Hello and Happy New Year! Now that the holidays are behind us, I’ve had some time to relax, recharge and plan for the year ahead. I’ve been involved in the Omaha maker community since 2014, and this last holiday season was truly the greatest outpouring of support I’ve seen in my 4 years as a maker. As a consumer, I challenge myself to source anything and everything small and locally whenever and wherever I can. It is often not the cheapest, or most convenient option, but in doing so I build a connection to community and I see my dollars at work in that community.
But what happens after the holidays? The first three months of the year are a tough haul for retailers of all sizes, but especially so on the local level. Local retailers often can’t offer the steep post-holiday discounts most big-box retailers do to keep customers shopping. So why should you shop local, when there are far more cheaper, convenient options available?
According to a study by Civic Economics, On average, 48 percent of each purchase at local independent businesses was recirculated locally, compared to less than 14 percent of purchases at chain stores.
48% is HUGE. I think a lot of us have felt a certain “call to arms” in the past couple years, and I think as many of us have fizzled out feeling overwhelmed at the magnitude of problems our world is currently facing. So start small. The local level perhaps. Advocate for better after school programs in your neighborhood, or even better, start one. Bettering your community happens on both a monetary and non-monetary level.
If you think of every dollar you spend as a “vote”, then vote local whenever you can. Vote for economic growth and better business practices within your community. Buying from large corporations is (more or less) voting for more pollution, more anonymity, and more outsourced cheap labor. Ask yourself where these companies are making and sourcing their products. We have a responsibility as consumers to weed through the bullshit and find and support the good guys who are putting their revenue in the right pockets.
So what does supporting local mean when you DON’T have the means to buy? We all know what social media can do for a business, and what it has done particularly for small businesses, and all of that, quite frankly, starts with you. Word of mouth advertising is the best way to make your brand known, so every time you like, comment, share or recommend a small business to a friend or co-worker, you are actively participating in growing that small business. Do you LOVE local coffee shops? Talk about them. Tell your coworker who brings a Venti Double Mocha Chip Frappacino to the office every day about that cool local shop down the street. Chances are, that local coffee shop down the street is probably (definitely) far more invested in your neighborhood than Starbucks will ever care to be. Reminding your friends and neighbors of amazing local options that are available is literally free advertising for that business.
Community thrives through many local actions taking place simultaneously. So while you may not have the cash to shell out for organic produce and the multitude of things “we should be buying better” every time you leave the house, remember word of mouth goes a long way. Keep the conversation going.
Keep it small. Keep it local.