The Ultimate Guide to Support

Small Business

Jonathan Brooks • October 27, 2021

Jonathan Brooks

Business Warrior President

In recent years, there has been an unstoppable push to support small businesses. For good reason. Supporting small businesses provides direct benefit to your neighbors, your local schools, and the local economy.

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The Ultimate Guide to Support Small Business

In recent years, there has been an unstoppable push to support small businesses. For good reason. Supporting small businesses provides direct benefit to your neighbors, your local schools, and the local economy. In contrast shopping through national chains and large corporations provides little impact with most of the money leaving your community. However, supporting small businesses can seem overwhelming, especially if you have to think beyond the “buy local” method.


We spoke with several small business owners and surveyed 115 of them to discover the best ways you can help support them. Based on their feedback, we created this guide to walk you through why supporting small businesses is essential for your community, how to identify small businesses, and every way you can support small businesses, broken down by how long each method takes and if it costs money or not.


Before we get into all of that, it’s important to first know how to identify a small business.

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How To Identify A Small Business

It isn’t always easy to identify a locally-owned small business. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) defines what a small business is based on their industry, employee count, and annual earnings. According to our survey data, 75% of small business owners employed less than 10 people.

Outside of counting employees, you can typically tell if they’re a small business by looking for the following:


  • Family owned and operated
  • Owner accessibility
  • Local media coverage
  • The number of locations
  • If they are a franchise
  • If they have a website
  • How many online reviews they have


You can also check in with your local chamber of commerce, secretary of state, or local media to find locally-owned small businesses near you.


Now that you know how to spot them, let’s talk about why you should support them.

Why Support Small Businesses?

Supporting small businesses has been a part of our society since 2010 thanks, in part, to the American Express Shop Small movement. This has since evolved from Small Business Saturday into a nationwide movement that lifts up our neighbors, local store owners, and small businesses. The question is: in a world that favors convenience, why support small business?

“Establish your brand and promote it. It takes a lot of work to do that – just open the door and flip on the lights, anyone can do that. Getting people to want to come back, that’s a big deal.”

– Gary Naumann, W. P. Carey School of Business

The answer is simple: small businesses create more jobs, support local business owners, and impact your city significantly more than big businesses.


Rentschler wanted to own her own Budget Blinds franchise for years and took the leap in July 2020. It’s just her and her husband running the entire show, so when you’re supporting Budget Blinds of North Glendale, you are directly supporting the Rentschler family.


They’re not the only ones.


IV Revival owner Megan Jore took over the business in 2019 and grew it into a Phoenix-based mobile operation. She couldn’t have done this without the support of those around her, especially in her industry.


“Being able to respond to market changes in a quick and efficient way can be a challenge,” Jore said. “Being a small business owner often means you are wearing multiple hats and doing the jobs of multiple people. When something happens that changes or disrupts your market in a big way, it can be difficult and overwhelming to make all the changes to your business you may need to make in order to remain relevant — or profitable.”


It was because of the support of those around her — both in the health industry and the community — she was able to grow IV Revival into a company with 10 contracted nurses and a full-time employee.

Outside of counting employees, you can typically tell if they’re a small business by looking for the following:


  • Family owned and operated
  • Owner accessibility
  • Local media coverage
  • The number of locations
  • If they are a franchise
  • If they have a website
  • How many online reviews they have


You can also check in with your local chamber of commerce, secretary of state, or local media to find locally-owned small businesses near you.


Now that you know how to spot them, let’s talk about why you should support them.

Job Creation

Small businesses lead job creation. From 2000 to 2019, small businesses created 10.5 million net new jobs while large businesses only created 5.6 million. This means small businesses account for 65.1% of net new jobs in the U.S.


In 2021, small businesses employed a whopping 47.1% of the total workforce in the U.S., which is up 1.17% from 2019.

Directly Impacts the Local Economy

It goes far beyond just job creation — it’s directly boosting economic production. Small businesses give more back financially than big businesses all over the country.


Local Works analysis of the West Michigan economy found that locally owned businesses put more money into the local economy. For every $100 spent with a locally owned business, $73 remained in the Grand Rapids economy. Conversely, for every $100 spent at a big business, only $43 remains in the local Grand Rapids economy.


