As 2020 winds down, let’s celebrate makers differently than before. Makers provide a path for America’s economic recovery because many makers turn their creations into businesses. New businesses like those account for nearly all job growth. That’s particularly important because COVID-19 has led to the shutdown – at the peak – of at least 3.3 million U.S. businesses, according to one estimate. And 60% of closed businesses have now shut permanently, according to recent data from Yelp. Each of us plays a vital role by buying from small maker businesses for the holidays and beyond. Makers can lead the way.
It’s always tempting to turn to large, even gigantic, businesses for holiday shopping, as they often offer discounts and free shipping. But it’s in the long-term interest of all Americans to support new and small businesses in their own communities. A recent study by GoDaddy found that adding one active micro-business for every 100 people raises the average income in a county by $408. Those businesses produce jobs locally and enliven communities in every part of the nation. They also generate unique products, distinctive community identity, and benefits that far exceed their specific purpose.
Think of what small businesses mean to your community or neighborhood. The local coffee shop may be a gathering place that welcomes newcomers as well as longstanding residents. It may be a place to do business on your laptop over a cup of coffee. It often is the place where those who dream of starting a business gather for inspiration, informal advice, or just sketching ideas on a napkin.
That’s true of all kinds of small businesses. They define a community in ways that are unique. They add vitality and personality, and often offer additional value – like personal connections and free advice – along with their products and services. And America has the maker movement to thank for that, because many small business owners began as makers who understand the value of sharing ideas, learning from each other, and paying it forward.
That’s why it’s so important to shop small for the holidays – and beyond. Of course, a significant discount from a giant corporation is attractive; we all recognize that. But supporting small businesses locally is making an investment in your own community, and thus in yourself too.
You can also support small businesses in other communities – whether you have a connection to the community or not – by buying online or by phone. For instance, during the pandemic, I’ve been trying out new coffees from boutique roasteries across the country. You can support emerging artists, buy from minority-owned businesses, or help remote communities. In doing so, you can send the message that you care, that the service they provide matters broadly, and that we are all in this together.
A great catalyst for supporting small businesses is the Shop Small movement. In conjunction with shopping small, numerous media outlets and other entities offer small business holiday guides. Buzzfeed, for instance, offers its Small Business Gift Guide 2020. New York magazine has created a map showing “some great small, Black-owned shops from around the country.”
You can also support other makers who may not have their own brick-and-mortar stores. The Grommet offers “Holiday Gift Ideas 2020,” for example, and Etsy offers “2020 Holiday Shopping Made Simple (and Special).” Etsy offers “more than 72 million items to choose from, created and curated by Etsy sellers around the globe.”
It’s also important to think beyond gift-buying during the holiday season. Simply ordering take-out from a neighborhood restaurant can help keep that small business operating amid Covid-19. A purchase as small as a cup of coffee can have a cumulative effect that has a big impact on a local shop.
Cumulative impact makes a difference. Each of us making small purchases adds up – for ourselves and for the businesses.
We can also encourage others to join this effort. Whenever a new business opens with a service you’re interested in, give it a try. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to go back. But give an entrepreneur a chance. And if you like it, recommend it to others.
Engaging Americans in supporting entrepreneurs in their own communities is a major focus of Right to Start, the new national organization that I lead to advance entrepreneurship as a community priority. The opportunity to support small businesses is vital to America’s recovery.
Sixty-two percent of U.S. small businesses report that they need to see consumer spending return to pre-Covid-19 levels by the end of 2020 in order to stay in business. More new businesses correlates with lower income inequality.
The holidays can be a wonderful (socially distanced) season despite Covid-19. As 2020 ends, it can also be a time to spread cheer and support to small businesses. Doing so is not only in their interests. It’s in ours too.
The author, a leading champion of entrepreneurship, is Founder and CEO of Right to Start.
[feature image: Kira auf der Heide]