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Being a part of a pandemic is hard on everyone. But it can be especially hard on the small businesses that serve your local community. Top-down edicts that require a sudden shut-down such as the immediate closure of public gathering places like restaurants and pubs have a ripple effect we may not see but can still be felt.

We can put ourselves in the shoes of that local business owner who is left with spoiling inventory and unpaid rent. We can imagine all the shift workers who were really counting on this week’s (and next week’s) pay. We can then take those insights and shop accordingly, giving back in small ways that help ensure the local companies we love will survive these hard times to recover when the pandemic ends.

In this article, learn key ways you can reach out to support entrepreneurs while it is anything but business as usual in your local community. 

Order take-out

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While many restaurants and eateries are being forced to summarily shut down for walk-in customers, take-out or delivery services such as Skipthedishes, Uber Eats, or Doordash may still be available. By ordering take-out, you protect yourself from too much contact in grocery stores and also help restaurants use up their fresh perishables to make your yummy food. With each take-out order you place, you keep at least some staff working and earning rent. Even better, be sure to tip as generously as you can when signing the bill as a little extra show of support.

Shop locally online

Depending on where you live, once you’ve identified local businesses in your area, the next step is to make shopping at them part of your usual routine. Since local businesses often can’t match the low prices of big-box stores, it’s challenging if you’re on a tight budget. However, during these times, supporting your local entrepreneurs could be the difference between them reopening or not.

Looking for a sweet card for a worried elderly relative? Visit your local gift store’s online boutique. Missing your nephew’s birthday because of the restrictions? Support your local bookstore’s online store and gift him with some of your favorite classics.

Order gift cards

You may not need them now, but you can always use them later. Plus, they make great gifts. Most importantly, they send the cash to local businesses you love right now when it is most needed. Better yet, stock up on some extra gift cards for local friends that you can gift later for birthdays and holidays.

Treat your workers to tips, bonuses, or paid leave

No matter how self-sufficient you may feel, chances are good that if you look more closely you will notice at least a handful of folks whose livelihood in part depends on you. Common examples that may apply to you may include workers like your lawn service, maid service, childcare service or personal trainer.  Teachers, tutors, arts or fitness instructors, and even the local bands that entertain you on Friday nights are likely all deeply affected by local business shutdowns in your community.

The same holds true if you have paid staff for your own company. You can bet all of these folks will be deeply appreciative of any offers for paid leave, part-time pay or even short-term interest-free loans to help them get over the hump.

Shop outside the box

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Anytime news of product shortages (toilet paper comes to mind here) starts to spread, people tend to panic. This may empty the shelves of big box, high visibility national or international chain stores, but it may have surprisingly little impact on locally owned niche grocers or food marts in cultural communities. If you can’t find what you are looking for in the usual places (or even if you can), challenge yourself to venture out to lesser-shopped local stores you wouldn’t normally think to frequent.

You may find that you pay a little bit more to get the staples you need, but then again you may even discover that some items are cheaper! Either way, you will help a struggling local business owner keep more people employed, offload perishable inventory and continue paying their own bills on time and in full.

Share your favorite local businesses with local friends and family

If there is one thing every single one of us needs right now, it is to stick together and stay connected. So if you are shopping locally or online and notice a struggling local business with plentiful supplies you can shop with, share the news with your network. Ask them to send some business in that company’s direction. Invite others to comment with their own ideas and harness the power of your collective means to keep local businesses alive and thriving.

Being an informed shopper is always important. Every time you open your wallet you let the world know what matters most to you. 

Pandemic times sometimes call for even more vigilance about how we spend and share what we have. With these six tips, you can help people with purchasing power in your local community to come together around the local businesses that serve all of you so well.