In Portland, Maine, the Maine Center for Economic Policy found that every $100 spent at locally owned businesses contributes an additional $58 to the local economy. By comparison, $100 spent at a chain store in Portland yields only $33 in local economic impact.


This trend is nationwide. Small businesses generate $68 of local economic return for every $100 spent with them. To quantify that, over $9.3 billion would be directly returned to our economy if every U.S. family spent $10 a month at a local business. This is why you should support small businesses. The smallest amount spent can generate a huge local return.

Create Competition with Big Name Competitors

The biggest challenge small businesses face is getting their name out there. Many small business owners are overshadowed by not only local competition, but by big name competitors, such as Amazon — which 24% of the business owners we surveyed call their top competitor.


For small business owners, competing against companies like Amazon seems impossible. After all, Amazon made an estimated $386 billion in profits in 2020. Small businesses averaged $71,813. That imbalance is staggering.


To put that into perspective, Amazon’s profits, split into $100 bills, would weigh approximately 8.51M lbs. That’s about the weight of 94 commercial airplanes (without fuel). Comparitivately, a small business owner’s profits (when rounded up to $100K) only weighs 2 lbs, which is equivalent to two loaves of bread.

The good news is, it’s not impossible to compete with Amazon. A small business owner is only competing with the sales Amazon makes in their area, not with Amazon’s overall profit. With a little help, small businesses can thrive with the support of their community, even in the presence of giants.


Chelsea Rentschler, who co-owners Budget Blinds of North Glendale with her husband James, explained how hard it is for new business owners — even ones who franchise from a huge brand name store — to grow.


“As a small business owner, we face the challenge of getting our name out there on a local level,” she said. “Budget Blinds is the #1 retailer of custom window coverings across North America, which is a great head start for us. We would still like to grow locally, however.”


Rentschler isn’t the only one who feels this way. Kayla Girdoux of Economy Plumbing Service explained that competition, especially with bigger companies, and the difficulty of getting their name out there is one of the biggest challenges they face.


They can't do this without your help, though. So, how can you support a small business?

How to Support Small Businesses

Supporting a small business doesn’t mean only shopping local — it means nurturing your community. It can only take a minute, or it can be ongoing support that has you in the store almost every week. Unfortunately, only 33% of the business owners we surveyed felt supported by their community.


There are so many ways to support small businesses and all of them are easy to do. We broke it down by how long each action will take.

“Definitely leaving us feedback and reviews is a huge help. Referrals and word of mouth is a really big money maker for us.”

– Kayla Girdoux, Economy Plumbing Service

Ways That Only Take a Minute

When you decide to support a small business, it doesn’t always have to be a long-term initiative and efforts can go far beyond recommending them to a friend. Here are a few methods that only take about a minute.

Leave a Google Review (Free)

Google reviews are extremely important recommendations for small businesses. Not only do they boost their Google ranking, it increases their credibility as well. Small business owners want reviews as well!


“Our ideal 3 ways for the community to support us would be to shop locally, refer a friend, and leave reviews on Google,” Rentschler revealed.


Think of it this way: a business with 300 Google reviews will likely show up before a business with 50 reviews. It’s a numbers game and a quality game — the more 4- and 5-star reviews you have, the better a business will do online. Managing those reviews is extremely important too. For a guide on how to manage them, click here.

Leave a Facebook Review (Free)

At least 93% of consumers research before they buy. Facebook reviews puts small businesses in a better position when consumers are asking themselves if they want to buy from them. A good Facebook review tells potential customers that you’re trustworthy and you sell high-quality products and services.


It works too! When Economy Plumbing Service opened in October 2006, online reviews weren’t that common. Now, reviews, referrals, and word of mouth is what helped them expand their operation into a 10-employee venture.


Additionally, out of the 115 business owners we surveyed, 42% of them listed referrals as the top way new customers find them.


“Definitely leaving us feedback and reviews is a huge help,” Girdoux said. “Referrals and word of mouth is a really big money maker for us. We also get a good amount of business from recommendations via Facebook.”

