Businesses of all sizes have been hit hard in this challenging new age of social distancing and self-isolation, but the blow has been catastrophic for small operations that rely on in-person transactions.
A new survey from WalletHub found that 87 percent of small business owners say they are struggling due to the coronavirus.
Rachel Beider, owner of Press Massage in Brooklyn, is one such owner. Since “shelter-in-place” orders forced her to temporarily close her massage therapy business, she has had to lay off over 30 employees and nearly a dozen independent contractors.
“I have only been able to keep two salaried employees on”, she says.
With no precise ETA on when doors can reopen, businesses like Beider’s are in danger of closing forever — a loss not only for workers and their communities, but also for the American job market at large. According to the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses account for 44 percent of economic activity.
In addition to state and federal aid, small businesses need our support right now. Here are some ways consumers can help.
1. Buy a gift card for a friend — and encourage them to buy for someone else
“Purchasing gift cards is a great idea for businesses that you are going to use anyway,” says Dennis Shirshikov, an economic analyst at Fit Small Business. “It gives [businesses] like salons and yoga studios some cash to support employees and reassures them that they will still have customers.”
If you have the means, think of approaching gift cards like you would a chain letter. Send a $5 or $10 gift card to your favorite business to a local friend, and then ask them to do the same for another business.
2. Social media shoutouts are free. Give them generously.
“With more businesses going digital and needing to build traction, ‘liking’, commenting, reposting, tagging us in your purchases and unboxing videos [on social media] really helps with engagement, which, in turn, leads to more visibility and sales,” Love says.
Social media plugs are a free way to show your support and the payoff is almost instantaneous. “[Liplove] has seen a significant increase in engagement and shares as our customers began to promote our messages of love and empowerment to their networks during this season. This has caused a boost in not only traffic to our website that originated from social media, but also from organic search.”
3. Refill booze and hand sanitizer from local distilleries
With hand sanitizer sold out just about everywhere, various distilleries have stepped up to meet the demand. Crater Lake Spirits in Oregon, has made complimentary sanitizer available to customers, a spokesperson for the brand confirms. Rollins Distillery in Gulf Breeze, Florida is giving hand sanitizer away on a first-come, first-serve basis. So, next time you’re looking to stock up your liquor cabinet, call your local distillery to see if they can also throw in some hand sanitizer. Plan to get there early and to BYOB (bring your own bottle).
4. Donate your expertise with a free consultation
“Business owners need legal, accounting and insurance help negotiating issues, outstanding debts and granular disputes,” Baron Christopher Hanson, lead consultant and owner of RedBaron Consulting, says. “If you are a CEO, CFO or in-house lawyer stuck at home, try calling your favorite local businesses to simply consult with them, help answer pressing questions and alleviate fears.”
5. Been meaning to leave a positive review? Now’s the time to do it.
“People have more time to leave positive reviews and personal testimonies on Yelp, Google and other online platforms,” Elina Fedotova, owner of Elina Organics in Chicago and Kalamazoo, Michigan, says. “That can help to direct new clients to [the business].
Love adds that a glowing review also “helps us business owners stay sane by putting a smile on our faces”.
Be patient. We’re all adjusting to this new normal.
“The pandemic has disrupted nearly everything for businesses — including supply chains, vendor reliability and employee productivity,” says Abhi Lokesh, CEO of Fracture, a small business focused on photo decor in Gainesville, Florida. “Much of the business world is scrambling to keep things together and adjust to this new normal. It’s always uplifting and morale-boosting when we hear from customers who are empathetic to what we’re going through.”