Creative Ways How to Support Your Local Businesses

1. Purchase Gift Cards

If you aren’t comfortable dining out in restaurants, or you don’t live in the city where that restaurant is located, purchase a gift card for a future dinner date. If this is somewhere you visit, or where friends or family visit, buy a gift card for the next time you’re going to be there. This gives them money now, when they need it most.

Restaurants are still struggling with the costs of having to shut down and purchase additional partitioning to accommodate social distancing. This cost them a lot of money. Show them your support by buying a gift card so they have money now and are able to stay afloat.

Businesses across BC are now struggling with the wildfires and the lack of tourism dollars from this tragedy. Those who aren’t in the line of fire are still suffering and struggling.

2. Shop Local Online

And I don’t mean at Amazon since Jeff Bezos is going to be just fine. However, Amazon does have small business storefronts where small businesses sell their products. It’s hard not to shop with Amazon because it’s so darn convenient, I get it, but try using Amazon’s Shop Local section.

A lot of independent shops have their own websites where you can order online. A great way to show your support without having to leave your house is to order something unique from a small shop.

Whenever possible, visit that store’s website instead of ordering through a third-party site where they likely have to pay the vendor a cut of the sale. If they have an Instagram shop, buy online directly through that link. Direct sales are the best way to ensure a company avoids additional third-party fees.

A popular travel rewards hack is to use a browser extension while online shopping

3. Give Them a Shout-Out

This one won’t cost you anything but your time. If you have previously purchased something from a local shop, or dined at a local restaurant, take a moment to give them a shout-out on Instagram or Facebook. Show your support by helping to promote them to others. This small gesture of sharing a post or creating a story can mean a lot to a small business.

When you take the time to share a business’ post or give them a shout-out on your social media channels, you are saving them advertising dollars. Social proof is gold when it comes to promoting products and services.

4. Research new Offerings and Support Them

Check a business’ website for new offerings or newly-available online services. Many businesses have had to pivot and are now providing new and additional services. Do a little research and check to see if any of your favourite local spots offer anything new.

Search their events page if they have one to see if there is an upcoming event you can attend. You never know, they might even have a virtual event you can support them by attending online.

5. Write Reviews

This one won’t cost you a dime either. Writing a review or testimonial is a great way how to support your local businesses. Similar to giving them a shout-out on social media, this one just costs you a little bit of your time but can make a huge difference to a company.

Spend some time visiting your favourite local spots’ websites or Facebook pages and write them glowing reviews. I recently visited Fable Kitchen and took the time to write them a review on Google telling them just how much I enjoyed my experience.

As a Google Local Guide, I often write reviews for restaurants and other places I’ve visited.

6. Stop using UberEats and Skip the Dishes

Order take-out, but pick it up yourself. Another alternative to dining inside a restaurant is to order take-out and enjoy it in the comfort of your own home. If possible, go and pick it up yourself instead of using a food delivery service.

Many of these service providers such as Uber Eats and Skip the dishes take a large percentage from the restaurant. Like, 30% large! That’s a lot to lose as a small business. You picking up your order means the company makes more money.

7. Join Their Club or Become a Member

Some businesses have annual memberships that come with member benefits. One example of this is a wine club. You can join a local winery membership to have a box delivered to your door each month. Don’t like wine but your mom or best friend does? Gift them a membership for their next birthday, Mother’s Day or Christmas.

8. Engage with Them on Social Media

The simple act of liking, commenting and sharing on social media can have a far larger impact than you imagine. The more engagement a business receives, the more people its posts are likely to reach. When you like and comment on a business’s post, you are actually helping them advertise their business for free.

The next time you’re scrolling Instagram or TikTok, take a moment to engage with your local businesses. Share one of their Reels for a product you love or a contest they’re hosting. It means more than you think.

How to Find Small Businesses

It’s not always easy to find or know which businesses are small and independently operated. A few resources for the local Vancouver area include BC Marketplace, Buy BC Local and We Are Local which also includes Victoria.

You can search on Instagram by using the hashtag #shoplocalvancouver or #shoplocal + the name of your city. This works great when you’re travelling as you can insert the name of any city after #shoplocal to see local businesses in the area.

To support local black-owned businesses, check out my directory of black-owned businesses in Vancouver. If you know of any more, please let me know and I’ll update it!

We are all in this together and if we want our small, local businesses to survive, we need to show them our support. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in a world with nothing more than mass chain stores and restaurants.

Conclusion – How to Support Your Local Businesses

Supporting our local small businesses is vital to the survival of our communities. I can’t imagine a world full of nothing but Walmarts and Starbucks, can you? If we want to ensure the survival of small businesses, we must show them our full support.

If you can purchase from them, order gifts from them, and join their membership clubs, you are actively helping to ensure their survival. When you’re tight on funds, show your support in other ways including writing them reviews and giving them social media shout-outs.

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How to support your local businesses
Ways how to support your local businesses and community