Check In or Tag them on Social Media (Free)

While this may seem like an old practice, checking into (or tagging) businesses on Facebook helps get the word out about small businesses in your area. It’s free advertising for them and it lets your friends know that you love this business and recommend it to them!


If you’re tagging them, add some pictures to the post for proof. Show off the food you ate, the clothes you bought, or the arts and crafts you nabbed for killer prices. It only takes a minute, and it can help increase interest in the business – and be honest, you were going to share it all anyway!

Talk About Your Experience (Free)

One of the most powerful things you can do to help a small business is talk with the owner and management first about both good and bad experiences, before you write a review online. Reviews and word of mouth are one of the best ways to grow a small business or startup, but they can be both a blessing and a curse.


“A good word of mouth, a suggestion from a friend, that can go, if it spreads, to 5-10 people,” Gary Naumann, Professor of Practice & Hahnco Professor of Entrepreneurship at ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business, explained. “That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is. The problem with word of mouth is that it spreads like wildfire. We always made sure to go out of the way if we heard of anything, if we caught wind of anything, to address it directly.”


Therefore, addressing any concerns with management can be a huge help for small businesses. Most small business owners and managers may go the extra mile to help better your experience as well.

Tip Generously

This one might seem like a no-brainer but tipping generously is a huge help to small businesses. Even if their employees don’t rely on tips, they’re a morale booster and lets them know they’re doing something right. You should tip the following industries:


  • Restaurants/bars
  • Bakeries/coffee shops
  • Beauty salons
  • Hotels
  • Delivery drivers
  • Casinos


Some small businesses will accept them even if they’re not in those industries — just be sure to check with the owner first to make sure you know it’s allowed.

Sign Up for Their Emails (Free)

Email marketing is a huge (and free) initiative that many small businesses do. You’ll often see deals, discounts, and important news updates about the business in these emails. They’re free to sign up for and often offer invaluable information for you to use in the future.


Engaging with the ones you’re interested in and ignoring the ones you’re not is a huge help! Basically, it’s your way of saying “I like this, keep doing more!” and “Change this up, it isn’t working.” It can be a tremendous help.

Ways That Only Take an Hour

Ditch Third Party Apps

Did you know that ordering from apps like DoorDash, Grubhub, and UberEats costs restaurants money? DoorDash doesn't disclose their commission rates openly, however it reportedly can vary between 10-25%. Save the small business some money by picking up the phone, ordering online through their website, or stopping in for a meal.


If you do choose to sit down for a meal, bring your friends along. The more the merrier — for both you and the small business! They could love the food and turn into regular customers, which will only further your support of small businesses.

Visit and Browse

We all love online shopping. It’s convenient and easy, but it can hurt small businesses. Browsing in-store locally is also a lot easier on you. You can try on clothing, look at the product, talk with employees, and generally just get a feel for what you need to buy before you buy it.


It also helps you realize what you need and what you don’t need. We’ve all been grocery shopping and realize we forgot to add an item to our list. Shopping in-person at a small business is the same way — you’ll think of things that you need or of gift ideas that you’ll want to get. Speaking of gifts…

Buy Gift Cards

It’s easy to get lost in the holiday rush and order online from companies like Amazon. Don’t do that! Instead, buy in advance from small businesses and buy gift cards.


You may be skeptical about the financial impact of gift cards. Economists often consider these gift cards to be sort of a bad deal for the customer, but they are actually one of the better ways you can support small businesses. They offer an incentive to get more people in the store and provide immediate return — two very important things when it comes to running a small business.

“I emphasize – don’t train your community to wait for the sale. You’ve cut your margins almost permanently by those sales prices.”

– Gary Naumann, W. P. Carey School of Business

Small Business Saturday

Started by American Express in 2010, Small Business Saturday is an annual day that encourages the community to shop local.


It works too! Though 2020 did see a decrease in popularity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, about 108 million shoppers spent $12.9B in 2020, which was down from 2019’s $19.6B. It is a huge day for small businesses and it would help small businesses if you came out and showed your support as well.


However, Naumann pointed out that ongoing support is going to do so much more than just shopping locally for one weekend.


