shop at small businesses

Where do you buy products and services for your business (and yourself)?

By Rieva Lesonsky

When you need to purchase insurance, buy printer paper or get someone to help you revamp your website, do you go online and look for the cheapest price you can find?

Or do you spend a little extra time to shop at small businesses that sell what you’re looking for?

A couple years back, I read an article about an African-American couple who decided that for the next 12 months, they would only buy products or services from businesses that were African-American owned.

It made me think about how often, as a small business owner, I buy products or services without even considering whether they come from a small business. I’m willing to bet you rarely think about that, either. (No fair pointing out that Amazon and Walmart started as small businesses.)

Why You May Not Shop at Small Businesses

Supporting small, independent local companies has gotten more difficult due to:

  • Increased competition: There’s more competition than ever from bigger chains, both online and off. It’s difficult for many small brick-and-mortar businesses to battle the giants, and some entrepreneurs have been driven out of business.
  • Price consciousness: As small business owners, we all need to watch our budgets to maintain our profit margins. I have to admit that I often make purchases based on cost savings.

However, shopping with small businesses has also become easier in a couple of important ways:

  • Ease of ecommerce: If no small businesses in your neighborhood sell the widget you need, go online and you can probably get it from a small company across the country or across the globe.
  • Greater transparency: Transparency has become a must in the business world. That means it’s a lot easier than it used to be to discover exactly where your money goes when you buy from a business.

Millennials are one consumer group that love to shop at small businesses.

Where to Find Small Businesses to Buy From

If you are determined to shop at small businesses, here are some easy ways to do so.

  • Start online: If you want to support a particular kind of small business, start by looking online for directories. For instance, if you want to buy from women-owned businesses, Hispanic-owned businesses or LGBTQIA businesses, you can find directories devoted to these types of business owners.
  • Start local: Buying from businesses in your city benefits your community in a lot of different ways. Your money goes back into the community, helping to pay employees’ wages and create jobs. Sales taxes from the purchases help to finance your community and make it a better place to live.
  • Start with your connections: One of the easiest options is to buy from business owners you already know. For instance, if you belong to the local chamber of commerce or business networking association, make it a point to purchase from and work with other entrepreneurs in that network.

Working with people you know can benefit your business in many ways. My company recently started working with a local entrepreneur who designs and runs websites. The relationship began when he redesigned our website. Now he refers my company to his clients who need content creation, and I refer him to my clients who need website design or search engine optimization services.

Helping Other Entrepreneurs Succeed

As an entrepreneur, you know how much small business owners contribute to the U.S. economy. If you think entrepreneurs deserve support, why not put your money where your mouth is? Whenever you can buy from a small business instead of a big company, make it a practice to do so. When you can’t find a small business to buy from, look for a franchise—most of them are operated by individual business owners. Check out these 10 ways to cut operational costs and you’ll save some money you can put toward supporting small businesses.

Sure, it may cost a bit more to purchase from a small business than a big one. But you could build lasting relationships that are mutually beneficial. And you’ll have the satisfaction of supporting entrepreneurs just like you—who could turn out to be the next big thing.

Businessman and client shaking hands stock photo by Myroslava Malovana/Shutterstock