The times, they are crazy! Right now, the world seems to be closing in on us, half the time we don’t even know what direction we are headed in. Two steps forward and one step back seems to be the motto. We don’t know where to turn, we feel like we are losing control and the world is in shambles around us. One person says shop here for the best deals, the other won’t step foot in that type of place. Other people are just trying to stay afloat. Small businesses around our communities are closing their doors forever, while big businesses are continually growing. Many communities are hurting and the world just seems to be out of our control. One begins to wonder, what difference can I make in my community, in our country, and the world? I am just one person, what can I do and will it really have an impact? The answer is right before you, and it is staring you in the face. YES! What you choose to do and how you choose to spend those hard-earned dollars, really does matter. They not only, matter to your community but possibly your neighbor’s livelihood.
Where can I start? Start by being aware of the labels: Look for Made in America
If we all start by looking at the labels of where the products we buy are made, then we can make a small, conscious choice by purchasing things Made in America. Stop, I can already hear you saying that those things cost more money than a comparable product made in a foreign country. Hear me out for a moment, let’s consider these things about buying American-made before you scoff at me.
- If we start buying American-made products we will become less dependent on imported goods. In turn, lowering the trade deficit because we are keeping the money and manufacturing in America.
- We are supporting our fellow Americans! There will be more jobs and less unemployment if we keep the manufacturing of goods here in our country.
- America has better and more strict regulations when it comes to the safety of the products we produce.
- America also has labor laws that ensure companies have safe working conditions and there are minimum wage standards, unlike other countries where these types of laws don’t exist. In some countries, there are harsh working conditions, employees are not paid very well, they also could be using unsafe chemicals in the production of a product. We all remember lead-based paint and how horrible that is for a consumer.
- American-made products are built to last using better components than a lesser quality that may be found elsewhere.
Can I do more? Yes, Take it to the Next Level: Stay Small and Buy Local
Ok, you decided to buy American-made, but that there is more that you can do. You can take the next step and start supporting small businesses. Small businesses are the backbone of our country. One of the reasons, that people flock to America to live, is because America is the home of opportunities. They come dreaming of opening small, family-owned businesses that they couldn’t do before in their home country.
Small, family-owned, and operated businesses are wonderful! They are equipped to do things that a multi-national corporation can’t do or don’t do well. While many multinational corporations start as small businesses, they evolve and are unable to provide you, the customer, the same experience as when they first started as a business. It doesn’t mean that it is bad or that you are having an un-pleasurable experience, just a different experience than when they first started.
What can small businesses offer?
There are many things that they can offer, somethings you may already be aware of:
- Small businesses are built because the owner and their employees are passionate about their purpose. These businesses are unique, creative, and innovative. They are not a one size fits all type of deal. They fill a specific need in the market, that big businesses can’t because they are catering to all.
- Small businesses give you a different, higher level of service. Typically, small business owners and employees know their customers on a more personal level. They are your friends, neighbors, people in your community. Think about the last time you were at your local big-box store, in and out quickly-yes, but if you have a question or need help finding-good luck getting the right person to answer you, many times you are wandering the aisles to find an employee. Now, think about the last time you visited your favorite local coffee shop (not the chain one, the little cafe in town)-depending on how often you go there, they may know your name, your order, and you can strike up an entire conversation while they are crafting your drink.
- Small businesses do more for your community. When you purchase a small business, you are doing more than buying an ice cream cone from your local dairy storefront. You are helping someone pay their bills, put food on the table, a roof over their heads, karate or dance lessons for their kids. Small businesses tend to make more charitable contributions to the community, sponsor kids little league teams or other community events. Local money stays local. Thus, giving your community a sense of pride and creates character for the town, making it feel like home.
- Small businesses create jobs. They actually create more jobs than we realize, small businesses account for nearly half of the employment rates. These jobs are more flexible, I know this from working both at a bigger corporation and a small, local business. When I worked for a larger, national business, I had to ask off way in advance and may not get the time off that I needed, all depending on my seniority or if anyone else needed the same time off and there wasn’t enough coverage for the day. They weren’t always flexible when it came to emergencies. However, this has not been the case with the small business I currently work for. If an emergency arises, I can attend to it without any delay. They are more flexible with work hours. This is definitely, a blessing when you have a family and need to work around everyone else’s schedules and demands on your time and energy.
- Small businesses also can do a better job at coming up with solutions to their customers’ needs. This is because typically, a small business is in a certain market and not catering to the masses. They can work with their customers to develop new product ideas and this may happen faster than having to go through multiple layers of approvals at a larger corporation. Think about the last time you had an issue with a product, what did you do? If you called the company, where you placed on hold, talked to a bunch of different people, and then come away with nothing resolved. Maybe you got a refund or a replacement product but that’s it. Small businesses are more adaptable to be able to use your feedback to help them better their products, improve their design, or even create a new product to solve the problem.
- Another wonderful thing about buying locally is the quality of the product and the effect on the environment. You are buying fresher food, you know where the food came from. You may even know the farmer, himself. The products grown and made locally have less packaging and less handling and transportation of the goods. Thus, reducing that carbon footprint which seems to be at the forefront of many people’s minds. You are cutting out that middle man. This way the farmer is getting the money in his pockets and NOT the middle man or the big corporation.
I hope, I compelled you to reevaluate how you purchase products. One-stop shopping is convenient and makes our busy lives seem easier. However, the next time you go out and about, take the extra time to look for that Made in America label or better yet, make an extra stop at that cute little shop downtown or the local farmer’s market and support your neighbor, your fellow American. Who knows, you may find exactly what you have been looking for but have been unable to find it elsewhere. We as small businesses need our fellow community members to help support us, so we can in turn continue to support our communities. Help us to achieve our American dream. We are willing to go that extra mile for you!