Where did you spend your time growing up? What are your favorite memories of your hometown? For many of you, the answers to these questions will involve a local business. I was fortunate enough to grow up working in a family coffee shop. I saw firsthand the benefits a small business can provide to a community, and they go far beyond your morning cup of coffee. They give your town personality, provide superior service, and make a greater economic impact than chain stores.
Small businesses are often the defining aspect of your community’s identity. Whether it’s the coffee shop where you and your friends meet every weekend, the bookstore where you buy your kids’ Christmas presents, or the thrift store where you design your wardrobe, local businesses create the environment that is your town. They give the community places to gather, they provide goods and services from trusted sources, and they probably gave you your first job. Almost every town has “their spot,” the place to which you immediately refer visitors to show them what your community is all about, and some lucky towns even have more than one. These businesses give their communities life, and occupy an important place in our hearts.
In a similar vein, there is something special about supporting a business owner that you know. This is even more true when you know you are going to receive personal, sincere service, something that superstores and online outlets just can’t match. The tailor-made service you receive at a local business comes from real relationships forged between the owners and their customers. My parents used to sit down and talk with customers for extended periods of time, showing genuine concern for what was going on in their lives. The relationships they forged with their customers were irreplaceable. While this may violate one of Don Corleone’s most important rules (“It’s not personal. It’s strictly business.”), it ultimately means a better experience and a better product for the people in the community.
Local economic development
For every $100 spent at a local business, an average of $68 stay in your community, compared with $43 out of every $100 from non-local businesses. This local spending includes wages, local supplies and services, and community donations. Additionally, small businesses are likely to be the first job for many of the kids in your community. This gives the added benefit of providing work experience in what is likely to be a friendly environment. I remember working with a lot of my friends from high school at my family coffee shop. In addition to economic benefits from supplies and wages, small business owners are more likely to support local booster clubs and events, providing additional value for the community.
Small businesses and the people who run them are irreplaceable in a community. That’s why America’s SBDC Iowa’s mission is “to support the collaborative economic development of Iowa by providing entrepreneurs and businesses with individual consultation and educational resources necessary to assist their businesses to succeed.” If you need help growing your business, or have a new idea you want to test, let us know. Consultations are free, and we have 15 centers conveniently located throughout the state. Let us help get you off the ground.
Special Thanks: Leah Pitts