Times are tough. Small businesses are struggling to find ways to generate revenue amid a new wave of COVID-19 cases that have resulted in lockdowns, restrictions, and many, many people getting sick.
This new COVID wave has tightened budgets even more. Many businesses have had to close their physical locations.
Despite that, those small businesses are often still operating to the extent possible. There are ways of helping small business owners survive this new wave. Some of the best tips are simply to buy local directly from these kinds of businesses. However, there is certainly more you can do, both as a business owner and as a member of the community.
Here are six ideas for helping small business owners in your community.
1. Eat Local
A lot of people started ordering more take out when lockdowns and restrictions began. This was often recommended as a way of helping small business owners.
That is still true. Everything from seafood restaurants to burger joints are hurting due to restrictions on people gathering indoors. They cannot have sit-down customers the way they used to and that is a huge hit to many restaurants’ budgets.
A complication here is fast food. While many fast food places do have indoor seating, this is less of an issue for them than for other types of restaurants. With about 25% of Americans having some form of fast food on a daily basis, these restaurants aren’t struggling the same way many others are right now.
If you are ordering take out as a way of helping small business owners, there are a few things you should know. For one thing, a lot of popular delivery services charge restaurants fees. This can make the order a bust in terms of revenue. Some delivery services charge 15 or 30% to make those deliveries, negating any income the restaurant would have gotten.
Therefore, it is always better to order directly from the restaurant itself or pick up the food on your own. This allows a local small business to keep all that cash. Your dollars will go farther if you order right from the restaurant. Plus, you might save some money on the fees the delivery service charges.
You could also make getting take out a weekly event. Perhaps there is one night a week where you and your family make it a habit to get take out. You could try a bunch of local places and learn more about your community in the process. If you have the means, this not only is a great way of helping small business owners, it also might provide a bright spot in the monotony of shutdowns.
It isn’t just customers who should go local: restaurants could also help each other out by sourcing their products locally.
For example, a Mexican restaurant might find local Hispanic food distribution and work out a partnership. This could cut down costs for the restaurant if they can get their ingredients locally and it will also help another local business that is part of the economic chain in that community.
You might even find some unlikely services that could be done more locally. For example, you might look for local trash removal. With the amount of waste a business like a restaurant produces, this is a crucial service, one that you might be able to get locally. That can help your budget and a local business at the same time.
These kinds of steps take a little extra planning and preparation, but that is what is needed right now with a new wave of COVID hitting the country. Some creative solutions and some more in-depth thinking about how we get our food is necessary for helping small business owners and our communities.
2. Repair Your Home…
Whether you are a restaurant owner, a contractor or just someone looking to help local businesses get through this, repairing and renovating your home could offer a solution. Homes are in constant need of upkeep and repair, from the flooring to the roof to the lawn. Now would be an excellent time to get that upkeep and repair – while ensuring it is all local.
With so many of us working at home now, this isn’t just a matter of vanity, either. You might be noticing things about your home that you wouldn’t have noticed if you were still working in an office or outside building. If your heating isn’t quite getting the job done or you really wish your windows were sealed better, now may be a good time to tackle those kinds of projects.
You might even get ambitious and try creating your own home office. This is great no matter who you are. If you are a small business owner, making a true office space in your home can help facilitate so much of what you need to do for your business. If you aren’t, it still may be nice to have a space that is set aside only for work so you can separate work from leisure while we are all spending more time at home.
If you are doing things yourself, try finding a local hardware store. This is a small business that you can easily support while you make some repairs around the house. You may need to call ahead to see what kinds of policies they have in place when it comes to operating a physical location right now. However, there is a good chance they could deliver materials to you.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, however. There are some projects that would be outright dangerous for home owners to work on without expertise. This includes things like issues with the electric and roof. A local roofer or electrician can be a way of helping small business owners in your area and making repairs while staying safe.
3. …or Business
Businesses need repair just like homes do. They take a lot of wear and tear just from customers coming through. A shut down may be the perfect time to make repairs to a physical business location with minimal disruption to the business itself. Restaurants can’t have much indoor dining right now in many places, so perhaps this is the right time to go 100% delivery and make those long put-off fixes.
