Community, Local, shop local, shop small, Small Business

Building Community through Small Businesses

this post contains no affiliate links and is not sponsored.

One of the main reasons I wanted to start the Drew Goes Vegan blog was to build a sense of community. I hoped to connect with other vegans, queer folx, and bipoc. One way to help build a sense of community is by shopping from small businesses. This could include not only businesses in your immediate area but also small businesses online! When you shop small you are helping fuel someone’s creative passion as well as making meaningful connections in the process. But if building a community both in your are and online doesn’t convince you to shop small, maybe the following reasons will!

1. Small businesses create more jobs

Small businesses are small but mighty forces! According to The Small Business Administration (as cited by this Our Town America article), since 1990 small businesses have added 8 million jobs to the American economy! Compare that to when large chains have expanded which actually reduced jobs by 4 million! Not only this, but consider how small businesses are helping those who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Many of my friends have started small businesses not only because they wanted a creative outlet but also as a means of income when their jobs let them go due to Covid-19.

2. Small businesses give back to the community

Every time you go to a local cafe for a latte or purchase a book from your favorite local bookstore, you are indirectly giving back to your surrounding community. This is because small, local businesses pay a sales tax to the city, town, etc. that they are in! This money is used to help fund schools, roads, parks and pay public service workers in your area. Plus, according to the Civic Economics (as cited by this Five Stars article), “on average, 48% of each purchase at local independent businesses is recirculated locally, compared to less than 14% of purchases at chain stores.”

3. Small businesses are comfy!

On top of being able to build community through interacting and purchasing from small businesses, small businesses are just always cozy and inviting! Isn’t it nice to be able to go into a local shop and have the employees know your name? To be able to order from a small online shop and receive a handwritten note thanking you for the purchase? Small businesses naturally give you that personal, welcoming touch which is always needed.

Where to Find Small Businesses

How to find the Local Ones

A way that I found some small businesses in my area was from just… growing up in Madison, WI! I have lived here for my entire life (minus going away for school both in high school, a story for another time, and college). I remember my dad taking us downtown all the time. Walking around downtown, you couldn’t walk down a street that didn’t have some sort of local store! I loved going on State St and visiting the comic book stores, old record stores, poster stores, and even a hat store called the Sacred Feather (sadly, it no longer exists but it’s replaced by a local cafe that I’m interested in trying out). But, if you’re not living in the same place that you grew up in like I currently am, another way to find small businesses is to simply for a walk, a drive, a bike ride around your neighborhood. Right now it may be challenging to do that not only because of winter weather but also because of the pandemic. You can always do a Google Search or even ask a friend who lives or has lived in the same area as you do!

Here are just a few of my favorite local businesses in Madison, WI:

Madison Greenhouse Store


Just Veggiez

Sai Bai Thong

Dumpling Haus

Monty’s Blue Plate Diner

A Room of One’s Own

These hyperlinks will take you to the businesses Instagram page (except for Sai Bai Thong, that hyperlink goes directly to their website)!

As a caution, I would ask that you be sure to look into the small business before purchasing anything from them. Once on a bike ride, I found a small cafe that looked appealing that I had never heard of. A week or so later, I found out that this business did not align with my morals. As of late August, this business has lost its lease due to the owner’s actions and belief systems.

How to find the Online Ones

I’m sure most of you reading this has heard of Etsy. This seems to be how many people start off with a small online business. I have several friends who have started Etsy shops as a way to make money during the pandemic. Here is a list of them along with links to their Instagram pages!

Ember Fog

Mibee Illustrations

Clay Cove Creations

Designs by OHM

Dutch Knots

The Cosy Craftery

Please note that some of these Etsy shops are based internationally, so if you are in the United States like me, expect there to be higher shippings costs.

Another way is a little unconventional. Back when I had accounts on most social media platforms, I made an Animal Crossing fan Twitter account. The game was released for the Nintendo Switch practically at the start of the first lockdown, I had never played an Animal Crossing game before, and it looked cozy and cute when the world seemed to be on fire. Many people in the Animal Crossing community had small online shops to buy Animal Crossing items. There were many artists on the platform that you could commission to have them draw you and your Animal Crossing villagers, Twitter headers, even phone backgrounds! I would link some that I have used below but I don’t use Twitter anymore. Just as with local businesses, do your research on the creator and their beliefs to make sure they are morally on the up and up.

Ways to Help Small Businesses

  1. Purchase from them! That seems like the most obvious way but it’s one to remind people of regardless. Instead of buying a book from Barnes and Noble or getting a coffee from Starbucks, check out your local bookstore or coffee shop!
  2. If ordering from a restaurant in your area, try to order directly from their site! Third-party delivery apps do offer the convenience of having the food brought to you, something especially useful during this pandemic. However, often times third-party pick-up/delivery systems take up to a third of the profit from the sale.
  3. Talk about them! Go on social media, follow their accounts, share their posts, even post pictures of you with their products! No matter your follower count, that small business will appreciate you talking about them and sharing their business to more people
  4. After purchasing from the small business, leave them a review! It doesn’t have to be paragraphs long! If you like the product, be sure to tell them that. If you don’t, respectfully tell them what you think could help make the product better. The ratings you give the company helps them reach more people and also just makes the person/people behind the business feel good too!

Happy shopping small, my friends! Be sure to reach out to me if there are any small businesses I should know about and/or purchase from. You can go back to my contact page or send me a message on Instagram!

Until next time, Drew 🍓

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