Whether you’re at home or travelling, it’s important to support local businesses

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.

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.

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

Last February 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 Wal-Mart 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 began researching where we could find a local butcher and we set off to find something to BBQ.

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

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 have still had the occassional 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 though.

It’s an understatement to say that times are strange right now. It’s not always a 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.

How to support small businesses

~ Buy a GiftCard. If you aren’t yet comfortable dining out in restaurants, purchase a gift card for a future dinner date. Restaurants are struggling with having to shut down, then purchase additional partitioning to accommodate social distancing. Show them your support with buying a gift card so they have money now and are able to stay afloat.

~ Shop online. And I don’t mean at Amazon since Jeff Bezos is going to be just fine. A lot of independent shops have 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.

~ 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.

~ 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.

~ Write a review or testimonial. 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 a glowing review. 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.

~ 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. You picking up your order means the company makes more money.

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.

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 in the comments below 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.

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