I am an overthinker. I’m an enneagram 6 (if you know about that) and that means I love LOVE to think about things. Everything. Mostly in an effort to find clarity and fully understand the world. It also is a personality trait to become incredibly loyal to causes I believe in.
As I’ve been chatting with another friend who loves to explore the enneagram (and who is also a Type 6), I was thinking more about what causes I’m loyal to. I genuinely was challenged by this, because I’m not a person who is out doing major social justice projects or standing on protest lines.
My commitment and loyalty throughout my entire life has truly been to small business. I believe in small businesses! I believe that small businesses are fraught with challenges, but also are amazing platforms to create the life so many of us want to live. If there is such a thing as “sustainable consumerism” it starts with small businesses.
How can small businesses survive in the world of big retailers? Is there really room for more small businesses, especially in our small towns where the median household income is less than HALF of the median for our state’s biggest city, Seattle, only 100 miles away. ($44k in Aberdeen to $92k in Seattle – and that’s the US Census for 2019!)
I certainly think there’s room for more businesses here, but what I often think about more is how we need the people who live here to shop local as much as possible. So many people tend to start the conversation from a place of entitlement, with real consumerism energy. *We want what we want and we want it now!* Everybody loves to wax on about how X building would be a great retail space or how obviously we need more clothing options, restaurants, or entertainment venues.
I have to admit, it’s my pet peeve being a part of these conversations! Remember, I’m an overthinker. Trust me, I think about these things too. I don’t want to be discouraging and I do think some of these conversations can come from a place of support, though maybe a touch idealistic. I also, just by thinking or wanting, can’t know if something will really *work* in our community. There are so many pieces to the puzzle of starting, running, and sustaining a small business. You need someone willing to give up their job and wage to take a risk on a business. You need someone with the finances to get something off the ground. You need a heck of a lot of support and services to make a business that can really make a big impact. AND you need customers.
What I wish I heard more in conversation was excitement and positive words about the businesses that do exist. What I would love to hear is from people who are speaking about their commitment to buying local, and why!
Why shop local?
Spending locally helps to keep our local economy thriving which will bring more business, because other people who have good ideas will see that it can actually work and make them a living wage. When there are lines and long waits at the local coffee shop, out the door (like there often are in big cities at popular shops), other coffee shops will move in nearby to pick up on the potential customers. And that’s great! It’s not *competition* as much as it is a sign that there’s growth and support of an industry.
Thinking and having conversations about what businesses *should* exist can be helpful… if you’re willing to either be the person who starts that business yourself OR you’re willing to invest in those people who are willing to start them. Coming from a mindset of wanting to simply consume more or have some ideal life (I’d shop local if XYZ existed), might actually be a way to slip yourself out of the commitment of making changes in your spending habits with what we have available to us right now.
I try to shop at local or small businesses as much as possible, including buying food from local farmers like Sky Island (they have a CSA) or, if i can’t find things locally, I buy directly from makers online. It’s HARD honestly. I, again an overthinker, analyze our family’s spending every year, summing up every cent we spent and where we spent it. I can easily see how much I spent at Starbucks in a year. And with that knowledge, I can easily make a rule to simply switch that spending over to a small coffee shop instead. I have a budget and an understanding of how I spend and I believe that even a few hundred dollars is better spent with a local business.
In fact, speaking of coffee, I realized that we could honestly afford to spend MORE on coffee – especially with it being something I really love. And so, we’re making a trade to not go to Starbucks for the random latte and instead spending those funds on small coffee roasters online or when we travel. Turns out, I get far more joy from trying a new small batch coffee at home than I do getting that short-lived buzz from a drive through.
As a local business, I also know that those seemingly small commitments are a big deal for me! I have dreams for my business to grow and I can’t do it without customers. The funds I bring into my business help me to buy more local fruits for handpies, hire help with marketing or events or baking, expand my own homegrown efforts to grow more fruit on our homestead. Your purchases keep me in the game! A place where I can have the space to think even more about how to support other small businesses and our local economy.
I’m not a perfect consumer, only shopping small. But I START small. What small, every day shopping habits can you change to local or small businesses?