Lora Babb

Program Manager, Sustainable Economies

Small businesses are often said to be the backbone of our economy. As of 2019 (the most recent data), there are over 30 million small businesses in the U.S. that provide nearly half of all jobs—99.9% of businesses in America are small businesses.

Every May is Small Business Month, but the 2020 recognition and celebration looks very different from past years. COVID-19 and the economic shut-down are significantly impacting small businesses. Small businesses already operate on much more narrow financial margins than large companies, and on top of that, during this unprecedented crisis, many have had to furlough or lay off employees, shut their doors to the public, and face the uncertainty of what will happen without a “busy season” this summer. And some industries are being hit particularly hard, like food service, hospitality, and entertainment.

Through our U360 Business Sustainability Program, we’ve engaged with hundreds of small businesses nationwide on sustainability. Since the start of this pandemic, we have been so inspired by the stories of creativity, generosity, and innovation we’re hearing from business owners and managers. During this global crisis, they are radically changing their products and services or finding ways to keep their employees working or even giving back to those in need, proving they are the backbone of our communities as well.

But our small businesses need help weathering this crisis, and consumers and individuals have opportunities to contribute. If you are in a position to do so, here are a few ways that you can support and help sustain the small businesses in your community:

  • Buy gift cards. Buying gift cards will give much-needed revenue to the businesses now, and you can either give them as a gift or use them yourself later when businesses are in a better economic position.
  • Order take-out from local restaurants. Many restaurants are offering their food to-go, so take a break from cooking and order take-out for delivery or pick-up. And tip extra, if you can!
  • Think and shop small. This pandemic has canceled a lot, but not the need to buy certain things…food, household items, clothes, books, etc. So before you automatically order these items from a large corporation, take some time to peruse the websites of the businesses in your community – chances are, there will be a place locally to buy what you need!
  • Send a locally-sourced care package. What better way to tell a loved one that you’re thinking about them than sending a personalized care package of locally-sourced items? Or you can order gifts from a favorite business in their community to be delivered!
  • Post on social media. After you do any of the above (or something else to support small businesses), be sure to tell others about it on social media…generating buzz about the small businesses in our communities can inspire others to show them love too!