Small businesses are the backbone of our local economies. According to a 2019 report by the Small Business Authority, they account for more than 40% of the overall US economy, employ millions of Americans and create over two thirds of net new jobs. Owners of small businesses are those who have followed a dream and put not just money but sweat equity behind their business to ensure success. When you talk to a small business owner, they will tell you that their job is behind the register, hiring employees, running the kitchen, doing business development, managing the finances and a host of other critical functions of their business, they do it all. They realize that the success of their business rests squarely on their shoulders and they work hard to ensure they thrive. Most businesses run on limited cash flow and any disruption in business can cause a huge burden. Those that fail, cite cash flow as the culprit more than 80% of the time.
Unfortunately, over the last few months, with stay at home orders in place and many businesses having to close their doors, we are seeing many small businesses (and in some cases large businesses) that are or will be unable to reopen. A slowing economy, a lack of customers and limited cash flow have made it impossible to pay rent, pay creditors and in some cases payroll. Even with government assistance, some will not survive.
On a more positive note, there are some small businesses that are surviving and in some cases even thriving. They are doing their own deliveries, opening up outside dining in their parking lots and using space in new ways such as fairgrounds that have become pop up drive-in theatres. I live South of Boston, and just in my small region, there are some examples of businesses that have changed their model on the fly:
Locally Yours is a small boutique gift shop in Plymouth, MA specializing in local gifts often made by local artists. You can get a Plymouth t-shirt, or jewelry made by a local artist. When shops closed down, Locally Yours moved fully online. The owner did her own deliveries so she could save on shipping and ramped up her social presence dramatically. They had also decided (pre-pandemic) to move into a larger space, so she used the time to ensure they were ready to roll when shops reopened. Her activity showed resilience in challenging times. Check out their Instagram account @shoplocallyyours.
The Alumni Sports Café
The Alumni is an institution in Pembroke, MA. It is a familu owned restaurant that attracts families from the town and surrounding towns for their good food, friendly team and involvement in the community. Like many restaurants, they had to shift to take out only. They adjusted their hours and in addition to traditional take-out, they offered cook at home options like pizza and steak tips. Like Locally Yours, they took to social media. They held dine out days where they matched tips to take care of their displaced employees and when they were able to open up outdoors, they set up a patio in their parking lot engaging other small, local businesses to help build tables and decorate the area. Their actions show innovation and continued community involvement in challenging times. Check out their Facebook account.
She’s Local is an organization committed to creating conferences for women designed to support, connect and inspire one another close to home. It is primarily run by volunteers and prides itself on engaging the community in the design and content of the conferences. When your model is a conference and networking is a key to getting it done, how do you pivot? She’s local had to postpone one conference and shift all planning and ultimately the two 2020 conferences to go fully virtual. Zoom became a staple of all meetings and they maintained their commitment to connecting and engaging with virtual open meetings and twice weekly “Boosts” to support their community. Their actions showed innovation and resilience in the face of what could have meant a full stop to operations. Stay tuned for their MetroWest and South Shore Conferences coming this Fall.
I have heard of others. The Marshfield Fairgrounds will not host their annual fair in August, so they have pivoted and quickly got a drive in theatre approved and running. Another local restaurant, The Black Raspberry has implemented an old fashioned car hop…except instead of roller skates they are using golf carts. I continue to be impressed with the innovation and resilience these and many other small businesses have used to get through difficult times and I commend them on their efforts.
So as things begin to return to normal, don't forget your small businesses. Check out their social and find out how they are innovating and how you can support them. Your support will not only help them, but help our economy survive as well.