Small Businesses and Communities

A Match Made in Heaven

By Alex Perdikis

When the number of local small businesses goes down, it’s a bad sign for the community. Small businesses generate jobs and employ more than half the workforce in the United States. Small-business owners live and work in the communities they serve. They have friends and family. And, unlike the corporate owners of many big box stores, local small-business owners have a vested interest in the health and welfare of the community. Small business makes a big impact on a region’s quality of life. Here’s how.

Small Businesses Are Family

Small businesses are part of a lifeline that pulls members of a community together. If someone in the neighborhood is diagnosed with cancer, it’s common for the area’s small businesses to raise money to help with treatment. Does the Little League team need sponsors? Small businesses step up. Does the food bank, homeless shelter or animal rescue need supplies? Most likely you’ll find small businesses collecting donations. Is someone in need without a car? Don’t be surprised if a local dealership fills the void. Small businesses are the lifeblood of communities all across the United States.

Small Businesses Enhance Communities

Unlike big businesses and shopping malls, small businesses create an environment that promotes community health. Most small businesses meet local demands, providing needed products and services. A thriving small-business sector encourages walking and reduces environmental impact. Doing business with neighbors creates and supports a feeling of kinship and mutual welfare.

Small Businesses Strengthen the Local Economy

Small businesses not only employ local residents; they also increase the tax base. Small businesses tend to purchase supplies locally, supporting other local businesses in the process. Profits stay local and everyone benefits. In fact, according to The 3/50 Project, for every $100 spent at a local business, $68 goes back into the community. Spend $100 at a national chains and only $43 stays local.

Small Businesses Innovate

Small-business owners are usually entrepreneurs who decided to break away from the 9 to 5 and take charge. A typical entrepreneur is decisive, visionary, willing to try new things and ready to take a risk. Small-business owners realize that they have to be different from the rest. They have to serve a community need and do it better than anyone else. They pave the way for innovation, finding new and better ways.

Small Businesses Strengthen Community Identity

If you look at the small businesses in your community, you’ll see that your region has a flavor all its own. Coffee shops, boutiques, antique shops and other small businesses provide an environment unique to your community. Step into a national chain, and they’re all the same.

Real-Life Examples of Small Businesses Helping Out

Ask Greg O’Neill, co-owner of four Pastoral Cheese, Bread & Wine stores, about giving to charity, and he says the key to giving back is creating relationships. The gourmet food store used to be inundated with requests for help from various charitable organizations as well as individuals. Unable to give to everyone who asked, O’Neill came up with a process to prioritize and streamline requests. The company now has a dedicated donations webpage that clearly defines the efforts supported by the company and the criteria for new causes. Donation requests are fewer now, but the company’s targeted donations make a larger impact than trying to help everyone at once. The company also encourages employee volunteerism.

Scot and Jacqueline Tatelman founded STATE Bags in 2013. Rather than making charitable giving an afterthought, the Tatelmans integrated it into the company’s business model. For every STATE bag purchased, the company donates a fully packed backpack to a child in need. Inspiration for STATE came after the Tatelmans observed countless New York City-area children carrying their school supplies in plastic trash bags. The biggest local impact the company makes is through its bag drop events—teams of “PackMen” and “PackWomen” hand-deliver backpacks and lead motivational rallies to boost the spirits and build the self-confidence of at-risk children.

The Tatelmans call their business a for-profit company with a nonprofit pedigree. The culture of giving is prevalent throughout the company. Customers enjoy making a difference in the lives of children and that gives STATE Bags a competitive edge. Former inner-city students who’ve been helped by STATE often find employment with the company as leaders of bag drop events. STATE has made valuable contacts that add revenue streams through partnerships.

If you’re a small-business owner, you already know that community support begins with you. You may not be able to give back the way STATE does, but you can have just as much impact.