Of course, the best way of doing this would be to hire a local contractor for the work. Small business owners helping small business owners creates a stronger community overall. By finding local contractors and local materials, you can keep your local economy strong even during this difficult time.
There are other services business owners might try to find local solutions for as well. This could be a good time for a deep clean, for example. Again, you may have little or no foot traffic at your physical location right now, so why not get some local business sanitizing services?
Sanitization isn’t just nice to have right now. It could be a major selling point for people worried about the pandemic. If you can show that you have recently gotten sanitizing services, you might stand out among the pack when customers are choosing where to dine or shop.
4. Make Upgrades to Your Home or Business
You don’t need to only make repairs, however. If you are closed or working from home anyway, and you have the means, why not make some upgrades?
A lot of homes and businesses work with outdated internet services simply because that’s how it’s been for a long time. Now might be a good time to look into better IT services, especially if you are working at home part or all of the time. A strong internet connection could make the difference between being able to work and being slowed down to a crawl.
Even this can be done locally. You could find local IT help to get you up and running. It also may be useful to find a local expert to help you figure out exactly what you need. It is just as easy to buy too much as too little.
As mentioned above, you might also be creating a dedicated office space in your home due to working from home frequently. You don’t need to just shove a desk in a corner and call it good, though. You could upgrade this space to make it truly functional, comfortable, and conducive to working. And, of course, you could use it as a means of helping small business owners by getting your supplies and equipment locally as much as possible.
One of the toughest things when it comes to this is simply resisting the temptation of things like Amazon. It might be fast and easy to get things from Amazon, but you won’t be helping small business owners in your area if you go that direction. The extra time might be uncomfortable, but it will help your community a lot in the end.
5. Figure Out Your Options
If you own a small business right now, it can feel like your options are limited in terms of generating revenue and staying afloat. However, the small business administration has put out guidance and loan resources.
This guidance is aimed toward helping small business owners through this difficult time. It includes things like coronavirus funding options, coronavirus recovery information, local assistance and guides on government contracting, among other resources.
With the federal response to the pandemic proving a bit scattershot, many states are also helping small business owners through their own measures and guides. For example, Michigan has started the Pure Michigan Small Business Relief Initiative. This is aimed at businesses disproportionately affected by the pandemic, who can apply for grants to help tide them over. Michigan’s initiative fund has $10 million total available and individual businesses are eligible for up to $15,000.
Some are calling for more to be done in terms of helping small business owners during this new coronavirus outbreak. That includes measures like a new aid package, easier access to aid that already exists, and protection from lawsuits. However, many of those things would need to come through Congress, which is stalled over providing more aid.
In the meantime, small business owners can apply for aid and potentially talk with business bankruptcy lawyers. This is a bit of a last resort, but with the pandemic stretching on, it may be necessary for some.
6. If You Own a Business, Talk to a Lawyer
Lawyers are not only for dire situations, though. You don’t need to be facing bankruptcy in order to talk to business lawyers about your situation. Sometimes, a lawyer can simply help you through the process of applying for aid or filing your taxes, two services that can make a big difference when it comes to the bottom line for a small business.
Of course, bankruptcy is not out of the question right now. It is an unfortunate reality that many small businesses are facing. Still, a business lawyer can aid with getting through that process in the best way possible. There may be a light at the end of the tunnel if you have a helping hand to guide you through the intricacies of the process.
You might also be facing significant debt. Operating costs have not lowered, yet revenue has dropped due to the continued spread of the disease. This means many small business owners are facing debt and have few options.
Once again, a lawyer could be the best way of helping small business owners. Debt negotiation lawyers can assist with talking with creditors and lenders to get a small business owner the best deal possible in a tough situation. It may not be the most appealing option, but it could be the option that yields the best outcome. Getting a handle on debt before it spirals out of control could help you sustain your business in the long run.
All of these suggestions for helping small business owners rely on the strength of the community around those businesses. Many of use, from restaurant owners to contractors to folks who used to work in conventional office buildings, are having to rethink the way we do things right now. If we analyze that process carefully, we could help get each other through these difficult times by supporting our local communities in ways large and small.