One of my favourite things about becoming a small business owner is how it’s opened my eyes to the incredible network of other small businesses out there. I make an effort to shop small wherever possible, but to be honest, once you start, you won’t go back anyway!
Nothing beats the customer service, quality and value you get when shopping small - and if you’re a business owner yourself? Then supporting other small businesses can really benefit your own at the same time.
I’m pretty passionate about community over competition, so today I’m sharing 10 ways you can support small businesses (and your own at the same time). Who doesn’t love a win-win?
Most of these ideas are completely free while others make for a great investment in your own biz.
1. Engage with other small businesses on social media
I know, I know, social media can sometimes feel like a time portal sucking you into a parallel universe and leaving you wondering - where the heck did the last 45 minutes go?!
But, I promise that if you use it effectively (and have a little self control) it can be such a valuable tool to network with other business owners like you.
Interacting with relevant profiles, especially on places like Instagram or LinkedIn, not only helps the person posting to reach more people, but also helps more people discover you!
Just make sure your interactions are meaningful. Follow people you genuinely care about, leave thoughtful comments, and share their posts when they really resonate with you.
2. Recommend small business owners to others
Any small business owner will know that referrals are invaluable! Whether you’ve personally worked with someone before, or even met them through networking, mentioning them to others is an incredible way to show your support.
This could be through business-related Facebook groups when someone is seeking suggestions as well as face-to-face conversations where someone you know needs help.
3. Leave reviews
Another powerful way to recommend someone outside of these direct opportunities is to leave a review whenever you have a great experience. Almost every business will have a Google Maps listing or Facebook page which is a great place to leave a review or recommendation.
I love this idea because it is one of the easiest things you can do, and yet it means A LOT to the person receiving your review.
If you used someone’s service for your business, you could even sneak in a subtle mention of your own brand (emphasis on the subtle though, no one likes spammers).
4. Shop small for unique gifts
Not sure about you, but I think finding unique and meaningful gifts can be really hard work, especially when you’ve known someone for a long time, or they’re that person who seems to have everything already.
Whenever you’re scrolling Instagram or Pinterest and discover a cool artist or anyone with unique gift ideas, be sure to save them for later. Then you’ll have a whole bunch of ideas ready to go when special occasions roll around.
If you have an idea in mind, but just need to find someone to make it happen, Etsy is another amazing place to discover small designers and makers.
Psst… If you like the sound of a custom illustration or portrait to gift someone special - or treat yourself - you might find something you like in my Etsy Store.
5. Outsource tasks you don't have the time, skills or interest for
When you get to the stage in your business where you’re ready to outsource some work to an expert, I can definitely recommend opting to work with other small business owners where possible. Not only will they have an extra appreciation for your goals and how you like to work, but they’ll be more likely to refer work your way and become a valuable connection. Depending what works for each side, you might even be able to work out a contra deal where you can swap some services.
I really believe this is one of the best investments you can make in your business. Trying to DIY things that just aren’t your strength not only wastes so much time, but you just won’t be able to achieve the same results or level of quality that an expert can. These are the challenges that I hear all the time from my graphic design clients, and when they finally put their hand up and ask for help, they normally wish they’d done it sooner!
6. Nominate an outstanding business owner for an award
Nominating or voting for a small business owner you admire in a relevant award is another completely free idea that will make their year (or maybe even their career).
After you cast your vote, you could even take it one step further by spreading the word and encouraging others to vote too. The more you can support others, the more they will return the favour, especially if you ever want to go for an award yourself!
7. Feature them in your social media posts
Another free social media idea is mentioning or featuring other small businesses in your posts. It could be as simple as mentioning something you’re working on together, or sharing a regular post about different entrepreneurs that inspire you.
You also might want to do this when unveiling or unboxing a new purchase. Not only does it make for great content your audience will love (as long as it’s relevant to them and your brand) but it’s an invaluable promotional tool for the business you’re mentioning. Just be sure to tag them so they can see the post and reshare it to their own audience as well.
8. Collaborate with complementary businesses
If you’re keen to take this one step further, another really powerful way to support your own business and others’ is collaborations. Don’t worry - I’m not talking about those messages you get from unprofessional influencers who ask for free stuff with nothing valuable in return!
Instead, think about ways you can collaborate to cross-promote. It could be through contributing a guest blog for someone else’s site (or vice versa), doing a fun interview on Instagram LIVE or speaking at someone’s event. Ideally, you want to do this with not only business owners you genuinely admire, but those with an audience that matches your ideal customer. This way, you can each reach new (but relevant) people, for free.
9. Say ‘no’ to mates rates
So I mentioned earlier that service-swaps can be a good option if it really works for both parties, but one thing I don’t believe in is doing ‘mates rates’. As small business owners, we can all support each other by not only charging full price for our own products or services, but not expecting discounts from others either.
When we make our prices too low, we not only lose out ourselves, but we can bring down the whole industry by setting expectations about what our crafts are worth.
By always expecting to pay full price when you shop with other small business owners (and upholding the same standards yourself) - everybody wins!
And remember - if family or friends really care about you - they will WANT to pay you what you’re worth. No mates rates allowed!
10. Go to their events
This one has been a bit of a challenge recently, but as things slowly start to open up again (at least in Queensland where I am), events will soon be the norm again. If a business owner who means a lot to you holds an event, consider going along to show your support if you can.
Holding an event is a big deal, so having your support will mean the world to them! Make the most of it and you might even get some good networking opportunities or leads on the day.
Phew! That was a lot of ideas to support small business, but I hope you picked up one or two to try today. Maybe you’re even doing some already, in which case, I seriously applaud you.
If that wasn’t enough and you want one final bonus tip - share this blog so everyone can learn how to shop small! I’ve made an Instagram story template you can share to encourage your followers to join us. Grab it in my insta story here.