“It’s great but if we had to live on one weekend a year, we’d be dead,” he said. “I would encourage people to do something else. Most small businesses don’t survive on sales. The only way you can get someone to come in is to slash your price and in the long run, you’re not going to be around for very long.


“I emphasize – don’t train your community to wait for the sale,” Naumann continued. “You’ve cut your margins almost permanently by those sales prices.”

Ongoing Ways to Show Support

Shop Locally First

You don’t have to drop big business entirely, especially if you look at local options first. It's the difference between visiting a locally-owned game store once a month instead of GameStop, or picking out a gift card from a local small business instead of Amazon. Start integrating “small business first” into your routine and you’ll quickly notice the difference in your habits. It’s an easy and simple way to continue showing your support.

Get to Know the Owner (Free)

While many of us prefer to keep to ourselves, shopping in-store gives you the opportunity to get to know the business and its owner. This is powerful for small business owners, as it tells them that people care about what they do and their story. Many of the small business owners we surveyed ranked getting to know them higher than buying gift cards and tagging them on social media!

Participate in Fundraisers

About 75 percent of small business owners donate a portion of their profits to charitable organizations annually. In fact, small businesses donate 250% more than larger businesses to local nonprofits and community causes. Help out their cause by donating! It won’t directly support the small business, but it will help your community out even more and encourage the small business owner to keep up their fundraising efforts.

Small Business Owners:

How To Give Back

Small business owners, if you want to show your appreciation and support back to the community that supports you, then this section is for you.


Naumann, who owned a toy store in California for 13 years, shared his own experience.


“As a small business person in the community, if people know you also support other small businesses in the community, that’s a big deal,” Naumann said.


There are a lot of small things you can do to create a huge impact.


  • Specials and deals for military/vets, seniors, students
  • Special holiday discounts, including Mother’s Day and Father’s Day
  • Free advertisement for youth groups

Posting fliers

Posting on social media

Shouting them out in email newsletters

  • Punch cards and loyalty rewards
  • The option to donate to local charities
  • Food drives to support charities or local organizations


You can also support your local schools. There is always a way to support your school, from trade fairs to supporting fundraisers and auctions for youth sports.


“Support events locally. In our world, we supported all the schools – we couldn’t support every one, but whenever they came to us with a request, we did our best,” Naumann said. “It was about doing enough to say ‘hey, we were there.’ We did as much as we could. That was well received by the community.”

Create a Brand Built on Local Support

Your brand is everything. It’s what makes people want to support you. Sometimes, being local isn’t enough. Slashing your prices isn’t enough. You have to put in the time and effort to make your business stand out and make it worth supporting.


“Establish your brand and promote it. It takes a lot of work to do that – just open the door and flip on the lights, anyone can do that,” Naumann said. “Getting people to want to come back, that’s a big deal.”


It doesn’t have to be big initiatives either. Naumann explained they would offer toy wrapping services, support schools and youth sports as much as they could, and be a friendly face around the community. Their brand was more than toys; they were known as the business who went out of their way to be friendly and helpful. That’s what made them successful for 13 years.


Most importantly though, be a business that you would want to support. Treat your employees and your customers with respect and always remember that you support them just as much as they support you.

Hire Locally

This may seem obvious but hiring locally is a huge way to directly impact your community. If you want to focus on putting money directly back into your local economy, then hiring someone from the area is the best way to do it.


There are a multitude of benefits to hiring locally, outside of finances. When you hire local, it is much easier to:


  • Vet candidates
  • Build your network
  • Get financial incentives
  • Boost customer satisfaction
  • Grow internally

Supporting Small Business:

An Initiative That Matters

Supporting small businesses will always make a difference. Shopping locally is a direct 68% return for every $100 you spend, which means $68 is put back into schools, into youth organizations, into families, and into neighborhoods. Sales are not put into the wallet of a big business; they are put back into your community. That’s an initiative we as a nation can’t afford to give up.


Want to learn more about supporting small businesses? We compiled a short list of resources for community members and for small business owners.


Jonathan Brooks

Business Warrior President

In recent years, there has been an unstoppable push to support small businesses. For good reason. Supporting small businesses provides direct benefit to your neighbors, your local schools, and the local economy.

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